Elizabeth Schambelan

  • In the Fascist Weight Room

    HALF A CENTURY AGO, when Yukio Mishima’s Sun and Steel was published, reasonable people the world over were entertaining the possibility that a global Marxist revolution really was at hand. Naturally, not everyone was enthused about the prospect. In Japan, where the upheaval was massive, campus demonstrators were regularly attacked by gangs of right-wing phys-ed majors wielding sports equipment. Administrators at Tokyo’s Nihon University at one point publicly requested the help of these reactionary jocks in quelling student unrest. Mishima (1925–70), a reactionary jock himself, was appalled by

  • Psycho Killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?

    “A LOT OF PEOPLE write him off as an eccentric kind of guy,” says criminal investigator Ed Murphy in Andrew Jarecki’s 2015 documentary series, The Jinx. “’Oh, you know, it’s just Bob being Bob.’ It would be cute, if Bob being Bob didn’t result in three people being dead.”

    Actually, cute would be a stretch even if there weren’t any dead people involved, but there’s no denying that Bob combines creepiness and vulnerability to queasily endearing effect. Bob is small, frail, and twitchy, like a woodland animal. He toddles around in Bermuda shorts and tube socks. He can be disarmingly funny. For

  • Hard Corps

    ALL MEN MUST DIE. A few months ago, posters emblazoned with this slogan began cropping up around New York, auguring both the doom that is our mortal lot and the season premiere of Game of Thrones. Like all things related to Game of Thrones, the ads were embraced with great enthusiasm and a striking lack of irony. On Twitter, people carried on as if they’d never seen a sword-feathered, triple-eyed raven before (“totally awesome,” “very stirring,” etc.), while the baleful tagline was reproduced on T-shirts and Etsy handicrafts. But my own anticipation of springtime in Westeros was somewhat blunted

  • Undisclosed Locutions

    To speak is to know that language is amoral—equally congenial to truth and falsehood, clarity and circumlocution. And therein lies the impetus not only for everyday mendacity but also for artful systems of linguistic subterfuge. As Daniel Heller-Roazen observes, human beings seem to have an innate impulse to “break and scatter” language, to alter their native idioms in order to conceal, bewilder, and dissimulate. In his fascinating Dark Tongues—which might be construed as either a highly episodic history or a collection of case studies ranging across eras and cultures—Heller-Roazen investigates

  • Prison Sentences

    You can take the girl out of prison, but you can’t take prison out of the girl. Anne, the nineteen-year-old narrator of Albertine Sarrazin’s Astragal—published in France in 1965 and in the US in 1967, and now reissued by New Directions—has liberated herself from a “prison school” by jumping off a thirty-foot wall. Landing, she breaks her left ankle, but this injury may be less grievous than the lingering effects of her incarceration. She has a disturbing awareness that even now, on the outside, she is a creature of the institution: “Prison still surrounded me: I found it in my reflexes, the

  • Don’t Fix It

    Tony Duquette (Abrams, $75), a glossy tome that offers the most detailed survey to date of the designer’s career, is not a very political book, but it does contain one anecdote that belongs to the annals of cold war farce. It seems that during his 1959 tour of the United States, Nikita Khrushchev called on the studios of 20th Century Fox, where he watched “The Garden of Eden Ballet,” a production number from the musical Can-Can. The ballet, for which Duquette designed the sets and costumes, begins with dancers in breeches, waistcoats, and oversize animal masks frolicking against a barren

  • He is Curious (Yellow)

    Students of publishing lore know that Andrew Wylie used to be a poet, but few have had the chance to peruse Yellow Flowers, a 1972 chapbook that collects some of the vaguely Mephistophelian superagent's youthful versifications. "There's a rumor that he has tried to buy up all of the copies," says literary agent Ira Silverberg. It's easy to see why: Thumbing through Silverberg's copy of Yellow Flowers, one can only imagine what a Wylie client like, say, Benazir Bhutto would make of such poems as "Hands up Your Skirt," "Warm, Wet Pants," and the determinedly unlyric "I Fuck Your Ass, You Suck My