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Posts Tagged ‘Salman Rushdie’

The End of the Internet: An Interview with Matthew Thurber

January 2, 2014 | by

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I met cartoonist and musician Matthew Thurber six-odd years ago somewhere in Prospect Park (a séance? a picnic?), and then saw him play alto saxophone in his Muzak-jazz-punk trio Soiled Mattress and the Springs at the New York Art Book Fair. We kept running into one another in odd places; or, since New York City is now lacking in odd places, at places where subculture obsessives go to convince themselves there’s still oddness in the world. Soiled Mattress broke up in 2008, but Thurber’s “Anti-Matter Cabaret” act Ambergris has continued, and sometimes he plays with artist Brian Belott as Court Stenographer and Young Sherlock Holmes. In 2011, after years of publishing minicomics, zines, and books on tape, Thurber collected his serial 1-800-Mice in graphic-novel form. It’s about a messenger mouse named Groomfiend, a peace punk named Peace Punk, and a cast of thousands. More recently, Thurber wrote a culture diary for this blog, and started Tomato House gallery with his girlfriend, Rebecca Bird, in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn.

Thurber’s new graphic novel, Infomaniacs, is about the singularity and the end of the Internet; it’s also the final book from the great comics publisher PictureBox, which serialized parts of Infomaniacs online starting in 2010. The book’s heroine is Amy Shit, a punk rapper who sometimes lives off the grid—in a subway tunnel, even. Her brother’s a neo–Ned Ludd who goes around smashing iPhones. Meanwhile, Ralph is an Internet addict who escapes from reality rehab, then embeds in an immortality cult run by a libertarian oligarch who wants to eat the brain of the last man who’s never seen the Internet. A horse and a bat, both intelligence agents for the ATF (Anthropomorphic Task Force), wonder what the singularity will look like—a 1950s computer, a crystal, a cell phone, a tree branch?

Thurber’s video trailer offers a sense of the comic’s raucous hugger-mugger and subterranean surrealism, but doesn’t touch on its Underground Man againstness. For that, perhaps this quote, from an early, uncollected strip: “All bundled up and no place to go … The man who hates the Internet is a man who hates the world.”

Thurber and I met in the office I share with a puppet theater, near the Barclays Center. Giant heads hung from the walls. I don’t have Wi-Fi and don’t know anyone’s password. Read More »

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Alice Munro, Laureate, and Other News

October 10, 2013 | by

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  • Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The citation called the Canadian writer (the second Canadian laureate, if we count Saul Bellow) a “master of the contemporary short story.”
  • Ten things you need to know about Alice Munro. Need, people!
  • Here is a BBC Listener magazine crossword set in Greek, from 1936. The prize was the Collected Poems of T. S. Eliot. And no, no part of that would happen today.
  • Semi-related: American adults are bad readers.
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    Franzen on Kraus: Footnote 3

    September 3, 2013 | by

    Oskar Kokoschka's 1925 portrait of Karl Kraus. Oil on canvas, 65 x 100 cm, Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna.

    Oskar Kokoschka's 1925 portrait of Karl Kraus. Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna.

    This week, to celebrate the launch of our Fall issue, we will preview a few of our favorite footnotes from “Against Heine,” Jonathan Franzen’s translation of the Austrian writer Karl Kraus. Click here to get your subscription now!

    Believe me, you color-happy people, in cultures where every blockhead has individuality, individuality becomes a thing for blockheads.3  

    (p. 189)

    3 You’re not allowed to say things like this in America nowadays, no matter how much the blogosphere and the billion (or is it two billion now?) “individualized” Facebook pages may make you want to say them. Kraus was known, in his day, to his many enemies, as the Great Hater. By most accounts, he was a tender and generous man in his private life, with many loyal friends. But once he starts winding the stem of his polemical rhetoric, it carries him into extremely harsh registers.

    (“Harsh,” incidentally, is a fun word to say with a slacker inflection. To be harsh is to be uncool; and in the world of coolness and uncoolness—the high-school-cafeteria social scene of Gawker takedowns and Twitter popularity contests—the highest register that cultural criticism can safely reach is snark. Snark, indeed, is cool’s twin sibling.) 

    As Kraus will make clear, the individualized “blockheads” that he has in mind aren’t hoi polloi. Although Kraus could sound like an elitist, and although he considered the right-wing antisemites idiotic, he wasn’t in the business of denigrating the masses or lowbrow culture; the calculated difficulty of his writing wasn’t a barricade against the barbarians. It was aimed, instead, at bright and well-educated cultural authorities who embraced a phony kind of individuality—people Kraus believed ought to have known better.

