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

Asaph Hall and Two Moons I Would Not Go Anywhere Near published 28/01/2016


The reader is placed by the disadvantage of translation in a situation of being misled. The reader can’t escape the scenes of brutal violence in the Iliad, and once in those scenes, the fact of reading in translation becomes, in itself, a kind of violence, severing an essential connection. The reader of a translation into English encounters either “panic” or “fear” or “terror” or “dread,” not recognizing that the original word in Greek has been—and I think this is a fair term—denatured. The original word, the word that the reader doesn’t see, is phobos or deos. The reader sees a word which appears to be a word and not a name. But the word is in fact also a name. The name is the name of one of the moons of Mars—real, not hypothetical.

Fortunato Salazar on our curious obliviousness to the violent naming of natural satellites.

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Cleopatra published 26/01/2016

Cleopatra by Philippe Sollers

As soon as I read Antony and Cleopatra, very young, I looked for Cleopatra everywhere. She appeared in the gardens in Bordeaux, I followed her to Spain and Italy, I pursued her in the streets of Paris, she always escaped me, like Egypt itself, its Isis mysteries.

By Philippe Sollers, translated by Armine Kotin Mortimer.

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in the trap published 25/01/2016

One speculative etymology of the word ‘terror’ (and, by association, ‘terrorism’) connects it to words like terrain and territory. If to be a victim of terror is to tremble with fear, as the earth trembles with seismic activity, then perhaps the projection of enmity onto landscape is not a uniquely twentieth-century phenomenon. Maybe it is a form of psychological atavism, a vestige from the days we wandered amongst sabre-toothed cats, inexplicable earthquakes, and ambush-prone wolves.

By Hunter Dukes.

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Camilo José Cela’s The Hive Revisited published 22/01/2016


For Cela, The Hive is “a history book, not a novel”, that is, a chronicle of life, not of the characters in The Hive, who are ultimately nothing other than life’s vehicle. For Cela “[e]verybody’s life is a novel by itself”, but The Hive chronicles the lives of more than 200 characters and therefore is more than a novel, it is more than 200 novels, it is life itself, not in its entirety, of course, but a portion of it.

Montague Kobbe revisits Camilo José Cela‘s The Hive.

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The Cold Civil War published 09/01/2016


For America to bridge its ideological divides and end the Cold Civil War, it needs to reform the 2nd Amendment to tighten the availability of guns, while also promoting an American identity that transcends being white or black, Christian or Muslim, woman or man. Promote unity to bridge the divide and disarm the warring militias: otherwise, gun violence in American civil society may never end.

Patrick Vitalone on gun violence in the USA.

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Masturbating in Public; or Misreading Kafka published 15/12/2015

Misreading Kafka

Despite the extraordinary difficulties faced by critics who try to unlock the mysteries of Kafka’s fiction, there has been no shortage of speculation about Josef K.’s guilt or innocence and the ‘meaning’ of his trial. In the spirit of these doomed interpretations, I offer my own theory about the ‘secret’ that underlines Kafka’s dreamlike nightmare of inexplicable punishment – the clandestine event that feeds into K.’s ambiguous status, hovering as he does between one kind of guilt and another kind of innocence.

By Shannon Burns.

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The Exploitation of the Technical published 08/12/2015

The most influential changes then, from the industrial capitalism of the nineteenth century, to the ‘hyper-industrial capitalism’ of twentieth century, were the new types of mnemotechnologies (memory-technologies) that were being developed and implemented on a large scale, mnemotechnologies that had the ability to affect our culture, through manipulation of desire, as well our economy and society in general.

Matt Bluemink draws on Bernard Stiegler’s work in order to make an analysis of memory as a technical process in contemporary capitalism.

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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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