Book: I don’t read anymore
Poem: Ha Ha Ha.
TV series: Telenovela
Political moment: Miss Universe
Sporting moment: Rowdy
Celebrity: The Queen
Music video: Gloria
Food: Alan Jackson.
Controversy: Reb Livingston
Tweet: something about Comcast & Orgasm
I’ve been asked to participate in a ‘best of 2015’ list (aside from the annual “‘best of’ list of Canadian poetry books” list I post annually to the dusie blog, the fifth of which appears there on January 1). So, from the prompts offered me by the Queen himself, I offer this week’s version of a rough list:
It took a couple of weeks, but I finally managed the time and attention required by American writer Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness: The End of a Diary (Graywolf Press, 2015). She has long been one of my favourite writers, especially since shifting from poetry into prose, and her writing is, quite simply, remarkable. Her short essay-book on memory opens on how she has composed a daily diary for most of her life, and how having a child both opened up the impossibility of daily work on her memory-project, and allowed her the permission to not have to record every single moment of her life. As she writes:
Living in a dream of the future is considered a character flaw. Living in the past, bathed in nostalgia, is also considered a character flaw. Living in the present moment is hailed as spiritually admirable, but truly ignoring the lessons of history or failing to plan for tomorrow are considered character flaws.
I still needed to record the present moment before I could enter the next one, but I wanted to know how to inhabit time in a way that wasn’t a character flaw.
Remember the lessons of the past. Imagine the possibilities of the future. And attend to the present, the only part of time that doesn’t require the use of memory.
American poet Jessica Smith’s long-awaited second trade collection, life-list (Victoria TX: chax press, 2015), is a remarkable collection of expansive and exploded lyrics stretched and pulled apart to form staccato breaches into memory, multilinearity, meaning and language. As she explains in a recent interview posted over at Touch the Donkey: “I want to use the whole space of the page and approach it like a kind of blend between painting and poem, in that the words are usually arranged roughly left-right, top-bottom, but not entirely. I see the space of the page as already having a certain “weight,” like it’s not a blank/silent space, and that concept was molded for me by John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock and Steve McCaffery. I was also inspired, early on, by installation art, which along with sculpture is still what excites me the most: I want the audience to physically participate in the making of the object.” Structured into two sections—“observation” and “memory” (a selection of the second section published as a chapbook, here)—the poems in life-list, published a full nine years after the appearance of her Organic Furniture Cellar (Outside Voices, 2006), suggest far more might be possible, with further titles in what could simply be the opening work of something far larger. If this is Smith writing out a “life list,” how many entries might there be?
Part of what is remarkable about Smith’s work is her use of fragment and space, allowing the poems such a breadth of multiple readings and meanings, even while allowing a strong intuitive narrative grounding. There is something lovely and deceptively light in the way her poems accumulate so subtly into such hefty, serious weight, pinging across the margins of the book in ways that deserve as much to be heard aloud as experienced upon the page. Further in her Touch the Donkey interview, she responds:
I choose the page as a constraint: Often when I asked for poems for periodicals, I ask the editor about the margins, page size, and font, and then I write a poem specifically for the magazine within those constraints. When I write a larger project on my own, I choose my own visual constraints. I enjoy writing by hand on square pages, but when I transfer drafts to the computer I try to choose standard printer sizes for paper and margins and standard, readable typefaces. I am constrained by the current standards of publishing, but I choose the constraint for myself with an eye to publishing because I want a larger audience than the kind of micropublishing that non-standard pages/typefaces would require. So, yes, I sometimes feel limited by page space, but the limitation is positive. I need boundaries! It helps me concentrate on other things.
See the interview I conduced with her at Touch the Donkey.
I’ve been increasingly impressed with the work of Ottawa poet Marilyn Irwin, and her fifth chapbook, the blue, blue there (Ottawa ON: Apt. 9 Press, 2015), provided the opportunity to be reminded of just how much her work has been improving. Irwin’s poems explore a series of moments both large and small in a compact space, pinpointing a level of minutiae that is so often lost or overlooked, as well as a space one can only describe as increasingly local. Her work invites comparisons (obvious or otherwise) to similar works by Canadian poets Nelson Ball, Cameron Anstee and Mark Truscott, among others, and the poems in the blue, blue here are quiet and sharp, insistently present and remarkably calm. Hers are poems that enter the body through the skin.
Earlier this year I conducted a short interview with Marilyn Irwin as part of my ‘commentaries on Canadian poetry’ at Jacket2:
I’m always happy to hear about new (or at least, new to me) presses, so was thrilled to receive a copy of Providence, Rhode Island poet, editor, translator and publisher Rosmarie Waldrop’s gorgeous new chapbook, IN PIECES (Philadelphia PA: O’CLOCK PRESS, 2015).
6 | SUNSET THEORY
To feel an idea is different. And rare. A private fluency of figment and frontier. A splinter in the sky. Let’s not get sentimantic. The word “reality” is a word. Atoms are unpredictable, a warp in a continuous field, a gamble against the powers of disorder. But grammar can unpack a sentence it has taken you so long to understate. What open window? What thin but penetrating light?
Waldrop’s stunning sixteen-part essay-sequence proves, yet again, that some writers (not nearly enough) continue to improve, even after decades of publishing. IN PIECES manages to cohere in multiple directions, contemplating language, poetry, sex and the poetic line, allowing the most incredible connections through the almost-collage of thought, sound and sentence.
I could mention anything included in the weekly “Tuesday poem” series I curate at the dusie blog, but really, it would be anything produced by Canadian poet Phil Hall, including the “selected poem” I helped facilitate earlier this year, Guthrie Clothing, A Selected Sequence (Waterloo ON: WLU Press).
