The Nobel laureate taught at Princeton University for 17 years. Now, her papers — some 180 linear feet of them — are returning to be housed in the school's library. Also: a roundup of new releases.
Morning Edition's David Greene has taken this 6,000-mile ride twice. He shares his experience in the cramped third-class cars — borscht and all — in his new book, Midnight in Siberia.
In her new book, The Lives of Muhammad, Boston University professor Kecia Ali discusses the different ways that Muslim and non-Muslim biographers have depicted the prophet over the centuries.
Duende Literary Journal seeks your literary and visual art for its Spring 2015 issue.
If your poetry is rough-cut diamonds, slightly off-kilter; if your fiction will make us feel more human and less alone; if you enjoy exploration of new forms at the edges of the literary universe; if you can bring us elegant translations of literature from far corners of the globe; if your nonfiction is wild and honest; if your visual art is raw and earnest, we want to see it.
Our mission is to publish work from writers and artists who are queer, of color, differently abled, immigrant, working class, youth, elder, and / or otherwise from communities underrepresented in U.S. literary magazines and journals.
Read our Fall 2014 issue and full guidelines at duendeliterary.org. Open for submissions until November 15, 2014.
Duende is edited, curated and produced by students in Goddard College’s BFA in Writing Program.
Join Red Light Lit for a magical night of erotic readings, music, and mayhem on the rooftop of Ace Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles.
Saturday, October 25th
6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles
933 South Broadway, Los Angeles
Free with RSVP.
Stuart Schuffman (aka Broke-Ass Stuart)
Wendy C. Ortiz
Special guest reader: Antonia Crane, Author of Spent: A Memoir.
Special musical guest: Sonia Rao & Angelina Moysov of Persephone’s Bees.
Mistress of Ceremonies: Jenn Stokes of Moonlighting SF
Curated by: Jennifer Lewis and Veronica Christina
Featured Artists: Celine Guillou, Kana Manglapus, Gabrielle Revere Photographer, DUSER and more.
DJ stylings: Duserock
You can purchase a print or e-book copy of Red Light Lit here.
NPR's Rachel Martin speaks with Azar Nafisi about her new book, The Republic of Imagination, a reflection on America through three of its most memorable books.
Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi talks with Rachel Martin about the difference between supermarket hummus and Middle Eastern hummus and why he doesn't like to call his cookbooks "vegetarian."
It's literary awards season. The Nobel, the National Book Awards shortlists, and the Man Booker Prize were all recently announced. Author Jason Sheehan recommends some reading on all this reading.
It's not often that a book can mix machetes with hedge funds. Then again, few industries are as chaotic, and compelling, as debt collection — which Jake Halpern's book reveals in alarming detail.
Michael Nava, Mexican-American gay lawyer of counsel to the California Supreme Court, is the winner of six Lambda awards for his mystery stories featuring Henry Rios. Michael has now published City of Palaces, the first of four volumes tracking the history of Mexican-American immigration from Mexico during and after the 1910 Revolution to the Southwestern US.
The principal figure is loosely based on the life of gay star Ramon Navarro, the first Latin film heartthrob. In this first volume Jose is born to an unlikely pair, an atheist physician and a devout Catholic aristocrat: their love story and struggles in Mexico City up to the Revolution of 1910 is deeply moving on many levels. The Lambda Literary Review called it “a magnificent contribution to American letters . . . a masterwork.”
Nava will read in Santa Fe at Collected Works, 202 Galisteo Street, at 6.00 p.m. on Thursday, 30th October 2014.
He is eager to meet with people interested in the history of the Southwest, Mexican immigration, gay history and fiction, the early film days in Hollywood, and the historical novel in general.
