Unlocking Arabic: the Art and Poetry of Etel Adnan

By Mona Kareem

If you type Etel Adnan’s name into Google — in Arabic or English or French — you won’t find a single picture of the poet in her youth. Even if you type “Etel Adnan young,” you will only see results from her later years. Among these is a black and white picture of an elder Etel, her face partially covered with a flower, like an Ottoman girl preparing to transcend time. Continue reading

Touch Me

By Jon Boorstin

Trump won on November 8th. Then came our shock, our shame at getting this country so wrong, grief and despair. A few days later Leonard Cohen died. “You Want it Darker.” My wife, a cheerful person buoyed by hope, fought back. She saw web scuttlebutt on a Million Woman’s March and before it had a permit or a place or speakers, she booked her brother’s sofa in DC. Just another internet fantasy, but her own. Then she asked my opinion, knowing I’d boost her. Forty years on, we’re getting darker together. Continue reading

When Chris Marker Freely Photographed, and Briefly Fell in Love with, North Korea

By Colin Marshall

Even though I live there, I still only with difficulty perceive Northeast Asia through any lens not borrowed from Chris Marker. This owes mostly to the influence of dozens of viewings of Sans Soleil, his 1983 fact-and-fiction cinematic travelogue through places like Iceland, Cape Verde, San Francisco, and especially Japan, a feature-length realization of the peripatetic form of “essay film” he invented with 1955’s Sunday in Peking. Between that and Sans Soleil, he’d gone to Tokyo during the 1964 Olympics and come back with the materials for a 45-minute documentary about the titular young woman whom he happened to meet in the street there. Le Mystère Koumiko came out in 1965, just three years after his best-known work: La Jetée, the short drama of apocalypse, time travel, and memory made almost entirely out of still photographs. Continue reading

Leonard Cohen’s Art of Losing

By Oksana Maksymchuk

In a 1959 letter to Canadian publisher Jack McClellan, a 25-year old Leonard Cohen characterized his audience as “inner-directed adolescents, lovers in all degrees of anguish, disappointed Platonists, pornography-peepers, hair-handed monks and Popists, French-Canadian intellectuals, unpublished writers, curious musicians etc., all that holy following of my Art.” After he turned to songwriting and the circle of his admirers grew ever wider, the description remained surprisingly accurate. What bonds the groups on Cohen’s list is the sense of striving, an underlying — and mostly inarticulate — need. The 1960s, when Cohen emerged, was, after all, a moment for movements, and Cohen’s witty catalog suggested that even the misfits — scattered in their idiosyncratic pursuits — would have a movement of their own. Continue reading

Music Disownership in the Streaming Economy

By Thomas Klepacz

On January 9th, Spotify found itself in the public eye of an atypical arena. The Swedish music streaming company — whose public persona typically consists of lime-green odes to U2, Rascal Flatts, and gingerbread emulations of prominent rappers — engaged in greater Twitter-political-discourse by proposing a tongue-in-cheek offer to Barack Obama. As Daniel Ek, the founder and CEO of the company tweeted, “Hey @BarackObama, I heard you were interested in a role at Spotify. Have you seen this one?” Continue reading

John Gilmore (1935-2016): The Black Dahlia and the Bunco Artist

By Larry Harnisch

John Gilmore was a liar, a fraud, a con man, and a thief. The author of a string of “outsider” books — including the notorious Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder — Gilmore also had a hair-trigger for lawsuits. If he hadn’t died in October at the age of 81, I would most likely have had to defend in court what I just wrote. Continue reading

Letter from AWP

By Meghan O’Gieblyn

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference, or AWP, the marquee national writer’s conference, takes place in a different city each year and draws thousands of writers, publishers, and editors from places far and wide across the Republic. It is the kind of gathering where you can grab a drink with the editor who published your short story, peruse a book fair where literary journals and publishing houses have set up booths manned by nervous-looking interns, and hear, three times in a single weekend, that old E.L. Doctorow saw about process: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Continue reading

Looking and Acting: On Ali Smith’s Autumn

By Milo Hicks

Reading a new Ali Smith novel always feels like returning to a familiar place. There is the usual smattering of quotes that mark the opening of each work, laid out like a welcome mat at the door. She always uses a single word — “past,” “beginning,” “I,” “there,” “one,” “1” — to open the first section of every one of her novels, a gentle reminder that every story is the bringing together of disparate parts. And then there is her undeniable voice that agitates and soothes in the same stroke, unbearably light and effortlessly heavy. Autumn, her most recent novel, is no exception, and it’s homier than ever. Underneath the new window coverings and re-arranged furniture are the same authorial concerns: time, art, and storytelling. Yet the familiar places of her novels never come across as worn or tired because they welcome such a diversity of characters. Smith knows that “whoever makes up the story makes up the world,” and advises us to “always try to welcome people into the home of your story.” This advice, which is one of Autumn’s foremost concerns, is lived out in every home she builds. Continue reading

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