All posts by LARB Blog

Shadi Yousefian: A Retrospective

By Christopher Ian Lutz

Know thyself. You would have read these two words as you entered the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, if you lived in Greece 2000 years ago. More recently you might have read or watched Alice in Wonderland, in which the Caterpillar asks Alice: “Who are you?” This question has been known to initiate young people on a lifelong journey of self-realization. It is the underlying factor of self-expression, teenage angst, and mid-life crises. This question, this pursuit of identity, is what perpetuates the institutions of religion, other spiritual practices, and all the methods individuals use to connect with an identity beyond temporary designations. In a similar systematic approach, Shadi Yousefian has undergone a journey of self-realization through the ritual of art by dismantling such designations in order to construct a truer form of identity. Continue reading

So Insistently Focused on the Daily: Talking to Andrew Epstein

By Andy Fitch

This conversation  focuses on Andrew Epstein’s Attention Equals Life. Attention Equals Life provides an innovative, eloquent account of how 20th- and 21st-century poets’ conceptions (and/or representations, and/or performative embodiments) of attention have overlapped with a philosophically inflected form of everyday-life theory as developed by figures like Michel de Certeau and Henri Lefebvre. Epstein’s expansive scope stretches from the psychological formulations of William James, to the cinematic essays of Jean-Luc Godard and Agnès Varda, to contemporary everyday-life poetic experiments by Brenda Coultas, Claudia Rankine, and Harryette Mullen. Perhaps most importantly, Attention Equals Life offers the galvanizing example of an omnivorous yet meticulous scholarly study that poses direct questions to readers about how best to live out one’s own everyday. Epstein is a Professor of English at Florida State University, and the author of Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2006). He blogs about the New York School of poets at Locus Solus, and his critical work has recently appeared in Contemporary Literature, The Wallace Stevens JournalComparative Literature Studies, American Literary History, Journal of Modern Literature, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Continue reading

Reflection on the Launch of TSEHAI’s Harriet Tubman Press Inaugural Book

By Rachel Mullens

Hundreds gathered in Leimert Park Plaza in front of the Vision Theater on Saturday, October 14. The day marked the beginning of a year-long celebration in honor of the 20th anniversary of TSEHAI Publishers, the 10th anniversary of TSEHAI Publisher’s partnership with Loyola Marymount University and its Marymount Institute for Faith, Culture, and the Arts, the publication of Voices from Leimert Park Redux, the inaugural book from Harriet Tubman Press, and most importantly the celebration of the true freedom that is born when a collective people is allowed ownership of its own stories. Continue reading

The Sanctity of American Landscapes

By James Freitas

The vocabulary of wilderness is often self-explanatory, sometimes onomatopoetic. Alpenglow requires no elaboration; you’ll know it when you see it. Walk through brush and you’ll brush up against it — it’ll sound like brush. Scree echoes its own murmurous hiss, sliding down a slope beyond its angle of repose — that critical “point at which gravity challenges friction,” Antonya Nelson defines it, “the tense moment before one succumbs to the other.” We’ve got sheepback rock, mudslides, and hedgerows. In Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape, a dictionary-cum-field guide, dozens of writers contribute brief entries detailing the lexical pleasures native to their regional geographies. And don’t forget the fauna, either; the chickadees sing their own name. Continue reading

The Sonoma County Fires’ Familiar Surreality

By Nicholas Miriello

“Is that smoke from the fire?” A man yelled to his neighbor walking a dog. “Jesus.”