Here is my essay on ‘selecting Phil Hall’ as part of my ‘commentaries on Canadian poetry’ at Jacket2:.
Given I’m full-time with our (now) two-year-old daughter, I’ve been finding it extremely difficult to even think about reading novels. I mean, I keep ordering books, including novels by Ali Smith, Jeanette Winterson, Helen Oyeyemi and others, but I haven’t yet been able to crack a single one. I haven’t even been able to get into that Douglas Glover collection of short stories, Savage Love (2013), I picked up two years ago. She’ll be in school eventually: I collect for when she is.
Given that Israeli writer Etgar Keret is one of the most remarkable fiction writers I’ve read, I felt I had no choice but to pick up a copy of his new memoir, The Seven Good Years (2015). The Seven Good Years is a collection of short non-fiction pieces composed and collected over a seven year period, set in seven sections: “Year One,” “Year Two,” etcetera. The seven year stretch of the pieces run from the birth of his son to the death of his father, in which he observes and comments upon his immediate circle of self, family and identity. He moves through a series of observations on culture and cultural differences, the ongoing shelling around him in Tel Aviv, book tours and the nature of, and the complications, joys and confusions inherent to being father, husband and son. Words that describe his ongoing work often include “wry,” “poignant,” “witty,” “frank,” “enchanting” and “hilarious,” and there is such a buoyancy and optimism to even his darkest writing, one that discussing his parents’ survival of the Holocaust, or another attack in Tel Aviv on the day his son was born, or even the slow death of his father simply can’t diminish. This is (in my opinion), quite simply, an incredibly intimate and understated book by one of the finest of contemporary prose writers.
There is something tricky about attempting to excerpt from Keret’s prose, making me realize the extent to which his short pieces exist as entirely self-contained units. It is impossible to understand the depth and breadth of each essay without presenting entire three-page pieces (which I will not do here, for a variety of reasons). In thirty-six pieces, Keret presents self-contained portraits of an individual, a situation or an idea, sometimes wrapping the three simultaneously, from his sister’s conversion to ultra-orthodoxy, admiring his elder brother, or even the optimism of his parents, who might be forgiven had they slid into pessimism. “When I was a kid,” he writes, in “Long View,” “my parents used to tell me bedtime stories. During World War II, the stories their parents told them were never read from books because there were no books to be had, so they made up their own. As parents themselves, they continued that tradition, and from a very young age, I felt a special pride, because the bedtime stories I heard every night couldn’t be bought in any store; they were mine alone. My mother’s stories were always about dwarves and fairies, while my father’s stories were about the time he lived in southern Italy, from 1946 to 1948.” Further in the same piece, he writes:
When I try to reconstruct those bedtime stories my father told me years ago, I realize that beyond their fascinating plots, they were meant to teach me something. Something about the almost desperate human need to find good in the least likely places. Something about the desire not to beautify reality but to persist in searching for an angle that would put ugliness in a better light and create affection and empathy for every wart and wrinkle on its scarred face.
I tend to follow a variety of websites, almost randomly, including Jacket2, Essay Press, The Rusty Toque, Bywords.ca, ottawa poetry newsletter, Omniverse, a l i c e b l u e, Tarpaulin Sky, The Bull Calf, Geek Tyrant, The Capilano Review, Apartment613, Delirious Hem, Entropy, Hazlitt, Open Book: Ontario and Open Book: Toronto and plenty of others…
Films have been a rarity over the past year, at least in theatres. There was a documentary I saw recently on Netflix on Keith Richards that I thought quite remarkable. I’m not even a Rolling Stones fan per se (while I’ve enjoyed songs of theirs here and there over the years; I was always more into the Beatles), but I’ve been recommending this to others for a few weeks.
I’ve been reveling in our usual variety of television goodness, including The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Doctor Who, as well as the short run Daredevil, but Jessica Jones is far and away the most powerful thing I’ve seen on television in a long time. Wow.
Watching from our European vantage-point (during two weeks we were in Berlin and Utrecht for the sake of a conference and talk my wife was attending/conducting) the results of the Canadian federal election, and the incredible relief that we are out of the long, dark night of Stephen Harper and his Conservative government. It has been curious, also, given the closeness of the election, with my brother-in-law working the past few years for Justin Trudeau as a Policy Advisor, and mother-in-law running the campaign of now-MP (and Federal Cabinet Minister) Catherine McKenna; it has meant that a variety of my questions (on elements of the process I haven’t understood) have been answered, as well as being relatively-close to some of the process for the very first time. The whole thing feels rejuvenating.
I tend to listen to videos from YouTube as I work, but not actually watch any of them. My music is all over the place, including monthly mixed CDs that Ottawa poet Amanda Earl has been handing me for a few years now. Otherwise, some of my recent favourites have included Air, Mutemath, White Town, PJ Harvey, Wild Nothing, Daughter and Momus. I’m quite taken with the CBC Radio 3 Podcast with Grant Lawrence, which aren’t updated nearly enough for my liking.
I’m very interested in this first album by The Wainwright Sisters, for example. I did spend four months-plus listening solely to David Bowie’s album Heroes on perpetual repeat while crafting a collection of short stories.
Evan Tognotti: 10 of the best games
BEST #CONTENTCREATOR — “SUPER MARIO MAKER”
Super Mario Maker feels a lot like what would happen if you gave an alien race the keys to Nintendo’s most treasured sports car (sports cars aren’t always as reliable as Mario, though, so maybe it’s more like Nintendo’s most treasured Toyota Camry). These aliens get the basics — Mario is a Jumping Man, his enemies are the Goombas and the Koopas, and mushrooms make him large. But everything else about Super Mario Maker has an entrancing Lynchian weirdness. Why is that giant angry Wiggler shooting out of that Bullet Bill cannon? Don’t the aliens know that’s impossible? No. They don’t. And it’s beautiful.
