January 7, 2014 | by Justin Alvarez
I was first introduced to artist Anthony Cudahy in 2011, when I interviewed him for Guernica. I was moved by his fleeting scenes of silence—a woman pinning a boutonniere on an unseen man’s tuxedo jacket, two girls hugging in a bedroom while one stares at herself in the mirror—and amazed by the wide range of work from an artist so young (he was only twenty-two). When Adrian West pitched his translations of Josef Winkler’s novel Graveyard of Bitter Oranges for the Daily, I immediately knew Cudahy’s work would best accompany Winkler’s tales of death and phantoms in an unfamiliar country. Both invoke the Flemish hells of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder—lively, complex, symbolic, the best kind of fever dream.
I met with Anthony at his studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he is an artist-in-residence for the Artha Project. Amid the stacks of wood planks from the neighboring furniture studio and the incessant clanking of pipes, we discussed the benefits of the Internet for the art world, growing up in Florida, and his hatred of the color yellow.
December 26, 2013 | by Justin Alvarez
All this week, we are bringing you some of your favorite posts from 2013. Happy holidays!
I had only been in Europe for two weeks when I started to feel homesick.
I’d decided to study in Florence on a whim, after having vaguely planned my entire sophomore year on traveling to Prague to study film at the famed FAMU. But while for FAMU there was a separate application I would have had to fill out, Florence was a simple checkbox on the registration website. And student housing in Florence was even cheaper than at my university in New York.
The general idea was to get a handful of my general education requirements out of the way and maybe even try to pick up some Italian while I was at it. I flew over to Italy with my mother, who was looking for a few days away from Chicago to take in, as she called it, la dolce vita. “I want a gondolier to sing to me, like in the movies,” she said. The gondolier spoke on his cell phone the entire time.
We arrived at the Florence Airport mid-morning. On the cab ride into the city, the driver informed us that one of the city’s time-honored traditions was complaining about the tourists, and, even worse than the general run of tourists, the hordes of visiting college students. I soon found myself in a large apartment off via Guelfa introducing my mother to ten other college students and an Italian RA. My mother quickly pulled me aside. “Please don’t get into any trouble. You know what the driver said.”
December 11, 2013 | by Justin Alvarez
Selected from AbeBooks’ Weird Book Room.
September 20, 2013 | by Justin Alvarez
- “Jonathan Franzen gripe” or “YouTube comment about saggy pants”? You be the judge.
- Forget condoms and turn instead to Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Gogol, according to a Russian children’s ombudsman. Says Pavel Astakhov, “The best sex education that exists is Russian literature.”
- The little-known original ending of “The Frog Prince” (spoiler: there was no kiss) sheds insight on why the Brothers Grimm were so grim.
- A Stanford University study shows evidence that today’s kids are actually writing longer and better essays than people in Twitter-less 1917. However, according to a recent Pew Research poll of teachers, children are also writing too informally.
- A defense of buying books and never reading them.
September 19, 2013 | by Justin Alvarez
How does one document his or her life? Do you track the minute details of each and every day in a diary, like Ned Rorem, or measure it out with coffee spoons, as J. Alfred Prufrock declared? When digging through the last boxes and cases from his grandfather’s home, Justin Bairamian found an old suitcase, full to the brim with thousands of matchbooks. They were from the Savoy in London to the Marineland Restaurant in California, and many had his grandfather’s own scribbles noting the location and year on the inside cover. Bairamian had discovered a beautiful record of a life well lived.
Bairamian has allowed designer Ben Stott to catalogue a sample of the collection, one day at a time, on the blog A Life in Matches. It is a brilliant tribute to one man’s life, as well as insight into the evolution of graphic design.
September 19, 2013 | by Justin Alvarez
For the first time in its sixty-three-year history, the National Book Foundation has published longlists for each of its four award categories. The fiction longlist was announced this morning, and it features a range of celebrated and debut authors, including Thomas Pynchon, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anthony Marra, and Paris Review contributor Rachel Kushner, for her latest novel, The Flamethrowers. Congratulations to all!
On The Flamethrowers, Kushner writes in her essay from our Winter 2012 issue:
As I wrote, events from my time, my life, began to echo those in the book, as if I were inside a game of call and response. While I wrote about ultraleft subversives, The Coming Insurrection, a book written by an anonymous French collective, was published in the United States, and its authors were arrested in France. As I wrote about riots, they were exploding in Greece. As I wrote about looting, it was rampant in London. The Occupy movement was born on the University of California campuses, and then reborn as a worldwide phenomenon, and by the time I needed to describe the effects of tear gas for a novel about the 1970s, all I had to do was watch live feeds from Oakland, California.
An appeal to images is a demand for love. We want something more than just their mute glory. We want them to give up a clue, a key, a way to cut open a space, cut into a register, locate a tone, without which the novelist is lost.
It was with images that I began The Flamethrowers. By the time I finished, I found myself with a large stash.
You can read an excerpt from The Flamethrowers here.