Comic Relief? The Puzzling Function of Political Humor Online

By Marta Zarzycka

The most terrifying movie I have ever seen, no doubt, was Funny Games, written and directed by Michael Haneke. In the movie, a sheltered bourgeois family’s reality transforms into a nightmare at the hands of two sadistic captors in immaculate golf whites and gloves. There is nothing “funny” about the situation, which, in hindsight, renders the title misleading and cruel.

A similarly ominous congruity between the “funny” and the violent is glaringly present in the right-wing register of the internet. The mix of satire and political ideology drives platforms such as Breitbart, AltRight, or Daily Stormer (which recently resurfaced on the dark web). Continue reading

Remembering Lynn Moe Swe (1976-2017)

By Ko Ko Thett 

“Until the end of the wake” by Lynn Moe Swe (1976-2017):

The funeral I wrote down happens today. 
Or, does it?

The opening lines of “Until the end of the wake” by Lynn Moe Swe anticipate afterlife. Lynn Moe Swe, who died of Dylan-Thomas Syndrome aka alcohol poisoning in the wee hours of Monday, September 18, in his hometown Monywa, was one of Myanmar’s most outstanding poets of his generation. He was 41. Continue reading

Weil Waiting: On the 75th Anniversary of Simone Weil’s Visit to New York

By Robert Zaretsky

Seventy-five years ago, the French philosopher and religious mystic Simone Weil was a prisoner of New York. As she wrote (in English) to an American officer whose radio address she had heard (but had never met), her parents forced her to leave Vichy France: they “had wanted to escape anti-Semitism [and] put great pressure upon me to make me go with them.” Ever since her arrival in early July, though, an implacable sense of suffering overpowered her: France’s suffering under German occupation, but her own suffering as well. If her separation from France “was to last a long time, it seems to me that it would break my heart.” Continue reading

The Amateur Fiction of Arab Dictators

By Mona Kareem

“We were concerned that some of the writers would not be comfortable to be associated with Hesperus once we published this book, but we’re politically neutral. We only publish what we find interesting.” With this statement, British publisher Hesperus announced their plan to publish a translation of Saddam Hussein’s final novel Begone, Demons! which he was, allegedly, writing in a secret place while Iraqis were getting bombed by the United States and its allies. The publisher said the novel will be the first title in their “new imprint focusing on eastern literature.” The statement had me wonder: who still uses the word “eastern” anymore? Are Saddam’s writings considered literature, by any living creature? The publisher had an initial plan to release the translation on the 10th anniversary of Saddam’s execution. Is that a celebration? Or a commemoration? And who invited these guys to the party? Continue reading

Are Nostalgia Tours the New Dyke Bar?

By Japonica Brown-Saracino

Recent op-eds in the New York Times and Vice mourn, respectively, the loss of lesbian bars and 1990s Provincetown. These pieces, and analogous Lost Dyke Bar Tours (in New York) and performances (in New Orleans), hit close to home. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I spent more nights than I can count in the very Chicago bar that the New York Times op-ed highlights. And I was, without a doubt, one of the Smith undergraduates the Vice article recalls: the small army of Smithies who staffed Provincetown stores and, on the rare day off, populated the women’s section of Herring Cove beach. To be sure, with little provocation I will wax poetic about that bar and that summer; about beer and fries at L Word viewing parties, and about bike rides through the dunes and evenings on the beach under the stars. Of course, unless pressed, I will omit any mention of drama, sunburn, and mosquitoes. Continue reading

Inextricably Interwoven: Talking to Brenda Iijima

By Andy Fitch

Amid a recent stretch of ominous, climate-change inflected environmental disasters, and amid an ongoing history of environmental imperialism intensifying the impact of such disasters upon communities of color, economically marginalized communities, and interspecies communities, it feels especially pertinent to return to Nightboat Books’s )((ECO (LANG) (UAGE (READER), edited by Brenda Iijima. Iijima’s public engagements occur at intersections of, and amid mutations of: poetry, animal studies, ecological sociology, histories of activism, and submerged social histories. She is the author of seven collections of poetry, and numerous chapbooks and artist’s books. Her most recent book, Remembering Animals, was published by Nightboat in 2016. Iijima is the editor of Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, located in Brooklyn. Continue reading

Uncertainty in Catalonia

By Marc Herman

One of the most important novels of the Spanish Civil War that you might never have heard of is Uncertain Glory, by Joan Sales, a book told from the Catalan point of view and banned in Spain for much of the 20th century. The book’s long-awaited English language edition will arrive just days after an October 1 secession vote in Spain’s breakaway province of Catalonia, where much of the novel is set. Whoever timed this was an evil marketing genius. Continue reading

Asking For a Friend: Try a Little Awkwardness

Dear Olive,

I just graduated from college and moved to a new city. I went from a house with my best friends to living on my own. I work at a very small company, mostly from home, so I rarely see my coworkers. I have a few friends here, and I like my neighbors a lot, but if I forget to seek it out I can spend days without talking to people I know. I’m not used to the amount of effort I have to put in to live a social life. What should I do?

-Home Alone Continue reading

There’s a Theory I’ve Got Cooking: An Interview with John Rossiter of Young Jesus

By Sam Jaffe Goldstein 

Los Angeles-based alt-rock band Young Jesus has been through many iterations; it started as a high school band in the suburbs of Chicago, did a Red Bull-sponsored tour, went acoustic for an album, and then transformed into its current formation. A band of far-out sounds, 10-minute-plus songs that could be described as soundscapes, and live shows full of improvisation, Young Jesus resonates as both expansive and personal. Continue reading

“Maybe This Book is a Cemetery”: An Interview with Alistair McCartney

By Meghan Lamb

I was introduced to Alistair McCartney’s latest novel The Disintegrations (University of Wisconsin Press) through our mutual writer friend Mark Gluth, and from page one I was grateful for the recommendation. True to its tagline, The Disintegrations is indeed “a haunting, obsessive exploration of death” that fascinatingly collapses the space between author and narrator. Here was a voice both uncannily familiar and decidedly unlike any I’d read, its own breed of ethereal friendliness, foggy acuteness, and distant confessional. It was, above all, the voice of a writer who deeply intrigued me, whom I yearned to hear more from. Continue reading