Nations, like political creeds, can be upbeat or downbeat. Along with North Korea, the United States is one of the few countries on earth in which optimism is almost a state ideology. For large sectors of the nation, to be bullish is to be patriotic, while negativity is a species of thought crime. Pessimism is thought to be vaguely subversive. Even in the most despondent of times, a collective fantasy of omnipotence and infinity continues to haunt the national unconscious. It would be almost as
In “Chat écoutant la musique” (“Cat Listening to Music”), a two-minute, fifty-five-second video posted to YouTube on December 21, 2010, a black, white, and gray tabby sprawls across the keyboard of a Yamaha DX7. He sleeps and stirs, seeming to enjoy the pellucid, lapping notes and chords of a piece of piano music playing in the room. We watch the cat’s paws depress the keys soundlessly when he arches and stretches. We notice his ears perk and twitch. When the music briefly intensifies,
When I am not writing I am not writing a novel called 1994 about a young woman in an office park in a provincial town who has a job cutting and pasting time. I am not writing a novel called Nero about the world’s richest art star in space. I am not writing a book called Kansas City Spleen. I am not writing a sequel to Kansas City Spleen called Bitch’s Maldoror. I am not writing a book of political philosophy called Questions for Poets. I am not writing a scandalous memoir. I am not writing a
At a party recently, I overheard someone in his twenties talking about how much he enjoyed a television show called The Fall because it made him think about how “being a man is its own kind of disease.” People of both genders nodded in a sympathetic way. If this is a moment when young people seek out opportunities for misandry, there are plenty of occasions to do so; even pulp entertainments like Game of Thrones and Mad Max: Fury Road put men at the center not to assert male power but to invite
When the “linguistic escape artist” Christine Brooke-Rose died in 2012, at the age of eighty-nine, she was already a buried author, her formidable oeuvre little read or appreciated. With elements of science fiction, metafiction, and nouveau roman, her writing has been called “resplendently unreadable,” “incomprehensible and pretentious,” and simply “difficult.” Her 1998 novel Next, featuring twenty-six narrators and written without the verb “to have,” reappeared earlier this month from Verbivoracious
At the end of November 1974, a friend from Paris called and told me that Lotte Eisner was seriously ill and would probably die. I said that this must not be, not at this time, German cinema could not do without her now, we would not permit her death. I took a jacket, a compass, and a duffel bag with the necessities. My boots were so solid and new that I had confidence in them. I set off on the most direct route to Paris, in full faith, believing that she would stay alive if I came on foot.
Dennis Cooper's latest book, Zac’s Haunted House, was released online in mid-January by the Paris-based small press and label Kiddiepunk. Dubbed an “html novel” and offered as a free download, it consists of seven html files, each of which expands into a long, vertical scroll of animated gifs. You could call Zac’s Haunted House many things: net art, a glorified Tumblr, a visual novel, a mood board, or a dark night of the Internet's soul. It has just a few words—the chapter titles and a few
Before she published My Brilliant Friend, the first volume of her much-celebrated Neapolitan series, in 2011, Elena Ferrante was known for three short, violent novels about women on the outer boundary of sanity. Although their stories are unrelated, the books form a thematic trilogy. Each is narrated by a woman who embodies a different aspect of female experience—in Troubling Love, a daughter; in Days of Abandonment, a wife; in The Lost Daughter, a mother—and each is concerned with how these
Atticus Lish is seeking a state of flow—what the "positive psychologist" Mihlay Csikszentmihalyi calls the opposite of psychic entropy: negentropy. It can only be achieved while in pursuit of a task for the sake of the task. The good doctor also claims it is the secret to happiness. Atticus Lish, surely right now, is sitting in his chair in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, humming in his routine: two thousand words per day on the next book. He has a system: spit it out, systematically revise, sweep it
IN THE WORK of the Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, the shortest distances are often also the greatest: The space between self and other can be maddeningly difficult to traverse. Full of magical transformations, ritual sacrifices, and turbulent prophetic dreams, Cortázar’s writing abounds with troubled pairings, unlikely and uneasy doppelgängers who come apart even as—especially as—they converge. In one of his stories, “The Distances,” a wealthy Argentine woman dreams repeatedly of