BEST #TEENSIMULATION — “LIFE IS STRANGE”
If you’re like me, then you probably spend a lot of time obsessing over yesterday’s really minor social interactions. Running the variables in your head to figure out exactly what you said and exactly what you should have said, and how that SINGLE STUPID MISTAKE is why you’re sitting in the park alone, eating a bag of All Dressed potato chips. You don’t even like All Dressed potato chips. Life is Strange is a game that lets you rewind time, sometimes to save the day, but oftentimes to just make sure that you don’t act like a total dork. My favorite exchanges are the ones where you try every option and you still look like a total dork. I think it’s an encouraging lesson for teens everywhere.
BEST #EMPATHYMACHINE — “CIBELE”
I cannot recall a work of fiction that revels in its specific flirtatious awkwardness as much as Cibele. You play as Nina, a college student navigating her first real romantic relationship with a fellow MMO player. It is, as far as I know, autobiographical, and that honesty is what elevates an experience that sometimes falters. Half of the game takes place on Nina’s desktop, where you can click around, read notes, look at selfies, an so on. It’s effective, but I’ve seen variations of it before. The honest-to-god revelation in Cibele comes when you’re playing its fake MMO, and the characters start voice chatting. It’s all absolutely perfect — you (the player) are not there for the tedious MMO combat, and neither is Nina. It’s merely the conduit by which she can talk to the object of her affection. The silences between them are lengthy and tense. The way they start fishing for compliments betrays not arrogance, but an honest desire to find self-esteem in the arms of another. It’s incredibly sweet, personal, and best of all, utterly non-judgmental.
BEST #MULTIMEDIASYNERGY — “STEVEN UNIVERSE: ATTACK THE LIGHT!”
Any day of the week, walk up to me and ask “what’s the best show on television?” I will throw down for Adventure Time. Among the more challenging aspects of Adventure Time fandom is the complete lack of quality video game tie-ins. So imagine my surprise when second-best show on television Steven Universe wound up with a truly great mobile game.
It’s kind of like Paper Mario. Play it!
BEST #DANCINGGAMESPINOFF — “PERSONA 4: DANCING ALL NIGHT”
Elsewhere on this fine website, you can find my essays on Persona 4. And while my increasingly hectic schedule has made the regularity of these essays sporadic at best (here’s hoping it clears up in 2016!), my love of the series has never wavered. Dancing All Night is what we in the business call “shameless fan service.” It doesn’t seem to have much to say, unlike last year’s Persona Q, and its very existence is frivolous. However, I can prove it should be on this list with math. Persona 4’s OST = good. PS1-era rhythm games = good. Those two things added together = good, still.
BEST #TOPOGRAPHY — “THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT”
I did not play very much of The Witcher 3 because I do not enjoy The Witcher series of video games, historically speaking. However, have you seen the roads in that game? The villages? The hills? It feels like an actual fantasy world, not a video game fantasy world. I would not ever consider going back to The Witcher 3 but I would consider hanging a screenshot of it in a foyer.
BEST #FLUORESCENTLIGHT — “HER STORY”
A lot has already been said about the pervasive cleverness of Her Story. I liked it quite a bit, and would love to see other games take a swing at the same storytelling conceit. My favorite part of the whole game may sound like an insult, but it’s really not. I played Her Story in a single two-hour sitting, as the sun outside my window was setting. The longer I played, the darker it got, and occasionally, the fluorescent light reflecting on the in-game computer would flicker, and I’d see the vague outline of a person hunched over the keyboard. I was them, and they were me, and for that I can only thank the flickering light.
BEST #CONSPIRACYFACTORY — “METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN”
I am an extreme fan of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, an obsession I recognize as equal parts virtuous and troublesome. My excitement for MGSV was cautionary, and it turns out I was partially right. It’s probably the worst game in the mainline series, which is impressive given how engrossing it is on a raw systemic level. The thing MGSV lacks is focus, but that same deficiency is what makes it such a Fascinating Thing. As the behind-the-scenes drama between publisher Konami and developer Kojima Productions continues to unravel, it becomes impossible to divorce from the finished product, which stinks of mismanaged production and internal strife. Will we ever know exactly what happened during the development of
MGSV? Maybe not. But I bet the Patriots had something to do with it.
BEST #IDEA — “LIVIN’ DA DREAM: A SPIKE LEE JOINT”
I’m not a sports fan, so my investment in the NBA 2K franchise is a bit perplexing. I buy those games because I love to see, frankly, what dumb bullshit they add each year. The last few have tried to develop what I’d describe as “Basketball Mass Effect,” and when it became clear that they were dedicated to the idea, I eagerly anticipated every swing and miss. Their biggest swing yet is a story mode written and directed by Spike Lee, and according to basically everyone, it’s another miss. Whatever. As long as they keep trying, I’ll keep showing up, hoping to one day play a basketball career made up entirely of dialogue wheels.
BEST #GAME — “SONIC DREAMS COLLECTION”
At some point in the last several years, Sonic the Hedgehog became the funniest thing on Earth. Arcane Kids, the developers who impressed me with Bubsy Visits the James Turrell Retrospective, have harnessed some of this 100% percent pure comedy gold for their 2015 release. Advertised as a collection of actual Sonic games that Sega scrapped at some stage in development, Sonic Dreams Collection might be perfect. It’s a precisely focused nightmare, and saying too much about it would be a crime. Play Sonic Dreams Collection. Laugh, cry, feel.
