All posts by LARB Blog

Barret Baumgart: Navigating Climate Change with a Map of Dead Ends

By Landon Bates

I first met Barret Baumgart in 2007, when we were both undergraduates at U.C. Berkeley. Years later, when I was entering the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, Barret had just graduated from it. He was waist-deep in the writing of this book. I’d sometimes see him around Iowa City in the evenings, after he’d spent 12 or 14 hours at his computer, having eaten little more than rice covered in barbeque sauce. He’d seem both rundown and wired, high from some discovery he’d made during the day’s research. The product of this labor is China Lake: A Journey Into the Contradicted Heart of a Global Climate Catastrophe. Continue reading

Trump the Merovingian

By Sara Lipton

President Trump’s recently completed overseas tour has left pundits struggling to explain his surprising affinity for the pre-modern Saudi Arabian monarchy. This hardly seems the attitude of a populist, a Christian conservative, or an ethnic nationalist, to mention just three of the labels that have been applied to him. Rather, the president’s preferences suggest that we should look further back than the 20th century to understand his political style and impulses. Continue reading

The Star Wars Prequels are the Most Politically Relevant Thing in the Trump Era

By Sam Jaffe Goldstein

In December 2015, with primary season about to begin, all eyes were on Donald Trump’s rise. That same month, Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters worldwide, the first of four new Star Wars-related films in a span of three years. A month after Trump’s win, Rogue One was released, which debuted the prophetic line, “rebellions are built on hope.” The end of Trump’s first year will welcome the release of The Last Jedi, and the end of the second by the 2018 release of the yet-untitled Han Solo film. Future historians will be able to trace a timeline between these new Star Wars movies and the state of the Trump administration. Continue reading

The Pleasures of the Glimpse: On Dirk Braeckman at the Venice Biennale

By Kaya Genc

Inside the Belgian pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, it is the vast whiteness of the space that strikes you first. The interior of the recently renovated pavilion resembles a hospital, a place devoted to purity, a sanctuary for healing. Then the gaze shifts its focus onto images: Dirk Braeckman’s dark canvases feature bodies, natural formations, surfaces of things so dark that they seem indiscernible from their backgrounds. Rarely has the contrast between space and artwork influenced me quite this way, certainly no other pavilion in the world’s leading art event had come close to the experience. Continue reading

Growing Up Gay in Backwoods Mississippi: Nick White’s How to Survive a Summer

By Nathan Scott McNamara

When Will Dillard was 15, his Preacher father caught him pleasuring himself with a candle in their Baptist Church. “He was not a violent man,” Will, the protagonist of How to Survive a Summer says, “but this — this — had been on the docket for a long time.” After beating Will until they’re both exhausted, Will’s father sends him to a backwoods gay conversion camp owned by their unqualified family in central Mississippi.  Continue reading

Orphan Black Season Five, “Clutch of Greed”: Letting Go, Holding On

By Everett Hamner

This is the second in a series of episode-by-episode reflections on Orphan Black season 5 (see the preview article here and episode 1 response here). These pieces do not recap plots but do include spoilers; they assume readers have already been viewers. I will also use this chance to thank BBC America for advance access, but also to note that upon each essay’s submission, I have not watched beyond the relevant episode (surprises await all of us!). Finally, as before, please don’t hesitate to extend the conversation in the comments or via Twitter. Continue reading

The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation: Alienation, Politics, and Women

By Charles Montgomery

The LARB Korea Blog is currently featuring selections from The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation, Charles Montgomery’s book-in-progress that attempts to provide a concise history, and understanding, of Korean literature as represented in translation. You can find links to previous selections at the end of the post. Continue reading

Women Without Men Without Women

By Zoë Hu

Seeing no alternative, a woman plants herself in her family’s courtyard and sprouts into a tree, begging aghast visitors, “Don’t cut me down. Let me grow.” Her name is Mahdokht, and her germination as human-cum-sapling has a loyal chronicle in the Iranian modernist novel Women Without Men, written by Shahrnush Parsipur in 1989 and first translated into English 10 years later. The text follows five women as they escape Tehran, shrug off dreary brothers and husbands, and — aided by the occasional, benevolent dollop of magical realism — find their way to a garden refuge. Rooted at the center of this botanical sorority, Mahdokht the tree-human is cared for and cultivated by the other women. She is also their witness, keeping time with her gradual growth to the loneliness and struggle that mark their isolated existences. Women Without Men asks its characters to begin new lives, free from the social mandate of a male partner, but once in the garden this possibility opens onto foreign, craggy territory. Unable to transform into a tree herself, one woman feels that nevertheless she is “rotting from within.” Continue reading