:: Essays

Metropolis published 03/08/2020

Goebbels thought Metropolis a masterpiece, and it seems Hitler shared his admiration. Recognising its power, Goebbels even sought to bring Fritz on as head of the German film studio UFA, overlooking the fact he was a Jew. “We decide who is Jewish,” the bloodsoaked old cynic is said to have mused. The Nazis’ appreciation has an even more fundamental link. Metropolis was a collaborative work between Fritz Lang and his then wife, Thea von Harbou. Lang was the director and visual master, but von Harbou wrote the script, and the story was adapted from a novel she wrote. While Lang was repelled by the Hitler regime, von Harbou became increasingly sympathetic to the Nazis, later joining the party; one of many reasons for their later divorce. No wonder that one key aspect of the message of Metropolis was appropriated by the Nazis, when one of its creators was a proto-Nazi herself.

Ben Granger on Fritz Lang‘s Metropolis.

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Excerpts from a flight of objects that seemed real published 22/07/2020

There are so many ways to touch a body, but none so beautiful as the quiet liberty that is outside of promise and expectation, compelled only by that which compels. This exactly is withheld. It is in this way that my body returns to itself in shock, with the adrenaline of deprivation, to share in my own silence. So many years shaken off. I keep this bee-sting secret, tucked under a sleeve to provoke my uprising.

By Lital Khaikin.

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Not Far From the Junction (Excerpt) published 18/07/2020

On Tuesday May 21st 2019, I travelled from Redbridge in East London up the M11, then the A1(M) past Newark, across to the M1 just below Sheffield, before heading South and eventually abandoning hope of a lift at Donnington Park services, having been moved off junction 24 by the police. At the time of writing, this is also the last of my hitching expeditions. I can’t explain why, just that it’s an ending of sorts. In presenting this text I’ve changed the names of all contributors, and everyone they mentioned, and disguised place names. Although everyone gave me permission to use their words, these were decisions taken in a moment, while a stranger sat in their vehicle, and I don’t want to get anyone into trouble. Transcripts are edited, truncated and, to some extent, manipulated. The text below represents a partial selection of the people I met and the subjects we covered.

Read our extracts from Will Ashon‘s Not Far From the Junction.

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The Love and Poison of Nineties Music Weeklies published

When I started writing my latest novel, Dead Rock Stars I had no idea how influential the cheaply printed music weeklies from the nineties were on my writing style. In the novel, a teenage boy called Jeff, stealing glances at Melody Maker in his newsagent but unable to afford a copy, at one point cites a review of the Chemical Brothers at the Heavenly Social as he dreams of finding fame with his own band. In my fictional review he quotes writing about “Spasmodic ravers, gurning as their ears are drilled by sirens, beats and psychedelia until derangement sets in.” My excellent editor, Laurence, raised the eminently reasonable point — “is this an actual quote?”

By Guy Mankowski.

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Reading Faulkner’s The Hamlet in 2020 USA: Part III published 16/07/2020

I just finished the book today. It’s always a strange experience to finish a novel for me; I wonder what it’s like for you. It’s bizarre in how I seem to focus my attention much more acutely in the final pages, though I hardly read for story—except that Faulkner’s plots do have something of the “boilerplate” about them, an astonishing key. I didn’t want it to end, but there are a plethora of other Faulkner fictions I can steep myself in.

Genese Grill and Greg Gerke read The Hamlet by William Faulkner, Part III.

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Reading Faulkner’s The Hamlet in 2020 USA: Part II published 15/07/2020

There are searing mementos of the Southern wages of sin in this novel, none perhaps more disturbing than the aside, mentioned in a description of Eula’s lover, who paid a black man so he could whip him. Man’s inhumanity to man (and to woman). His cruelty and depraved sadistic need to be stronger than someone else. Many would like us to cleanse the world of such depictions, preserve our children from these markers of our past, erase the stain and replace it with something more monolithically correct. But Literature—it shouldn’t have to be said, but it does need to be said—teaches us about all of the ways that humans are, rather than just an idealized, cleaned-up version of how they are supposed to be. Great writing, like Faulkner’s, gives us the complexities and makes us more fully human. Great writing, like Faulkner’s, is not essentially dogmatic either, not essentially Moral, but is a lever to open up ethical channels, ways of feeling and thinking, through irreducible aesthetic experience. The more uncensored or un-self-censored the better.

Genese Grill and Greg Gerke read The Hamlet by William Faulkner, Part II.

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Reading Faulkner’s The Hamlet in 2020 USA: Part I published 14/07/2020

And what is the first significant sign about Flem? His shirts. Newly cut and stitched at the beginning of each week, then soiled by weekend in exactly the same places. And then he adds a necktie: “a tiny viciously depthless cryptically balanced splash like an enigmatic punctuation symbol against the expanse of white shirt…postulated to those who had been present on that day that quality of outrageous overstatement of physical displacement which the sound of his father’s stiff foot made on the gallery of the store….”

Genese Grill and Greg Gerke read The Hamlet by William Faulkner, Part I.

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On being hysterical published 08/07/2020

In fact, hysteria’s apotheosis came out of its masculinisation. Long associated with women—“hysteria” comes from the Greek for womb—as it exited the realm of possession and witchcraft and entered the domain of medicine, hysteria started to be found among men. Most of Charcot’s patients were women, but he became famous for his insistence on male hysteria. A muscular railway worker with hysterical paralysis following a train accident makes for a satisfying image: the masculine ideal suffering from the ultimate female complaint.

By Elena Comay del Junco.

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Images, Text and Modern Feints: Dongyoung Lee’s I can’t and the Material of Meaning published 01/07/2020

One is of course tempted to suggest that Lee’s work constitutes a rigorous update of those Surrealist precedents that presciently if hastily staked-out the subterranean tell of structuralist intuitions. Lee’s work must surely be wondering what these supposedly old parlor tricks can do to the plausible differences between language, semiotics, art, philosophy, etc., after the dubiously permitted “language turn” redux of the 1960s. I can’t’s conceit about scientificity and textual hermeneutics is something of a send up, though it is meanwhile aboundingly rich. Material will not stop writing about itself; indeed, strictly, it will not stop writing itself.

Albe Harlow on I can’t give you an answer as matters stand by Dongyoung Lee.

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Rumble in the High Himalayas published 24/06/2020

La means ‘a mountain pass’ in the Tibetan language. My first acquaintance with this two-letter word was the fictional place name, ‘Shangri-La’, in James Hilton’s novel, Lost Horizon. Kashmir is described as a ‘Shangri-La beneath the summer moon’ in an iconic Led Zeppelin song. I recently happened to bump into Robert Plant, the co-writer of the song, in the lift of the hotel where I work and mentioned to him that the lyrics of ‘Kashmir’ are always buzzing in my head. He told me it was a one-of-a-kind song and couldn’t be repeated. In fact, it was Lhasa, on the far side of the Tibetan Plateau, which conjured up the images of a Shangri-La for Kashmiri traders who travelled along the Silk Road. The name Ladakh is derived from the Tibetan word, La-dvags, which means ‘a land of high passes’.

By Iqbal Ahmed.

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