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 a Hungarian
The essay, at its best, is a genre shaped by the character of its author. Charles D’Ambrosio describes it as “a forum for self-doubt.” The author’s irresolution runs throughout his new essay collection, Loitering (Tin House Books, 2014). In one piece, he describes watching a crow peck the breast of an injured robin, shortly after his brother’s suicide. Should he intervene? Would it matter? In another, he questions the motives of whale rights activists. Do they want to save whales because they no
A key figure in the New American Cinema of the 1960s, Gregory J. Markopoulos (1928-1992) made ambitious films starting in the late ’40s, complex psychodramas and romantic meditations that used symbolic color and rapid montage. In 1966, he began to construct short portrait films in-camera, running a single roll of film stock back and forth so that groups of frames were exposed or re-exposed at predetermined points. But he became increasingly disgusted with the conditions and economies of screening
Sep 19 2014

On Karen Graham

Justin Vivian Bond

In the new essay collection Icon (edited Amy Scholder; published by the Feminist Press), writers discuss their relationships with public figures they've idolized, obsessed over, worried about, and been inspired by. Contributors include Mary Gaitskill (who pays homage to Linda Lovelace), Johanna Fateman (on Andrea Dworkin), and Kate Zambreno (on Kathy Acker), among others. The pieces vividly blend biography and autobiography, moving from tribute to confessional and back again. In the essay excerpted
First published in 1980, Edmund White’s States of Desire, (recently republished in an expanded edition), is a late-’70s travelogue in which the author candidly describes gay men and gay life in places throughout the US. The book was written at a time when the gay-liberation movement was gaining momentum—helped in no small part by White’s frank and revealing work—and the AIDS crisis was still a few years away. Consequently, States of Desire offers a portrait of gay life in an era of transformation
St. Petersburg used to be a familiar place for Russians and non-Russians alike. It is so recognizable—even clichéd—as a setting for the high drama and intrigue of nineteenth-century Russian literary classics that one recent Russian novel features a first-person shooter videogame called Dostoevsky’s Petersburg. As Petrograd, we know it as the cradle of the Revolution, the backdrop for Eisenstein; as Leningrad, the tale of its suffering during the murderous Siege of Leningrad by Nazi and Finnish
In Do Not Sell at Any Price, Amanda Petrusich visits the secretive, insular world of 78rpm collectors. The oldest version of the record, these 10-inch, two-song albums are increasingly hard to track down. Finding a matching turntable is a feat in itself. The scarcity has kept the number of hobbyists small, and their devotion to “the treasure hunt” fanatical. As Petrusich explains in the prologue to the book, excerpted here, her interest in 78s began as a nostalgic protest against today’s listening
The essays in Brian Dillon’s Objects in This Mirror restlessly consider aphorisms, art vandalism, slapstic comedy, the act of erasure, the art of the essay, the history of “ruin-lust,” and the careers of a handful of contemporary artists—pieces on such a variety of topics that it’s “easier,” Dillon notes in the book’s introduction, “to name some of the subjects I’ve written about that didn’t make it into this book than to try to imagine a rationale” for what did. The generalist risks the terms
There exists a long, passionate, and somewhat batty tradition of writerly appreciation for feline ways, its entries cropping up among the serious work of many otherwise serious people. In The Informed Air (New Directions, 2014), a new collection of Muriel Spark's criticism and occasional prose, Spark joins the chorus with a paean to her own cat, Bluebell. Spark is known for her novels, not her nonfiction. Yet in this volume's frequently short and sometimes oddball selections, drawn from the full
This is something of an impromptu book review, to mark the publication three weeks ago by FSG of John Ashbery’s Collected French Translations, volume I devoted to poetry, volume II to prose. I take this to be a major publishing event. As do its superb editors Rosanna Wasserman and Eugene Richie, who go so far to quote Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary to the Swedish Academy in a widely reported remark he made to the Guardian in 2008: “The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t