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
Ellen Willis, whose music writing recently received a much-deserved revival, was often drawn to the counterculture, progressive politics, and how the two overlapped. In this essay, originally published in 1989 in the Village Voice and reprinted in the new book The Essential Ellen Willis, she dwells on feminism, the concept of excess (sex and drugs), abstinence, gay rights, parenthood, and AIDS. Willis often finds her stride in complexity, and here she intricately examines and interrogates the
Benjamin Kunkel reflects on what led him to his preoccupation with Marxist—or "Marxish"—political economy, in this excerpt from Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis, his new collection of essays. To the disappointment of friends who would prefer to read my fiction—as well as of my literary agent, who would prefer to sell it—I seem to have become a Marxist public intellectual. Making matters worse, the relevant public has been a small one consisting of readers of the two publications,
When the writer and painter John Berger won the Booker Prize in 1972—for his novel G., about sex, loneliness, a failed revolution, and the imminent devastation of the First World War—he rather famously donated half of his award money to the Black Panthers. On the political spectrum of his day, Berger’s action outraged the right and the left alike, the former for giving any cash at all to a band of militants, the latter for holding back the other half. A few months ago, the novelist and critic
When mass demonstrations began erupting throughout the towns and cities of Egypt three years ago, there seemed to be no author more inappropriate to the moment than the late Albert Cossery. A legendary advocate of idleness and enervation, his writing felt totally at odds with the energy and euphoria of the protests on Tahrir Square. “Reading his novels amid the exhilaration of the uprising, Cossery seemed irrelevant or, happily, wrong,” reflects Anna Della Subin, who found herself in Cairo that
I thought he was a genius, i.e. we hated many of the same people.” — Chris Kraus, Aliens & Anorexia For many years, I imagined aliens landing nearby and extending an offer to go home with them, where I belong. I still do. I would scarcely miss this so-called world which, having failed to notice my existence, would little note my absence. Many people, I suspect, have had such feelings. So many, in fact, that one begins to wonder if this world of ours has already been populated by aliens. What
The authors insist that the sexual revolution must have been error[,] for so many women are still imperfectly happy; witness how they suffer from ‘conflicts,’ from ‘problems.’ -Kate Millet, 1970 On October 12, feminist author and activist Kate Millett will be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY. The town, which hosted the 1848 convention marking the start of the American movement for women’s rights, is the home of the feminist First Wave—from our vantage, a
The perfect encapsulation of Galaxie 500 appears rather late in Temperature’s Rising, a brief but intriguing scrapbook and oral history about the band. A college classmate of theirs explains, “Their album covers made a statement. Cool Restraint. Educated. Upper Class. Lots of Social Contacts.” This frames them in a way few musicians would aspire to be framed. From one perspective, it could even be taken as a devastating bon mot. First of all it’s about their album art, not their music. Second,
On entering a major Nigerian city, you’re likely to encounter some aged signage that welcomes you to the city and encourages you to enjoy yourself. For example, in Calabar, the welcome sign reads, “Welcome to Calabar. Come And Live And Be At Rest.” But in Lagos—Nigeria’s most populous city and its former capital—you get simply, “This Is Lagos.” The subtext is clear: This is a no-nonsense city. Lagos will not coddle you or gush mushy endearments. A common expression here is “shine your eyes,”
Whenever I sit down to write about a place that’s become very familiar, my first impulse is to imagine it in the strangest way possible. I try to take in its mood, faces, and streets as if for the first time, and then give them a darker, more obscure, slant. For my new novel Asunder, I aimed to do this above all for the sections set in Paris, a city I’ve been visiting since childhood. This time I went to the city in search of the old “drafts and currents” that still blow through the streets,