• review • March 17, 2020

    Electric Irish DMT Test

    Rob Doyle is a twentieth-century boy. His characters are monologous young men who get high and chase literary grouches with an eye out for that high-modernist whale, the epiphany. Many of Doyle’s contemporaries—literary men in their late thirties—confine themselves to the cramped emotional tone afforded to those invested in the internet’s panoramic view and its plausibly crushing Bad News. But Doyle looks back: His drugs and bands and writers are pre-9/11 specimens, across all of his books. The characters in his 2014 debut novel, Here Are the Young Men, are teen grads in Dublin off their faces,

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  • excerpt • March 12, 2020

    A Revolution of Artistic Values

    Part of a political revolution toward socialism will necessitate a revolution of values. Those values won’t come from the top down but from culture up. We can use Denning’s notion of a “cultural front”—in this case, to save us from our cultural ass. Right now the United States is working at a deficit. Our identities and aesthetics are deeply tied into capitalism—no disrespect to rapper Cardi B and her love of money, but unlearning money worship and our worth being determined by what we can accumulate is going to be vital to any socialist change. And as during the 1930s and ’40s, and in so many

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  • excerpt • February 20, 2020

    “The life of the artist was a life of action”

    My 1915 edition of The Cry for Justice by Upton Sinclair is an evocation of a lost America. The anthology is filled with writings, poems and speeches by radicals and socialists who were a potent political force on the eve of World War. They spoke in overtly moral and often religious language condemning capitalist exploitation as a sin, denouncing imperialism as evil and vowing to end the greed, cruelty and hedonism of the rich. The fight for justice for the poor and the worker was a sacred duty. The life of the artist was a life of action. Intellectuals, grounded in historical and cultural

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  • excerpt • February 11, 2020

    A Theory of Too Muchness

    A weeping woman is a monster. So too is a fat woman, a horny woman, a woman shrieking with laughter. Women who are one or more of these things have heard, or perhaps simply intuited, that we are repugnantly excessive, that we have taken illicit liberties to feel or fuck or eat with abandon. After bellowing like a barn animal in orgasm, hoovering a plate of mashed potatoes, or spraying out spit in the heat of expostulation, we’ve flinched in self-scorn—ugh, that was so gross. I am so gross. On rare occasions, we might revel in our excess—belting out anthems with our friends over karaoke,

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Just Like Heaven

    The title of Fleabag: The Scriptures (Ballantine Books, $28) is a cheeky play on words: It refers to the shooting scripts for the television comedy Fleabag, which are reproduced here in full, and it also refers to the fact that the second (and, if creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge is to be believed, final) season of the show, which debuted on Amazon Prime in May 2019, is about the main character’s romantic attachment to an unattainable Catholic priest. But it also acknowledges that Waller-Bridge’s words—printed out on creamy paper stock, bound inside a smooth navy-blue cover, and embossed with gold

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Artful Volumes

    It’s misleading that Nam June Paik has been named the grandfather of video art. Sure, he started the whole thing, but as an artist, Paik is no patriarch. He’s always been the wild child, making a mess at the dinner table and disrespecting his elders, less interested in laying the foundation than finding one to blast apart. NAM JUNE PAIK (DelMonico Books/Prestel, $50), the companion book to Tate Modern’s recent retrospective, makes sure to pay its respects but takes more pleasure in recounting the artist’s anarchic antics and Fluxus pranks. At times, it strains to put a new spin on Paik: The

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Moonbeam Nation

    “So Bert and Mary Poppins definitely used to fuck, right?” One Saturday night last winter some friends had gathered in my living room to reconsider one of our favorite childhood movies through the cracked lens of our millennial adulthood. (A very millennial thing to do: In our minds it was subversively ironic, but to the skeptical observer we just looked like a bunch of thirtysomethings so infantilized and brain-fried by pop culture and social media that we were spending the prime time of our weekend watching a Disney movie.)

    Mary Poppins, we decided, held up. There was a maturity to it we

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Scenes from a Marriage

    Elizabeth Hardwick was a worrier. “What I know I have learned from books and worry,” she wrote in Vogue in June 1971. She worried about her daughter Harriet’s grades in school. She worried about rising rents in New York City and about the price of property in Maine. And she worried about her husband, the poet Robert Lowell. Since age seventeen, Lowell, who was diagnosed with manic depression in the 1940s, had occasionally entered states of high mania, impulsive stretches during which he seduced young women, raged at loved ones, and, once, dangled a friend out a window. For years, Hardwick

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Tech, Please!

    The best pieces of long-form journalism are those where you get the sinking feeling the subject has no idea what the point of journalism is. No inkling that a salacious story is better than a puff piece. No fundamental understanding that a writer, at the end of the day, is only going to make her career if she exploits her subjects, even if it’s just to expose their bad personalities or unkempt apartments. It thrills to read a story that no one wants written about themselves. Whether you are party reporting or writing profiles, you can always find something unethical to unearth, if you care to

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Henry James and Pigs’ Feet

    ANY OPPORTUNITY TO READ A GREAT WRITER’S MAIL should be embraced in these days when a serial Instagram feed is about as ambitious as correspondence gets. Granted, at roughly a thousand pages, The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison may be asking a lot, at the outset, of even the most committed scholar of twentieth-century American literature, to say nothing of the waves of readers who continue to come away from Invisible Man convinced that it’s the Great American Novel.

    But these letters, as assembled by John F. Callahan and Marc C. Conner, come to us a quarter of a century after Ellison’s death

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    The Joy of Text

    James Wood, haters claim, is a hater. The New Yorker’s most influential and polarizing critic hates gaudy postmodernists like Paul Auster and cute sentimentalists like Nicole Krauss. He can’t stand the Cambridge fixture George Steiner, whom he pillories as “a statue that wishes to be a monument,” and he dismisses Donna Tartt as “children’s literature.” Most famously, he loathes fidgety, frantic novels by the likes of Thomas Pynchon and Zadie Smith, works of so-called “hysterical realism” that can’t shut up and sit still. In 2004, the editors of n+1 denounced him as a “designated hater.”

    In

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Ways of Seeing

    As an occupation perceived to be perpetually on the brink of obsolescence, reading has to have one of the most esteemed reputations of any human activity. We are encouraged to think of it as a virtue in itself: Entire cities are urged to simultaneously read the same book; the demise of a single bookstore inspires heartfelt tributes from those inclined to conflate poorly conceived small-business models with intellectual nobility; it is said to bind communities at the same time as it is said to free the mind. Reading has been pondered by writers from Francis Bacon to Maurice Blanchot; the act

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