We all use social media. We tweet, Facebook, tumble and pin away, and some of us even make art on these platforms. Social media have been explored in countless talks and essays, as everyone from sociologists to artists to technologists have come together to explore just why these new media are so interesting, and what they mean about society.
For the past week, White Fungus, a Taiwanese art magazine, was tucked under my arm as I frolicked and gallivanted through New York. I realize that some people love to sit at home, drink peppermint tea and read in bed. But I go out.
Ever wondered what your childhood nightmares would look like if they met your adult nightmares? Well, take a peek at Monster, the latest installation of Providence, Rhode Island’s giant, horror-themed comic book.
Once when I was breaking up with a girlfriend, she told me, “You act like a nice guy, but really you’re not.” Or maybe she said, “You pretend to be a nice guy,” I can’t quite remember. Anyway, I was taken aback. Would it be better to just habitually act like an asshole, rather than trying to do so as little as possible? Although I know my capacity for niceness is, like everyone else’s, limited, I try to cultivate my better qualities to the extent that I can. But then, what if, as a result, someone mistakenly comes to believe that I am nicer than I really am? Does that make me a bigger jerk than the guy who’s just self-evidently a jerk on the surface?
When I read Witold Gombrowicz’s Ferdydurke in the late 1980s the Soviet empire was beginning to totter and crack. An English version of the book, published in 1961 in the UK, had been re-issued in 1986 as part of Penguin’s Writers from the Other Europe series, edited by Philip Roth. The project aimed to disseminate Eastern European writers in the Anglophone world: a worthy endeavor, though judging from the cobbled-together edition of Ferdydurke — an offset duplication of the 1961 text, with a Czeslaw Milosz essay from another occasion tacked on as an introduction — one with a limited budget.
Nightboat Books is, according to its website, “a nonprofit publishing company dedicated to printing original books of poetry and prose, and bringing out-of-print treasures back to life.” Bern Porter’s Found Poems, a collection previously published in 1972 by Dick Higgins’ Something Else Press, is surely one of those treasures, and we are fortunate now to have easy access to such a singular text.
Varamo is only the sixth novel by the Argentinian writer César Aira to be made available in English, but the premise already sounds like an Aira-parody: one night in Panama in 1923, a government employee without a literary bone in his body composes a future masterpiece of Central American poetry and, as often happens, never writes another word again.
As I sometimes — or quite a lot of the time — find myself disposed to avoid the demands of work and household, my favorite dodge is perusing much read books for those “juicy” parts that I’ve doted over for years. Samuel Beckett’s Murphy is just the right book for this kind of time wasting: It’s a novel about an indolent, hapless, emotionally paralyzed man. He’s a loner, out of step with the world, torn between desire for his mistress and the wish to sink further in a self-involved fantasy world. The eponymous un-hero Murphy (he really can’t be called an anti-hero as his chief aspiration — a catatonic state achieved by rocking in his rocking chair — barely qualifies as anti-anything) is securely held by what Blake called “mind forg’d manacles.”
Sometimes a gallery’s books are more interesting than the artwork they regularly exhibit, and you can peruse their best artists and exhibitions from the confines of a well-constructed catalogue.
It’s to be expected that when America’s greatest living poet publishes a translation of one of the greatest and — to borrow a phrase from the titles of old forgotten anthologies — best-loved poets of world modernity, readers would take notice. And they have, so maybe I should think twice before adding more kudos to the pile. But it’s surprising that people haven’t been more surprised by John Ashbery’s decision to undertake a translation of Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations.
In The Archaeology of Knowledge, Michel Foucault usefully reminds us that “[t]he frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines, and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network.” Noah Eli Gordon’s new long poem The Source is such a node — a radiant node — within a site-specific network of other books.
“I’m sure the people of Iraq are looking forward to your poem about Franco and his economy,” Isabel tells the main character, Adam Gordon. Since the death of the self, the author and painting, the desire for significance has led to a daily slew of preposterous claims and downright silly statements.