Showing posts from 2019

2019: Writing, Reading, Viewing

Photo by Jon Tyson via Unsplash In an attempt to remember some of what I wrote, read, and watched this year, here are reflections on 2019 as it enters the past... Writing I had only a handful of publications this year, mostly because a lot of energy was eaten by work on my book Modernist Crisis and the Pedagogy of Form , which will be published next month by Bloomsbury, and by a few other items that are all scheduled for publication next year. I did manage to publish some fiction, though, for the first time in a while, and that was heartening, especially as the two stories appeared with publications I particularly respect. Here's the list: "Toxic Masculinity at the End of the World: On David R. Bunch's Moderan " , The Millions (January) Review of The Undying  by Ann Boyer and  Screen Tests  by Kate Zambreno, Rain Taxi  (Fall) "After the End of the End of the World", Outlook Springs  issue 6 "A Liberation", Conjunctions  issue 73

An Earth Elegy in Memory of Katherine Min

The new issue of Conjunctions  collects stories, essays, and poems that are, in some way or another, "Earth Elegies". It includes my most recent story, "A Liberation", which I chose to dedicate to the memory of my friend and mentor Katherine Min . She was generally known as Katherine, but to me she was Kathie. Or just K. (Kafka was one of the interests we shared.) She died in March, one day after her 60th birthday. It was the end of a long, hard struggle with cancer. I've wanted to write a tribute to her ever since the day of her death, but could not summon words that felt accurate or adequate. I'd known her since I was in college, when she worked in the office next to my mother, and one day she said to my mother that she was thinking about writing a screenplay but didn't know how, and my mother said, "My son's at NYU studying playwriting and screenwriting. I'll put you in touch." And she did. Though neither of us went on to do

Stephen Dixon (1936-2019)

photo of Stephen Dixon by Christopher T. Assaf, Baltimore Sun Sometimes, I would get annoyed when I saw Stephen Dixon's byline, because sometimes it felt like he was everywhere . Pick up a literary magazine, scan the table of contents: familiar name, unfamiliar name, Stephen Dixon. For a while, too, I thought there was a uniformity to his style: long, headlong sentences, endless paragraphs, the minute thoughts of boring white hetero guys. Everywhere. Stephen Dixon. These feelings of annoyance never lasted very long, because I'd always end up going back to one of Dixon's collections, particularly The Stories of Stephen Dixon and, more recently, What Is All This?: Uncollected Stories . Open a random page of either of those books and you will find energy, weirdness, insight, humor, tragedy, wonder. And while, yes, there's often page after page of hetero white guy yammering, we mustn't forget that Kafka was among Dixon's favorite writers, and Dixon never g

Wrestling with the Devil by Ngugi wa Thiong'o

This review was first published in the Fall 2018 issue of Rain Taxi Review of Books . (I have kept the page references in that are provided for the Rain Taxi copyeditors, but which are cut from the printed version.) At the end of December 1977, police arrived at the home of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o in Limuru, Kenya. He was sent to the Kamĩtĩ Maximum Security Prison under a detention order signed by the Minister for Home Affairs, Daniel arap Moi. He had no right to a lawyer, there was no trial, there was no sentence. For two weeks, no-one outside the government and police forces, including his family, knew where he was, or even if he was still alive. (Later, family visits were occasionally permitted, but they were rare and extremely short.) He could be detained for a day or for the rest of his life, his access to any news of the outside world severely restricted, his recourse to anything resembling due process limited to brief appearances before biannual review tribunals that might as w

Rob Zombie and the Cinema of Cruelty

I have discovered that links to the video and text essays I created some years ago for Press Play and Indiewire no longer work, so I am going to begin archiving them here. Since it's October, I'll start with a couple of horror and Halloween-themed pieces. Since Rob Zombie has a new movie out this month, and Willow Catelyn Maclay has just published what seems to me a significant look at the attraction of Zombie's films (a better essay than my own work here), this seems like a good piece to start the archival process with... CINEMAS OF CRUELTY! Press Play , October 2013 The feature films that Rob Zombie has made between 2000 and 2013 create new styles of emotional and perceptual disturbance from the corpses of cultural products past. True to his name, Zombie reanimates dead tropes, turns, and troubles into powerful attacks on our expectations and desires. By summoning the spirit of previous movies, particularly, Zombie encourages us to think we are watching a

The Narrative of Dead Narrative

Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash 1. Suddenly, it feels like post-war France again. Two essays were published within days of each other, both denouncing something they call narrative : "Narrative in the Anthropocene Is the Enemy" by Roy Scranton at LitHub and "Storytelling and Forgetfulness" by Amit Chaudhuri at LA Review of Books . Is the nouveau roman back in vogue? Neither essay is especially illuminating or compelling, I don't think, but it's interesting that they both appeared so close together and from such different writers, with quite different purposes. That fact (their synchronicity) more than anything else is what caught my attention. What work, I wondered, is the concept they call narrative doing within these essays? In his essay, Roy Scranton is doing what he's known for, a shtick that was provocative when Learning to Die in the Anthropocene was published and Scranton positioned himself as the  Norman O. Brown  of the