Reviews

'The lip of a paragraph'

On Renee Gladman's 'Calamities'

Photo of Renee Gladman (left) courtesy of Wave Books.

On the last page of Renee Gladman’s Calamities is a thick line drawn upon its lower portion. Beginning from the leftmost part of the page, it extends out to the right where it is cut off by the righthand side of the page. The line is one of Gladman’s principal preoccupations; its depiction here, as one abruptly stopped by the edge of the page, seems to me to epitomize the unrepresentability of a line.

On the last page of Renee Gladman’s Calamities is a thick line drawn upon its lower portion. Beginning from the leftmost part of the page, it extends out to the right where it is cut off by the righthand side of the page. The line is one of Gladman’s principal preoccupations; its depiction here, as one abruptly stopped by the edge of the page, seems to me to epitomize the unrepresentability of a line.

The author and authority

Daniil Kharms and the Russian Absurd

“Like Gogol’s independent nose, Kharms’s nudge becomes shove as he punctuates discourses on faith or sex with grotesqueries, including the ultimate grotesque, death.” Major Kovalyov’s nose as depicted in The Metropolitan Opera in New York’s production of ‘The Nose,’ October 2013. Photo by Bengt Nyman.

As some of us are coming to know, the absurd may be characteristic of authoritarian regimes. If so, then the reading of Daniil Kharms is quite urgent in our day. When all norms are violated, it may be that only the absurdist pen can accurately swath through the fuzzy edges of alternative facts and fake news. Russian Absurd is thus a book for our age. With a devoted following in Russia and a growing cult of readers in the United States, writer Daniil Kharms (pen name of Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachev, 1905–1942) is achieving a fame that would have surprised him.

As some of us are coming to know, the absurd may be characteristic of authoritarian regimes. If so, then the reading of Daniil Kharms is quite urgent in our day. When all norms are violated, it may be that only the absurdist pen can accurately swath through the fuzzy edges of alternative facts and fake news. Russian Absurd is thus a book for our age. 

Menacing archives

A review of Jennifer Scappettone's 'The Republic of Exit 43'

Trucks dump garbage at Fresh Kills Landfill, May 1973. Photo by Chester Higgins with the EPA, via Wikimedia Commons.

What kind of archive is the landfill? How do disposable technologies haunt — or annul — the imaginaries of urban ecologies? Landfills and wastelands often preserve more than personal and communal memories: narratives of city development, domestic and global economies, cultural infrastructures, and processes that underpin technological innovations. 

What kind of archive is the landfill? How do disposable technologies haunt — or annul — the imaginaries of urban ecologies? Landfills and wastelands often preserve more than personal and communal memories: narratives of city development, domestic and global economies, cultural infrastructures, and processes that underpin technological innovations.

Ardour, or …

Nicole Brossard’s burning word

'If ardour is that thing — whether in the romance or the saint’s life — that heats us up to jump from one phase of being to another, Brossard’s ardour intensifies but also idles.' Lamb of God stained glass image from St. Ignatius church in Massachusetts; photo by John Workman via the English Language Wikipedia.

Ardour: the flame of desire; a spiritual, sexual, or physical burning; a passion that the OED tells us now connotes only “generous or noble impulses” though once it could speak of evil. It’s a word I rarely use or hear spoken in conversation. When I think of reading it, I recall English novels. In these stories a girlish face turns upward to receive a kiss; it is the kiss that is imposed with ardour, the girl’s lover who is ardent. When I read for “ardour” online, the books at the top of the list my search returns are religious, moral, martial.

Caspar's Silence

A review of 'Registration Caspar'

Image at right courtesy of J. Gordon Faylor.

In her blurb for Registration Caspar, poet Divya Victor described the text — part genre fiction, part avant-garde experiment — as one in which “all of … Beckett’s unfulfilled plans and undeployed scenarios have come back to haunt.” She isn’t wrong: taking the form of a log written before the imminent “erasure” of Caspar (a non-gendered “entity” rushing to save money for the two partners they will leave behind), the text is certifiably Beckettian, in the sense that the reader’s patience is challenged by what Bataille would call an “incontinent flux” of language.