:: Essays

Celebrating Philosophy in Monaco published 15/05/2018

Doubtless passions can bring difficulties to our lives and as Robert Maggiori says we can certainly live passions in a way damaging to our lives and the lives of others but, as he sagaciously adds, without passion life cannot be lived well at all.  The manner and mode by which we live our passions and affections, that is ever and always the key–and in this sense, precisely, a manner and mode of truth.  Philosophy is not indispensible in helping us find a way to live in the best and most just of ways ethically and existentially, but in its proper and supple manners it can be a boon and benefit. 

Steve Light on the Philosophical Meetings of Monaco.

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Markson’s Masterpiece and Wallace’s Ghost: Wittgenstein’s Mistress 30 years later published 10/05/2018

This writer is trying to figure out a way to write through Kate-ish-ness, which might as well be my medical diagnosis.

Wallace defined WM as: a classic for the impotent unlucky sort whose beliefs inform his stomach’s daily state.

What it limns, as an immediate study of depression & loneliness, is far too moving to be the object of either exercise or exorcism, writes Wallace, in one of the many lines in this essay that hinted at his own fiction’s trajectory.

In contrast to other experimental icons whose genius shouts, Markson’s genius whispers, Wallace writes, in one of the many lines that hints at why WM was alien to Wallace, and would remain to be.

By Brad Baronner.

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The New Europeans – Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Hurts and Disco Lento published 08/05/2018

The album that accompanied ‘Vienna’, on its cover photo, hinted at a ‘post-punk uniform’ that other bands such as the Scottish Orange Juice adopted in this era. That of the sharp blazer, the fastened top button, and the side-parting; eyeliner an optional extra. Such photos portrayed a young aesthete, deeply preoccupied with a matter just out of shot, doubtless with his eyes fixed on some real or conceptual European horizon. The album’s song ‘New Europeans’ suggested that the mysterious realm over-the-water was being viewed in aspirational terms, through its overall aesthetic tone, if not its content.

Guy Mankowski on Albion’s Secret History.

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No Victor But God published

There is no victor but God. This calligraphy (copied, unread, from the Nasirids’ Alhambra, brought over, un-comprehended, as decoration for a French restaurant on a hurricane-gutted island) might just be the best epitaph for our age. Who wins, really, in the end? Are the winners merely those who find their most cherished mottos repurposed as ornament, in glazes of blue and emerald, glazed over by bored tourists’ eyes?

By Molly Crabapple.

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American Truth and Hysteria: The Evolution of Joan Didion published 30/04/2018

She appears as the intrepid but invisible reporter, leaning up against her Corvette. She knew anyone and everyone in 1960s Los Angeles and chronicled the decade’s steady deterioration and decay. You can even buy a leather jacket emblazoned with Didion’s picture. Her quotes float around Facebook, styled as self-help mantras, imposed across pictures of her smoking and staring stone-faced into the camera. The dominance of this image of Didion is extremely limited, and unfair on a writer who deserves recognition befitting the full shape of her corpus.

Sam Diamond reconsiders Joan Didion.

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Cherubs, Zeros, Glass Children & Swans – Symbolism in Lyrics of The Smashing Pumpkins published 24/04/2018

But within this new aesthetic palette was also room for darker devices, reflecting the tone of the album sleeve. Tracks like ‘Shame’ and ‘Daphne Descends’ utilise drones, to give Flood’s ornate, layered production a sense of dense layering. Flood’s production evokes moods that are at one claustrophobic and expansive. In the album’s single ‘Perfect’ the glacial production and clean guitars offer a backdrop to a painful lyric concerned with Corgan coming to terms with a breakup. The clashing guitars in ‘Daphne Descends’ sit behind the choruses words; ‘You love him’. But they sound far from romantic, instead evoking an approaching emotional storm.

By Guy Mankowski.

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The Operating Theatre: Contemporary Fiction & Las Vegas published 19/04/2018

Las Vegas has acknowledged America’s fame obsession and is vending it. The illusion of being a somebody. You get to be whatever you want and, better yet, you get to leave it there. Hide from your job and your boss and your kids, shed your skin and let out that inner slouching beast. Yeats got the city wrong, but he was right about the desert. Las Vegas is a place where the temporal and the ephemeral are morphed into insta-culture, a palace of assimilation that’s open twenty-four/seven. There is no past or future, no need for perspective or long-range thought, there is only the unending now, the new promised land, a most codified place, a domain of myth and ritual.

By Sean Hooks.

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Lugubrious Complexity: Braxton | Sollers | Smithson published 14/04/2018

“Structure,” in this sense, is for Barthes “a little bit like hysteria. If you pay attention to it, it becomes a reality. If you pretend to ignore it, it goes away.” The distinction can be likened to the signifying logic of the Freudian dream work, which is above all “poetic” (metaphor, metonymy), as opposed to literal/symbolic. “There are,” Barthes writes, “in fact two sorts of phenomenon: those which stand up to being looked at (the realm of ‘what is secret’) and those which are produced by being looked at (the realm of ‘what is for show’).”

Louis Armand on the influence of free jazz on cultural criticism.

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Comrade Plekhanov published 06/04/2018

In late August 1900, Lenin was travelling by train from Zürich to Geneva. He was thirty years old, and newly released from a year’s imprisonment in St Petersburg (for distributing seditious literature to striking workers), followed by two years’ exile in Siberia. The man he was travelling through Switzerland to meet was fifteen years his elder, the pioneer of Russian Marxism, and in a foul mood. Lenin felt love for this man, Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov, akin to “infatuation”.

By Edward Lee-Six.

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Ann Quin: a Peculiar Fish Without Fins (Blurring, Filth, and Smut. Or, What Ann Quin Means To Me) published 05/04/2018

What is a blur? Can a blur be colossal and awe-inspiring? Can grime equate to more than the sum of its parts? We are faced with the image of a blurred window. A window frames what we look at, through it, it serves as a lens to the world outside, we see what it allows us to see, but when this lens is blurred, smudged with grime, what do we see? The grime? Or what we imagine – through experience or memory – what’s on the other side? Quin’s window stands before us from the outset, before anything, obscuring our view. In smothering her subjects and themes this way, Quin’s corrosion serves to magnify her intentions. Berg is dirty. Quin is dirty. Her writing is smeared with filth.

Lee Rourke on Ann Quin.

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