Staff Picks: Kids Tossing Guns, Phenomenal Hard-ons


This Week’s Reading


Josh Dorman, A Life Led, 2014, ink, acrylic and antique paper on panel, 60″ x 56.”

Despite the fact that the workmen next door have been playing the catchiest pop songs from the past thirty years for a few days now, I managed to tune them out long enough to read Jon McNaught’s Dockwood, a book that, though spare in dialogue, is oddly focused on sound, or, more accurately, on a symphony of silence. The book comprises two comics stories set in the titular British town, a leafy, suburban sort of place that is settling into the early days of autumn and into what seems like a permanent state of dreamy twilight. The first story follows a man named Mark through his day as a kitchen porter at a nursing home. The opening pages of the book are soundless, save the munch of a mouse eating a chip and tink of colliding hanging straps on a bus. But the quiet of early morning is surprisingly vivid. It creates a rhythm of reading—the pages are divided into tiny panels mixed in with larger ones—and plunges you instantly into the narrative. The second story, about a boy delivering newspapers, works according to the same principles. It’s a stunning effect. And McNaught, who is also a printmaker, makes each panel contemplate the smallest of life’s details. —Nicole Rudick

This Saturday is your last chance to see “Whorled,” Josh Dorman’s vast and imaginative solo show at Ryan Lee Gallery. Dorman paints vibrant, dreamlike landscapes and festoons them with found images: illustrations, fragments, and diagrams from old textbooks and catalogs, all of them from the seemingly prelapsarian period before photography, and all carefully (though still jarringly) collaged into the paintings. Parades of flora and fauna coexist with kids tossing guns; lakes are made of hammers, mountains grow from maps. You’d expect all this to devolve into chaos, a kind of jackdaw’s nest, but Dorman’s compositions are precise, even orderly, which makes them all the more uncanny—as beautiful as they are, the paintings evoke a state of basic contradiction that has a way of getting under your skin. —Dan Piepenbring

Even if it’s only an hour and forty minutes, Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja was one of the most difficult films I’ve sat through, and I’ve survived everything from Sátántangó to Snakes on a Plane. Moving at a glacial pace, with a plot as complicated as Waiting for Godot’s, the film follows the Danish surveyor Dinesen in nineteenth-century Patagonia as he tries to find his missing daughter in the otherworldly landscape. In long, carefully composed takes, Alonso declares his commitment to a minimalist cinema, one that blends narrative with documentary; the film is more about Dinesen’s relationship with the landscape itself than any miraculous reunion with his daughter. I walked out of the screening completely perplexed by the experience, but since then I haven’t been able to shake the film. It’s like a dream you hope to revisit until some sort of answer reveals itself. —Justin Alvarez

This week’s New Yorker includes “Scheherazade,” a gorgeous new story by Haruki Murakami with quiet undercurrents of the fantastic. Murakami writes of the intimacy between a housebound man, Nobutaka Habara, and his caregiver. Though Habara doesn’t seem to suffer from any ailment in particular, he’s always receiving the ministrations of Scheherazade, a woman he names after the queen in One Thousand and One Nights. She brings him provisions and takes him to bed, and then becomes a raconteur, telling him stories of lamprey eels or her preternatural youth, leaving Habara invested in her company but hyperaware of its mutability. Their relationship is resigned, mercurial, and that dynamic interests Murakami: “I occasionally think that, in our heart of hearts, we all may be seeking situations like this one—where our free will doesn’t apply and (almost) everything is determined by someone else, where each day must be lived according to the conditions that someone else has laid down … What interests me is trying to ferret out the identity that is so deftly concealed within the accumulation of such passive operations.” —Caitlin Youngquist

If you happen to be looking for a short-story collection that features talking fish, immortal dogs, and girlfriends that turn into fat, hairy men at night, Etgar Keret’s The Nimrod Flipout is your best bet, maybe your only bet. The Israeli author’s particular brand of magic realism comprises equal parts normalcy and sleeping pill–induced dream puddle. But underneath the phantasmagoria of these stories and their unusual titles (one story is called “Actually, I’ve Had Some Phenomenal Hard-ons Lately”) lies an entirely serious commentary that grapples with issues of emotional expression and individuality. The collection’s deeper implications are charmingly concealed but are definitely present—just ask the fish. —Alex Celia