Trevor Quirk

  • fiction November 16, 2022

    No Man’s Land

    There must be a room, sealed against the present, before we can make any attempt to deal with the past.

    — Thomas Pynchon, V.

     So many characters in twentieth-century literature are absorbed into narrative scenery or lost to the torrents of history. The uncertain ending seemed evidently suitable to novelists whose notions of fate were darkened in the years before, between, or after the World Wars. The helpless Karl Rossmann of Kafka’s unfinished Amerika, written between 1911 and 1914, apprehends the “vastness” of the Oklahoman wilderness in which, we may presume, he would have been

  • culture April 21, 2022

    Net Loss

    The first four nodes of ARPANET—the Department of Defense’s primeval internet—were connected in 1969, the very year that Theodor W. Adorno died. In retrospect, it seems a cruel coincidence; it is difficult to imagine a cultural technology more deserving of Adorno’s truculent analysis than the internet, or to locate a comparable living thinker able to explain why a worldwide network that was supposed to unite everyone and improve everything tremors with feelings of disconnection and debasement.

    The beginning of Justin E. H. Smith’s new book reads as if it might deliver this lost critique, given

  • interviews January 18, 2022

    You Could Look It Up

    John Koenig’s new book, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, lives up to its description as a “compendium of new words for emotions.” To many readers, the most recognizable of his neologisms is surely sonder—“the realization that each random passerby is the main character of their own story, in which you are just an extra in the background”—which Koenig introduced years ago and has since found its way into the popular lexicon because of, one assumes, the ubiquity of the realization.

    Yet any dictionary is also an exhibition of language’s status as a—or, depending on which theorist you consult,