Skip navigation

Fiction & Literature

  • Page 4 of 13

“In his journal, Paul liked to make lists: What he ordered from Commissary (shaving cream, toothpaste, deodorant, the transistor radio he had for a week before the guards took it away). The books he picked off the cart (The Bible, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Codependent No More.) What phone calls he made and received; also, Bible Study certificates, letters and cards, his workout routines and his moods (Anxious, Nervous, Trusting in God, but mostly Depressed). Paul has a record of every push-up he did while he was in prison but he cannot remember shit about what happened before his arrest.” –Summer of Hate

Waking up from the chilling high of a near-death sex game, Catt Dunlop travels to Albuquerque in 2005 to reinvest some windfall real-estate gains and reengage with something approximating “real life.” Aware that the critical discourse she has used to build her career as a visiting professor and art critic is really a cipher for something else, she hopes that buying and fixing slum buildings will bring her more closely in touch with American life than the essays she writes.

In Albuquerque, she becomes romantically involved with Paul Garcia, a recently sober ex-con who has just served sixteen months in state prison for defrauding Halliburton Industries, his former employer, of $873. Almost forty years old, Paul is highly intelligent but has only been out of New Mexico twice. He has no information. With Catt’s help, he makes plans to attend UCLA, only to be arrested on a ten-year-old bench warrant en route.

Caught in the nightmarish Byzantine world of the legal system, Catt and Paul’s empathic attempts to save each other’s lives seems doomed to dissolve. Summer of Hate is a novel about flawed reciprocity and American justice, recording recent events through the prism of a beleaguered romance. As lucid and trenchant as ever, Kraus in her newest novel reminds us that the writer can be a first responder of sorts when power becomes invisible, or merely banal.

“I had to rediscover who I was. And that’s why I left the apartment.... And there I was, right in the heart of the Arab world, a world that never tired of making the same mistakes over and over.... I had no more leniency when it came to the Arab world... None for the Arabs and none for myself. I suddenly saw things with merciless lucidity...” –An Arab Melancholia

Salé, near Rabat. The mid 1980s. A lower-class teenager is running until he’s out of breath. He’s running after his dream, his dream to become a movie director. He’s running after the Egyptian movie star, Souad Hosni, who’s out there somewhere, miles away from this neighborhood–which is a place the teenager both loves and hates, the home at which he is not at home, an environment that will only allow him his identity through the cultural lens of shame and silence. Running is the only way he can stand up to the violence that is his Morocco.

Irresistibly charming, angry, and wry, this autobiographical novel traces the emergence of Abdellah Taïa’s identity as an openly gay Arab man living between cultures. The book spans twenty years, moving from Salé, to Paris, to Cairo. Part incantation, part polemic, and part love letter, this extraordinary novel creates a new world where the self is effaced by desire and love, and writing is always an act of discovery.

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.

Gold’s lively readings of works by Alfred Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Herbert Spencer, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and others offer a decidedly literary introduction to such elements of thermodynamic thought as conservation and dissipation, the linguistic tension between force and energy, the quest for a grand unified theory, strategies for coping within an inexorably entropic universe, and the demonic potential of the thermodynamically savvy individual. Gold shows us that in A Tale of Two Cities, for example, Dickens produces order in spite of the universal drive to entropy; Wilde’s Dorian Gray and Stoker’s Dracula, on the other hand, reveal the creative potential of chaos.

Victorian literature embraced the language and ideas of energy physics to address the era’s concerns about religion, evolution, race, class, empire, gender, and sexuality. Gold argues that these concerns, in turn, shaped the hopes and fears expressed about the new physics.

Poetry, Prose, and Provocation

Who is with me is against me.—Francis Picabia

Poet, painter, self-described funny guy, idiot, failure, pickpocket, and anti-artist par excellence, Francis Picabia was a defining figure in the Dada movement; indeed, Andre Breton called Picabia one of the only "true" Dadas. Yet very little of Picabia's poetry and prose has been translated into English, and his literary experiments have never been the subject of close critical study. I Am a Beautiful Monster is the first definitive edition in English of Picabia's writings, gathering a sizable array of Picabia's poetry and prose and, most importantly, providing a critical context for it with an extensive introduction and detailed notes by the translator.