Book: Collected Poems of Michael Gizzi
Chapbook: Chocolate Death Carols by Greg Bem (published on QM 12/25/15)
Novel: The Familiar, Vol 1
Memoir: Hair by Scherezade Siobhan
Website: Pirate Bay 2.0
Film: Ex Machina
TV series: Mr. Robot
Videogame: The Witcher 3
Political moment: John Oliver’s “Canadian Elections”
Sporting moment: Marshawn Lynch Not Getting Fined
Song: “Too Original” by Major Lazer
Music video: “Mouth Mantra” by Bjork
Controversy: Opening of Amazon’s first brick and mortar store
Tweet: this by @inthemoodfortw
Favorite book of the year would be Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson. Also Reb’s Bombyonder though technically that came out in 2014. I also recommend the twitter feeds of all the QMT editors (except Rauan’s polls), @ScanBC, @red_mercer, @PhotosOfTV, and also my failed twitter campaign to be made commissioner of the Western Lacrosse Association in
British Columbia (I had such important work to do there).
The journals I’ve especially enjoyed this year are Lockjaw, Experiment-o, Los Angeles Review, and Bad Penny.
Minecraft: There is endless ways to play and it won’t ever end. It’s also single and multiplayer with the option to mod and to add custom code Happy Wheels: It is a player made game with so many possibilities!
The Martian: A movie about a guy stranded on Mars. Who doesn’t like seeing a botanist trapped on Mars?
Prologue by Haven. Published by Ninety9Lives
Victory Chant By Vikkstar123
Shaken Soda by The Hipsta. Published by Ninety9lives
Get Up On My Keys By Duko. Published By Ninety9Lives
This year I’ve not been particularly loyal to any website in terms of reading so this is a difficult one. If Soundcloud counts then
probably that, since it’s where I find most of my new music, which is quite handy since that’s what I do for a living. I do continue to love Stereogum and The Quietus, though. On a sillier level, Buzzfeed, just because their weekly newsletter about cats brings joy into my life every seven days (not that there isn’t any joy in my life at other times!)
Steve Jobs: I get the impression that no-one else really liked Steve Jobs that much but I thought it was great. So great I couldn’t formulate the words to send a proper review in for QMT. It’s lying dormant on my computer waiting for some serious editing.
Fargo: it’s still on the TV in UK right now but so far the second series of the dark comedy drama is as black and twisted as the first, with some cripplingly funny and surreal moments mixed with a fairly serious overarching crime narrative.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: a lack of a proper next gen console prevented me from playing and loving Fallout 4, so a slightly low res version of Hideo Kojima’s final act with Konami maintained its place in my heart. Very silly in places, but the ability to run around attaching balloons to animals whenever you wanted was immensely fun in-between all the ‘seriousness’ of the main story. Just don’t think about the gender politics too much.
On a serious level, Jeremy Corbyn being elected as Labour leader was pretty momentous, even if there’s now a collective plan
to discredit him at every possible turn going on right now. On a completely frivolous level, Barack Obama saying his song of the year was Kendrick Lamar’s ‘How Much A Dollar Cost,’
When Jurgen Klopp became the manager of Liverpool FC and the media collectively melted in front of his perfect white smile and overwhelming charm. Move over Mourinho.
Saint West. Simply because Yeezus gave life to a Saint.
This is a ridiculously hard one for me that I can’t narrow down to just one for numerous reasons. ‘Feel You’ by Julia Holter, ‘I Really Like You’ by Carly Rae Jepsen, ‘Flesh Without Blood’ by Grimes, ‘Bad Blood’ by Nao, ‘Persephone Dreams’ by NZCA Lines… There’s far too many, but those five stick out to me right now.
For better or for worse, ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ by Rihanna. I’m not sure I really like the song and kind of preferred Rihanna when she was more pop but seeing her go on a Tarantino-esque revenge rampage was certainly interesting and there probably wasn’t another video this year that had as much impact as this did.
November was pretty cool (no pun intended). I set up my own site with one of my best friends (Notes On Sounds) and realised people might actually be listening to what we have to say about music. That was nice.
2015 was the year of good curry for me. I finally found both a great Indian restaurant where all the food is a pretty authentic shade of brown rather than bright red and a takeaway that serves a gorgeous sagwala. It’s the simple things, isn’t it?
Controversy: Pig Gate pretty much flooded my timeline for a while, and continues to be the go-to scandal for anyone wanting to make fun of David Cameron. Is a scandal the same as a controversy? Because my second vote is for Tyson Fury being on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist. I didn’t even know who he was before all the controversy started and now I probably know more about Tyson Fury than I do about my own right hand.
Best Graphic Novel: Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Best Genre-Bending Novel: Slab by Selah Saterstrom
Best Post-Apocalypse Novel: The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
Best Celebrity Memoir: I’ll Never Write My Memoirs by Grace Jones, Paul Morley
Best Selected Poetry Collection: S O S: Poems, 1961-2013 by Amiri Baraka, Paul Vangelisti (Editor)
Best Film: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Comedy TV Series: Broad City
Best Drama TV Series: Banshee
Best Fantasy TV Series: Game of Thrones
Best Horror TV Series: American Horror Story: Hotel
Best TV Series Finale: Justified
Best Music Video: Elastic Heart by Sia
Best TV series:
Fargo, Season Two. Specifically, Episode 9, “The Castle,” written by Noah Hawley and Steve Blackman. And within that episode, the appearance of the UFO over the motel parking lot, interrupting the shoot-out as well as the ontological stability of the entire series.
Queen of Earth (USA), directed by Alex Ross Perry and starring Elisabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston. The divided screens, alone.
Hard to be a God (Russia), directed by Aleksey German. (Released in 2013, but not widely distributed until 2015). This film creates the conditions of its own existence.
Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Yuri Herrera (And Other Stories)
Here is a passage:
The place was like a sleepwalker’s bedroom: specific yet inexact, somehow unreal and yet vivid; there were lots of people, very calm, all smoking, and though she saw no ventilation shafts nor felt any currents the air didn’t smell. Like a song from long ago, a sudden apprehension made her think something terrible was going to occur any second. Something’s about to happen, something’s about to happen.
Satin Island, by Tom McCarthy (Jonathan Cape)
The Only Ones, by Carola Dibbell (Two Dollar Radio)
Best Book of Poetry:
At Night, by Lisa Ciccarello
“This is the Suffering Part,” from that collection
Best Short Story Collection:
The Strange Case of Rachel K, by Rachel Kushner (New Directions)
Here is a passage:
The woman had said loudly, for everyone in the club to hear, that she was sick of all the violence. ‘To here,’ she’d slurred, and put her hand up to her neck. She was drunk, as everyone was, most of the time. She was not a person to be taken seriously. The type of woman who bleaches her hair and then dyes in dark again, in order to get that coarse, ratted, bedroom effect.
Three Moments of an Explosion, by China Miéville (Macmillan)
Best Randomly Accessed Wikipedia Page:
Book: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me
Chapbook: Uljana Wolf’s i mean i dislike that fate that i was made to where, trans. Sophie Seita
Memoir: Miron Bialoszewski’s Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising, trans. Madeline Levine
Film: Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie
TV series: Transparent
Political moment: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau electing 15 men and 15 women to his cabinet.
Sporting moment: Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm
Song: “Hotline Bling”
Music video: Odwalla 88’s “Heart Shard”
Controversy: Nicki Minaj shutting down her NY Times interview.
Tweet: “would you rather have free will, or free wifi” @disasteradio
Vine: Snake boy lollipop
Fashion label: Vaquera NYC
Edgewise: A Picture of Cookie Mueller, Aisha Sasha John, Thou, Fanny Howe’s Radical Love, Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx (Re-reading old books that feel more relevant than ever).
Bresson’s Movies, by Robert Creeley
“Wait here so I can say love..”
Trans, Juliet Jacques
Beyond The Lights, Two Days, One Night, The Kid with a Bike, which is basically a re-imagination of Pinocchio through the lens of class and the problem of Fatherhood. Unlike Geppetto, the father in The Kid with a Bike, has no imagination for the love and healing that is necessary or possible.
Master of None.
Political moment/Favorite tweet:
What’s more political than this ornery eagle? The beautiful and adorable post-human integrity of animals is the future.
Adam Driver. Can we just call him an actor? I don’t give a shit about celebrity as a category except to unravel it. Driver is so good I never know that he’s even good until I see him do something else. I also love the way he looks because he’s beautiful and not-beautiful at the same time. It’s a very interesting and porous combination. And like DeNiro and Kristin Stewart, he also has no charisma or celebrity finesse off-camera (the opposite of Ryan Gosling). Driver can’t perform celebrity, he can only perform characters. His troubadour flamboyance/21st c gaslighting on GIRLS puts the unreadable vapidity of Mr. Big in Sex and The City to shame.
Beach House, “Master of None”
“On your own….” This song is literally dream pop.
MIA’s “Borders” is powerful. As a whole, I don’t watch music videos. I can’t deal with the complete belying between lyric and image. The two have nothing to do with each other anymore. So-called love songs feature images of gaslighting and corporate fetishism. It’s all so affectively incoherent now.
Month: March. I almost fell in love
Food: Spicy Village in New York City
via @pennyante To speak to an empty room like that takes huge courage and conviction.
Artwork: Cape Light, Joel Meyerowitz. I look at this book daily because I spent my summers in Provincetown, which has one-of-kind light.
No End, 1985, Kieslowski
TibetanTara Healing Incense (comes in a beautiful deep pink box)
Favorite love quote: bell hooks
Dermot Healy, A Goat’s Song
Kevin Barry, Dark Lies the Island and Dermot Healy, Collected Short Stories (edited by Neil
Murphy & Keith Hopper
Cheryl Julia Lee, We Were Always Eating Expired Things and Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, hula hooping
Hou Hsiao-Hsien, The Assassin
Tan Jingliang, Open Sky
Andres Neuman, trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia The Things We Don’t Do. I’ve been waiting for this book to come out in English for years now. I think Neuman is really one of the best writers living today. There are two things about his work that amaze me: the structural newness and the emotional weight of the stories— when combined something very exciting is happening.
Andrew Durbin Mature Themes and Vito M. Bonito Soffiati Via
I like Durbin’s book because it is a mash-up of form. It is about life and art and culture and breaks convention by creating its own rules. I also think it is a new form of criticism in itself; art to understand art. Bonito is an Italian poet who I have very recently become obsessed with. His poems are very short and strange and very unlike other Italian poetry at the moment. They have something deeply corporeal about them and I like that.
Ada Limón, “The problem with Travel” It is conversational and I think I read it at just the right moment in my life. My favorite poem is always changing, almost daily, because they find us when we need them. I like finding new poems on different online magazines. Buenos Aires Review is one of the best.
Anne Garreta trans. Emma Ramadan, Sphinx. For so many reasons. It is beautiful, timely (though originally from 1986), compelling and an amazing work of translation.
Eileen Myles, Inferno. I loved reading her life story, the formation of a working class poet and there were so many things I related to throughout the book.
The Los Angeles Review of Books. Consistently interesting, crazy intelligent and far reaching. I am always learning so much from what I read here.
Youth, Paolo Sorrentino. So many things happen in this film and yet so little. I also quite like Sorrentino’s aesthetic, which is highly stylized. He is some kind of global future for Italian cinema and that is also a good thing.
