Aesthetics is, at its best and at its origins, a form of hunting. Not only a hunt for the beautiful and the sublime, but also for the ensnarement and identification of subtle experiences, ambivalent impressions, and novel sensations. If beauty and truth represent the big game—the promise of freedom, happiness, and peace on earth—the minor aesthetic categories are smaller, but still significant, quarry. Even in the eighteenth century, in the writing of Edmund Burke and Richard Payne Knight,
Joel Dicker, a 27-year-old Swiss novelist, is the talk of the town in his native city of Geneva. Dicker’s second book, La Vérité sur l’affaire Harry Quebert (ed. Fallois/l’Age d’Homme, Sept. 2012) has won three major literary prizes, including the novelist’s award from the Académie française, and was long-listed last year for France’s Prix Goncourt. At the Frankfurt Book Fair last fall, Harry Quebert was a sensation: one observer compared the buzz surrounding the book to that of Stieg Larsson
At the climax of Mila 18—the late Baltimore-born novelist Leon Uris’s epic retelling of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising—a fat and bumbling SS minion is dispatched to negotiate with the leaders of the Jewish resistance. “So you are a superman,” a Joint Jewish Forces commander sardonically inquires as the Nazi cowers, feeling “inept before the lean, black-eyed young Jew who could obviously rip him to shreds.” Exhaustively researched and sweeping in scope, the beloved 1961 novel contributed
To begin with the most obvious of philosophical questions, What is pornography? The problem of definition is well known and often invoked as part of the argument against the legal repression of pornographic materials. If we decide to censor, the worry goes, what will be the fate of works by artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Norman Mailer? What should be done about ad campaigns like those of Victoria’s Secret, which openly draw on soft-core tropes, and American Apparel, which invokes the
Perhaps the most famous single line in Guillaume Apollinaire’s body of work is the opening declaration of his 1912 poem “Zone:” “You’re tired of this old world at last.” “Zone” heralds modernity—with its urban setting, its montage of images (the Eiffel Tower, billboards, a “ghetto clock running backwards”), and its jump cuts through time and space. The poem marks a transition between the lyricism of a prior generation of French verse and changing ways of seeing and imagining
Former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein’s first appearance in the historical record occurs in 1959, as a Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored would-be assassin of Iraqi Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim. Years later, Hussein, after becoming Iraq’s president in 1979, would commit a number of the same missteps that finally led to Qasim’s downfall: threatening Kuwaiti sovereignty, alienating Iraq from its Arab neighbors, and not making the country’s oil reserves more accessible to Western
In a lecture given at New York University’s Deutsches Haus on the 28th of October last year, some months before the publication of a very fat new book named Less Than Nothing, philosopher Slavoj Zizek interrupted one of his characteristic digressions to make an aside that was particularly revealing. He said of G. W. F. Hegel, “Sometimes he is very evil.” And then—involuntarily beaming—“I love him.” It was a startling statement, even for those hardened to Zizek’s fondness for vivid
Tereska Torrès will be probably be remembered as the world's first lesbian pulp novelist, though as Torrès was always the first to point out, she had no intention of earning that reputation. Born in Paris in 1920, Torrès served with the Free French forces in London during the Second World War and fictionalized her experience in the 1950 novel Women's Barracks. Though she went on to write fourteen more books before her death last week, Women's Barracks became a cult classic for its campy homoeroticism
Think Tokyo and you think bright lights, busy streets, and technology so ubiquitous that you can buy bananas out of a vending machine. And all those things are there. But even though iPads and e-readers are everywhere, Tokyo is still a great city for readers partial to paper and ink. The city’s students and artists contribute to a thriving free-zine scene, and its bookstores stock everything from vintage American magazines to the latest New York Times bestsellers. Even in Shibuya, the bustling
I have a bad habit. (No it’s not that I read Tucker Max’s books for pleasure.) My bad habit is that I often begin books by taking a peek at the ending. The best test of a book is not the seduction of a well-planned first sentence; it is how well the book satisfies expectations at the bitter end. By this measure, Tucker Max’s third book, Hilarity Ensues, is a great read. The epilogue begins, “When I got to the literary world, it was like a great big pussy, just waiting to get fucked—and I
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