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From the Archive

Jumping from Bridges

May 26, 2016 | by

The Golden Gate Bridge under construction.

The Golden Gate Bridge under construction.

This essay by M. F. K. Fisher appeared posthumously in our Spring 1995 issue. Fisher died in 1992. Her previously unpublished novel, The Theoretical Foot, was released earlier this year.

Now I am thinking about jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, and about other places where people have jumped to their deaths for many years. I think I should find out more about this, for I have an idea that there is some sort of collection of spirit strength or power or love in them that says no, or yes, or now.

I feel very strongly that this is true about the Golden Gate Bridge. Today, I heard that people are trying once more to build a kind of suicide-prevention railing along its side, which would keep us from seeing the bay and the beautiful view of the city. I haven’t read much about suicide lately, but I believe that almost 98 percent of such deaths leave more evil than good after them. Even my husband Dillwyn’s death, which I feel was justified, left many of us with some bad things. And when my brother died, about a year after Timmy did, my mother asked me very seriously if I felt that Timmy’s death had influenced David to commit his own suicide, which to me remains a selfish one, compared to the first. I said, “Of course, yes! I do think so, Mother.” And I did think then that Timmy’s doing away with himself helped my young brother David to kill himself, a year later. But there was really no connection; we don’t know what the limit of tolerance is in any human being. Read More »

Look

Baxter Week, Day Four

May 26, 2016 | by

By overwhelming demand, we’re back with more Baxter. To mark the release of his new book Almost Completely Baxter: New and Selected Blurtings, we’re running two of Glen’s drawings every day this week. Almost Completely Baxter spans four decades of “Colonel” Baxter’s work, drawing from such books as The Billiard Table Murders and Blizzards of Tweed. “Baxter’s comic realm—the space between image and text, between perplexity and the mundane—is a locale where uncertainty emerges as weird and weirdness recedes into uncertainty,” Albert Mobilio wrote recently in Bookforum. “The funny arrives as a slow-motion detonation that seems to dissipate as quickly as it boomed.” Baxter’s short stories appeared in The Paris Review’s Winter 1972 issue; a portfolio, “It Was the Smallest Pizza They Had Ever Seen,” followed in Summer 1985.

Almost Completely Baxter txt revised final crx.indd Read More »

On the Shelf

Punk Is Dead, So We’re Burning It, and Other News

May 26, 2016 | by

Glenn O. Coleman, Election Night Bonfire, undated.

  • Raymond Carver’s fiction is good, sure, but you haven’t really lived till you’ve seen the guy’s family photos. His brother, James, has shared a few with a remembrance of Raymond: “I remember the years we shared living together in Sacramento during the midsixties … One of his few jobs in Sacramento was working at Mercy Hospital in housekeeping. He worked three or four hours in the evening but was paid for eight. We both had nothing but spare time; we continued to spend many hours hanging out together, talking, reminiscing, and drinking. We would get in the car and drive with nowhere special to go. We talked about all the moves we and our parents had made looking for happiness. We drank from a bottle of Ten High Bourbon we kept in the glove compartment. One of us would say, ‘Wait until spring.’ The other would say, ‘And things will bust wide open,’ meaning at last, everything would be better for all of us. We both would break into laughter. It was a private joke which we never forgot; Ray mentioned it a year before he died. We always had the ability to laugh at ourselves and our failures.”
  • Queen Elizabeth has declared 2016 the Year of Punk, so you know someone had to stand up and flip her the bird. Joseph Corré, the son of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, is doing it right: he “announced yesterday that he will set fire to his entire collection of punk memorabilia, estimated to be worth about £5 million ($7.1 million) … The bonfire is slated to take place in Camden, London, on November 26, to mark the 40th anniversary of the release of the Sex Pistols single ‘Anarchy in the UK’, off the album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols … ‘The Queen giving 2016, the Year of Punk, her official blessing is the most frightening thing I’ve ever heard,’ he says. ‘Talk about alternative and punk culture being appropriated by the mainstream. Rather than a movement for change, punk has become like a fucking museum piece or a tribute act.’ ”
  • There is but one effective way of drawing our attention to the inanity of online polls, and that is fake online polls. Jonas Lund’s new online artwork Fair Warningtakes the form of an eccentric online questionnaire or personality test. The pages invite the viewer to input their preferences. Duck or Rabbit? Window or Aisle? Idol or Douche? Apple or FBI? There are multiple-choice questions, photographs of sculptures and paintings, and news images, as well as, occasionally, solid blocks and color gradients. Each time the animated circle at the bottom of the page completes a revolution—this persistent, nagging counter mimics the buffering animations of video streaming sites and the multicolored wait cursor, aka the ‘spinning beach ball of death’ on Apple computers—there is a computerized chime. This happens every four seconds … Other than an animated ripple that appears onscreen each time you click, user input doesn’t affect the metronomic rhythm of the piece. Nor is it clear if your preferences are even being registered.”
  • With the rise of the suburbs came an almost simultaneous effort to theorize the suburbs—why had so many families marooned themselves in a new environment, and what was going on there? As Amanda Kolson Hurley writes, midcentury studies of suburbia were far from sunny: “Most strikingly, they reveal deep and widespread concern over the stability of mental and physical health in the new suburban environment … It was a social experiment unprecedented in U.S. history. The first suburbanites themselves were well aware of this. Although they felt the optimism of pioneers, they shared in the widespread anxiety that the experiment might not work, an anxiety that manifested as worries about unanticipated health effects. These ranged from the daily, cumulative frustrations of a Mary Drone to more significant problems: stomach ulcers, heart attacks, anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction, and juvenile delinquency.”
  • Or you can look at perhaps the suburbs’ most successful export, the mall. Alex Cocotas, being shown around on a visit to Tel Aviv, discovered how thoroughly the mall has metastasized abroad: “We weren’t there to take a dip in the Mediterranean or to feel the sand bunch between our toes; we were not there to admire the yachts or to dream of their interior lives. We were there to go to the mall. We walked down a passageway between the boats and a row of restaurants, and entered a world that was virtually indistinguishable from its American counterparts: multistoried, brightly lit, oozing an arctic tundra of air conditioning from unseen pores, perfumes enticingly wafting from open-door oracles to the ever-confounding enigma of next season, stores bearing a familiar, supranational aesthetic, cellphone stands clotting up busy causeways between them. Everything aspired to that same ethereal timelessness, a fantasy of pure transaction … Why take a foreign traveler to a mall at all? The way I see it, the mall trip is meant to communicate a message about the local culture—who they are, their country, their standard of living. They are taking me to the mall because there is a mall.”