    It’s not clear that Kraus’s shrill, ex cathedra denunciations were the most effective way to change hearts and minds. But I confess to feeling some version of his disappointment when a novelist who ought to have known better, Salman Rushdie, succumbs to Twitter. Or when a politically committed print magazine that I respect, n+1, denigrates print magazines as terminally “male,” celebrates the Internet as “female,” and somehow neglects to consider the Internet’s accelerating pauperization of freelance writers. Or when good lefty professors who once resisted alienation—who criticized capitalism for its restless assault on every tradition and every community that gets in its way—start calling the corporatized Internet “revolutionary,” happily embrace Apple computers, and persist in gushing about their virtues.

     

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    Flannery O’Connor’s Peacocks, and Other News

    August 12, 2013 | by

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  • Anonymouth is a computer program designed to strip text of stylistic markers and, in the words of The New Republic, “turn famous writers into anonymous hacks,” should this be your desire.
  • Meanwhile, libraries are increasingly dependent on computer games to keep the kids coming.
  • Salman Rushdie: “Thomas Pynchon looks exactly like Thomas Pynchon should look … He is tall, he wears lumberjack shirts, and blue jeans. He has Albert Einstein white hair and Bugs Bunny front teeth.”
  • Since 2009, there have been three replacement peacocks at Andalusia (sadly, not actually descended from Flannery O’Connor’s flock): Manley Pointer, Joy/Hulga (who appears to have two working legs), and Mary Grace.
  • The New York Times visits the Chekhov Museum, a testament to dedication.
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    Rahm Emanuel to Jump in Lake If Kids Read, and Other News

    July 8, 2013 | by

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  • “This ‘immortal’ pilferer of other men’s stories and ideas, with his monstrous rhetorical fustian, his unbearable platitudes, his pretentious reduction of the subtlest problems of life to commonplaces against which a Polytechnic debating club would revolt, his incredible unsuggestiveness, his sententious combination of ready reflection with complete intellectual sterility, and his consequent incapacity for getting out of the depth of even the most ignorant audience, except when he solemnly says something so transcendentally platitudinous that his more humble-minded hearers cannot bring themselves to believe that so great a man really meant to talk like their grandmothers.” And other literary takedowns.
  • Playing on children’s eternal desire to see authority figures drenched in cold water, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago Bear Israel Idonije have sworn to jump in wintry Lake Michigan if local kids read two million books this summer.
  • Think the fun is over now that you’re back at work? Not so fast: here’s an idioms and formulaic language quiz!
  • Plus: (more) dirty jokes from Shakespeare.
  • When James Joyce, Jeanette Winterson, and Salman Rushdie wrote for children.
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    Letter from Jaipur

    February 7, 2013 | by

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    Last year’s Jaipur Literature Festival was exciting and boring at the same time—a death threat is exciting, but thirty death threats are boring; as Dostoevsky wrote, “Man is a creature who can get used to anything.” Salman Rushdie was scheduled to attend: Islamic groups agitated to deny him a visa, which he does not need in order to enter India, but never mind. It was suggested that instead Rushdie might address the festival via video conference: the government itself advised against this. Hari Kunzru, Jeet Thayil, Amitava Kumar, and Ruchir Joshi read aloud in protest from The Satanic Verses, still banned in India, but, after the gravity of their collective transgression had been brought home to them, they left the festival.

    We know what comedy is: life is increased. Think of Rodney Dangerfield addressing the crowd at the end of Caddyshack: “Hey, everybody, we’re all gonna get laid!” And we know what tragedy is: isolation increases. I used to think that life was about winning everything, Mike Tyson once said, but now I know that life is about losing everything.

    But what is India, with its boundless affirmation of life in general that befouls so many lives in the particular, with its joyous proliferation unto overcrowding, need, and misery? I did my small part, during my brief month there, to maintain those inequalities: Give me your shoes, I know you have other pair, you not need these, give them me, said a man as he tried to pull my sneakers off while a second man tried to pin my arms; and what he said was true, somewhere on the other side of the world I did have another pair of shoes, four shoes and only two feet; all the same, unhand me, my little friend, before I pick you up and throw you like a javelin.

    I attended the 2013 JLF. It began in the same way. Read More »

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