Only the Fools: The Fable of Identity and Convention in Catherine Lacey’s “Pew”

[…] And one should always remember that what appears conventional from the outside may not be from within, and what seems radical could easily be mired in disastrous power dynamics. Some readers may find it difficult to buy into the narrator’s ambiguous identity, which is not necessarily a negative note since all fiction requires a

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Histories of Violence: America Is Not a Fascist State — It’s an Authoritarian One

JULY 20, 2020 THIS IS THE 41st in a series of dialogues with artists, writers, and critical thinkers on the question of violence. This conversation is with Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University and the author of Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present (Norton, forthcoming in 2021). I leave

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Not All Reform Will Move Us Forward: Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law Call for Restorative Justice

Why is this a wrongful assumption? VL: Restorative justice is not new. Do you see this as an additional punishment for those who are forced to incur these costs out of pocket?  MS: The fees are an additional punishment. It’s not just about bad police officers or brutal prison guards. VL: Many acts of sexual violence

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When Reform Isn’t Enough: Afropessimism’s Argument for a New Society

Wilderson also recounts his childhood and how he became an Afropessimist. Wilderson defines Afropessism, the ways it has been misrepresented and how it can shape our understanding of contemporary justice. Also, writer and translator Joyce Zonana returns to recommends Betty Smith’s classic from the 1940s, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. When Reform Isn’t Enough: Afropessimism’s

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On Afropessimism

“She knew now how it must feel to be killed by a guided missile,” Wilderson comments. Several could be said to be strongly opposed; even Derrick Bell (whom Wilderson might have suggested as a predecessor but does not cite in Afropessimism) ultimately counsels in his book’s epilogue that we move “beyond despair” and calls on

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All the Sad Clowns: On Francis Carco’s Novel “Perversity”

And yet now Bébert has reappeared. By posing the question “Was that all love was?” Emile has obliquely yet powerfully inserted into the story an ethical and emotional dimension that glimmers behind all the surface action. But Emile restrains himself, not the least because he’s afraid she will tell Bébert. Just as in the previous

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Concept Over Character

Currently, she is guiding a young revolutionary named Malcolm in a bid to stop an impending war between men and dragons. The award-winning author’s latest includes themes familiar to his readers — monsters, prophecies, burgeoning homosexuality — but this one is unique because it deals primarily with dragons. I hope Ness returns to the emotional

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Recovering Queer Identities

Female Husbands is ultimately a history of how female-assigned individuals successfully and happily lived as men, married as men, loved as men, and even died as men. In other cases, biological sex was claimed to take precedence over gender identity. Manion comes to similar conclusions throughout Female Husbands, claiming that some cases contain evidence of

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When the Chronically Ill Go into Remission: Filmmaker Jennifer Brea’s Life After “Unrest”

The clinical trial was, I believed, my best hope for relief from the ardors of a pain that, while not indescribable, often challenges my abilities as a writer — an anvil dropped on the foot that crushes it to powder. I want to talk to her about this. My mother, who watched the film with

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The Virtue in Violence

She is left trying to divide one kind of life force from another in an impossible task. Another is to understand the relationship of violence and nonviolence as that between death and life. Yet “grievability,” as the prospective consciousness of another’s death rather than one’s own, ends up becoming little more than a morbid vision

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Do More Than No Harm: On Judith Butler’s “The Force of Nonviolence”

Perhaps it is unjustified to say that there are bigger things at issue than violence and nonviolence, especially considering the book’s title and evident focus. “Some abiding truth of infantile life continues to inform our political lives,” Butler writes, “as well as the forms of dissociation and deflection out of which phantasies of sovereign self-sufficiency

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No Single Source, No Simple Solution: A Young Mother’s Homelessness in New York City

We are reminded of Camila’s slim curves, long limbs, lashes, and hands, her good looks, sex appeal, and confidence even in the midst of deprivation. This depiction of manhood is refreshingly realistic in that it does not accept the trope of the cruel man who produces hardships through brute force. She attacks the myth that

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Part of a Larger Battle: A Conversation with Thomas Chatterton Williams

And police basically kill poor people — they break people of all colors. Now, if you’re starting a conversation about reparations, which some are trying to do, that might actually help poor black people. This is what motivates me: I define myself as a liberal, and I insist that I haven’t changed. I’ve been writing

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Is Life Worth Living?

I look at that Dad and his son walking to their car and I’m thinking maybe I’d like to paint them, and also ‘One blood demands one Reich.’” (Actually, more like a sentence that Bret Easton Ellis — stop having opinions, Bret and go back to writing novels! My question here is first about the

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Free Time and Paid Work

This is that they sentimentalize informal human relations. Some may instead consider that a better purpose for society would be to restore capitalism, so that society’s surplus product might be privately disposed over in the form of personal riches or used to glorify one or another of the religions that Hägglund rejects. Hägglund concedes the

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Free Time and Free People

And this has consequences for how we think about socialist politics, consequences to which I will now turn. Neoliberals often act as if coordination can and should crowd out all collective action. (1) Is Marx’s commitment to “the free development of individualities” identical with his commitment to individual freedom? So what is going on here?

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Socialism for Liberals

JULY 15, 2020 To find LARB’s symposium on Martin Hägglund’s This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom, click here. Rather than finding a hidden truth to these processes, Hägglund inserts a different notion of value altogether, the finite lifetime of the individual. Rather than advocate revolution and pursue the corresponding lines of analysis and organization, however, Hägglund supports

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