All posts by LARB Blog

An Entirely Different Immersion: Talking to Kathleen Fraser

By Andy Fitch

This conversation, transcribed by Nicole Monforton, focuses on Kathleen Fraser’s collection m  ov a  b  le  TYYPE. After years of pioneering work teaching at San Francisco State University, founding the American Poetry Archives, and co-founding the feminist poetics journal HOW(ever), Fraser began regularly immersing herself amid the venerable Roman cityscape. Fraser took with her the supple linguistic register that she had cultivated during decades of writing and living in the Bay Area, and started developing with visual artists a series of poetic/typographical/collage-based collaborations shaped by the palimpsestic textures and tonalities of this new environment. The resulting m  ov a  b  le  TYYPE texts provide any number of what Fraser herself describes as “Stendhalian city moments,” filled with echoes, multiplicity, synesthesia. Talking to Fraser about her intricate, elaborate, often constraint-based yet nonetheless playful process for each project produces the same.  Continue reading

Uncomfortably Numb: On Kate Cole-Adams’ Anesthesia and the Problems of Consciousness

By Michael Friedrich

In the 1960s, Bernard Levinson, a South African psychiatrist, staged a famous — and famously unrepeatable — experiment. During surgery under ether anesthesia, patients were read a dramatic script. “I don’t like the patient’s color,” their surgeons said at a predetermined moment. “Much too blue.” Shortly after surgery, Levinson hypnotized and interviewed the patients. He found that many could quote their surgeons’ words. Others became profoundly agitated during questioning. The implication was alarming: somehow they had been aware. Continue reading

Requiem for a Media: On the Execution of LA Weekly

By John W. W. Zeiser

Americans have a strange and abiding trust in the corporate. There is an inherent problem with this trust, and it’s easy enough to spot, though our legal system has done everything it can to occlude it. Corporations are not people. I repeat: corporations are not people. Actual people, the kind who can be physically placed in a jail cell, are denied the framework to conceptualize this chasm; instead, we tend to transpose our own moral frameworks — the ones that allow us to operate daily with our neighbors, bus drivers, grocery cashiers, our friends — onto corporations. In a recent report from LA Weekly on Invitation Homes, the largest landlord of single-family homes in the city of LA, you can see this logic at work. In the report, a tenant expresses surprise that in the face of crippling rent increases, Invitation Homes wasn’t “negotiating and being nice with each other and com[ing] to an agreement.” Continue reading

Come Rain or Shine: Marion Rankine Discusses the Complexities of the Common Brolly

By Cleaver Patterson

In today’s world of cutthroat publishing it’s some feat for a first time author to not only have their debut book snapped up by a renowned indie publisher like New York’s Melville House, but also have the head of said company approach you themselves about the project. But this was just the case for Australian writer Marion Rankine, whose book Brolliology: A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature was published by the prizewinning publisher in November. Though umbrellas may sound an odd subject, Rankine’s quirky and beautifully illustrated book proves that there’s more to the humble brolly than simply a means to keep dry. As she explained to me when we spoke recently, writing about them has opened up a whole new world of the strange and bizarre. Continue reading

Korea in the World and the World in Korea: Selections from the LARB Korea Blog’s Second Year

By Colin Marshall 

The past year, the Los Angeles Review of Books Korea Blog’s second, has proven eventful not just within Korea but in the relationship between Korea and the rest of the world. Not, of course, that many casual Korea observers elsewhere in the world can tune in much signal through the noise projected, at an ever-louder volume, by the northern half of the peninsula. What better way to look past the attention-seizing missile tests, lurid salvos of propaganda, flamboyant acts of internecine violence, and increasingly bad haircuts than to revisit Coréennes, French filmmaker Chris Marker’s photobook of his 1957 trip to North Korea, a place he then thought “worthy of being called the politest country in the world?” Continue reading

Don’t Be Afraid, We Are Only Approaching the Outside World! — Curating Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantanamo

By Charles Shields

Khalid Qassim and Ahmed Rabbani will starve as I remember waking up under an archway of tall pine. The smell of coffee. The up and down of steep roads. NPR playing softly, it seemed, from somewhere outside the car. We were in the Appalachian Mountains. The dark was vaguely green and here and there a star shone through the trees. I had just gotten out of juvie, and my new guardians were taking me on a road trip from Michigan to Long Island to meet the guardian’s extended family, which was now also mine.  Continue reading

Electric Fences and Intersectionality: Michael Perry’s Montaigne in Barn Boots  

By Gretchen Lida

The 16th-century French nobleman Michel de Montaigne, widely considered the father of the essay, spent the second half of his life writing personal essays, and pioneered writing about such personal things as our bowel movements, our sex lives, and anything else that wandered into his private vineyard or snuck into his castle. Michael Perry’s new essay collection, Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles through Philosophy, brings the essayist to life once more. Perry’s poignant, balanced, achingly funny prose is more than an ode to or critique of Michel De Montaigne. Instead, Perry uses the original essays to better understand his own life and bring a bit more humanity to an increasingly divisive world. Continue reading

An Ever-Expanding Repertoire of Concepts: Talking to Danielle Allen

By Andy Fitch

The conversation focuses on Danielle Allen’s Why Plato Wrote. A subsequent conversation will focus on Allen’s memoir Cuz. Allen, a James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought — focusing on questions of justice and citizenship in both ancient Athens and modern America. Allen is the author of The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (2000), Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown vs. the Board of Education (2004), Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014), and Education and Equality (2016). She co-edited Education, Justice, and Democracy (2013, with Rob Reich) and From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in the Digital Age (2015, with Jennifer Light). She is a Chair of the Mellon Foundation Board, past Chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, and a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Continue reading