Come with me into the hidden abode of literary production. Here, behind the comings of age amidst tragedy, the journeys of self-discovery traveled through existential crises, and the excavations of rotting family ties, lies a darker secret: the coal heart of the modern novel.
For Amitav Ghosh, himself the author of many novels including The Hungry Tide and Sea of Poppies, the idea that fossil fuels are at the heart of the modern novel is no metaphor, but rather historical fact. The assumptions of literary narration, he reminds us, are based on a second background assumption — “the orderly expectations of bourgeois life.” Read More
Capitalism is an irrational system which refuses to see itself for what it is. Like an obnoxious trust fund kid slumming it at a dive bar, it cannot help but loudly declare how ingenious and deserving it is. Accepting its arguments for how things are and how they change is to accept the argument that there is some method underneath the layers of madness, that its opulence can somehow be separated from its exploitation, that it has something other than an ever-deepening inhumanity in its future. While our dreams are deemed irrational, capitalism’s degradations are justified as science.
To grasp the significance of Sorry to Bother You is, on some level, to grasp this truth about capitalism. Boots Riley has written and directed a film that is being celebrated by the far-left and mainstream critics alike. Those familiar with Riley’s musical and lyrical work with the Coup know that he is adept at combining his unabashed revolutionary politics with a skewed, cartoon-like worldview. Read More
When I heard that The Fall’s frontman (and only consistent band member) Mark E. Smith had died, I didn’t even realize The Fall released a new album in 2017. I consider myself a pretty good fan, I can name a bunch of their albums, know some of their songs inside and out, have read dozens of interviews and articles about the Fall – and yet it totally slipped my radar they had a new album. But to be honest, Smith just got too much for me and after album after album, just got a bit burnt out by how their sound would have that similar weird feel, but just wasn’t as amazing as it could be. Read More
There’s something strange about the strange – and unpacking that something is the task Mark Fisher sets himself in this lucid little book. The Weird and the Eerie marshals a series of essays into a sharp theoretical intervention, argued tightly and packed tersely into 120 pages.
Specifically: there are two distinct modes of the strange – the weird and the eerie – and this distinction revolves around the different ways they deal with exteriority. The weird involves an irruption of the out-there in here: “the weird is that which does not belong”, hence its close affinity with fantastic fiction. Read More
“To defend our beloved Cuba.” The closing line of this poem from the great Chilean communist and surrealist writer Pablo Neruda rather sums up how working and oppressed people – in Latin America and around the world – are feeling in the wake of Fidel Castro's death. There is a lot to say about Castro the man, but it is far less important than the Cuban Revolution he helped lead, build and maintain for more than fifty years against the outside pressures of American empire. Read More
There are a great many fun and entertaining ways one could celebrate the 150th birthday of Erik Satie. The Velvet Gentleman seems to cast such an omniscient shadow over modern music that he is almost invisible. This of course isn’t the only paradox he represented. Though Satie was indeed a unique eccentric who sought to explode musical convention, his philosophies resonate in even those most traditional, straight-laced and boring of today’s composers. In fact it is not far-fetched to say that his music is so universal in western composition that we often don’t even consciously identify it as his. Satie’s iconic Gymnopedie No. 1 was, after all, and in very stark contrast to his unorthodox predilections, used as a background lullaby in a BMW commercial. Read More
There is no getting around the popularity or cultural clout that both Afropunk and Afrofuturism have in contemporary culture. It’s been over ten years since James Spooner’s film on Afropunk came out, the website that bears its name is visited by hundreds of thousands each month, and the yearly festival recently expanded from Brooklyn to Atlanta and will soon be making its way to Paris. Afrofuturism, for its part, has become quite trendy in certain circles, with advertising companies attempting to cash in on its aesthetic. It is not difficult to see its influence in a growing array of artists. Read More
The success of the film Trumbo – starring Bryan Cranston as the titular blacklisted screenwriter and Communist Party member – has come at an interesting time in the American cultural landscape. Discussion of socialism is now commonplace. As is free and open discussion of stripping people of their civil rights because of what their beliefs may or may not be. As a gauge of how important it might be, the film has gladly pissed off the right people.
Filmmaking is a fickle art-form; it is of course impossible to cram every single element of a person’s life into a biopic. Nonetheless, that the film doesn’t mention in any way Dalton Trumbo’s masterpiece novel Johnny Got His Gun is frustrating for those familiar with his work. Telling the story of a young soldier fighting in World War I who, caught in an explosion, loses both arms and both legs as well as his sight, hearing and... Read More