The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Valeria Luiselli’

Staff Picks: Sinister Clowns, Ferocious Beasts, Pigs

October 2, 2015 | by

Walton Ford, Gleipnir, 2012, watercolor, gouache, ink, pencil on paper, 69" x 120".

My favorite chapter in Valeria Luiselli’s wonderful, unusual new novel, The Story of My Teeth, is “The Parabolics,” in which the book’s protagonist, Highway, wakes to discover that all his teeth are missing and that he is in the midst of the supremely creepy Ugo Rondinone video installation Where Do We Go from Here; that is, he finds himself confronted on four sides by a quartet of lethargic, staring, “sinister” clowns, “a hell worse than the one that had installed itself inside my mouth.” A disembodied, rather unkind voice relates a series of parables to Highway throughout the chapter, so it seemed safe to assume that the chapter title referred to these. But Highway doesn’t understand any of the stories, and in fact his thoughts seem to circle around the idea expressed by Rondinone’s title. “Where am I supposed to go?” he queries the voice. “Parabolics” might also refer to “parabolas,” a series of curves—or perhaps (attempted) leaps over “the schism between the perception you have yourself and the perception other people have of you.” Maybe I’m taking a leap myself. But: “I’ve always thought that hell is the people you could one day become,” Highway thinks. “And there I was, toothless, lying on a bench in front of videotaped projections of enormous buffoons, dozing … being mistaking for one of them.” —Nicole Rudick

A recent piece in the Times on Walton Ford made me remember: I really enjoy the work of Walton Ford. His paintings, which I first saw at the Brooklyn Museum in 2006, depict ferocious animals doing ferocious things, ferociously; they’re set in a welter of copulation and violence at the edge of human society, and in a lot of them, nineteenth-century aristocrats are on hunting trips gone seriously awry. I’m envious of anyone in Paris who gets to see his fifteen new works at the Musée de la Chasse, a museum dedicated to hunters and animals that “essentially documents our historical fear of being eaten alive,” as Matthew Rose puts it in the Times, and thus a perfect venue for Ford’s work. In one new painting, Representation Véritable, a massive black creature based on the Beast of Gévaudan has a wolf by the jugular; in the background, two women are at rest (maybe forever?) in an idyllic meadow. Ford’s paintings are musky, unsparing allegories for colonialism, industrialism, and a host of other noxious -isms, and no one should discount their formal ingenuity—but none of it would matter if they weren’t, at their most literal level, so terrifying. —Dan Piepenbring Read More »

Pointless Shiny Things, and Other News

September 17, 2015 | by

Peter Quinn, via Hyperallergic

  • Our culture’s obsession with design has led to a lot of useless flash, especially on the Internet, where things glide, slide, swoop, pulse, and occasionally dance across the screen. The artist Peter Quinn parodies user interfaces and their ornaments, including “such high-action gibberish as ‘nice, but useless circle,’ frenetic ‘pointless graphs,’ ” and other such forms of “flickery nonsense.”
  • Before Thomas Pynchon there was William Pynchon, his ancestor, who was also stirring up literary trouble of a sort: in 1650 he published a pamphlet, The Meritorious Price of our Redemption, which “was not in full agreement with the Reformed position on Christ’s atonement … the Massachusetts Bay General Court took notice of the book, describing it as ‘containing many errors & heresies generally condemned by all orthodox writers that we have met with’ and ordering ‘the said book to be burned in the market place, in Boston, by the common executioner.’ Pynchon was forced to issue a retraction.”
  • Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth is a novel, and an essay, and an attempt at a new kind of collaboration—written with factory workers at Grupo Jumex, a juice factory in Mexico City. “Luiselli constructed the book as … a serialized fiction that invited the input of the factory workers. The process was simple. She wrote an installment of the novel, and the factory workers organized a space to read and discuss it. Recordings of their commentaries, as well as images of local landmarks, were then sent back to Luiselli, who would listen to their notes and view the pictures before writing the next section. The formula for the novel, as Luiselli describes it: ‘Dickens + mp3 ÷ Balzac + jpeg.’ ”
  • In which Andrew O’Hagan attempts to cross the street: “For some weeks now I’ve been standing at St Giles Circus—the junction of Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Street, New Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road—watching people try to pass from one side of the road to the other … People set out when the green man appears and before they get halfway they are running on red, and very few of them know there are cars about to stream onto the crossing from three blind corners, and many of the drivers are quite unaware of the existence of a crossing twenty yards ahead … We might forget that living in a big city means submitting to a lot of rules about how to live in a big city. You can’t park, you can’t wait, you can’t cross, you must queue, you’re being filmed. There are rules, zones, fines. People in the country don’t have that, and urban dwellers might, at some level, always be looking for strategies that could justify their basic refusal to conform. I thought of that as I watched a man in a business suit climb over two sets of barriers to cross the road. He just wouldn’t walk the extra few meters to be told what to do by an electronic system.”
  • My dad was named Gary. Gary Sernovitz is also named Gary, and he’s not happy about it: “To watch television or movies as a Gary is to know pain. When writers can’t think of a joke, when they want to quickly convey character—or chinless lack thereof—they reach to my punchline first name for the bad blind date, the sad sack, the noodge. Garys rarely even rise to the level of real characters, in our culture, but when they do, they don’t lose their essential pathetic Garyness … Gary is a box of day-old donuts on the grab bag table, sitting among the names favored by rising immigrants groups, fearless parents, and people who should be prosecuted for Naming Under the Influence.”