It’s a story as old as Tennessee’s Chickasaw Bluffs: two young lovers who plan to elope are torn apart by their disapproving families, and bloodshed ensues. What makes the title pair of Alexis Coe’s Alice + Freda Forever worth writing about is the confluence of their era and their sex. In 1892, 19-year-old Alice Mitchell slashed the throat of 17-year-old Freda Ward, whom she had planned to marry and support by posing as a man before Ward’s sister intercepted their plans and forced her to cut off contact. The murder trial drew swarms of national reporters to Memphis, where Mitchell’s lawyers built a successful insanity defense on the premise that her belief that two women could live together as spouses was itself delusional.
It should be admitted that, as attempted by these two particular women, it probably was. They chose tissue-thin pseudonyms and planned to be married by Ward’s family reverend. Ward encouraged the attentions of a male suitor throughout their engagement, while Mitchell periodically threatened violence against herself, her girlfriend, and the would-be beau. Pare away the context and you have the story of a teenage girl being stalked and murdered by her jealous ex—hardly the stuff of the romantic formula on the cover.
But for Coe, the context is where much of the action is. She closely follows Lisa Duggan’s expansive 2000 treatment of the case, Sapphic Slashers: Sex, Violence, and American Modernity, in framing Mitchell and Ward’s story against concurrent developments in journalism, medicine, racial justice, and the whole of American progress.
Whereas Duggan took an explicitly academic tack, Coe’s book is published by an imprint specializing in “juicy nonfiction” for the 16+ market. In this format—complete with Sally Klann’s notebook-doodle-style illustrations and cursive reproductions of archival letters—the doses of academese she retains are sometimes jarring. Chapters tend to run aground on blandly unexceptionable statements such as “Mass media played an influential role in regulating the boundaries of American modernity,” which read as if written to satisfy a term-paper requirement. Other arguments feel overblown, as when Coe posits Mitchell as “a gendered threat to white men’s authority” that “served as a dire call to claim what belonged to them.” However true this may be in the abstract, there is little hint in the discourse of the day that Mitchell was seen as anything other than a deranged oddity on her way to safe confinement, and Mitchell herself was so obsessively focused on her single love as to void all questions of political identity.
There was, however, a lot going on in Memphis in 1892, to the extent that one hopes the inevitable next rendition of this tale will come in the form of historical fiction. For instance, Mitchell’s stay in jail overlapped with the confinement and lynching of three African-American grocers arrested for defending themselves when a mob led by a white competitor broke into their store. The case spurred then-local journalist and activist Ida B. Wells to access greater depths of outrage in her writing, which in turn incensed the white reading public enough to burn down the offices of her newspaper. Meanwhile, the judge who heard Mitchell’s case was pulling double duty as head of the local Klu Klux Klan. Clearly, Southern white men of the time did perceive themselves to be under attack—but not, primarily, from murderous lesbians. Instead, their benevolent sexism towards white women made the gentlemen of the jury easily susceptible to the argument that Mitchell was a victim of insanity, passed down, the defense’s medical experts theorized, from a mother who suffered what doctors today would call post-partum depression.
It’s unclear how much attention Ward, Mitchell, and their friends would have paid to this racial violence. Their correspondence, liberally quoted in Alice + Freda Forever, betrays little knowledge of the world at large. What it does reveal—through Coe’s sympathetic curation and commentary—is just how stifling late adolescence was for these women, caught in limbo between the leniency of childhood and the looming obligations of marriage and motherhood.
To occupy their days, they drifted into realms of playful fantasy: tracking the great actresses who stopped through town, penning unserious letters to men who placed newspaper personal ads, and striking up platonic same-sex courtships so common that there was a term for them—”chumming,” used to describe a demonstrative but unthreatening affection between girls. Given these pastimes, it’s not so hard to imagine how the romantic scenario Alice Mitchell dreamt up for herself could have come to seem real. Her society paid little enough attention to the mental and emotional lives of its young women. Coe affectingly conveys the tragedy that this neglect never quite amounted to the freedom to slip away.
Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis
By Alexis Coe
Hardcover, 9781936976607, 224 pp.
