paper trail

Erik Baker on Aaron Bushnell; Merve Emre and Rachel Cusk in conversation

Rachel Cusk. Photo: Siemon Scamell-Katz

Online at n+1, Erik Baker writes about Aaron Bushnell, the US’s illegal use of incendiary weapons on civilians, and the history of self-immolation as protest. “The purpose of lighting yourself on fire is not to encourage other people to light themselves on fire. It is to scream to the world that you could find no alternative, and in that respect it is a challenge to the rest of us to prove with our own freedom that there are other ways to meaningfully resist a society whose cruelty has become intolerable.”

PEN America has announced the winners of its 2023 literary prizes. Among the awardees are Percival Everett for Dr. No, Hafizah Augustus Geter for The Black Period: On Personhood, Race, and Origin, and Morgan Talty for Night of the Living Rez.

Merve Emre talks with Rachel Cusk about her novel Second Place, “female non-being,” and freedom in the new issue of the Yale Review. Revisiting her 2018 comments on character (“I don’t think character exists anymore”), Cusk tells Emre: “I think the problem with character is that it takes the novel—if one cares about the novel or even thinks that the novel still exists—through so many successive stages of a kind of cloning of itself. The character in the novel is the result of the writer having read a lot of other novels, and the reader believes the character because they’ve read a lot of novels, too. And so you’re actually in some sort of barter system whose links to reality are pretty remote. I think seeing the world like that is much more related to society than to art.”

In his essay “Five O’Clock Somewhere” in the latest issue of Granta, Gary Indiana writes about aging: “You can still spit, but life has moved past the spitting stage. It’s when things fail to return to normal, that finally you get it: this is normal.”