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3:AM Asia » Reviews » Stewart Home’s Bruceploitation Groove (published 13/10/2018)

If you look carefully there’s something about all of Home’s work that remains consistent. He’s interested in forms of cultural work that is marginal but marginal for a reason. It’s often a sleazy, porny, low-brow sentimentalism he develops and pivots off, one that appeals to clear-cut psychological gratifications rather than sly rational evidence for whatever. He doesn’t waste time on normative theory for consumption by bourgeoise academics and vanguardists of both left and right. He is trying to work out and understand the mechanisms by which Marxist psychology and epistemology works which entails in part understanding better the Marxist theory of ideology.

Richard Marshall reviews Stewart Home‘s new book on Bruceploitation.

Reviews » Is Time Travel Possible? Are We Close to Doomsday? And Other Big Deals… (published 04/08/2018)

The Doomsday Argument applies anthropic thinking to our place in history.  It says (roughly), we should favour the prospect of imminent human extinction on the grounds that our location, qua randomly selected humans, is more probable if a large fraction of all humans there will ever be have already lived.  In other words, the argument runs, if we apply anthropic reasoning to our location in history, we should increase our probability for history being close to its end.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Alasdair Richmond.

Reviews » The Sacrifice Throw: SJ Fowler’s The Wrestlers (published 13/07/2018)

There’s a very old consciousness here, one wanting to create his own metaphor for poetry. Torn between realism, wanting to reproduce things as they are – the conversations, asides, fragmentary sights, because they’re strong and necessary as metaphors – and invention, via dislocation or substitution of materials or shape, or contrasts which by themselves take the object as it were away from both itself and the originals, there’s a sense of pushing and pulling both ways from all directions. And everything tends towards yielding materials that are being pushed around like this, and pulled, which are the very strong subjectivities in play but also a subjectivity you and I can have and share in, so this is push and pull, or fancy dialectics where ‘being clever is not armour’, as Fowler has it early on, where his ‘… hill of necessity turns to taste’, shows ‘taste’ as just this, you fighting with your other selves, or something like that.

Richard Marshall reviews SJ Fowler‘s The Wrestlers.

Reviews » Good Orientalism: Robert Irwin vs Ernest Gellner on Ibn Khaldun. Boom! (published 23/06/2018)

I was surprised when I read that Irwin specifically rejects Gellner’s approach to reading Khaldun. He accuses this sort of reading as intellectual tourism. He says that to claim Khaldun as a ‘a superb inductive sociologist, a practitioner, long before the term was invented, of ideal types, a brilliant account of one extremely important kind of society’, as Gellner summarized him, is an example of pernicious Orientalism whereby western scholars impose western ideas onto their eastern material. This is an ungenerous and loaded accusation that doesn’t fairly represent Gellner’s reading of Khaldun. It’s doubly strange because Irwin has brilliantly written about how Edward Said’s book ‘Orientalism’ was a calumny against a whole field of scholars working in the field of Orientalism.

Richard Marshall reviews Robert Irwin’s biography of Ibn Khaldun.

Essays » Psychedelics and Education: A conversation with Kenneth Tupper (published 06/06/2018)

Ethnographers have documented the shamanic and psychedelic practices of indigenous people for centuries. This 1560 account from the Catholic evangelization of the Aztecs, by the Franciscan missionary Bernardino de Sahagún, was published in a pharmaceutical trade publication in 1951 (the piece allegedly caught the attention of the banker Gordon Wasson, who then went on to become the 20th century’s most influential ethnomycologist). Points of resonance with western experiential education (e.g. the vision quest) are evident, but these indigenous practices are more likely to be conceptualized by westerners as superstitious ritual rather than as means of gaining meaningful knowledge about the cosmos or human condition.

Lindsay Jordan talks psychedelics with Ken Tupper.