Transparent. I’m about to binge-watch the second season. I think it is so funny and smart and necessary.
I don’t play any…
Justin Trudeau being elected! Though I am not Canadian I have lived there and continue to have many friends to visit there and I feel this deep allegiance and hope for the country.
The Toronto Blue Jays almost being in the world series? Toronto pride.
Bernie Sanders (does that count?) He is such an anti-celebrity and this adds to his celebrity.
The Internet, “Just Sayin’/ I tried” I love this band. I also just saw them live and it was a great show.
Music video: J
oanna Newsom’s “Sapokanikan” because sometimes I really really miss wandering around downtown Manhattan with nothing to do. Or pretending to have nothing to do.
August. I was on a road trip in Portugal and swam in the ocean everyday.
Pizza. Pizza is timeless.
Like in my daily life or globally?
It just happened the other day!
Minstrelsy itself is not a stable repertoire of racist content, in other words, but a cultural form. Arguments that minstrelsy can be recast within a new form that reverses its racist content are not complex and subtle discoveries that might correct naive readings hung up on content. Such arguments are simply oblivious to how those ideas of racial power and hierarchy are cemented and delivered in the first place. Posters and playbills for minstrel shows routinely featured side by side images of white performers in and out of blackface. That Place reads minstrelsy in terms of the content of racial identity rather than the form of the minstrel mask merely underscores the point.
Hamlet. I haven’t decided the question. To be or not to be
Russian tales they learn how to live without working.
Mikhail Lermontov Prophet disbelief a better world
Lolita this is the best book about love.
This is my childhood the world was full of secrets
http://savich.lit.com.ua/ Best Web site in the world
Godfather love of family It leads to a crime
Dexter Evil must be punished
I’ve never played
August 21 1991 The fall of the USSR
Basketball game between the USSR – USA Olympic games Munich 1972
FRANK SINATRA Mafiosi and singer. What could be better?
Yesterday. The song that is never boring. Although I want it.
All music. Why? Because. Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony
March. I was born in March
All kind of food. We were born to eat.
About God because they are meaningless.
I don’t have an answer because I don’t know what it is.
Claudia Rankine’s Citizen
The Story of the Lost Child (of the Neapolitan Novels), Elena Ferrante’s powerful prose + the mystery behind her identity continues to hold power
Richard Siken’s “War of the Foxes”; also, the inclusion of Ocean Vuong in The New Yorker in May was everything
Hold Still, Sally Mann
Anything with a Shonda Rhimes stamp on it is good by me
I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.
— Carly Fiorina
Anything by Kelela, Drake, or Jamie xx kept things moving this year
December, for the Paris Climate Talks 2015 and the impact this will have on how the world continues to globalise, and to what detriments or successes
“Just a Story” by OKENYO
Eric Mack, Sara Cwynar, Juliana Huxtable, Sondra Perry
“terrorists speak in strange languages” ( asef hossaini, translated from the persian dari by farzana marie)
i want a word / in english / to tell you about / the junoon of this / verse / about its mountains / of blackbirds & coal brush / about my own forgetting / that burned for days / like the afghan opium fields / this, then, is / not enough / but it will do / – this is how the other half / leaves
“safia elhillo” (all the 3 winning poems from the brunel university poetry prize)
as she opens / the ocean’s jaws / asking / for a song / to balm a scar
haints stay (colin winette)
something about / the futility of violence / while reading about / saws licking teeth out / from their sturdy sockets
reconsolidation (janice lee)
in reverse / the continuous departure / of my father / years after his death / in summary : / the book / like a half-dark room / an animal / haunted / by its own shadow
(not novels but 2 short story collections)
hall of small mammals (thomas pierce)
the wooly mammoth / & i / waiting for the tea to flower / quite like how / this book / coming to life / in my lap
a manual for cleaning women ( lucia berlin)
because it must be / utter genius / to make colostomy / funny /& also in memory / of growing / up in a house / with women who / kept things / fragrantly unblemished
cambodia bladed (greg bem)
aberrant geometry / of spiderwebs & sundials / spikes in the smoothness / of a horizontal archive / catharsis / caught between / a country and a compass / a poem means to gut / & to grieve / at the altar / of open wounds / to be tectonic / polyglottal /guttural / ruptured
because why / would you want / fake pants?
virtual / c/ art / to / graphies
you know how / you always wanted / to learn / to fold / a perfect hakama / now you / can
north of my reality / a man i once loved / had / a tarantula called / pizza
the black veil / of motherhood
(too many others. all deserving hence none mentioned.)
