:: Essays archive ( 2000-2005, click for articles pre-2006)

Distant Visions: Putdownable Prose and the State of the Art-Novel published 04/12/2015

It’s worth asking why visionary power, so central to earlier generations of leading literary artists, has lost its footing in literary culture, only to be replaced by something closer to good first-person reportage. Perhaps it’s because we’ve lost belief in the critical importance of transformation through art, and have relegated it to just one of many equally worthy rewards a book can offer.

Mark de Silva explores the fundamental dilemmas of contemporary fiction.

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Behind the Iron Cage: What Can Max Weber Tell us About Leo Tolstoy? published 28/11/2015

I had a professor once who told our class unequivocally that you’re “either a Tolstoy person or a Dostoyevsky person.” The implication was that a “Dostoevsky person” belonged to the realm of introspection, and to the realm of ideas, while a “Tolstoy person” belonged to the realm of life, action, and to humanity more broadly. The point here is that Tolstoy’s unique ability to create entirely believable, fully-imagined characters with all of the eccentricities and complexities of real people does not automatically exclude him from writing a novel of ideas, of critical, probing ideas very concerned with the contemporary sociopolitical structure. Tolstoy is too often compared to the Shakespeare’s of the world (who, likewise, he absolutely hated), and not enough in the tradition of, say, a Thomas Mann. Tolstoy was anything but a masterful aesthete, quietly weaving the classic, sterile Russian epic. He was a grumbling, anarchic, engaged, and highly critical old man.

By Jeremy Klemin.

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Talking to Strangers published 23/11/2015

I want him to come in his hand. I think about cum dripping onto his fingers and hiding under his nails which are probably very clean and seeping into the cracks of his skin and crawling into the corners of his watch if he masturbates with that arm. I feel tingly listening to his breath. He makes a sound like he is choking on a moan.

Emma Collins’ creative nonfiction piece explores discursive subject formation amid explicit sexual encounters.

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Poetic Practices published 19/11/2015

There are so many things one could do other than write poems. Take a long walk. Examine a beautiful tree for disease. Pick up a rock; throw it into a lake or at a passing car. Pick a flower; tape it to that rock and drop it from the edge of a canyon. Do this over and over until a small part of the canyon is filled. For writing poems often feels as though it amounts to as much: arranging a pile of stones for someone else to haul elsewhere.

By Mark Yakich

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Rapture, Religion and Madness Part Two: Lou Andreas-Salomé on Nietzsche published 16/11/2015

In an article in Neurosurgery, September 2007, titled ‘The madness of Dionysus: a neurosurgical perspective on Friedrich Nietzsche,’ the authors Owen, Schaller and Binder suggest that Nietzsche may have been suffering from “a large, slow growing, right-sided cranial base lesion, such as a medial sphenoid wing meningioma. Aspects of his presentation seem to directly contradict the diagnosis of syphilis, which has been the standard explanation of Nietzsche’s madness.”

In the final instalment of his two part series examining Nietzsche’s philosophical project, D.A. Barry analyses Heidegger’s lectures on Nietzsche and Salomé’s ideas on religion and psychology.

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Concerning the Nobility of my Dog published 14/11/2015

I did not want to say anything, being already on the verge of tears and aware that my tendency to cry unexpectedly was not my most appealing aspect, but I thought, even if to say so is perverse, that the estimation in which my wife held her deceased grandmother as teacher, confidant, and source of unqualified affection, had had, in my own life, its only proximate equivalent in my dog. 

By Adrian Nathan West.

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My Visit to the Gay Sex Club published 09/11/2015

‘And notice the coverings we’ve installed. That’s a heavy duty, synthetic material we can easily clean. If we had sheets or duvets, they would be ruined in an hour.’ Karl stood back proudly, admiring the room. ‘Yes, these heavy duty covers have proven an absolute godsend,’ he said. ‘You can imagine what it’s like with two men going at it sometimes.’

Writer Peter Papathanasiou recounts his first experience in a Gay Sex Club.

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Shadow in the Night: Dylan at the Royal Albert Hall published 08/11/2015

Bob-Dylan-Night-620x426

Dylan strings his songs in this interrelationship of corrosive anticipations, desire and taboo entwined, so that a luminal obscenity is not an accidental consequence but the irrevocable requirement of life escaping its dull restraint. The pleasure of losing control or of controlling the deliberate violation of a taboo are the twisted foundations of Dylan’s ecstasies. For these are voices in the grip of ethereal scandalous spirituality, voices of minds caught up with their own versions of fraudulence and lust, witnesses of what lies far out of range, distorted and off balanced players where loss is a winner in the long run, where everything has a cost and all debts must be paid. And will be. And are being.

Richard Marshall on what he heard in Bob Dylan‘s recent London concerts.

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Pasternak at Marburg Station published

Naoko Haruta LIFE 140 PASTERNAK MY  SISTER LIFE acrylic on canvas 43 x 67

Yet, poetry is the total despair of words, of the word. And it is immediately evident why a poet cannot be a philosopher. Pain has no patience. And patience wounds too deeply. Poetry is the homeopathic solution. Seek to heal the wound by wounding it, by concentrating it. Paradoxically, this gives respite. One rushes straight to the core.

Steve Light on Pasternak, poetry and philosophy.

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All the way from Gare du Nord to the Beverly Laurel Cafe published 31/10/2015

It is hard to live in a universe ruled by contingency and accident. It is soothing to speak of fate and destiny. Affective ambivalence, indecision, turmoil, emotional tumult, all take on a more bearable aspect if they are seen as subject to forces external to us, subject to external resolution–inevitably, inescapably. “What will be will be….” So too with misfortune. If an event which we would so much the more have wanted to forgo could just as well not have been, its occurrence, its having-been, cuts into us all the deeper, all the more terribly. So we speak of fate, of destiny.

By Steve Light.

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