There’s Our Bernhard, and Other News


On the Shelf

A still from Thomas Bernhard: Three Days, 1970.

  • Anne Carson prizes brevity, which means, in the abstract, that she should be perfectly suited to these distracted times of ours. And maybe she is, even if she seems permanently ill at ease. In a new interview to support her collection Float, her answers sometimes suggest—and I mean this as a compliment—that she could find lucrative work as a copywriter for Hot Topic T-shirts: “I feel perfectly at home underwater.” “I do not believe in art as therapy.” “Volcanoes are dead easy to paint.” “I never liked Mona Lisa.”

  • Rivka Galchen sat down with Yoko Tawada, whose 2014 novel, Memoirs of a Polar Bear, is soon to arrive in English translation, and it does, yes, star a polar bear: “Tawada has written most often about foreigners and outsiders, but also about people who metamorphose into animals (‘The Bath’) or have intimate relations with people suspected to be animals (‘The Bridegroom Was a Dog’). An elementary-school teacher who tells her students to wipe with used Kleenex feels, in Tawada’s portrayal of her, as familiar and alien as a household pet. In Memoirs, when a polar bear walks into a bookstore or a grocery store, there are no troubles stemming from a lack of opposable thumbs. As with Kafka’s animal characters, we are freed to dislike them in the special way we usually reserve only for ourselves.”
  • The irony of virtual reality in its current, nascent form is that we’re using it mainly to simulate “real” reality—as if we haven’t seen plenty enough of that already. Simon Parkin writes of three new games whose mission “runs contrary to the prevailing narrative, which holds that realistic re-creations of our world are where the emerging medium’s power lies. Undoubtedly, part of V.R.’s appeal is its capacity to enable us to visit places too remote, too dangerous, or too expensive to otherwise reach. Documentarians have already begun using V.R. to allow us to experience life through the eyes of another and even to become witnesses to current events from the perspective of a participant rather than a bystander. Thumper, Rez Infinite, and SuperHyperCube offer the counterargument—that V.R.’s most alluring promise is found in the imagined, the intangible, and the unrecognizable places to which it transports us.”