Everything Pasolini did, he did as a poet. But what was it, precisely, that Pasolini did? What Pasolini was thinking about is what now makes him seem—like so many products of the radical '60s and '70s—slightly dusty, as if from a time capsule. The deep aim of all his writing was as messy and outdated as utopia.
The writer Barry Hannah used to say that even though Bob Dylan can’t sing, he has the desperation of not being able to sing, which is better than being Glen Campbell, who can sing. Of course, there’s something patronizing here: Even if Dylan can’t sing, he can do a lot of other things well.
Few authors remain at once as familiar and excitingly original over the course of a career as Muriel Spark. From book to book, an odd familiarity combines with a scrappy sense of a new beginning. For the neophyte, there’s no bad place to jump in; for the veteran, there’s always something new to
Ariel Schrag, now in her mid-thirties, has been a force in gay pop culture since she was fourteen. A prolific cartoonist, she started publishing her own autobiographical comic-book series, Awkward, her freshman year at Berkeley High, in 1995. Schrag produced a differently titled comic-book series
Sonallah Ibrahim’s novel Stealth begins with a mundane scene that captures the particular, weighty tedium of everyday life in Cairo: My father stops for a second at the door to the house before we step into the alley. He raises his hand to his mouth, twisting the
Nineteen years ago, at the age of twenty-six, the much-lauded Taiwanese novelist Qiu Miaojin killed herself. At the time of her death she was living in Paris, leading a lively and queer intellectual life very much like the narrator of her 161-page epistolary novel, Last Words from Montmartre. The sensational quality of the book's content in relation to its seeming parallels with Qiu Miaojin's life is an inextricable part of reading it.
The imaginative artist, who carries the resources of the poet and the psychic in his trick bag, is compelled to impose more variations on the real, whether past or present: lying, as Ralph Ellison once said, to get to the truth. It's through such bold wanderings through the American subconscious that African American writers such as Jeffery Renard Allen strengthen autonomy over the depictions of their own past.
When Anna Brundage, the heroine of Stacey D’Erasmo’s Wonderland, was three years old, her father sawed a train in half and pushed it over a cliff. It was 1972, and the art world was rocked: Critics declared that he had reinvented sculpture. A postcard of the gored, upended car became a dependable
Writing, like life, is a series of choices. Which word here, there; when to stop? Like Proust, whom she has translated, Lydia Davis writes the act of writing itself. It's not just that her narrators tend to be teachers or authors, though that's true; it's that her stories are filled with moments of crisis about how to carry on, or what word to put down next, and fears that it could all mean nothing in the end.
What does it mean to make an accounting of a past you can't fully remember? This elegiac dilemma is one of Karl Ove Knausgaard's primary subjects—the difference between how we think about life and its actual moment-by-moment reality. Time changes our perspective: The terrifying tyrant becomes the shrunken Lear; the large, animated rooms of our childhood become small and plain.