:: Essays

Tommy Udo R.I.P. published 14/10/2019

He was smart and political and very funny — and versatile, writing for the FT as well as music journals. He was also a nice guy: he had a conscience and embodied the opposite of the laddish yob ethos that was prevalent back then in some chippy hip circles. I wrote a piece about his book at the time and ended by summarising it thus: “Udo is stomping around in the language used by his contemporaries. He is writing with the fast-paced humour of the social critic buckled to the stand-up comic. His book is a meaty fart in the presence of anti-democratic forces symbolised by the British monarch and the Pope. And yet it is also delicate like a child’s drawing is delicate because it writes out in its bold, unrefined lines the mute sanctity of the oppressed and the uncultured, their voices and desires in a kind of Molly Bloomian ‘Yes’.”

Richard Marshall and Andrew Stevens pay tribute to Tommy Udo.

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We Are the Asteroid, We Are the Dinosaurs published 04/10/2019

It’s a bit like the story of the three little pigs and the wolf, in that the police were trying to blow it all down, day after day after day. Huffing and puffing. It definitely added to the atmosphere in a strange way. It wouldn’t have been the same without the police trying to take us away. And it possibly made it more beautiful. And more symbolical — there was a sort of symbolism of the fact that this joy was happening on little islands being battered by waves of police.

Susana Medina and Roc Sandford discuss Extinction Rebellion.

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Desire To Have Children Has Disappeared From Your Inventory published 25/09/2019

Austrian author Clemens J. Setz is wearing a Doom t-shirt in a 2017 video shot in a park in Müllheim, Germany where his first theatre play, Vereinte Nationen (“United Nations”) has just been staged at a local theatre festival. As he chatters about his effort to let somebody else (the director, in this case) have a go at his material for once, he gesticulates wildly, and as the camera zooms in on his hands, the Doom logo looms large in the viewer’s face, causing one to wonder how many theatre goers coming in from the festival might actually be able to recognize the reference. His bushy beard and his mumbled delivery only reinforce the impression that he’s a nerd in a world of nerds—as most literature buffs are, nerdiness being more defined by a general attitude than a definite object—he just comes from a province of nerdiness that is traditionally unexplored by most members of the literary establishment.

By Giorgio Chiappa.

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Winter, 2017 published 17/09/2019

An essay is a type of construction in which an author enters the world and gathers its facts, its ideas of itself, from which he or she builds. It should have a guiding structure that leads to discovery, to illumination, to a point towards which everything aligns in revelation.

Architecture gives actual construction, with thought behind. Making a model of a building offers a way to experience its physical presence close hand, over time, to examine its structure, the relationship of its parts, to think about one’s possible place in it and its place in the world, about its meanings, as well as engage in the practice and ritual of construction. A model also provides a platform to contemplate structures and relationships in general, what might be suggested analogically, what might be applied elsewhere.

By Gary Garvin.

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Real Life in the Capital published 12/09/2019

My cousin was similarly victimized. One night, while looking for something to eat, he bought a roast duck at a night market. At home, he cut the “duck” open to discover that someone had taken the skeleton from an already-eaten duck, stuffed it with filth, pasted it over with paper painted to look like roasted skin, and then smeared the whole thing in oil. Only the orange feet and neck were real.

By Ji Yun. Translated by Yi Izzy Yu and John Yu Branscum.

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The Judgment of Paris* published 04/09/2019

My film-going existence did not slacken in my first years of graduate school.  I did become an aficionado—of sorts—of a number of various national cinemas.  Is there a better film maker than Ozu?  I could say Naruse but why create a needless hierarchy?  But then I stopped going to the movies or at least I only ventured on rare occasions.  I wanted above all to publish a book as soon as possible and, then, too a heap of novels (which always carry their own emphatic and cinematic pleasures) remained to be read and, above all, I had to attend to my basketball career.  Apart from the time taken by these various reveries, wanderings, joys, and exultations—as well as by philosophical and literary expenditures—the rest of my time could not be wasted in the observance of images fashioned by others.  After all, it is so much the better to create in actuality one’s own adventures and enduring encounters and episodes.  Did I miss the cinema? Perhaps I did, but its song was not that of the sirens.

By Steve Light.

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Marías and Hitchcock published 28/08/2019

A Heart so White explores this strange and disturbing notion when Marías writes: “it’s odd how the features of those who no longer see us and whom we can no longer see become blurred, out of anger or absence or attrition, or how they become usurped by their photographs fixed for ever on a particular day”. The isolated object of a single photograph is “odd” and dominant, ruling out or usurping the plurality of human experience. Thus, the constructed image in a Hitchcock film or a Marías novel has a distinct and dangerous strangeness simply due to its singularity: it is outlandishly and horrifically non-human.

By Joseph Bullock.

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Border Imaginary: Borderland Narratives and the Identity of Landscape published 15/08/2019

When U.S. immigration policy forced migrants away from cities and out into the inhospitable environments of remote areas along the border, the landscape became an enforcer of hostility. In literature, place often operates as character, and rarely is this more evident than in that which is set within the borderlands. For migrants anywhere, traversing vast swaths of land or sea is a quest of epic proportions. Immigration and migration is one of the defining aspects of contemporary identity. The stories of those who have experienced that quest firsthand deserve to be elevated. In the US we have somehow gone from the Statue of Liberty to the border Wall. Understanding this shift is one of the critical projects of the current era.

By Gabriel Boudali.

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‘You [Still] Can’t Win’ published 14/08/2019

Today, Black’s reputation is chiefly floated by William S. Burroughs’ old habit of naming You Can’t Win his favourite book. Prefacing the AK Press edition of 1988, Burroughs explained the book’s attractions. It introduced him to a ‘code of conduct’ which ‘made more sense’ than the ‘arbitrary, hypocritical rules … taken for granted as being “right”’: crime might not pay, but the ‘straight’ life, for Burroughs, was itself so crooked, and its odds stacked so heavily against the vast majority of its players, that even on the ‘right’ side of the law you could never really win. Hence, Black’s book also stirred in Burroughs ‘a deep nostalgia for a way of life that is gone forever’.

By Oscar Mardell.

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mother and child doing fine published 13/08/2019

The whole of Berlin seemed pregnant that mild autumn. I averted my eyes and my ears to baby chatter, but unless you’ve been through infertility, you don’t know when it’s time to be quiet. We’ll get through this, I thought, even as my husband and I argued on the stairwell one winter morning. It came to pushing and shoving, and I stormed out to the car; he followed me, shouting, onto the street, because he couldn’t bear me walking away from a fight. Only when I drove off did I realise that he was standing in the snow in nothing but his boxer shorts, shouting after me with tears in his eyes.

By Lucy Jones.

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