Eric Kaplan's son had a zoo trip canceled because one mom worried about reindeer-induced questions. So Kaplan, a comedy writer and philosophy grad student, started pondering the puzzle of St. Nick.
It’s tempting to over-intellectualize the work of French novelist and photographer Hervé Guibert. Guibert saw his heady friend, the theorist Michel Foucault, almost every day from 1977 to 1984. Then, much to the chagrin of others, Guibert fictionalized Foucault’s AIDS-related death in To the Friend Who Did Not Save May Life (1990). To the Friend is one of Guibert’s last novels and the novel which made him a literary cause célèbre in France. Guibert died of AIDS shortly after a suicide attempt in 1991.
Guibert also had had an earlier and rather difficult rapprochement with another older gay intellectual—the theorist Roland Barthes. Like Barthes, Guibert often wrote about photography and about the body. Like Barthes, he often wrote in a form consisting of “fragments”— paragraphs isolated one from the other, sometimes single sentences, sometimes even sentence fragments.
It’s just as tempting to romanticize the work of Hervé Guibert. Guibert had a beautiful face but, at the same time, suffered from a concave chest. Guibert was a gay man of his time, “highly sexed” and “promiscuous,” but at the same time, Guibert shunned popular gay culture and lived instead a rather unconventional artist’s life. To add to the romanticization factor, Guibert was also a difficult person. That didn’t keep him from having lovers, though, including a long-term relationship with a bisexual—“T.,” as Guibert usually refers to him in books. The relationship between T. and Guibert was so central to both of their lives that Guibert was close to T.’s other lover, a woman, and their two children.
Add to the above the fact that Guibert wrote. Guibert wrote a lot. He wrote so much that many of his novels remain untranslated and the newly-translated Mausoleum of Lovers: Journals 1976—1991 (Nightboat Books, translation Nathanaël) weighs in at over 500 pages. With few exceptions, each of those pages is beautifully filled with the kind of highly wrought language Roland Barthes himself considered literature. But while Mausoleum decidedly advances Guibert’s reputation as a novelist and photographer, and as an intellectual, the final effect of Mausoleum is the force of Guibert’s humanity, his wisdom and sometimes, even, a glimmer of his dark-hearted sense of humor. Mausoleum of Lovers also contains a good deal of sadness, as when Guibert writes, “No longer enough muscles to walk without difficulty in a headwind.”
The poet Wayne Kostenbaum has written that Roland Barthes’ books “can’t be skimmed or summarized.” It seems to me the same can be said of Guibert’s Mausoleum. I am, nevertheless, going to give it a good old college try.
In Mausoleum of Lovers Guibert addresses an array of subjects: AIDS; aging; dreams (35 entries concern dreams in the first 200 pages alone); his thoughts on whatever book he was reading (books by Musil, Isherwood, Guide, Hamsun, Bernhard…); his ideas for prospective novels—some of which he had the time to write and many more which he only hoped to; his observations on daily life in Paris, including a lot of cruising on the bus and the Metro; his travels, which afford him glimpses of gay life in places like pre-glasnost Eastern Europe. He also revisits the many leitmotifs he established in his many novels—himself, his conflicted relationship with his parents, his ambitions as a writer, his love affairs, his preoccupation with the life of the blind (which grew to include his own impending AIDS-related blindness), suicide, and the daily life of his two sick and aging great-aunts.
Shot through all these subjects is Guibert’s aesthetic, an artistic means by which he sought to empty himself, to spill the beans, all the beans, his own beans and the beans of others, and, thereby, achieve catharsis. “I empty myself slowly,” Guibert writes early on in Mausoleum. “I exploit myself.” Also overriding many of Mausoleum’s entries are Guibert’s penchant for transgressiveness, a penchant brought on in part by his admiration of Jean Genet.