Reviews » Gore Capitalism: The Politics of Tony Montana (published 05/06/2018)

Tijuana is where the violence is insane, everywhere and involves everyone. Readers of Bolano and Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez know all about this. Violence there is no longer a peripheral, accidental side-effect of narco cartels and corrupt politics but a lethal structural feature of a weak, broken state. A culture of depraved machismo feeds it, leading to elaborate and theatrical killings and perverted snuff-sex death. The black tears of the innocent are washed away in its white noise carnage. The porno psycho-murder entrepreneurialism seeps into the international markets of everything. A faux blankness silences the helpless keening of its victims. We, the happy consumers of the deranged products of these cults of hallucinatory death feign ignorance or are genuinely outraged. Whatever, enough of us, like addicts and nihilists, mercilessly continue to buy.

Richard Marshall reviews Sayak Valencia‘s Gore Capitalism.

Reviews » The Underground Republic of Tony White (published 30/05/2018)

White’s subtle pulp detective novel comes with all the benefits of the genre: a complex and twisting plot with a genuinely shocking and satisfying dénouement, a brooding, troubled and edgy anti-hero cop protagonist and a broad, psychogeographic and political landscape taking place in the designated sacred spacetime spanning the end of the Miners Strike in 1985 to the Battle of the Beanfield at Stonehenge. Writing it White adopts the playful puzzle materials of the Oulipo lit guys and gals and draws esoterical fodder from the Guardian crossword puzzle and the Sylvain Marechal’s French Revolutionary Calendar. There’s a luxuriance of natural feeling and grounded knowing in the well-healed prose. It has an assurance that drives the plot towards its severe but thrilling denunciations of our corrupt forces of law and ordure. White works against the bookish and cloistered, brings vernacular energies to his communal memories of this time.

Richard Marshall reviews Tony White‘s The Fountain in the Forest.

Art » A Personal Golgotha (published 19/05/2018)

It’s all DIY  – hardly proof-read and done too fast in between day jobs to be anything but jump-start writing. So forget about the writing. What matters is what its about. It adds up to a boss reading list and a cranked up gang of characters smoking up the haunted back bars of the eerie early morning. 3:AM’s been around since 2000 and I joined Gallix’s punkstorm early on. It’s one of the oldest literary sites on the web. And back in the early days there was hardly anything out there so we were literally making it up as we went along.

Keep Up: a 3:AM backlist.

Reviews » Perfection’s Therapy: Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia 1 (published 05/04/2018)

Merback’s innovative work presses now for the identification of a new image, the image of the allegorical-speculative image for cognitive-spiritual exercise. These images were not stepping stones to metaphysical truths. They aimed at a Petrarchan practical and ethical therapy in this world. In this they link with the complex pedigree of catharsis, Aristotle’s best-known therapy. Merback argues therefore that Dürer’s Melencolia 1 is ‘ an erudite portrayal of the peculiar misery that grips creative people, melancholia, but also an instrument for remedying it.’

Richard Marshall reviews Mitchell B. Merback’s new book about Dürer’s masterpiece.

Essays » ‘The Stuckness That Isn’t Exhaustion’: Beckett and Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘The Tetschener Altar’ (published 02/04/2018)

‘We are what we are. The setting has to come out of the text, without adding to it. … In ‘Godot’ it is a sky that is sky only in name, a tree that makes them wonder whether it is one, tiny and shrivelled. I should like to see it set up any old how, sordidly abstract as nature is, for the Estragons and Vladimirs, a place of suffering, sweaty and fishy, where sometimes a turnip grows, or a ditch opens up.’ And in case we don’t get it: ‘Nothing, it expresses nothing, it is an opaque no one bothers to question anymore. Any formal specificity becomes impossible.’ There is something speaking to this in Friedrich’s painting, as if what it seems is that we have a sky, a mountain, a cross, a metal Christ – apparently. A set of diagrammaticals, sans labels, inveighing against both meaning and the world, a spectacle without place, something that inaugurates picturing after the fact.

Richard Marshall on Caspar David Friedrich and Samuel Beckett.