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
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