what else could make / history contemporary / & piss off a few / roman catholics / & academics / as a bonus
who doesn’t like / a cooking show? / i mean look / at nigella lawson / for instance
house of cards
kevin spacey / kevin spacey / kevin spacey / & that Machiavellian hubris
tory amor (every country deserves a hog lover in the hot seat)
bae / con
djoker v/s fed ex (wimbledon)
the djoker / always wins / when dealing / from the bottom / of the deck
king kunta (kendrick lamar, to pimp a butterfly)
change of the guard ( kamasi Washington, the epic )
toumast tincha (tinariwen, emmaar)
dil hai namaazi (shankar tucker feat vijay prakash, filament)
king kunta (kendrick lamar, to pimp a butterfly)
i was born / in a month / that serves as / a scalpel / for the whole / year
the existential dread / peaking / in rictus grins / oh & father, husband / released
haleem / shisha / ssri
fb convincing / an aunt / i didn’t know i had / that was pregnant / & dying
all one’s blue (kazim ali) (technically not a chapbook but i will gently nudge its contours to fit this list)
a yogi of anachronisms/ rain held in / the parenthesis of palms / a multi-petaled humanness / rooms folded / into the ribcage/ electricity / running between poles
mouth (tracy knapp)
mini / grenades / unlocking / so many buried / prisons / in the neytal vein
moon facts (bob schofield)
dada meets / your favourite disney movie /carousels flickering / in your mind / you are alice / the moon is your / rabbit / run / go / find / other worlds grinning/ in this
asuras (jayinee basu)
metallic narcotic / grey matter shattered to shards / synaptic missiles / a room of neon blue / on the best hallucinogens / of lizard-tongued chimeras / sharp & endless / phoenix
chocolate death carols (greg bem)
numen shining / as if light / caught on the teeth / of mountain lions / aorta & thump / brass knuckles & birdsongs / dr seuss meets dr jung / the chocolate is / chthonic and ironic / still stronger than / gin and tonic / merry christmas / we are the bleached animal bones / buried in your pure snow
the witcher 3 (because my better half & this magazine’s gaming editor vows that i am yennefer reincarnated or vice versa. in spirit and sorcery. i don’t debate with people who have computers named tungarian. therefore, yep, witcher 3.)
prawn/chingri pakoras at (6 ballygunge place, kolkata)
fish pakoras (mehfil, london)
because an aloo / pakora is / basically a / potato wedge
I can’t be sure that it was the best book of poems published this year, but Sunspots, by Simon Barraclough, was the best book I read in the bath. (It was actually the first book I have ever decided to read in the bath.) There is something about reading verse about a sea of 6,000 K gases that makes one want to relax and float and concentrate hard but aimlessly.
Wild Court looks promising, doesn’t it?
I’m the sort of person who’ll tell you it was Far from the Madding Crowd.
The entire dinner party episode of the final series of Peep Show was amazing, an instant classic, but I lost it when Mark drew on a wedge of budget Cheddar with marker pen so it would look like a ‘tasty young Stilton’.
This is, according to Giles, the first game ever written in Scots, but it’s much more than that. Raik, which means ‘journey’, takes you simultaneously through the dull, workaday world of an anxious-depressive living in Edinburgh (this plot is written in Scots) and, as an ancient version of the same character, on a quest to discover the Staff of the Salmon (this plot is written in English). Along the way there are ‘bad jokes about Celtic fantasy and Scottish independence’.
How could it be anything other than Corbyn becoming Labour leader? Even the recent insanity of John McDonnell throwing the Little Red Book at George Osborne in the House of Commons and JC himself quoting brutal Albanian autocrat Enver Hoxha (whom he described as a ‘tough leader’) at the Labour Christmas party can’t take the shine off that apple of September.
Formula One driver Fernando Alonso has become a proper iconoclast in his dotage. His team, McLaren, have teamed up with engine supplier Honda once again, hoping to reproduce the tremendous successes of the eighties and nineties, when they won seven drivers’ and six constructors’ championships together. But it’s not gone well, and Alonso has been a scathing critic of Honda’s performance. At the Brazilian Grand Prix, his car broke down in qualifying, and after parking it he found a folding chair and had a serene, angry sunbath.
Also, Grant Elliott’s six in the last over against South Africa to take New Zealand to the Cricket World Cup final was something to remember for a long time, at least if you were in this country.
Chvrches, ‘Empty Threat’.
Menachem Feuer: top 7 schlemiels
1 . Larry David has for several years been the most celebrated and recognized schlemiel in visual culture. New York Magazine sees him as the next in the schlemiel-line after Woody Allen. This year he entered himself into the fray with his caricature of Democratic Presidential nominee, Bernie Sanders. David’s imitation on SNL reminds us that what makes the schlemiel unique – for many Americans – is a kind of Jewishness that emerges out of New York City (and the Borsht Belt) that has its roots in the immigrant experience.
2 . Ever since his film, Knocked Up, Seth Rogen is one of many new comedians who has taken up the torch of the schlemiel. His film Neighbors was an important moment in this trajectory. But his performance in The Interview this year was also a memorable schlemiel performance. Like his other films – and in many a Judd Apatow film – we see a moral moment toward the end of the film that seems to redeem all of his absent-mindedness.
3 . Ben Stiller’s performance in While We’re Young was also memorable and shows us how – as Noah Baumbach does in several of his films – a schlemiel ages and becomes more cognizant of how he or she has been duped. But this time, the schlemiel is duped by a millennial. Gretta Gerwig, in her film Mistress America (another Noah Baumbach film), also plays a schlemiel and ties for third. Her blindspots are endearing but they are ultimately unsettling. Once again, we see Baumbach’s attempt to render a sad, aging kind of schlemiel. This, of course, is the counter to the schlemiels we see played in many Apatow’s films but also to many schlemiels we see on this or that comedic TV series.
4 . Speaking of schlemiels on TV, schlemiel number five goes to Amy Poehler for her performance in Parks and Recreation. What Poehler gives us is a schlemiel who is defined by awkwardness. This schlemiel is a lot different from Baumbach’s in the sense that although she may be shamed by this or that situation her shame lacks any tragic element. She is, in truth, rather endearing and is extremely popular these days. We see this kind of awkward charm with nearly all characters on Parks and Recreation. They are, in some way or other, modeled on the recent emergence of the “awkward schlemiel.”
5 . Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson – in contrast to the more cunning and mischievous Ilana Glazer – plays a schlemiel character who is often defined by her absent mindedness, belatedness, and lack of awareness when it comes to daily life in New York City. She is endearing in many ways. But she also reminds us that there is a growing culture in America of schlemiels who can buy coffee, live in apartments, and fill empty days with any number of distractions. Unlike the classical schlemiel that we see in Sholem Aleichem, I.L. Peretz, or Mendel Mocher Sforim, there is a lack of abject poverty and an overabundance of silly humor. This silliness somehow makes the viewer feel that he or she is not alone in feeling that he or she is going nowhere economically or socially. Like many who watch Broad City, Abbi doesn’t really have any anxiety about it. She has other things to worry about.
