All this adds up to the impression that impressions are hard to come by.
Outside the Museum of Literature
On Mircea Cărtărescu
Solenoid’s parasites take us well over the horizon marked out by any kind of realism. In one of Cărtărescu’s odder fantasias, his narrator comes to know a librarian with a messianic vocation: to find a way to communicate with the subject of his obsession, the world of mites, on whose astonishing variety, beauty, and omnipresence at the edges of our attention he soliloquizes at length.
February 20, 2023
I turned away from abstraction
Writing fiction hadn’t been false, for nonfiction isn’t truer than fiction; but I’d seemed to row at the shallowest region of the narrative stream, where the water wouldn’t reveal its deepest enchantments. I needed to allow the subject to change the form as I progressed. Where I began with curiosity about my uncle’s fate, my travels made me aware of how little of the war had been monumentalized in the Nigerian landscape, ultimately making it necessary for me to define the shape of my work as a reconciliation with the fragmented nature of the past.
January 10, 2023
Interviews aren’t the same as sworn testimony, but they rhyme.
Malcolm on the Stand
December 12, 2022
“There is a life here”
On Bernadette Mayer (1945–2022)
I had arrived at the all too probably named Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute past its ostensible heyday. Founded in 1974 by Waldman and her “spiritual husband” Allen Ginsberg, the school had the reputation of a mountain retreat for the Beat Poets, and their friends in the New York School, and their friends in the Black Mountain school, and their friends in the New Narrative school.
For better or worse, dead people do rule
For better or worse, dead people do rule. They rule because we love them, and they rule because, like many people over 65 today, they were late to retire and reluctant to surrender their reign.
December 2, 2022
One chant-related goal is to rhyme something with “Passion doesn’t pay the rent,” so we can get a call-and-response going.
HarperCollins Strike Dispatch
November 29, 2022
On Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Why should one not have readers? Was there any merit in being difficult or obscure?
He designed a fridge-magnet poem-kit (which, I believe, has now had a software program based on it). He wrote a skeptical book about Europe in 1987, before Europe was really a subject (Ach Europa! was the wonderful title of the original; Europe Europe in English). He wrote a children’s book, an opera libretto about a runaway Cuban slave, a world-best-selling math book (The Number Devil), a partial memoir (Tumult).
September 29, 2022
Classicist in Literature, Royalist in Politics, and Anglo-Catholic in Religion
I’m interested in how words with particular identities and backgrounds—“spirit,” “God,” “thought,” “tranquility”—take part, without comment, and perhaps without full knowledge, in a metamorphosis, a movement across meanings that leads not so much from the “West” to the “East” as, subtly and suggestively, away from the Enlightenment to a new emergence and sense of the “literary.”
August 23, 2022
More Is More
Not the Great American Novel but its Jungian shadow
Have you ever read a stranger narrate their divorce in real time?
Live Free or Die
Using state money to criticize the state and its scribblers isn’t contradictory—it’s punk.