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

Memory games with Bolaño, or Of what is lost published 09/01/2014

I can’t tell you exactly, I can’t quote from the books of course, but what seems to unite Bolaño’s works is that all the characters are uncertain. For example, in The Skating Rink, no one can understand or explain their own behaviour, no matter how bizarre it becomes. In Bolaño’s early novella Monsieur Pain, the protagonist is not sure whether he is being followed and no longer knows who to trust – also, the crime at the centre of the story goes unsolved, so uncertainty wins out in big ways as well as small. All Bolaño is the same, it’s doubt doubt doubt, and no more so than in 2666.

By Rodge Glass.

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The new paideia published 07/01/2014

Both scientists and humanists use the wrong standards to evaluate their disciplines. While science advocates typically defend the worth of the humanities by whether humanists have generated theories that eventually bore practical fruit, humanities’ stewards defend the worth of the science on the basis of their contribution to human understanding. Simply put: scientists judge the worth of humanities with the same bar with which they judge the worth of the sciences, while humanists judge the worth of sciences with the same bar with which they judge the worth of the humanities.

Felipe De Brigade argues why and how the war between the sciences and humanities must stop.

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cura te ipsum published 02/01/2014

Too often the humanities’ defenders seek to show that writers, artists, and other cultural figures made important contributions to science, or even preempted or prefigured empirical discoveries not made until centuries later. “Proust was a Neuroscientist” may sound like a clever book title to admirers of that great author. But if Proust ever wrote anything that sounded like what some cognitive scientist said decades later it was entirely by accident.

Alex Rosenberg addresses some of the problems facing the humanities.

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Borders of the land & mind published 19/12/2013

Where did this novel-in-progress all start? Well, I’ve been attempting to start it, in various forms, for years, but a news piece in The Herald newspaper back in June this year triggered the real beginning to the process. This piece reported on a small community of Chileans who escaped the Pinochet regime in 1973, settling in Scotland on their arrival. Until 2012 I had lived in Glasgow for 15 years, it had been my education, and I wanted to write about it, but from a distance. Here was an opportunity.

By Rodge Glass.

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love and loss in ¾ time published 18/12/2013

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In this novel, Trabal draws on modernism’s interest in psychological representations, surrealism’s delight in the unexpected, and a cinematic flair to tell the story of a young man’s sexual and romantic coming of age. Trabal’s comically incisive representation of middle-class society, combined with his unrelenting depiction of his 19-year-old protagonist Zeni’s missteps and misjudgments, make Waltz a delightful read, particularly for readers interested in a Catalan classic of modernism.

Kristine Rabberman reviews Francesc Trabal‘s Waltz.

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“I wasn’t writing a novel” published 16/12/2013

It began with the first message, and ended with the last. It was principally a literary effort subordinated to communication. To me this remains a crucial difference, its differentia specifica. The origin of the now-book Permission was in an illegitimate literary dimension outside the frame of book authorship. You have to understand that, though I had chosen my reader, this reader could not know what if anything would become of the writing that came their way. Naturally I wonder whether and how it changes things for readers today, who approach them as a bound book, to know that the letters, just as they are, were once for real.

S D Chrostowska, author of Permission, interviewed by Edwin Turner.

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Notes on Aspirational Dating: Identity & Belonging in The Flamethrowers published 13/12/2013

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Many of the book’s most poignant vignettes relate, in one way or another, to traces left behind: whether it is the protagonist photographing the tyre-marks of her motorcycle on the salt flats of Bonneville; or a colleague at the film lab relating his wonder at the macabre discovery of a real-life execution (of an Italian fascist by partisans in World War Two) among reels of stock footage – those ‘small integers of life’ preserved forever; or a fleeting description of an Asian pin-up girl on a 1950s calendar, ‘her face faded to grayish-green, smiling under all that lapsed time.’

By Houman Barekat.

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Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait published 12/12/2013

As a playmaker of phenomenal vision, Zidane had an unusual appeal for artists. His act of retaliatory violence heightened it, remaining enigmatic as neither he nor Materazzi provided a satisfactory explanation, and propelled Gordon and Parreno’s work out of its intended gallery context and into cinemas. Gordon, a Turner Prize winner in 1996, was fascinated with ways of playing with time on video, most famously in 24-Hour Psycho (1993), which slowed down Hitchcock’s film so that it lasted a day. Parreno was interested in the idea of the exhibition as a medium, with shows having a scripted starting-point from which limitless narratives could emerge, and Zidane was able to combine both of their concerns.

By Juliet Jacques.

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Stereolab & the Nineties art of influence published

Stereolab were sometimes attacked for creating from a desire to experiment rather than any deep emotional need, but Sadier’s oblique lyrics and detached delivery, perfectly balanced with Hansen’s dreamy backing vocals, contain as much feeling and more political urgency than most other bands of the mid-1990s, with one notable exception being the Manic Street Preachers, who cited McCarthy as their greatest influence and covered ‘We Are All Bourgeois Now’. If they were more for critics and curators than a mass audience, they were one of considerable verve and intelligence, whose understanding of music history and ability to meld their discoveries in adventurous ways made them one of the most interesting and inventive groups of their time.

By Juliet Jacques.

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The Body as Society, Prison, and Torture Device: José Donoso’s Fiction published 11/12/2013

José Donoso (1924-96) is a vast writer. Though considered part of the Latin American “Boom” of the 1960s, Donoso remained on the periphery of the movement, little known until he produced his masterpiece The Obscene Bird of Night in 1970. Though Donoso’s work shares some superficial surrealist, political, and indigenous touches with the famous writers of the era (Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, Fuentes, and Cortazar being the big four), Donoso’s achievement is considerably different from theirs, and in my opinion inestimably greater, fit to stand alongside the equally brilliant Juan Rulfo.

By David Auerbach.

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