:: Essays

The Love and Poison of Nineties Music Weeklies published 18/07/2020

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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“The Work That Matters”: Seven Notes on Grant Maierhofer’s Works published 15/06/2020

As a whole, then, Works is a hybrid ensemble whose entirety exceeds any single perceptive process, an ever-shifting entity larger than any one reader’s (the present one included) consciousness can keep hold of. A bird’s-eye view of its entirety enables one to see its multiple genres reduced to their elemental forms; the whole assembled as a prismatic constellation of competing, mutually reflective discourses and discursive gestures. In Bataille’s conception of assemblage just as Maierhofer’s, the interplay of genres and forms becomes the interface of discourses and types of knowledge, wherein each type of writing brings with it a range of stylistic tropes and possibilities, as well as referential and epistemological assumptions and limitations. What can be said somehow in one form must appear otherwise in another, provided it can be said at all.

By David Vichnar.

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Adult Education: My Restrictive Covenant published 08/06/2020

Maybe it was the one-two punch of it that took me out, spun my head, and made me soul-sick. Or maybe the most surprising thing about it was that I was surprised. First, to find myself snarled in traffic on I-96 near Lansing, Michigan on April 30 with more than a few pick-up trucks flying the Confederate Flag. They were on their way to protest our Governor’s response to the pandemic. I could feel their hatred burning through my windshield. Second, about a week later, I discovered these words in a document that described my own home, the very home whose kitchen I was sitting in at that very moment:

That the Grantees, their heirs, executors and assigns shall not permit any portion of said premises to be occupied by any person not of the Caucasian Race.

For as much as I had read about the topic, even immersed myself in it, talked about it in classes, I wasn’t prepared for seeing this, typed on parchment paper, in my very own home.

By Nicholas Rombes.

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Melancholy and Exclusion: On Reading Kafka during the Pandemic published 03/06/2020

Mourning and grief bring with them an emphasis on inclusivity: we are all in this together, grieving the same loss. It is mourning that Sigmund Freud famously contrasts with melancholia. Mourning is the normal process of dealing with loss, and one we expect to emerge from on the other side. Melancholia is the absorption of loss into the ego, into the self. It differs from mourning in that it is more severe and more permanent. It is given literary form in the works of Franz Kafka, as we shall see. More so than mourning, melancholia carries an imagery of exclusion. Freud argues that melancholia brings with it a turn against one’s own worth. In this we see something of its exclusionary character: it is something that happens to me, in melancholia I retreat from a world that stands in contrast to my state of depression. We can collectively mourn, but I am not so sure we can experience collective melancholia.

By Duncan Stuart.

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