What We’re Loving: Spiders, Spaces, Stinkin’-Hot Nights

May 2, 2014 | by


An exhibition image from Marc Yankus’s “The Space Between,” at ClampArt.

If I had to teach a class on the Framing Device, the first thing I’d make them read is Jeremias Gotthelf’s 1842 novella The Black Spider, recently published in a new and (to this non-German-reader) magical translation by Susan Bernofsky. The opening scene is a christening in the Swiss countryside: idyllic, sentimental, lovingly detailed. Then one of the guests notices a strange blackened post in the house where the festivities are held, an old man begins to tell the story of how it got there … and in no time things have gotten very weird indeed, and they continue weird even when the story ends, the idyll stained by the past. A fairytale for grownups, an early horror story, an allegory of the Black Death or of sin—however you read it, it has the deep logic of a dream. —Lorin Stein

Sometimes I’ll Google some nouns with a writer’s name, hoping to discover that said writer has miraculously published a piece about said nouns. This usually doesn’t work out for me—zero results for “Norman Rush + Botswana + heavy-metal leather subculture,” and zero more for “Jonathan Lethem + Larry Levan + Paradise Garage + disco”—but lightning can strike, as it did with “Richard Ben Cramer + baseball + Baltimore.” That led me to Cramer’s “A Native Son’s Thoughts (Many of Them Heretical) About Baltimore (Which Isn’t What It Used to Be), Baseball (Which Isn’t What It Used to Be) and the Steadfast Perfection of Cal Ripken Jr. (Which Is Ever Unchanging, Fairly Complicated and Truly Something to Behold),” published in Sports Illustrated circa 1995. Hot dog! As its forty-four-word title indicates, this piece has it all. There’s baseball, which, for reasons that remain unclear, I’ve begun to enjoy watching; there’s Baltimore, where I grew up; and there’s the vigorous prose from Cramer, whose masterpiece on the 1988 election, What It Takes, I’ve just finished, thus creating a void that can only be filled with more Cramer. When I read the first clause (“It’s a stinkin’-hot night at the ballpark”) I knew I was safe for a little while longer. —Dan Piepenbring

The Space Between,” Marc Yankus’s show at Clamp Art, is on now through May 17; it reveals a new side of the artist. His earlier images explored his love of color washes and blurred shapes—photography that sometimes looked as though it had been printed on a wet surface. With this new body of work, Yankus has written a love letter to the stonemasons, bricklayers, and architects of an ever-evolving New York City landscape. The detail captured in these photographs is unreal and meditative; he’s shot these monumental buildings sometimes at great heights and always from their best angles. A master of minute detail, Yankus invites us to study the individual bricks right down to the fine cement layers that seal them together. Though people are ever-present in these works, there’s not a soul to be found. It lends a ghostly beauty to these prints, making it exceedingly difficult to pick a favorite. —Charlotte Strick

I’ve been reading Adam Shatz’s vivid remembrance of the journalist and historian Patrick Seale, who died last month. Seale wrote the two best books on modern Syrian politics, in English or any other language. The Ba’athists in Damascus trusted him and the Western spymasters learned from him. And what a time it was for foreign correspondents, especially if you lived in Beirut. As Shatz writes, “It was the Mad Men era of Middle East reporting, a time of high living and high-stakes intrigue … The correspondent’s calendar was marked by revolutionary conspiracies; many were first reported as rumors, sometimes overheard at the bar of the St. George Hotel, where spies, arms dealers, diplomats and other adventurers gathered at the end of the day.” —Robyn Creswell Read More »