Picabia's poetry and prose is belligerent, abstract, polemical, radical, and sometimes simply baffling. His early poetry, with its uncompromising disregard for literary convention and readerly expectation, seems to anticipate Dada; His Dada manifestos are alternately engaging and insufferable. Picabia's later poems are more troublesome critically, given their wholesale borrowing and manipulation of Nietzsche. I Am a Beautiful Monster painstakingly documents Picabia's hitherto undocumented appropriations from Nietzsche's work.

For too long, Picabia's writings have been presented as raw events, rule-breaking manifestations of inspirational carpe diem. This book reveals them to be something entirely different: maddeningin their resistance to meaning, full of outrageous posturing, and hiding a frail, confused, and fitful personality behind egoistic bravura.

I Am a Beautiful Monster provides the texts of all of Picabia's significant publications, his books Fifty-two Mirrors, Poems and Drawings of the Daughter Born without a Mother, Purring Poetry, Unique Eunuch, Yes No, Chi-lo-sa, Thoughts without Language, and others, all presented complete, many of them accompanied by their original illustrations.

More poetry from Picabia:

IN ORDER TO LOVE
SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO
HAVE SEEN IT OR HEARD IT

FOR A LONG TIME YOU BUNCH OF IDIOTS

[...]
I saw me
onion soup
cracked like a gong
big discount
[...]

New Media and the Forensic Imagination

In Mechanisms, Matthew Kirschenbaum examines new media and electronic writing against the textual and technological primitives that govern writing, inscription, and textual transmission in all media: erasure, variability, repeatability, and survivability. Mechanisms is the first book in its field to devote significant attention to storage--the hard drive in particular--arguing that understanding the affordances of storage devices is essential to understanding new media. Drawing a distinction between “forensic materiality” and “formal materiality,” Kirschenbaum uses applied computer forensics techniques in his study of new media works. Just as the humanities discipline of textual studies examines books as physical objects and traces different variants of texts, computer forensics encourage us to perceive new media in terms of specific versions, platforms, systems, and devices. Kirschenbaum demonstrates these techniques in media-specific readings of three landmark works of new media and electronic literature, all from the formative era of personal computing: the interactive fiction game Mystery House, Michael Joyce’s Afternoon: A Story, and William Gibson’s electronic poem “Agrippa.”

The Uncensored Writings of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

As a neurasthenic, kleptomaniac, man-chasing proto-punk poet and artist, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven left in her wake a ripple that is becoming a rip--one hundred years after she exploded onto the New York art scene. As an agent provocateur within New York’s modernist revolution, “the first American Dada” not only dressed and behaved with purposeful outrageousness, but she set an example that went well beyond the eccentric divas of the twenty-first century, including her conceptual descendant, Lady Gaga.
Her delirious verse flabbergasted New Yorkers as much as her flamboyant persona. As a poet, she was profane and playfully obscene, imagining a farting God, and transforming her contemporary Marcel Duchamp into M’ars (my arse). With its ragged edges and atonal rhythms, her poetry echoes the noise of the metropolis itself. Her love poetry muses graphically on ejaculation, orgasm, and oral sex. When she tired of existing words, she created new ones: “phalluspistol,” “spinsterlollipop,” “kissambushed.” The Baroness’s rebellious, highly sexed howls prefigured the Beats; her intensity and psychological complexity anticipates the poetic utterances of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath.
Published more than a century after her arrival in New York, Body Sweats is the first major collection of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s poems in English. The Baroness’s biographer Irene Gammel and coeditor Suzanne Zelazo have assembled 150 poems, most of them never before published. Many of the poems are themselves art objects, decorated in red and green ink, adorned with sketches and diagrams, presented with the same visceral immediacy they had when they were composed.

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. A community of scholars and artists maintain a posthumous dialogue with Jarry’s ideas through the Collège de ‘Pataphysique in Paris (named after the “science of imaginary solutions” he conceived), while a steady stream of books on twentieth-century drama pay tribute to his absurd and grotesque play, Ubu Roi.

