• print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    Say Their Names

    IN DECEMBER 1964, the activist Fannie Lou Hamer stood beside Malcolm X in Harlem during a rally. Hamer described how, while once traveling to a voter-education workshop, she was arrested and beaten with a blackjack. Facing her listeners in Harlem, Hamer spoke of how that experience led her to the point of no return: “I’ve been tired so long, now I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and we want a change.”

    And here we are still. Starting in the spring of 2020, the world witnessed an overwhelming expression of people of color being “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” when the largest

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  • excerpt • August 24, 2021

    An excerpt from God, Human, Animal, Machine on subjectivity and a visit to Kierkegaard’s grave

    The lanes of the cemetery were overgrown, lined with slender conifers whose branches were heavy with rain. I had been pushing the bicycle with my head slightly bowed, and when I looked up I realized I was back at the entrance. I had come full circle. I checked the cemetery map again—I had followed the steps exactly—then continued back in the direction I’d come, hoping to find the gravesite from the opposite direction. In no time at all I was lost. The paths were not marked, and there was no one I could ask—the only other person I’d seen, a woman pushing a baby stroller beneath an umbrella, was

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  • excerpt • August 20, 2021

    An excerpt from a new book calling for transnational, intersectional feminism

    There is an important distinction between what Nancy Fraser calls “affirmative change” and actual transformational change. The former is perfunctory, form-filling, intended to silence and appease; the latter requires the dissolution of underlying structures and hierarchies for a complete reformulation. Whether it is the National Organization of Women or an organization like Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) or even the Women’s March, all require transformational change. This means reconsidering everything, from the way meetings are organized and conference calls are set up to the way public

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  • excerpt • August 18, 2021

    An excerpt from Image Control on GIFs, the sublime, and vocabularies of motion

    Meaning—or narrative—isn’t always what we see, or even look for, in images. In 1868, following the International Exposition in Paris, the Italian novelist and essayist Vittorio Imbriani published “La quinta promotrice,” a collection of his observations and theories on contemporary European art. This included his theory of the macchia, which Teju Cole describes as “the total compositional and coloristic effect of an image in the split second before the eye begins to parse it for meaning.” Approaching a painting, one is most likely to see before anything else its arrangement of colors, shapes,

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  • excerpt • August 10, 2021

    An excerpt from Far From Respectable on art critic Dave Hickey’s unpublished book

    For a number of years in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Dave Hickey’s byline in magazines said that he was working on a book called Pagan America. There’s even a ghostly record of the title on Google Books, with a precise page count and ISBN, as though the manuscript were finished, paginated, and catalogued, but then withdrawn and locked away in the writer’s desk, left to be published, if ever, posthumously.

    For those of us who were Hickey fans during those years of uncertainty, it was a shimmering promise. After the cold brilliance of his first book, The Invisible Dragon, and the warm love

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  • review • July 12, 2021

    Bohumil Hrabal’s memoir of a reckless, exuberant friendship

    Early in Werner Herzog’s 1974 documentary The Great Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner, we find its subject, a champion “ski-flier,” in the studio where he works as an amateur woodcarver. Brushing his hand over a tree stump, Walter Steiner describes the forms his chisel will release: “I saw this bowl here, the way the shape recedes, it’s as if an explosion had happened, and the force cannot escape properly and is caught up everywhere.” Trapped force is not to be the film’s subject. Rather, its subject is fear—or, as Steiner calls it, “respect for the conditions.” From the ski-jump at Planica,

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  • interview • June 28, 2021

    A Forgotten Apocalypse

    June 25th marked the seventy-first anniversary of the start of the Korean War, a conflict that killed, displaced, orphaned, or otherwise traumatized millions of civilians and set a Korean diaspora in motion. The so-called Forgotten War has remained largely invisible in American culture, despite the conflict’s brutal and enduring consequences. To help take stock of this multifaceted legacy—which stretches into every realm, from the political to the cultural to the personal—we’ve invited three writers and scholars who have recently published books about the war and its aftermath.

    Grace M. Cho

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  • excerpt • June 22, 2021

    How Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defined American cultural beliefs

    Noah Webster’s influence reached far beyond the pages of the dictionary or the speller. Even those Americans who have never read his work or heard his name are still bearers of his legacy. He shaped the underpinnings not only of American education and language standardization but also of the nation as a whole. The idea that America was a new experiment capable of surpassing Europe, the notion of a nationalism based on uniformity, the belief that the United States was a sort of country on a hill—Webster cemented and spread these ideas through the building blocks of language itself. The lexicographer

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2021

    Manifesto Destiny

    MANIFESTO IS THE FORM THAT EATS AND REPEATS ITSELF. Always layered and paradoxical, it comes disguised as nakedness, directness, aggression. An artwork aspiring to be a speech act—like a threat, a promise, a joke, a spell, a dare. You can’t help but thrill to language that imagines it can get something done. You also can’t help noticing the similar demands and condemnations that ring out across the decades and the centuries—something will be swept away or conjured into being, and it must happen right this moment. While appearing to invent itself ex nihilo, the manifesto grabs whatever magpie

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2021

    Neither Fairy nor Foul

    AT FIRST, TINKERBELL WAS ONLY A LAMP, a small mirror, and someone crouching in the dark. He tilted his wrist to make her fly, shimmering light. A bell was her voice and applause was her medicine. In 1904, she promised children that belief was enough, ritual worked, and friends could come back from the dead. “Never” was a land, a country. If you were an eight-year-old boy in that London theater, clapping for Tink, odds are you were deep or dead in the trenches ten years later. Loss dug itself into towns, steady and chasmal, leaving old men, women, and children behind. New types of family spooled

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2021

    Cool Runnings

    FOR NEGATIVE LESSONS, the “don’ts” when it comes to writing reviews, there’s always the internet. But for direction and inspiration, cold water on a face flushed from a looming deadline, it’s better to have hard copies of whatever you think defines greatness: you can open one to a random page, like shaking a Magic 8 Ball, and ask it what to do. Jenny Diski’s new, posthumous collection, Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told?, might give an answer—ultimately, obliquely—to its own title’s question. Of course it can’t answer mine. But I’m sure I’ll periodically give it a try anyway, because,

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2021

    Dare Package

    I PICKED UP HIGH RISK: AN ANTHOLOGY OF FORBIDDEN WRITINGS in Trident Booksellers & Café on Newbury Street in Boston in 1991 (when you could still smoke cigarettes while you read and drink bowlfuls of cappuccino), because Kathy Acker was in it and I idolized her—though she confused me with all her code-switching, gender-floating, language-bending, anti-narrative raucousness. Maybe I idolized her because she confused me. William S. Burroughs was in it too. He confused me but not in a way I was sure I liked. I was determined to keep trying though; Burroughs had literary street cred.

    High Risk

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