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Fiction & Literature

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A Pataphysical Life

When Alfred Jarry died in 1907 at the age of thirty-four, he was a legendary figure in Paris--but this had more to do with his bohemian lifestyle and scandalous behavior than his literary achievements. A century later, Jarry is firmly established as one of the leading figures of the artistic avant-garde. Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Gilles Deleuze, Jean Baudrillard, Philip K. Dick, Paul McCartney, DJ Spooky, Peter Greenaway, and J. G. Ballard are among his many admirers.

Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds

A video game is half-real: we play by real rules while imagining a fictional world. We win or lose the game in the real world, but we slay a dragon (for example) only in the world of the game. In this thought-provoking study, Jesper Juul examines the constantly evolving tension between rules and fiction in video games. Discussing games from Pong to The Legend of Zelda, from chess to Grand Theft Auto, he shows how video games are both a departure from and a development of traditional non-electronic games.

Ours is a century of fear. Governments and mass media bombard us with words and images: desert radicals, "rogue states," jihadists, WMDs, existential enemies of freedom. We labor beneath myths that neither address nor describe the present situation, monstrous deceptions produced by a sound bite society. There is no reckoning of actuality, no understanding of the individual lives that inaugurated this echo chamber.

From American Linguistics to Socialist Zionism

In 1995, Robert Barsky met with Noam Chomsky to discuss his work-in-progress, Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent (MIT Press, 1997). Chomsky told Barsky that he should focus his attention instead on midcentury linguist and activist Zellig Harris, who was, Chomsky modestly insisted, more interesting than Chomsky himself.

The MIT Nobody Knows

When Jay Keyser arrived at MIT in 1977 to head the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, he writes, he "felt like a fish that had been introduced to water for the first time." At MIT, a colleague grabbed him by the lapels to discuss dark matter; Noam Chomsky called him "boss" (double SOB spelled backward?); and engaging in conflict resolution made him feel like "a marriage counselor trying to reconcile a union between a Jehovah’s witness and a vampire." In Mens et Mania, Keyser recounts his academic and administrative adventures during a career

Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009

In 2006, even though he could barely type, China's most famous artist started blogging. For more than three years, Ai Weiwei turned out a steady stream of scathing social commentary, criticism of government policy, thoughts on art and architecture, and autobiographical writings.

Plays, Short Fiction, Poems 1975–2010

Before publishing his celebrated first novel, Horse Crazy, in 1987, Gary Indiana wrote and directed twelve plays for an informal company whose performers included the painter Bill Rice, composer Evan Lurie, the poet George-Therese Dickenson, writer and film actress Cookie Mueller, Warhol superstar and painter Viva, writer Victoria Pedersen, singer/actress Sharon Niesp, photographer Allen Frame, the legendary Taylor Mead, novelist Larry Mitchell, and others. Performed at the Mudd Club, Club 57, The Performing Garage, and Bill Rice's E.

North America, Britain, and Northern Europe

Birds sing and call, sometimes in complex and beautiful arrangements of notes, sometimes in one-line repetitions that resemble a ringtone more than a symphony. Listening, we are stirred, transported, and even envious of birds’ ability to produce what Shelley called “profuse strains of unpremeditated art.” And for hundreds of years, we have tried to write down what we hear when birds sing. Poets have put birdsong in verse (Thomas Nashe: “Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo”) and ornithologists have transcribed bird sounds more methodically.

Long ago, in childhood, when Summer reverberates and feels and throbs all over, it begins to circumscribe my body along with my self, and my body gives it shape in turn: the "joy" of living, of experiencing, of already foreseeing dismembers it, this entire body explodes, neurons rush toward what attracts them, zones of sensation break off almost in blocks that come to rest at the four corners of the landscape, at the four corners of Creation.
—from Coma

Energy in Victorian Literature and Science

In ThermoPoetics, Barri Gold sets out to show us how analogous, intertwined, and mutually productive poetry and physics may be. Charting the simultaneous emergence of the laws of thermodynamics in literature and in physics that began in the 1830s, Gold finds that not only can science influence literature, but literature can influence science, especially in the early stages of intellectual development. Nineteenth-century physics was often conducted in words. And, Gold claims, a poet could be a genius in thermodynamics and a novelist could be a damn good engineer.

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