Jessica Loudis

  • culture October 01, 2013

    Story of My People by Edoardo Nesi

    As recently as two decades ago, Prato was the seat of Italy’s high-end textile industry, the name a shorthand for designers like Armani, Valentino, Versace. But by 2010, the city had been deeply damaged by the global economy, transformed into a hub for low-end clothes manufacturing. In Story of My People, Edoardo Nesi gives a firsthand account of a city facing an economic and psychological crisis.

    Edoardo Nesi never wanted to run a textile factory, but he didn’t have much choice in the matter. Nesi thought of himself primarily as a writer, but since the 1920s, his family had operated a weaving mill in the Tuscan city of Prato, and working at the mill was a rite of passage. So after flunking out of law school and rotating through a series of factory-floor positions as “assistant foreman in charge of raw materials, assistant technician in charge of mixing and blending fibers, assistant warehouseman … assistant everything, once all was said and done,” Nesi finally became the boss. He balanced

  • An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar

    THE COVER OF TARYN SIMON’S newly reprinted 2008 monograph, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, is unlikely to catch any casual viewer’s eye. Bound in nondescript gray cloth, with its title inscribed in gold lettering over a black background, the book looks like a volume of an encyclopedia or a legal periodical. But inside you’ll find something far less anodyne: a mesmerizing, carefully composed series of photographs whose subjects range from decomposing corpses and quarantined parrots to NASA guesthouses and control rooms of nuclear submarines.

    Simon’s America is one of ordinarily

  • The Brittle Decade: Visualizing Japan in the 1930s

    IN THE TWENTY-TWO YEARS between the day the 1923 Kanto earthquake razed Tokyo and the months in which American bombers demolished it anew, modernity arrived in Japan. Ushered in by the creeping popularity of Western fashions, the rise of mass communication and transit, and the Europeanizing of urban public life, the “brittle years” of the early 1930s marked an uneasy encounter between Japanese traditionalism and Western cosmopolitanism, and nowhere did the attendant anxieties play out more than in the modan garu—Japan’s “modern girl.” The equivalent of the ’20s-era flapper, modan garus dressed

  • Infra

    WHAT DOES NOT INITIALLY MEET THE EYE in Richard Mosse’s vivid photographs of cotton-candy hillsides, vamping child soldiers, and rose-hued rebels is the violence of their setting: the war-torn Kivu region of eastern Congo. Located near the border of Rwanda, Kivu has been ground zero for many of the worst atrocities of a civil war that has displaced millions and persisted intermittently for more than a decade. But Mosse, an Irish-born, Yale-educated photographer, has no interest in documenting the crisis from the sober vantage point of a war correspondent. Instead, he works with a wooden

  • interviews February 10, 2012

    Bookforum talks to John Jeremiah Sullivan

    Whether there's any doubt over whether John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead was one of the best books of 2011, it was undoubtedly among the most highly praised. The essay collection received soaring reviews in the national media, and prompted Bookforum's J.C. Gabel to describe its author as “among the best of his generation’s essayists. He sat down with Bookforum to talk about Jamaican music, the decline of the American republic, and what he says is “without exaggeration, the busiest time of my life.”

    Whether there’s any doubt about whether John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead was one of the best books of 2011 (which, for my money, there shouldn’t be), it was certainly one of the most highly praised. The debut essay collection received soaring reviews in the national media (the New York Times gave it one in the Book Review and another in the paper); it was the subject of a four-page essay by James Wood in the New Yorker, and, in Bookforum, it prompted J. C. Gabel to describe Sullivan as “among the best of his generation’s essayists.” A contributing editor to GQ, Harper’s, the New York Times

  • Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

    Like Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis has made his career reporting on outliers. Lewis has delivered bracing accounts of investment bankers whose doomsday predictions went ignored until they came to pass, of teenagers who harnessed the power of Internet message boards to undermine the stock market, and of low-budget baseball teams that used unorthodox statistics to compete with richer clubs.

    Also like Gladwell, Lewis is a fast read: His explanations of thorny financial processes are surprisingly compelling, his characters entertaining, and even when we know things aren’t going to

  • interviews September 15, 2011

    Bookforum talks with Ben Lerner

    Ben Lerner chats with Bookforum about his debut novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, and the transition from poetry to fiction.

    Two pages into Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station, his protagonist, a choleric young poet on a year-long fellowship to Madrid, confesses, “I had long worried that I was incapable of having a profound experience of art and I had trouble believing that anyone had, at least anyone I knew.” This concern animates Lerner's debut novel, a wry take on the challenges of producing art in the age of technological mediation. Set shortly before the 2004 terror attacks, Leaving the Atocha Station—named after a John Ashbery poem—follows Adam Gordon as he obsesses over feelings of fraudulence, indulges

  • culture January 12, 2010

    The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University by Louis Menand

    Louis Menand’s The Marketplace of Ideas should be required reading for anybody considering a PhD in the humanities, especially now that the recession is driving more and more people into the supposedly safe haven of graduate school. In less than 200 pages, Menand, an English professor at Harvard and a staff writer at The New Yorker, examines the history and evolution of American higher education, and makes the case that the American university is suffering from a deep-seated institutional crisis that has grown rapidly more dire since the 1970s.

    “It takes three years to become a lawyer,” Menand

  • culture October 02, 2009

    On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done by Cass R. Sunstein

    In June, Cass R. Sunstein’s confirmation as Barack Obama’s nominee for regulatory czar was hindered by Georgia senator Saxby Chambliss, who told online congressional newspaper The Hill, “[Sunstein] has said that animals ought to have the right to sue folks.” Chambliss was apparently referring to Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, a book Sunstein edited in 2004, in which he argued that private citizens should be able to defend animals in court. However, when Chambliss’s statement was posted, Sunstein’s nuanced legal thinking was subject to distortion by bloggers and commentators,

  • culture July 06, 2009

    Byron in Love: A Short Daring Life by Edna O’Brien

    Edna O’Brien opens Byron in Love with a simple question: “Why another book on Byron?” The answer comes in the form of a remark by the poet’s friend Lady Blessington, who once referred to Byron as “the most extraordinary and terrifying person” she had ever met. Within a few chapters, the reader is convinced; O’Brien’s narrative is a compelling account of Byron’s Caligula-like cruelty, his gifts as a narrative poet, his amorous adventures in Europe (and with Cambridge choir boys), and his infamous eccentricities (he paraded around Trinity College with a pet bear and wanted to own Percy Bysshe