Our Daily Correspondent

Hot Dog

May 25, 2016 | by

From an ad for “Swift’s Premium”

I had a brief layover in Chicago. I was starving, slightly shaky with hunger, and getting to the point where any option seemed wrong. In that state, it seemed I didn’t deserve food, and probably I would never eat again. People talk a lot about the rage of hunger. I’m more acquainted with the despair. 

I was in a small corner of the terminal without many shops. It seemed hopeless. I was staring blindly at a kiosk of prepackaged, chilled sandwiches, fat-free yogurts, and Red Delicious apples—I had tears in my eyes—when a man popped his face out from somewhere and said: “We have hot dogs.” An angel’s chorus could not have been sweeter to my ears. “What do you want on it?” he asked.

“Everything,” I whispered. “Everything.” Read More »

Arts & Culture

Title Fights

May 25, 2016 | by

Who gets to name an author’s book?

black-and-white-people-bar-men

When I was readying my first novel for publication, it struck me that writers have far more control over what’s in their books than what’s on them—the cover art, blurbs, jacket copy, but especially the title, where the author’s concerns overlap with marketing ones. Deciding on a name for your life’s work is hard enough; the prospect of changing it at the eleventh hour is like naming your newborn, then hearing the obstetrician say, But wouldn’t Sandra look amazing on the certificate? It took a nine-month war of attrition to secure the original title of my book, Private Citizens.

The history of writers fighting for their book titles is extensive and bloody; so powerful is the publisher’s veto that not even Toni Morrison, fresh off her Nobel win, got to keep her preferred title for Paradise, which was War. (For her most recent book, God Help the Child, she favored The Wrath of Children.) Who knows why George Orwell’s editor thought Nineteen Eighty-Four was more commercially viable than The Last Man in Europe, or why the industry’s gerund fetish turned Helen Simpson’s Hey Yeah Right Get a Life into the insipid Getting a Life? Read More »

Look

Baxter Week, Day Three

May 25, 2016 | by

Our celebration of Glen Baxter proceeds apace. To mark the release of his new book Almost Completely Baxter: New and Selected Blurtings, we’re running two of his illustrations every day this week. Almost Completely Baxter spans four decades of “Colonel” Baxter’s work, drawing from such books as The Billiard Table Murders and Blizzards of Tweed. “Baxter’s comic realm—the space between image and text, between perplexity and the mundane—is a locale where uncertainty emerges as weird and weirdness recedes into uncertainty,” Albert Mobilio wrote recently in Bookforum. “The funny arrives as a slow-motion detonation that seems to dissipate as quickly as it boomed.” Baxter’s short stories appeared in The Paris Review’s Winter 1972 issue; a portfolio, “It Was the Smallest Pizza They Had Ever Seen,” followed in Summer 1985.

Almost Completely Baxter txt revised final crx.indd Read More »