:: Essays

dora maar published 08/08/2019

Though sidestepping the laddish puns of her male peers, her photomontages are suitably placed in the veiled-erotic, Freudian hinterland of the surrealist imagination. She provokes the thought of a finger pressing into the libidinous wetness of a mollusc curled inside its shell in Untitled (hand and shell) (1934), while in Forbidden Games (1935) a curious child peers from under a desk as a melancholy figure grips a man between her thighs and rides him around the parlour.

Hailey Maxwell reviews Dora Maar.

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Orange published 07/08/2019

Eating an orange is like eating a sun. It is hard to do it right and there is no adequate technique or system you can rely on. You have to trust your instincts and be guided by your craving to eat it, to be at one with it. At first, you select your longest nail. Usually the nail of your left thumb. You use it as a delicate scalpel to cut through the thick orange skin near the top of the fruit. The idea is to cut through the skin and not reach the pulp but too often, especially if the orange is perfectly ripe, it fails. Juice gushes out and you feel it run on the palms of your hands, down your wrists. For a while you do nothing because you love the wet sticky touch on your skin and the strong fresh scent of orange in the blue winter air.

By Lucie Bonvalet.

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Three Unbooks: DuPlessis, Scutenaire, Scappettone published 01/08/2019

If every book is a performance or reiteration of prior books, Mallarmé is not immune to the ideology of prismism — the idea that his blank contains all, and this is perhaps the fatal flaw that DuPlessis addresses. DuPlessis’ untranslation, then, takes into account the idea that the page itself might be the obstacle to the realization of Mallarmé’s never-attained absolute book. DuPlessis may not be asking us to aestheticize or idealize the blank, but rather to unpage it. What would it mean to unpage rather than aestheticize the blank?

By Joe Milutis.

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Sage of Discord published

But at this point in his career, Melville is no stranger to this kind of slur. Reviewing Moby-Dick five years earlier, The Boston Post had called the novel “a crazy sort of affair”, while The New York Albion had declared that there was “no method in his madness”. On the other side of the Atlantic, The London Literary Gazette had urged him “not to waste his strength on such purposeless and unequal doings as these rambling volumes about spermaceti whales”, while in The London Athenaeum, Henry Chorley had dismissed the book as a “species of Bedlam literature”, scoffing at its “mad, as opposed to bad, English”.

Read Oscar Mardell‘s extraordinary Sage of Discord; or Melville at 200: A Revenge Tragedy in 24 Sections. All 48 pages of it!

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Of Snow and Corpses: Facets of Douglas Glover’s Fiction published 29/07/2019

If you read Glover carefully, all the way through, you start to get the sense that it might be an insult or a slight to aver that his bruising works are beautiful, the fugal structures scintillating, the prose exquisitely titrated. That the only fit response to Glover’s fiction, like the new experimentalism, is indifference and silence. But at the risk of indulging a retro sentimentality, some Baffin Island of the mind, I’ll hazard the acclaim. Glover himself has touched on what’s special about literary form (beauty) and why abjuring it is, if not impossible, a fool’s errand, tantamount to collapsing clear-eyed ambivalence into a blind determinacy, a failure of artistic nerve (but if that’s your thing, go nuts, pilgrim).

By Bruce Stone.

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The Zombification of Critical Approaches to Recentish Literary Product published 24/07/2019

The issues within, around the term modernism, and the current critical treatment of recent literary artefacts and their environmental histories appear here intertwined. The troubling frailties in each seem to suggest that both are undergoing a moment of fundamental crisis. The crises apparent in this term modernism would here appear as above-sea-level section of the iceberg; the more visible sign of more profound disintegrations and dysfunctions occurring below.

By Andrew Hodgson.

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The Poet has Left the Room published 10/07/2019

Bhattacharya’s most iconic poem, written in Bengali, “This Valley of Death is Not Mine,” is a chilling reminder of the way cycles of democracy, interspersed with periods of absolute fascism, both feed off each other. He knew fascism would raise its ugly head in his country again. He was absolutely certain. The poem—written in early 1990s— reverberates with echoes of this new India. No other poem has been or would be able to capture the helplessness and anger of seeing our country slip into the hands of traders of hate.

By Nilanjana Bhowmick.

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Kafka in Amerika published 03/07/2019

Kafka’s first intuition of America—a striking one given his propensity for claustrophobic set pieces—is his ability to capture its scale. Compare the openings of Amerika and Manhattan Transfer. Both open begin with the arrival of a ship into New York City—in Dos Passos’s case a ferry. Both capture the throng, part and parcel of the sheer immensity that is America’s defining feature. Manhattan Transfer’s second sentence ends “men and women press through the manure smelling wooden tunnel of the ferry house, crushed and jostling like apples feed down a chute into a press”. The second paragraph of Amerika mirrors this imagery: “quite forgetting to disembark, he found himself gradually pushed up against the railing by the massing throng of porters”.

By Duncan Stuart.

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The Incorruptible: Stanisława Przybyszewska published 25/06/2019

There was no upside to Przybyszewska’s mode of existence. Her descent from the three-room apartment upstairs that she’d shared with Jan to the ‘dungeon’ on the ground floor where she lived alone also marked the start of her descent into deeper and deeper addiction, fear, poverty, bitterness, loneliness, and probably madness. We will not speak of despair. In her final years, when she had ceased to see pupils and her trips out had become still more infrequent, her world shrunk to the vanishing point, her confinement the stuff of Beckett. In fact, Przybyszewska’s life in Danzig closely resembled the ‘ideal’ circumstances for a writer that Kafka described in a letter to his fiancée Felice, intending, among other things, to scare her.

Alex Andriesse on Polish writer Stanisława Przybyszewska.

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Wait Here? published 19/06/2019

The furniture, does it appear to be from a boardroom, a convention center, a church basement, a college classroom, a dorm, a high school, a kindergarten, or maybe somebody’s home? If it’s like parlor furniture, what kind of parlor? Are you getting the brandy, cigars, and a whole lot of harrumphing vibe? The little sandwiches, Easter colors, and passive aggression vibe? Or, are you thinking more like a fraternity house vibe, bunch of mismatched couches, wrecked chairs, tables that look like they were heaved off the roof and somehow landed here? Maybe there’s an island theme, a nautical theme, a modernist theme, an antique theme, a 1950s theme, a far-flung future floating through space theme, or maybe the theme is that there’s no goddamn theme at all? Would it be worse if there were no theme because you might begin to lose the thread of why you’re here? Are you sweating through your pants onto this relentlessly unthemed furniture on account of whatever lies beyond this room waiting for you? Could it be that bad?

By Andrew Farkas.

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