To begin with the most obvious of philosophical questions, What is pornography? The problem of definition is well known and often invoked as part of the argument against the legal repression of pornographic materials. If we decide to censor, the worry goes, what will be the fate of works by artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Norman Mailer? What should be done about ad campaigns like those of Victoria’s Secret, which openly draw on soft-core tropes, and American Apparel, which invokes the
Perhaps the most famous single line in Guillaume Apollinaire’s body of work is the opening declaration of his 1912 poem “Zone:” “You’re tired of this old world at last.” “Zone” heralds modernity—with its urban setting, its montage of images (the Eiffel Tower, billboards, a “ghetto clock running backwards”), and its jump cuts through time and space. The poem marks a transition between the lyricism of a prior generation of French verse and changing ways of seeing and imagining
Former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein’s first appearance in the historical record occurs in 1959, as a Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored would-be assassin of Iraqi Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim. Years later, Hussein, after becoming Iraq’s president in 1979, would commit a number of the same missteps that finally led to Qasim’s downfall: threatening Kuwaiti sovereignty, alienating Iraq from its Arab neighbors, and not making the country’s oil reserves more accessible to Western
In a lecture given at New York University’s Deutsches Haus on the 28th of October last year, some months before the publication of a very fat new book named Less Than Nothing, philosopher Slavoj Zizek interrupted one of his characteristic digressions to make an aside that was particularly revealing. He said of G. W. F. Hegel, “Sometimes he is very evil.” And then—involuntarily beaming—“I love him.” It was a startling statement, even for those hardened to Zizek’s fondness for vivid
Tereska Torrès will be probably be remembered as the world's first lesbian pulp novelist, though as Torrès was always the first to point out, she had no intention of earning that reputation. Born in Paris in 1920, Torrès served with the Free French forces in London during the Second World War and fictionalized her experience in the 1950 novel Women's Barracks. Though she went on to write fourteen more books before her death last week, Women's Barracks became a cult classic for its campy homoeroticism
Think Tokyo and you think bright lights, busy streets, and technology so ubiquitous that you can buy bananas out of a vending machine. And all those things are there. But even though iPads and e-readers are everywhere, Tokyo is still a great city for readers partial to paper and ink. The city’s students and artists contribute to a thriving free-zine scene, and its bookstores stock everything from vintage American magazines to the latest New York Times bestsellers. Even in Shibuya, the bustling
I have a bad habit. (No it’s not that I read Tucker Max’s books for pleasure.) My bad habit is that I often begin books by taking a peek at the ending. The best test of a book is not the seduction of a well-planned first sentence; it is how well the book satisfies expectations at the bitter end. By this measure, Tucker Max’s third book, Hilarity Ensues, is a great read. The epilogue begins, “When I got to the literary world, it was like a great big pussy, just waiting to get fucked—and I
Often, we make sense of our lives by making sense of other people’s lives. We strive to understand our mother or father or sister or spouse; sometimes a child; even a stranger, someone we never actually knew. Sometimes we turn to places—a city, a town, a country—home. Sometimes we turn to things—substances, a hobby, a game. And sometimes we turn to books. The first great book I ever read, and the only great book I’ve read as many as five or six times since, is Ulysses. That said, I still don
Italian novelist Antonio Tabucchi was born in Pisa in 1943 and died in Portugal last weekend at the age of 68. One of Italy's most renowned postmodern writers, Tabucchi was the author of more than two dozen novels, including 1994's Pereira Declares, and 1997's The Missing Head of Damascenio Monteiro, a crime novel about a police investigation following the discovery of a headless man. During his life, Tabucchi was an accomplished academic, philosopher, and a devoted champion of Portuguese
"This is the way that pop ends," music critic Simon Reynolds wrote in his 2011 book, Retromania. "Not with a bang but with a box set whose fourth disc you never get around to playing and an overpriced ticket to the track-by-track restaging of the Pavement album you played to death in your first year in college." The death of originality in music; our cultural obsession with nostalgia; the near-total availability of any kind of music, at any time—these are the themes that made Retromania one of
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