Tag Archives: Arts & Culture

The Draw of the Gothic


To understand the literary Gothic—to even begin to account for its curious appeal, and its quality of simultaneous seduction and repulsion—it is necessary to undertake a little time travel. We must go back beyond the builders putting the capstone on Pugin’s Palace of Westminster, and on past the last lick of paint on the iced cake of Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House; back again another six hundred years past the rap of the stonemason’s hammer on the cathedral at Reims, in order to finally alight on a promontory above the city of Rome in A.D. 410. The city is on fire. There are bodies in the streets and barbarians at the gates. Pope Innocent I, hedging his bets, has consented to a little pagan worship … Read the rest

Bad Genre: Annie Ernaux, Autofiction, and Finding a Voice

Annie Ernaux

“When I was twenty-one,” wrote Zadie Smith at age twenty-five, “I wanted to write like Kafka. But, unfortunately for me, I wrote like a script editor for The Simpsons who’d briefly joined a religious cult and then discovered Foucault.” What is a writer’s voice? Surely, as in life, we all have many voices, different ones for different occasions.

For the young Zadie Smith, Kafka’s voice established a norm: this is what literature sounds like. Different genres—fiction, academic articles, general nonfiction—conjure certain expectations. I write differently in all of them. But over the last couple of years, I’ve started to feel the strain of singing so many styles on the page, and I’ve started to wonder: What does my own voice sound like, freed from … Read the rest

The Destabilizing Desire of Julie Doucet

From Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet, courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly.

It’s impossible to convey, to anyone who didn’t stumble across the stuff on their own, the evanescent but ferocious intensity to be found in the photocopied page of any zine or comic from the late eighties and early nineties. Self-publishing in those days showed you, the reader, a culture being ripped apart, at the seams and straight through the middle, while on fire, the raw guts of oppression and abuse and injustice exposed and left behind to rot while you watched with a beer from a spot near the stage. The French Canadian artist and comics creator Julie Doucet invented a character, named Julie Doucet, who let you tag along as she did … Read the rest

“Why Do You Write Political Stories?”

I was in college when Trayvon Martin was murdered. I created an anonymous pamphlet, an artistic response to the atrocity. His killing deserved our outrage. Late one night, I scattered five hundred copies of the pamphlet around campus. I went to bed expecting unrest, a revival, a conversation, anything. When I got up later that day, nothing happened.

That summer, I was at a barbecue in Riverside Park when Trayvon’s murderer was acquitted. I remember getting the notification on my phone. I felt exposed, fragile. I had been partying just a minute before.

Years later, writing “The Finkelstein 5,” the story that now opens my first book, Friday Black, I tried to translate the ways in which the justice system is often a cruel joke … Read the rest