Travels Across Uncomfortable Terrain: Nora Gold’s The Dead Man

By Maria Bloshteyn

If you believe in the value of travelling beyond one’s comfort zones, you’ll find much to support your belief in Nora Gold’s most recent novel, The Dead Man (2016). Gold is a Toronto-based writer who has a history of venturing into fraught terrain. Her first novel, Fields of Exile (2014) — she debuted with a short story collection that won praise from Alice Munro — dealt with anti-Israel sentiment on university campuses, which marries all too well with outright Judeophobia. The Dead Man, Gold’s second novel, examines the erotic longings of elderly men, obsessions of women deep into their middle age, and creative impotence. Throw in widowhood, manipulative stepmothers, needy wives, and therapy (music therapy, but still…), and you have a cringe-worthy melange that pushes almost every reader’s buttons. Yet it is precisely by adventuring in such difficult emotional terrain that Gold achieves something beautiful, transformative, and life-affirming. Continue reading

The Berth of Biopolitics

By Matt Seybold

While coverage of Dr. David Dao’s involuntary deplaning has focused on United’s ineffective PR response, procedural failures, and various forms of victim-shaming, it is also a stark example of the failure of neoliberal political economy to abide its own purported logic. In 1978, a coalition of so-called “Deltacrats,” with the blessing of President Carter, pushed through the Airline Deregulation Act on the dubious grounds it would help address two persistent bugbears of the era: inflation, and rising fuel prices. Milton Friedman, figurehead of what Michel Foucault would call “anarcho-liberalism” and the academic face of the Reagan Revolution, called the ADA “the first major move in any area away from government control and toward greater freedom.” The largest commercial airlines, particularly Delta and United, had lobbied hard for deregulation, which would hasten the process of oligopolistic amalgamation. The legislation’s primary sponsor and spokesperson, Senator Howard Cannon, would be rewarded with the Tony Jannus Award for “outstanding achievement in commercial aviation,” a recognition generally reserved for airline executives, but would lose his seat in ‘82 to a challenger who argued, ironically, that Chairman of the Commerce Committee Cannon was not business-friendly enough. Continue reading

Why Afrofuturism Matters

By Elizabeth Reich

You’re already a consumer of Afrofuturist art, though you may not know it.

On either television or YouTube, you’ve likely seen the transfixing commercial for Apple AirPods, featuring “Down” by Marian Hill, with acting by Lil Buck, who begins his footwork on the street but soon steps into the air, moving along invisible walls and waves of sound. His dance — and Hill’s music — envision a world in which Blackness floats free of the constraints and violence that so often weigh it down today. And this freedom, enabled by technology and the fundamental belief that black life matters, is one definition for what has become a big, encompassing, and increasingly important term: Afrofuturism. Continue reading

S-Town: When a Podcast Becomes a Book

By Nic Dobija-Nootens

Near the end of the first episode of the new crime podcast S-Town, from the makers of This American Life and Serial, host Brian Reed asks himself, “What am I still doing here?” Reed is in the small town of Woodstock, Alabama, watching S-Town’s subject, an eccentric clockmaker named John B. Mclemore, tinker around his shop. Reed came to Woodstock to investigate a murder Mclemore emailed him about, but at this point in the show, the basic facts of the murder, and the issue of whether it even happened, are in question. Reed thinks he might be facing a dead end, but Mclemore, a 50-year-old southerner with chest tattoos, nipple piercings, and an expert knowledge of antique clocks, intrigues him to stay. Eventually, Mclemore pays off. Continue reading

Commemorating an Anti-Authoritarian Provocateur: Reflections on Wang Xiaobo (May 13, 1952–April 11, 1997)

By Sebastian Veg

Wang Xiaobo, an important Chinese literary and intellectual figure who died of a heart attack 20 years ago this week at the age of 44, remains largely unknown to the reading public outside China.  Only a few novellas and one important essay of his have been translated into English.  In China, by contrast, his popularity reached unprecedented heights in the late 1990s, and he was even included posthumously (with five other “emeriti”) on the first list of China’s 50 “most influential public intellectuals” published in 2004. Even now, his books are still reprinted and widely read: Changjiang Literature and Art has just published a new seven-volume selection of his writings to mark the anniversary of his death. Continue reading

A New Genre of Civic Literature: Official Reports of Government Inquiries Into International Cases of Abuse of Institutionalized Children

By Arthur McCaffrey

This is a story about institutional crime and social justice. At times, it may seem there is too much of the former and not enough of the latter. That’s the bad news. The good news is, when the institutional crime involves the abuse and exploitation of children, a number of different governments, in different countries, in different parts of the world, are finally beginning to do something. Unfortunately, the US government is not one of them.  Continue reading

Reforming a Leper Colony and Other Tricky Tasks: Three Recent Volumes of Translated Korean Fiction

By Charles Montgomery

While I’ve been messing around trying to post the Explorer’s Guide To Translated Literature here,  missing deadlines, Korean authors and translators have continued to work together to pump out great Korean works of fiction now available in English. Today I’ll  discuss three works that have recently come to attention: Yi Chong-Jun’s Your Paradise, Bang Hyeong-Seok’s collection Time To Eat Lobster, and a collection of work by female authors, The Future of Silence. Continue reading

Standing with Standing Rock: A Fire That Can’t Be Put Out

By Brendan Clarke

The following article is the fifth in a five-part series about the movement at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The mobilization, of people and resources, which was spurred on by the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, began an unprecedented convergence of hundreds of Indigenous Tribes, and thousands upon thousands of people. The series, which was originally written as a single piece, offers the reflections of Brendan Clarke, who traveled to Standing Rock from November 19th through December 9th to join in the protection of water, sacred sites, and Indigenous sovereignty. As part of this journey, which was supported by and taken on behalf of many members of his community, Brendan served in many different roles at the camps, ranging from direct action to cleaning dishes and constructing insulated floors. He, along with the small group he traveled with, also created a long-term response fund, which they are currently stewarding. These stories are part of his give-away, his lessons learned, and his gratitude, for his time on the ground. Continue reading

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