The Misogyny of FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan

By Melissa Bradshaw

With the long-awaited adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale finally streaming on Hulu, viewers are immersing themselves in the terrors of a dystopian future where religious extremists control what is left of the United States, imprisoning fertile women and forcing them to bear children for their wealthy masters. There is something cathartic about watching Atwood’s unflinchingly feminist nightmare unfold, because even as the parallels to our own current political landscape are discomfortingly strong, we’re not there yet. Watching, we can measure the freedoms we haven’t lost yet, the degree of autonomy we exercise over our bodies and our sexuality. For now. Continue reading

The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation: Deeper Into the War’s Aftermath, a Deeper Sense of Separation

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.

Two weeks ago, this chapter began on the Korea Blog with the conclusion of the Korean War, focusing on the moment of separation and its aftermath. This half focuses more on what one might call “second generation” separation literature, the writing that attempts to look at the separation from a generational remove, not examining national separation directly but the notion of separation in more personal and social settings. A good example of late-era separation literature, Kim Won-Il’s Evening Glow, tells the story of a businessman named Kim Kapsu returning to his countryside home for a funeral. There he reconnects with and re-assesses the complicated strands of his previous life, one lived in the turbulent period of Korean Civil War. Continue reading

Stop Comparing Marine Le Pen to Donald Trump

By Russell Porter-Follows

On May 7, voters will head to the polls to elect the next President of France. France’s avidly anti-immigrant and Eurocentric National Front party, led by Marine Le Pen, has ascended from the fringes of French politics to the mainstream by riding a wave of toxic nationalism. After receiving 21.4% of the popular vote, Le Pen advanced to the runoff election in late April against centrist candidate, political novice, and former investment banker Emmanuel Macron. Continue reading

The Day the Lights Went Out

By Joanna Chen

Nothing much happens in the quiet village where I live in the Ella Valley of Israel. In many ways, it’s like a modern shtetel — houses clustered together in a valley dotted with corn and melon fields in season, perched on the edge of a forest ripe with secrets waiting to be discovered. It’s named Sarigim, the Hebrew word for “tendrils,” in reference to the nearby vine groves that burst with purple sweetness in the summer, their wispy limbs curling around wooden trellises. There’s a single supermarket where people buy milk and eggs and stand around gossiping, and on Fridays they buy fresh-baked pastries and braided challah bread that fill the air with the scent of home. Continue reading

May Horoscopes

By Ichrak Dahou

May is a fiery and fast-paced month that eases us into the quickness and progress of June. The Sun traveling through the stars of Taurus politely requests that we savor each moment. This is a good month to think about and integrate the many pauses and inquiries generated by April’s many retrogrades. Mars vivifying lingual Gemini inspires curiosity, connection, and conversation. When seeking to dream up plans or solidify moves that bring luck or expansion, be sure that all the details are in fact what they are perceived to be. This month Venus wraps up her retrograde journey in earnest and with a bang. It is a good month to slowly integrate the important growth and subtle transformation we have experienced since late March. Continue reading

Was S-Town’s John B. McLemore a Poetic Genius?

By Rachel Kraus

In the last lines of the seemingly open-ended podcast S-Town, produced by the makers of This American Life and Serial, narrator Brian Reed actually puts forth a conclusive assertion. While Mary Grace McLemore was pregnant with her son, the podcast’s subject John B. McLemore, she rubbed her belly and wished for a genius. The listener understands that in her son John B., that wish came true. Continue reading

Asking for a Friend: I’ve Grown Up, But Not Apart

Dear Olive, 

I’m trying to set boundaries with my mother. She’s caring, supportive, and my best friend, yet her meddling has become too invasive as I transition into my adult years. She micro-manages every aspect of my life — for example, she still looks at my bank statements and has tried to have the final say regarding where I will go to grad school next year. I am temporarily moving back to my hometown in a few months for a work assignment; how can I keep our relationship healthy yet at an appropriate distance?  Continue reading

What’s New in Studies of Early 20th-Century China?

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

It’s easy to imagine a book on the trafficking of people in China around a hundred years ago that begins with a chapter that cites various anthropologists and scholars in other disciplines, while placing the Chinese historical phenomenon into comparative and theoretical perspective. It’s also easy to imagine a different book on the same subject opening in a totally different, more literary manner. This other book might begin with the author stitching together material from archival sources, such as confessions, to create a tale about real people that reads like a short story. What I could not have imagined a week ago was a book that did both of these things, but I can now. What made the difference was picking up University of Chicago historian Johanna Ransmeier’s Sold People: Traffickers and Family Life in North China, which was recently published by Harvard University Press. Continue reading

Xue Generis: Can Xue and the Dangers of Literary Exceptionalism

By Amanda DeMarco

“Can Xue’s works are truly exceptional,” Can Xue assures us. China’s most prominent author of experimental fiction is known, among other things, for talking about herself in the third person using her pseudonym, which means “dirty snow.” Her works inhabit a space of connected disjointedness somewhere between Diane Williams and Nadirs-era Herta Müller. Think Mikhail Shishkin’s Maidenhair politically unmoored. Hers is generally not a strangeness of voice or syntax — this is neither Woolf of The Waves, nor McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing. Rather its strangeness resides in the world, or at least in what the speaker notices about it. Her works are usually related in a simple style that ranges from elegantly plainspoken to abrupt. There are halting arcs of narrative, rumor, causation; clues as well as red herrings. It has all of the bones of storytelling, but often lacks the connective tissue, leaving the deductive work to the reader, along with a much harder sort of work: the struggle to accept and comprehend things that don’t make sense. Continue reading

-- LW --