Joscelyn Jurich

  • syllabi September 15, 2009


    The Zen master D. T. Suzuki defines satori as “the acquiring of a new point of view in our dealings with life and the world.” With satori, he writes, “our entire surroundings are viewed from quite an unexpected angle of perception.” Jack Kerouac opens his 1966 book Satori in Paris with a description of his own revelatory experience: “Somewhere during my ten days in Paris . . . I received an illumination of some kind that seems to’ve changed me again, towards what I suppose’ll be my pattern for another seven years or more: in effect, a satori: the Japanese word for ‘sudden illumination,’ ‘sudden

  • Bad Girls Go Everywhere

    When Helen Gurley Brown was a junior high student in Little Rock, Arkansas, her teacher asked the class a seemingly innocuous question: Who was the most important person to them in the world? After garnering a host of conventional responses (Mom! Dad! God! FDR!), the teacher declared, to the contrary, “The most important person to any of you is yourself.” This proved a decisive moment for the future magazine editor, who proclaimed in a 1968 Time interview, “I’m a materialist and it’s a materialistic world. Nobody is keeping a woman from doing everything she wants to do but herself.”


  • The Jive Talker: An Artist’s Genesis

    When London-based conceptual artist Samson Kambalu was eleven, he founded his own religion, Holyballism. Based on sun worship and influenced by Nietzsche, Freud, and Frida Kahlo’s painting Nuclear Sun, the “holy ball” is the religion’s sacred/blasphemous object: a soccer ball plastered with pages ripped from the Bible and kicked about for “exercises and exorcisms.” Kambalu’s memoir, The Jive Talker, is another form of exorcism and exercise, a literary, polyphonic performance of exuberance and delight.

    Kambalu, the fifth of eight children, was born in Malawi in 1975, four years after Hastings

  • Artists in Exile: How Refugees from Twentieth-Century War and Revolution Transformed the American Performing Arts

    In 1941, while residing in Santa Monica, Thomas Mann mused, “What today is the meaning of foreign, the meaning of homeland? . . . When the homeland becomes foreign, the foreign becomes the homeland.” He lived in California for fourteen years before returning to Europe in 1952, his version of the American dream crushed, writes Joseph Horowitz, by the cold war, McCarthyism, and the Golden State’s “artificial paradise.” Mann’s poignant question—and declarative response—is central to Artists in Exile, Horowitz’s erudite if sometimes exhausting survey of European refugee artists in America during

  • Writers Under Siege: Voices of Freedom from Around the World

    “How dangerous writing can be!” exclaims Reza Baraheni in “A Minor Mistake,” the first selection in Writers Under Siege, an invaluable anthology prepared by PEN to commemorate its eightyfifth anniversary. Baraheni’s starkly beautiful and embittered account recalls his near execution in Iran’s Evin prison, where a scribble on the sole of a prisoner’s foot indicates a sentence of capital punishment, transforming the act of writing into a literal harbinger of death. “Do what you can to stay alive,” a fellow inmate pleads, prompting Baraheni to scream at the guards and show them his unmarked feet.

  • One Day a Year: 1960 - 2000

    In 1960, Christa Wolf received a phone call from the Russian newspaper Izvestia, inviting her to participate in an imaginative project devised by Maksim Gorky in 1935, which asked writers worldwide to describe their actions during the course of a random day—September 27—as exactly as possible. Wolf, then thirty-one and living in East Germany, not only documented the day but permanently adopted the project as a preventative measure against forgetting. "Transitoriness and futility as twin sisters of forgetfulness: again and again I was (and am) confronted with that eerie phenomenon," she explains