“Nothing but Trouble” | Gordon Lish’s New Collection Goings Plays with the Problems of Language

Ostensibly a collection of fictional short stories, Gordon Lish’s Goings reads more like a memoir-in-fragments. All thirteen stories are told by a first-person narrator named Gordon, who parenthetically appends an exclamatory repetition of his name (“I, Gordon (Gordon!)”) throughout the work, a verbal tic that registers the tension between the author and narrator, memory and truth. All these […]

Gordon Lish: “Don’t Believe Me”

From “A Conversation with Gordon Lish,” an outstanding interview between the writer/editor and Rob Trucks. The interview is really amazing—Lish talks at length about his writing process, his sense of competition, his friendships with Don DeLillo and Cynthia Ozick, his interest in Julia Kristeva, his feelings for Harold Brodkey and Barry Hannah—and Blood Meridian. Lots and […]

Halloween Links

I suggest Count Dracula plays an uncredited cameo in Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666 Seven horror stories masquerading in other genres Death (and life) masks. You can’t do better than From Hell (Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell) Seven more horror stories masquerading in other genres Roberto Bolaño’s powers of horror (I read 2666 through a Kristevan lens) Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones: […]

Roberto Bolaño’s Powers of Horror

1. In Powers of Horror philosopher Julia Kristeva describes the idea with which she’s most closely identified, the abject, the intense horror our subjective psychology—and our bodies—experience when faced with corporeal reality: the edges of our body: filth, vomit, shit, blood, death: the me that is not me. Breakdown of subject and object: abject. 2. Julia Kristeva […]

Read “Labyrinth,” an Excerpt from Roberto Bolaño’s Forthcoming Work, The Secret of Evil

The New Yorker has published an excerpt from The Secret of Evil, the latest posthumous offering from Roberto Bolaño (new this spring from New Directions). The excerpt begins by extrapolating on a photo of some of the Tel Quel folks, (including a striking Julia Kristeva): They’re seated. They’re looking at the camera. They are captioned, from left to […]

Humiliation — Wayne Koestenbaum

Wayne Koestenbaum’s Humiliation explores the ways that having a body (among other bodies, among a social body) might leave us humiliated or otherwise abject. To perform this exploration, Koestenbaum surveys a discursive range of subjects, including the humiliation of public figures, the sordid “private” lives of celebrities, the work of philosophers and cultural theorists, and the […]

Shy Coworker, Dirty Movies

Started Wayne Koestenbaum’s Humiliation (forthcoming from Picador) last night, and it’s excellent—one of the best cultural commentaries I’ve read in years. Abjection, King Lear, Julia Kristeva, Michael Jackson, Liza Minelli, A Star Is Born, fear of writing—great stuff. Full review soon.

David Foster Wallace, Slavoj Žižek, and Scatological Ideology

I came across this clip of Slavoj Žižek discussing the different types of toilets that one finds across Europe the other day, and his riff immediately reminded me of David Foster Wallace’s novella The Suffering Channel (or “The Suffering Channel,” if you prefer to think of it as a long short story). Here’s a version […]

Noam Chomsky, Intellectual Elitism, Po-Mo Gibberish, More Attacks on Deconstruction, and Bad Writing Revisited

While doing some background research for an upcoming Graduate Symposium I’ll be participating in later this month (more on that in the future), I somehow stumbled upon this post from Noam Chomsky in which the famous linguist/activist attacks post-modernism and its heroes. In this email/posting Chomsky criticizes what he views as “a huge explosion of […]

The Sokal Hoax, Friedrich Nietzsche, Attacks on Deconstruction, and More Bad Writing

NYU physics professor Alan Sokal wrote a paper entitled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” which was published in 1996 in Duke University’s Social Text, a cultural studies journal. The same day the article was published–with no peer review, incidentally–Sokal announced in Lingua Franca that the whole thing was a hoax, […]

Lydia Cabrera–Afro-Cuban Tales

In a sublime synthesis of traditional folklore and imagistic surrealism, Lydia Cabrera’s Afro-Cuban Tales questions the normative spaces occupied by bodies. Deriving from animist tradition, her characters exist in an impossible multiplicity of spaces, being at once animals and plants, humans and gods. Cabrera’s characters endure trials of biological identity and social co-existence, and through these problems they […]