There is, thus, much violence, both real and/or imagined, and much lusting after jail-bait, both real and/or imagined, in these journals. There is a good deal of drugs too. The extent to which the violence and taboo sex and drugs are real or imagined are often left up to the reader’s trust in what is, in true transgressive fashion, an unreliable narrator, a narrator who often writes to achieve a dark and hallucinatory effect—verisimilitude be damned.
But what about the humanity and wisdom? The humor? It’s best here to let Guibert to speak for himself through a few passages from Mausoleum.
As to Guibert’s difficult lack of sentimentality and concomitant humanism:
My relations with my parents have been reduced to expressions of care, fear, reciprocal worry. I am extremely cold with them, they don’t dare ask me any questions. But I think: just letting them see me, and still alive, is the greatest gift—the only one—that I can grant them.
Z. asks me what drives me to take these photos of my great-aunts, first I say love, then I say, “What can you do, I nonetheless have something of an attraction for that almost moribund flesh.”
Writing is my faculty for love, my human faculty.
As to Guibert’s philosophical bent, and as to his wisdom, which is often expressed in aphorisms:
Jealousy isn’t only malicious paranoia, it is also a sort of homage.
Dinner with Philippe is the thing that relaxes me the best…. To see T. is a pleasure of another order, obviously more profound, but also darker (more available to darkenings), more susceptible, more rigid (difference between love and friendship?).
The only way to master time is work.
The worst is experienced in dreams to lessen the worst of life.
And as to Guibert’s humor, his occasional lightheartedness and self-deprecation:
At the back of a small car with a white eight-month-old Labrador, he has an erection, he stuffs his tongue into my ear; it had been a long time since I had been made love to so well.
T.’s daughter stumbles upon fellatios in a magazine and says that these people are eating carrots.
On Christmas Day, my sister …announced to me that she intended to call her son Hervé ….I had always considered my sister to be a balanced person.
A word, in closing, about the form: A journal is in a way a fractured or unfinished memoir. And as we know from the many recent controversies surrounding the veracity of memoirs, memoirs often have some element of fictionalization in them. Mausoleum of Lovers is to some extent best understood as a fictionalized memoir or, indeed, a novel. Mausoleum, in other words, is replete with narrative threads. As Guibert’s great-aunts age, for instance, his own health declines and he begins to feel as though he’s aged. In the process, he develops a greater communion with his aunts.
And just as Guibert choose to begin Mausoleum of Lovers with an entry that describes the book as a place where T. “could come and read, at any moment, in my absence,” it ends with this tortured entry concerning his beloved T.: “T. cried in my arms, on my bed, it was worse than the suffocation I had around my heart after having had my lung pierced with a syringe.”
The Mausoleum of Lovers: Journals 1976–1991
By Hervé Guibert
Translation by Nathanaël
Paperback, 9780062225061, 584 pp.
A son with cerebral palsy inspires a new way to think about imperfection, exaltation and love in a new memoir by Brazilian novelist and screenwriter Diogo Mainardi.
Blake Butler's new novel, 300,000,000, is not for the squeamish. This portrait of a serial killer and the detective who hunts him will curdle the blood — and possibly the soul — of any reader.
Author Garth Nix returns to the world of the Old Kingdom with Clariel, the story of a young woman of great magical power who, denied the freedom to live as she wants, chooses a dangerous path.
In his second poetry collection, The New Testament, Jericho Brown weaves together strains of religious invocations with his uneasy identity as a southern, gay, black man into a beguiling self myth.
The Round Up is looking for your finest gritty flash fiction of 1000 words or less for our special “Flasher’s Edition” of the Round Up. The deadline is November 15th.
For more information and guidelines please visit here.
Oscar Pistorius, superstar athlete, was back in court this week for his sentencing hearing, after a culpable homicide conviction. Journalist Mandy Wiener says his case reminds her of a favorite book.
The art of letter writing is also an act of preserving history. The correspondences gathered in the book Letters Of Note tell stories of delight, hope and loss — and the nature of human connection.