The Alien Suggests

The Alien Suggests

The Alien Suggests

Go camping. Go together. Share a tent, a fire. Build the campsite with one another, for one another.

Wake up to the sounds of brooks and rivers nearby. Pause and listen. Walk in the forest together, or by yourself when the dawn appears. Climb the mountainside for kindling and a peak at the sunrise over the distant hills. When you face forward, spin, take in your 360s, your panoramas.

The old metal coffee pot is on the grill. Share it with friends. Leave your phones at home. No TV. No news. Swap the virtual for the real. Swap bad fictions for the real.

Laugh and sing with one another, like you did when you were young and unafraid.Read more “The Alien Suggests”

Community Bookstore Live

Community Bookstore Live

I bumped into this today, thanks to the Paris Review’s “Staff Picks.” A series of video chat sessions with some truly excellent writers, perfect for pandemic times. Well worth a look:

Community Bookstore Live videos

Life is swirling too intensely at the moment, throwing me around the house, making me bounce from ceiling to floor to wall and back again, like a bad Disney dream.

No friend of mine, Writer’s Block. No boon companion. But he’s here, there, and everywhere on the page. The blank page. White, laughing and cruel pages, so far this month. I can only hope 2021 will end up being a productive and significantly more enjoyable year, when all is said and done.… Read more “Community Bookstore Live”

Todd McGowan’s Universality and Identity Politics

Todd McGowan’s Universality and Identity Politics

Identity. It is to die for, sometimes. But we’re driven to form them – against. We become Not-our-parents, Not-our-siblings, Not-our-classmates, but never purely so. And rarely without a multitude of complications. There is always a mix, a set of contradictions that includes conformity with, too. They flow in and out. And while we develop our identity forms, we paradoxically become less in sync with our many selves. Our perceptions of the way others see us shape these forms even when we fight against. This, that, or them. The fight itself, or its passive acceptance, can mean we’re out of sync. There is no winning here. There is only contradiction and paradox.… Read more “Todd McGowan’s Universality and Identity Politics”

Phoebe Freakin’ Bridgers Knows the End is Here

Phoebe Freakin’ Bridgers Knows the End is Here

Catharsis. We always need at least a bit. In recent times, in the light and darkness of current events, the degree of need has elevated, worldwide, to levels (perhaps) previously unknown. Because along with the endless crises of war, and war, and more war, hunger, homelessness, poverty, and environmental destruction, we also have a pandemic in the mix, and a politics of fear and division that seems to have taken over most of the world.

As is usually the case when perfect storms are raging, we get a lot of people telling us what we really need right now, the special something to at least temporarily alleviate said crises. I’m guilty of such (annoying) gestures at times too, but I won’t be in this particular point in the space/time discontinuum.… Read more “Phoebe Freakin’ Bridgers Knows the End is Here”

Zeitgeist Voices Figure it Out

Zeitgeist Voices Figure it Out

Fiona Apple really doesn’t care what you think of her. Well, that’s the impression I get when I consider the way she handled her early stardom, back in 1996, and the fact she’s only put out four albums since then. Her most recent, Fetch The Bolt Cutters, released this past spring, seems as fresh as her first, penned when she was 17, 18 and 19. Back then, she seemed like a unicorn of sorts, bold, but vulnerable, classically trained, but willing to step out and away from tradition. And she could scat. She could jazz it up and still sound like the newest, coolest woman on the block. Actually, not just new — beautifully strange.… Read more “Zeitgeist Voices Figure it Out”

A Belated Update on This Life

A Belated Update on This Life

Some well-deserved recognition for a must-read book:

Professor Martin Hägglund wins the prestigious René Wellek Prize

Martin Hägglund’s This Life has been awarded the René Wellek Prize for the best book in the field by the American Comparative Literature Association. The Wellek Prize is generally considered to be the most prestigious award in comparative literature. Past winners include Umberto Eco and Edward Said. In their prize motivation, the awards committee offered high praise for This Life:

Before and After

Before and After

The Scream, by Edward Munch. 1893

One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream. — Edvard Munch (1892)

 

The past before us
Is the past we all share now

Twice past
Twice blessed

Roaming through the ages
When we jammed into rooms
Bars houses apartments

Together breathing the same air
Breathing the same context in time

An earlier landscape internalized
For physical connections we took for granted
For fun for chances to spar and joust
In person together

Together but apart in our mind’s eye
Because we could be that way
That aloof that cool
But still there

Pre-pandemic
Meant pre-separation

Pre-pandemic
Meant we panicked about different things

To say the least because we could
Say the least and get away with it

The air we breathe
The air we pass on to others

Is existential now
     We are each other’s crisis

The Discomfort of Reading

The Discomfort of Reading

The Discomfort of Evening, by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, 2018. (Translated by Michele Hutchison, 2020.)

It’s a big deal to win The International Booker Prize. It’s a much bigger deal, it seems to me, to do so before you’re 30. Still bigger when the book itself defies convention, adds another step on the ladder of literature, makes us think differently about farms, families, children and their inner worlds, abuse, and the ways we try to cope with this.

They poeticize. They poeticize grief and internalize/externalize it through metaphor. But those metaphors touch everything around them, so the grief never really leaves. They aren’t bridges to unrelated abstractions, existing in some Platonic World of Forms.… Read more “The Discomfort of Reading”

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