6 . Eli Batalion Of Yid Life Crisis – a Youtube series, which also, just this year, was released as a film – gets the six-spot. Of all the schlemiels, he and Jamie Elman – who plays the chochem (intelligent character who is skeptical about nearly everything) and the nudnik (a person who tends to aggravate situations) – by way of their conversational humor, give us something closer to the traditional schlemiel. Most importantly, they give us the original tone and language of the schlemiel since they speak in Yiddish. (And we – who, by and large, have no knowledge of Yiddish whatsoever – get the English subtitles.) Although Yiddish is a dead language, they give it life by way of their humor. His schlemiel character can help us to better understand and appreciate contemporary schlemiels in literature, film, TV, and stand-up comedy.
7 . Last, but certainly not least, is the stand-up comedian David Heti. His schlemiel humor is powerful since it tests the limits of contemporary humor by saying things that may be deemed offensive. This is sorely needed today since – with the omnipresence of politics on and off campus, Facebook, Twitter, etc – we are tending, more and more, to take ourselves too seriously. His comedy album, It Was Ok (2015) is very entertaining and insightful. It shows us how comedy – Jewish and not so Jewish – can also lead us back to the unhappy source of all humor. At the end of many of his jokes, there is often an awkward silence in the room. But this is because his jokes touch on this source of humor and, in many ways, bring us not just back to his own particular history and existence, but also to our own. He is, like many a schlemiel, the odd one out. But his oddity reminds us of something we all know today: that sometimes things don’t always go as we expect them, and in a world where failure is the norm sudden victories are (or is it, “were?” after all, so many of his jokes are in the past tense)…“ok.” Sometimes sadness has its comical moments. And, as Walter Benjamin well knew (and as Slavoj Zizek, in his wake knows), melancholy can be the source of insight and reflection. And it is for this reason, that I think sometimes the last schlemiel of all – like many a schlemiel – may actually be the most important. You decide.)
Russell Bennetts: Top 3 Photos of Panels From Alan Moore’s Providence
Amanda Earl: A YEAR IN SEX
1 long term lover;
4 random sexual encounters (3-OKC; 1-Tinder);
7 vibrators (all broken except the current Hitachi Magic Wand…so far);
the index finger of my right hand;
cybersex with gentlemen from Canada, USA, India, Saudi Arabia and UK;
sexting with a few of the aforementioned gentlemen;
phone sex with some of the A.Fs.
water sports, cuddling, the receipt & administration of corporal punishment, rimming, crawling, public sex (NAC parking garage; grassy spot overlooking Parliament Hill), role play, hand jobs, jack hammering, cock worshipping, including but not limited to fellatio, the receipt of cunnilingus, clitoral stimulation (by self & others), kissing.
even though it’s only December 19, I expect that I will have nothing more to add to this list this year.
what have you been up to in 2015?
The Oyster War by Summer Brennan
“Suet” by Alison Stine
Tie between “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng and “Country of Ice Cream Star” by Sandra Newman
Twitter, I guess?
Oh boy. This is tough. SICARIO. STAR WARS Eps IV-VI (first time fan, woot!).
MAD MEN (how I miss thee). MASTER OF NONE. LAST WEEK TONIGHT.
No tengo hand-eye coordination. Pass.
Jeb! walking onto that stage, looking like Snagglepuss
Mets gonna Mets
“(Baby Baby) Can I Invade Your Country” by Sparks
I like all the parodies of “Hotline Bling”, especially the Peanuts one.
October! My birthday! My favorite aunt’s birthday! New Yorker Festival!
I like all food. This question does not make sense.
Patricia Lockwood to ‘The Paris Review’: “So is Paris any good or what”
Ta-Nahesi Coates “Between the World and Me” is as wrenching as it is truthful. This is the conversation.
Bad Baby, Abigail Welhouse
Disclosure: I work for the Review, but I particularly like Thirty Thousand Islands by my friend Jana Prikryl. Also, I was obsessed with this poem by the author of Bad Baby, so I turned it into a comic. Which is not really something you’re supposed to do with poetry, but I had fun.
Box Brown, An Entity Observes All Things. Brown is doing some of the most interesting things in comics right now.
Uncovered Classics is dedicated to reviewing female authors of the 20th century, but it’s also a great re-design project. Most importantly, it’s funny. At some point, they will post my review of The Talented Mr. Ripley (hits refresh), but I particularly like this review of the covers of The Endless Plains of My Antonia.
Oh my god, Fury Road
The Affair is like reading a book on a television screen and I really hope they don’t fuck it up because as of right now it’s perfect, but even if they do it was worth it.
Ratchet’s Revenge, an old-style NES-ish game about a hood-savvy rodent who is trying to reclaim the cheese that was stolen from her. It’s sort of like Double-Dragon as experienced by Sonic the Hedgehog. Soundtrack by Madlib, it’s incredible and I made this all up, I played Monument Valley like everyone else and loved it.
They’re all political moments.
The first track on Sean Price’s last album, Songs in the Key of Price is a tour of funny & bleak thoughts and could be about Price completing the album before the his own death—which is exactly what happened.
I live in a country where there is a gun for every person alive. I don’t think anyone knows why. Also, I’m seeing people paying as much as eleven dollars for pork dumplings, which is insane. So maybe it’s also kind of wonderful?
Working on Poets for Corbyn