Jeffery Renard Allen

  • Up In Flames

    In a story in Fleur Jaeggy’s I Am the Brother of XX, a tour guide takes a seat on a bench outside Auschwitz, leaving her client, Anja, to walk through the former concentration camp on her own. Basia, the guide, makes this pointed refusal because she understands that the horrors of history have been reduced to the sanitized procedures of museum voyeurism. The guidebook instructs visitors to climb to the top of the tower in the adjacent town of Birkenau for an excellent view. Seeking mementos, visitors scurry about the camp taking snapshots and posing in front of the cremation ovens, unaware that

  • The Mother Ship Has Landed

    Parliament’s seminal album Mothership Connection hit the streets of the inner city in a big way in 1975. At the time, I was a shy, skinny, book-reading thirteen-year-old only child who was being raised by a single mom on Chicago’s South Side, but I thought the music was hip and grooved along like everyone else. The album’s extended, richly textured jams featured thumping bass lines, snappy percussion, and catchy keyboard melodies. Meanwhile, the lyrics, sung in a gutsy style, derived their energy from clever sexual puns, textual allusions, and weird otherworldly notions of people united through