Juliana Spahr, Du Bois’s Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment

Du Bois's Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment by Juliana Spahr The first thing to be said about this book is that it is brave. Poet and critic Juliana Spahr does not make her startling argument in general, nor does she make it in unreadably dense jargon that could only be followed by academic insiders. … Continue reading Juliana Spahr, Du Bois’s Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment

Buy Portraits and Ashes for Small Business Saturday!

There was a debate recently on social media over indie press Tyrant Books's tweeted proclamation that "they no longer accept agented authors." The pro-agent side argued that agents were necessary as advocates for the economic and creative interests of authors, while the anti-agent side claimed that agents were bottom-line-focused gatekeepers of the middlebrow, inescapable duller … Continue reading Buy Portraits and Ashes for Small Business Saturday!

Grant Morrison, Doom Patrol

The Doom Patrol Omnibus by Grant Morrison My rating: 3 of 5 stars In my review of Boris Groys's In the Flow, I somehow failed to note the thesis in art history for which Groys became famous: his main claim was that, as the avant-garde's dream before the Russian Revolution was the total transformation, along … Continue reading Grant Morrison, Doom Patrol

Albert Camus, The Rebel

The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt by Albert Camus My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Rebel is Albert Camus's answer, written in 1951, to the painful question of why the human attempt to overcome oppression, to destroy all religiously and socially prescribed hierarchies, led instead to fascism, communism, imperialism, and the softer … Continue reading Albert Camus, The Rebel

César Aira, Ema, the Captive

Ema, the Captive by César Aira My rating: 4 of 5 stars Reading and rereading Wilde over the years, I note a fact that his panegyrists seem not even to have suspected: the elementary and demonstrable fact that Wilde is nearly always right. —Jorge Luis Borges, "On Oscar Wilde" (trans. Esther Allen) Art never expresses … Continue reading César Aira, Ema, the Captive

Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe My rating: 3 of 5 stars Calm block fallen down here from some dark disaster —Stéphane Mallarmé, "The Tomb of Edgar Poe" Edgar Allan Poe must have the strangest legacy in modern literature: he invented both pulp fiction and the literary avant-garde. While … Continue reading Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket

César Aira, How I Became a Nun

How I Became a Nun by César Aira My rating: 3 of 5 stars To recap, following on from my review of the brilliant An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, César Aira is a prolific Argentine avant-gardist who writes fiction through a method he refers to as a "flight forward": he creates … Continue reading César Aira, How I Became a Nun

David Markson, Vanishing Point

Vanishing Point by David Markson My rating: 4 of 5 stars Well, someday I will get around to the author's masterpiece, Wittgenstein's Mistress—as well as to those other books that are listed with wry self-reference in this book: "Wittgenstein's Vienna. Wittgenstein's Nephew. Wittgenstein's Poker. Wittgenstein's Ladder." Until then, I have read this, my second of … Continue reading David Markson, Vanishing Point

Tom McCarthy, Satin Island

Satin Island: A Novel by Tom McCarthy My rating: 3 of 5 stars Imagine DeLillo or Ballard without either of those writers' command of language. Imagine prose in the style of successful young humanities academics today, who write as if they have read every novel, played every video game, grasped every political theory, and can … Continue reading Tom McCarthy, Satin Island

Labyrinth vs. Network; or, Why Modernism Is Not Google

I find a lot to criticize and very little, almost nothing, to like in the Tom McCarthy essay that is making the rounds, but I will confine myself to one point: It is not just that people with degrees in English generally go to work for corporations (which of course they do); the point is that the … Continue reading Labyrinth vs. Network; or, Why Modernism Is Not Google