The Knives — Michaël Borremans


The Knives by Michaël Borremans (b. 1963)


Reviews, riffs, anti-reviews, and interviews of 2017 (and seventeen roosters)

I read fewer books in 2017 than I have in years, and wrote a lot less on this blog than in the past. There are (uninteresting) reasons. There were lots of books and films that I wish I’d written about—maybe I’ll squeeze them into a post in the next week—but for now, mostly as a means of archiving and organizing (and a reminder to update the reviews page), these are the longer things I wrote on this blog this year (and, uh, some roosters):

Garden with Roosters, 1917 by Gustav Klimt

A review of Ishmael Reed’s Christmas satire, The Terrible Twos

RIP William H. Gass

Th Rooster, 1966 by Ivan Generalic

Not a review of Laurent Binet’s novel The Seventh Function of Language

Eddie Campbell’s canon of great graphic novels, 1977-2001

Sparring Cockerels by Charles Tunnicliffe

A review of Blade Runner 2049

On Philip K. Dick’s novel A Maze of Death

Two Roosters, 1905 by Pablo Picasso

Hurricane Irma reading riff

A review of Gisèle Prassinos’s collection of surreal anti-fables, The Arthritic Grasshopper

Rooster and Hen with Hydrangeas by Ito Jakuchu

A riff on rereading Carson McCullers’ novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

This is not a review of Shattering the Muses, a strange hybrid “novel” by Rainer J. Hanshe and Federico Gori

The Rooster Goes on a Trip by Michael Sowa

Yuri Herrera’s Kingdom Cons condenses myth into vibrant narco noir

Lost in The Vorrh

Rooster and Chicks by Ohara Koson

“Translation is an act of risk” | An interview with Rainer J. Hanshe on translating Baudelaire’s My Heart Laid Bare

Not a review of Han Kang’s novel The Vegetarian

Rooster, 1900 by Ivan Bilibin

On Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a story about storytelling

A quick note on Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Heart of a Dog

Cock on Drum, 1882 by Shibata Zeshin

Let me recommend Antonio di Benedetto’s overlooked novel Zama

The Cock Fighters 1950 by André Fougeron 1913-1998
The Cock Fighters, 1950 by André Fougeron

At any moment they could could swell and become something other than what they were | A riff on Paul Bowles

Helen DeWitt’s novel Lightning Rods just wasn’t for me

The Cock Fight, 1882 by Emile Claus

A review of Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, Ishmael Reed’s syncretic Neo-HooDoo revenge Western

A review of Robert Coover’s excellent new novel Huck Out West

Dead Cock, 1660 by Gabriel Metsu

Canoe — Aron Wiesenfeld


Canoe by Aron Wiesenfeld (b. 1972)

Untitled — Dado

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Untitled, 1969 by Dado (Miodrag Đurić, 1933-2010)


The Waiting Room — George Tooker


The Waiting Room, 1959 by George Tooker (1920-2011)

Crux Mystica — Agostino Arrivabene


Crux Mystica, 2017 by Agostino Arrivabene (b. 1967)

Animal Kingdom — Stella Snead


Animal Kingdom, 1946 by Stella Snead (1910-2006)


Nemesis (The Great Fortune) — Albrecht Durer


Nemesis (The Great Fortune), 1503 by Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)

Untitled (Lights) — William Eggleston


Untitled, c. 1971-1973 by William Eggleston (b. 1939)

Censer — Martin Schongauer


Censer, 1485 by Martin Schongauer (c. 1448-1491)

The School of Vanity — Jane Graverol


The School of Vanity, 1967 by Jane Graverol (1909-1984)

The Tree of Wisdom — Wolfgang Grässe


The Tree of Wisdom, 1990 by Wolfgang Grässe (1930-2008)

The Cave — Nicola Verlato

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The Cave, 2017 by Nicola Verlato (b. 1965)

Self-Portrait — William H. Gass


Why are works of art so socially important? | William H. Gass

Why are works of art so socially important? Not for the messages they may contain, not because they expose slavery or cry hurrah for the worker, although such messages in their place and time might be important, but because they insist more than most on their own reality; because of the absolute way in which they exist. Certainly, images exist, shadows and reflections, fakes exist and hypocrites, there are counterfeits (quite real) and grand illusions – but it is simply not true for the copies are as real as their originals, that they meet all of the tests which I suggested earlier. Soybean steak, by God, is soybean steak, and a pious fraud is a fraud. Reality is not a matter of fact, it is an achievement; and it is rare – rarer, let me say – than an undefeated football season. We live, most of us, amidst lies, deceit, and confusions. A work of art may not utter the truth, but it must be honest. It may champion a cause we deplore, but like Milton’s Satan, it must in itself be noble; it must be all there. Works of art confront us the way few people dare to: completely, openly, at once. They construct, they comprise, our experience; they do not deny or destroy it; and they shame us, we fall so short of the quality of their Being. We live in Lafayette or Rutland – true. We take our breaths. We fornicate and feed. But Hamlet has his history in the heart and none of us will ever be as real as vital, as complex and living as he is – a total creature of the stage. 

From William H. Gass’s essay “The Artist and Society” (1968). Collected in Fiction and the Figures of Life.

The aim of the artist | William H. Gass

The aim of the artist ought to be to bring into the world objects which do not already exist there, and objects which are especially worthy of love. We meet people, grow to know them slowly, settle on some to companion our life. Do we value our friends for their social status, because they are burning in the public blaze? do we ask of our mistress her meaning? calculate the usefulness of our husband or wife? Only too often. Works of art are meant to be lived with and loved, and if we try to understand them, we should try to understand them as we try to understand anyone—in order to know them better, not in order to know something else.

–From William H. Gass’s essay “The Artist and Society” (1968). Collected in Fiction and the Figures of Life.

Pine — Albrecht Durer


Pine, 1497 by Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)