Even so, most people today tend to think of Jarry only as the author of that play, and of his life as a string of outlandish “ubuesque” anecdotes, often recounted with wild inaccuracy. In this first full-length critical biography of Jarry in English, Alastair Brotchie reconstructs the life of a man intent on inventing (and destroying) himself, not to mention his world, and the "philosophy" that defined their relation. In short, Brotchie gives us the narrative version of what Jarry himself produced--a pataphysical life. 

Drawing on a wealth of new material, Brotchie alternates chapters of biographical narrative with chapters that connect themes, obsessions, and undercurrents that relate to the life. The anecdotes remain, and are even augmented: Jarry’s assumption of the "ubuesque," his inversions of everyday behavior (such as eating backwards, from cheese to soup), his exploits with gun and bicycle, and his herculean feats of drinking. But Brotchie distinguishes between Jarry's purposely playing the fool and deeper nonconformities that appear essential to his writing and his thought, both of which remain a vital subterranean influence to this day.

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. The book combines perspectives from such fields as literary and film theory, computer science, psychology, economic game theory, and game studies to outline a theory of what video games are, how they work with the player, how they have developed historically, and why they are fun to play.

Juul presents a classic game model, which describes the traditional construction of games and points to possible future developments. He examines how rules provide challenges, learning, and enjoyment for players, and how a game cues the player into imagining its fictional world. Juul's lively style and eclectic deployment of sources will make Half-Real of interest to media, literature, and game scholars as well as to game professionals and gamers.

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.

In the summer of 1999, Mohamed Atta defended a master’s thesis that critiqued the introduction of Western-style skyscrapers in the Middle East and called for the return of the "Islamic-Oriental city." Using this as a departure point, Jarett Kobek's novel ATTA offers a fictionalized psychedelic biography of Mohamed Atta that circles around a simple question: what if 9/11 was as much a matter of architectural criticism as religious terrorism? Following the development of a socially awkward boy into one of history's great villains, Kobek demonstrates the need for a new understanding of global terrorism. Joined in this volume by a second work, "The Whitman of Tikrit"--a radical reimagining of Saddam Hussein's last day before capture--ATTA is a brutal, relentless, and ultimately fearless corrective to ten years of propaganda and pandering.

From American Linguistics to Socialist Zionism

In 1995, Robert Barsky met with Noam Chomsky to discuss hiswork-in-progress, Noam Chomsky: A Life ofDissent (MIT Press, 1997). Chomsky told Barsky that he shouldfocus his attention instead on midcentury linguist and activist Zellig Harris,who was, Chomsky modestly insisted, more interesting than Chomsky himself.Intrigued, Barsky began to research Harris (1909–1992) and discovered thestory of a major figure in American intellectual life "sitting in acorner in the middle of the room"—partof crucial twentieth-century conversations about language, technology, labor,politics, and Zionism. The intersecting worlds of Harris’s intellectualand political activities were populated by such figures as Louis Brandeis,Albert Einstein, Franz Boas, Nathan Glazer, and Chomsky. Barskydescribes Harris’s work in language studies, andhis pioneering ideas about discourse analysis, structural linguistics, andinformation representation. He also discusses Harris’s part in the pre-1948Zionist movement—;when many Jews on the Leftenvisioned a socialist Palestine that would be a haven not only for persecutedJews but also for disenfranchised Arabs and anyone seeking a sanctuary againstoppression—;and recounts Harris's debates on the subject withBrandeis, Einstein, and a large group of students involved with a Zionistorganization called Avukah. And Barsky describes Harris’s views oncapitalism, worker-owner relations, and worker self-management, the legacy ofwhich can be found in some of his students’ writings, notably those ofSeymour Melman. Barsky shows how Harris, as mentor, teacher, and colleague,powerfully influenced figures who came to dominate the twentieth century'spolitical discussion—;thinkers as different as Noam Chomsky and NathanGlazer.

  • Page 4 of 13