It was Monday morning in San Francisco, and every resident had learned of wine country’s wildfires by checking the Internet or first calling their local fire department to report the smell of a fire nearby. The smell was immediate, pervasive, and unmistakably close, like a late night campfire you awake to still burning.  Continue reading

Getting in the Way: On White Female Comedians Speaking Out

By Hilarie Ashton

Straight white women, including me, have a lot of unearned privilege to atone for, and we do not always atone usefully. In an America that was problematic on levels of race, class, and gender far before openly racist, faux-wealthy, women-hating men slithered into the White House last November, there are a plethora of examples of this kind of ineffective, often ignorant action purporting to be against white supremacy. Since the election especially, on the internet and in daily life, I have seen far too many white women uncritically extolling the feminist virtues of suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, both of whom are lauded for including Black women in their suffrage work without much acknowledgement of their respective racism. (It was Anthony who told Frederick Douglass, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.”) Facebook profile photos and Twitter avatars perpetuate the ubiquity of the transphobic, white-centric “pussy hats” that originated as a grassroots art project for January’s Women’s March (and that were still around in my part of New York even in early summer, even though trans folx and Black women have spoken out against how the symbol at least partially excluded them, among them Katelyn Burns at The Establishment and Juniperangelica Xiomara at Wear Your Voice Mag. The pussy hats were a problem where police were concerned, too, another framework that cis white women too often ignore; Alison Reed’s incisive look at whiteness and carceral psychology in Abolition Journal gets at this all-too common phenomenon really smartly. Why, many before me have asked, would a symbol that centers cis women and white women, the Venn diagram of which is the group most responsible for getting Trump into office, seem appropriate for fighting for the rights of women who are marginalized? Continue reading

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rock and Roll

By Erin Coulehan 

People loved rock and roll long before Joan Jett made an anthem about it in 1982. The genre was born through traditionally African American musical styles and adapted to suit a different audience — a whiter audience. Rock and roll as we know (and love) it drew influence from jazz, gospel, country, and R&B to popularize in the late 1940s and 1950s, and was set on fire by bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. According to Yale-educated music historian Lorenzo Candelaria at the University of Texas at El Paso, audience is what initially distinguished rock and roll from rhythm and blues. Simply put, “rhythm and blues refers to music that was marketed to a black audience; rock and roll refers to music directed at a white audience.” Continue reading

I Was Asking for It: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Ageism in Show Business

By Annabelle Gurwitch

Like Harvey Weinstein, I, too, came of age in a different era. Ten years his junior, the air was charged with an intoxicating mixture of sexual energy and drug fueled adrenaline in the winter of 1980 as Harvey Weinstein began his ascension as a film producer and sexual predator and I landed in New York to study experimental theater at NYU. Continue reading

Art Inside: Facilitator Training

By Annie Buckley, for the “Art Inside” series

It is 120 degrees outside, and yet the locals continue to tell us that this is a cool July. I stopped noticing the constant sheen of sweat shortly after we arrived for the second time here in Blythe, CA, near the Arizona border, over a week ago. I have come with a team to lead a class on the fundamentals of teaching art. In this case, the students — and future teachers — are men that are incarcerated in two prisons just outside the town. They will eventually teach their peers in the prisons. We are midway through the second 10-day session of a training that is designed to empower them to create community through the arts by sharing what they have learned, many while locked up, about painting, drawing, music, poetry, and more. The project is something I received a grant for from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to implement here, but months ago, as I wrote the grant application, bent over the computer in my cool office, I could never have imagined the depths to which our participants would go in engaging with this content and striving to understand, grow, and be successful. They are going to be incredible teachers. Continue reading

Where Modern Korean Drama Began: the Heroism, Villainy, and Idealism of Yi Kwang Su’s The Soil

By Charles Montgomery

Yi Kwang-su (pictured above) has been mentioned here before for his theoretical contributions to modern Korean modern literature in the early 20th century as well as for his wandering political eye. As a writer of some repute best known for the novels Heartless and The Soil (흙), the latter of which which is, to my mind, the spiritual progenitor of the modern Korean drama. Yi’s stories are laced with love triangles, betrayals, defeats, revenges, and The Soil brings in a spectacularly failed suicide attempt as well. Doomed lovers make promises they can’t keep, wealth differentials grind people into dirt, and “true” heart and dedication (according to Yi’s model) bring no tangible rewards. Continue reading