What a Very Strange Thing Legal Precedent Is: Talking to Angela Naimou

By Andy Fitch

This conversation, transcribed by Phoebe Kaufman, focuses on Angela Naimou’s Salvage Work: U.S. and Caribbean Literatures amid the Debris of Legal Personhood, winner of the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present (ASAP) Book Prize, and finalist for the William Sanders Scarborough Award from the Modern Language Association. Naimou, an associate professor of English at Clemson University, recently guest-edited the Dossier on Contemporary Refugee Timespaces for Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development. She is currently at work on a study of contemporary war-refugee imaginaries and humanitarian practice. Continue reading

Healthy Brain Intake: Modify Your News Habits to Ease Your Mind

By John Franklin, MD

Too much information (TMI) is internet speak for the notion that this information is more than I need, or care to know. I admit, I am a news junkie these days, but I’m claiming TMI.

Wandering through the Amherst College art museum recently, I came across a series of three photographs entitled, “Burning News,” by T.S. Parchikov. These admittedly photo-shopped pieces depict people earnestly reading Russian newspapers that are nearly consumed by fire. Continue reading

How Culture Makes Us Feel: Announcing Avidly Reads

Interviewed by Evan Kindley

For the past five years, Avidly has been one of the most original, surprising, and entertaining venues for cultural criticism and personal narrative on the web. Founded by Sarah Mesle and Sarah Blackwood in 2012, Avidly has brought us essays on everything from Ernest Shackleton’s “Chilly Ponies” and weird sex to Brexit and Dylann Roof. Now Sarah and Sarah are bringing their sui generis editorial sensibility to a new book imprint, Avidly Reads, to be published under the auspices of NYU Press beginning in 2019. The first three titles — Jordan Stein’s Avidly Reads: Theory, Eric Thurm’s Avidly Reads: Board Games, and Kathryn Bond Stockton’s Avidly Reads: Making Out — have just been announced (and are described in detail below). I emailed the Sarahs to find out more about what they have in store. Continue reading

Remembering William H. Gass 1924-2017

By Greg Gerke

He grew up in the worst of times and died in end times. The Great Depression colored his mind’s eye and President Tweetledum and “The tweet is mightier than the truth” zeitgeist recently told him, Yes, the language can be more perverted and debased than anything heretofore. No matter, for William H. Gass, the world was within the word, the soul inside the sentence, the great texts together made a temple, and he added overly qualified artistry and highly poetic explication to the great chain connecting Joyce to Shakespeare to Homer. Continue reading

Say It: I’m Arab and Beautiful

By Fady Joudah

Dear editor: Do you ever consider what it’s like for an Arab American to wake up within his or her own American life and feel assaulted almost daily, for decades? Do you ever think how painful it is for so many like me to know that I live in a country — my country — which sees me only when I’m dead or dying, through the Arab body that is directly and indirectly decimated as consequence of our American wars? If you did, your sympathies would be less of a token. They would not be afraid of my agency. Necropolitics wouldn’t be your default mode. You would seek to publish and review, unapologetically, unflinchingly, and lovingly the works of Arabs as beauty, not as product of wars and death. This is the task ahead: The Arab is beautiful. Repeat it to yourself.   Continue reading

Yuri Brodsky: Solovki Has Left Us No Victors

Interview by Yan Smirnitsky, translated by Anna Gunin

The following conversation between Yan Smirnitsky and Yuri Brodsky originally appeared in Russian, on the website MK.ru, on October 11, 2017.

Yuri Brodsky has recently won the Enlightener Prize, which awards outstanding Russian-language non-fiction, for his monumental new work Solovki: A Labyrinth of Transformation. The book traces the history of the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, home to a monastery and prison that became, in 1923, an infamous Soviet penal colony — the “mother of the GULAG,” in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s words. Brodsky does not position himself as a writer or philosopher; he is an exceptionally modest, self-effacing man, offering up facts for the reader’s evaluation, without imposing the usual overtones of horror, pessimism, and apocalypse. Brodsky, who has devoted his entire life to studying Solovki, invites us to reflect — calmly, without bitterness or ulterior motives — on the beauty created by nature and on the hell man created within that beauty. Continue reading

Korea Has Started Using English Names — But When Will It Stop?

By Colin Marshall

As it spreads across the world, Starbucks has come to serve many functions, not least giving the kind of travelers inclined to complain about the global homogenization of place an Exhibit A to point to. Such travelers make those complaints with a special intensity when in Seoul, which in addition to a robust local coffee-shop economy boasts the highest number of Starbucks locations per capita of any city in the world. I take a slightly brighter view of the green mermaid’s ongoing journey from Seattle to omnipresence, and not just because they offer those twin lifebloods of the 21st-century writer, coffee and reliable wi-fi: Starbucks stores, despite and indeed because of their efforts to hold every aspect of their experience steady across cities, countries, and continents, have ended up becoming the places where pure contrast forces the host culture’s deepest-seated characteristics into view. Continue reading

Think of It As An Existential Lesson: Deb Olin Unferth and Elizabeth Haidle’s I, Parrot

By Nathan Scott McNamara

I, Parrot is the graphic novel written by Deb Olin Unferth and illustrated by Elizabeth Haidle; it’s also the name of the how-to guide contained within. “If you have a parrot, you can be pretty certain this book is for you,” that manual reads. The guide appears throughout the graphic novel, framing the impossibility of the situation the narrator, Daphne, has ended up in. “Anyone who has a parrot is not up to the task. How do you think he likes being locked in a small dark box for his entire life? Do you think you can do anything other than try unsuccessfully to keep the bird from sliding into crippling, suicidal depression while you slowly squash every instinct he has?” The manual notes that birds fly over 100 miles a day. “Think of caring for your parrot as an existential lesson.” Continue reading