Mixed4ColumnsDoes it work? Yes and no. Gaitskill’s legendary style is narcotic, her fictions hallucinatory, as the real often is. Her clarion sentences of constellated imagery drop you into that \'deep, soft core that everyone longs for, too deep for games or even words\' ... If guilt pervades The Devil’s Treasure—white guilt, but also the guilt of a novelist using real lives as artistic material—it also propels its fragmented form. The book’s fictive-critical hybridity is a call-and-response with the self: passages from novels are answered by elucidations of the origins of their writing. That these explanations are often unsatisfying is where the trouble (but also the book) begins ... More unsettling than such au courant questions of novelistic appropriation (cultural or otherwise) is Gaitskill’s unnuanced balancing of disparate forms of violence in her larger accounting. In the hegemonic order she assails (but does not quite analyze), both systemic anti-Black racism and sexual violence are her focus, yet her squaring of them remains odd ... Gaitskill herself skirts any survey of colonial hegemony and racial capitalism but brings up Ta-Nehisi Coates’s recent memoir, comparing his childhood terrors to hers. As elsewhere, this balancing of experience feels inexpert, erroneous. Her fiction excels at showing how vulnerable people navigate those systems of supremacy that would (and do) harm them with startling nuance—perhaps resistance can only look like perversity within a crushingly perverse hegemony—but her commentary reveals an obdurate refusal to think systematically, an aversion that reads like an all-too-familiar blindness ... As I moved through the book—often exhilarated by the novel excerpts, discomfited by the annotations that followed—I wished Gaitskill had developed her feelings in fiction or a likewise singular narrative ... the fragmented form feels like no form at all.
Dubravka Ugresic, trans. by Ellen Elias-Bursać
PositiveMousse Magazine[Ugrešić\'s] title is operative. If Despentes’s and Russell’s books are concerned with bodies rising out of the vicious requirements of the binary, Ugrešić is concerned with the skins such bodies, and their body politic, wear ...The fierceness of her critique resides in such literary understatement ... Ugrešić writes about time, slowness, fiction, labor, cinema, social contracts, the global grind of criminality, and daily life in the post-Soviet Balkans. At the surface of her observations, on their skin, is the pallor of the misogyny uniting the mafioso autocrats of so many post-democratic states. Indeed, the title The Age of Skin suggests to me nothing so much as Trump’s crackly orange hew, Johnson’s wan pastiness, Bolsonaro’s clamminess, Putin’s buffed and cold visage, et al.
Madeline Gins, Ed. by Lucy Ives
Rave4 Columns...a startling collection of essays, novels, artist books, and poems, edited by Lucy Ives, makes clear that Gins didn’t go for rote lyrical (or anti-lyrical) celebrations of language or comforting social narratives, but had more pressing goals. Employing a language equal parts phenomenology and microbiology, domestic-architectural intimacy and linguistic voracity, Gins’s literary ambition was nothing short of immunity ... Gins writes with an environmental foresight and formal virtuosity that can feel prophetic. Her texts—even with their midcentury cadences and wry urbanity, their suburban pathos and ludic conceptualism; Gertrude Stein seems the mothership, here—describe the perceiving reader/writer body’s interface with its environment as a kind of lungs, in which each thing, every particle, is taken in and breathed back out. Strange, then, how this writer-architect celebrated for attempting to design immortality magnifies in her writing the molecular moment, the myriadly coded present in all its tactility, puzzles of smell, and many small moves: reading, writing, eating, waiting, scratching, breathing. In a world tilted toward future gains, to futures in every sense, Gins’s literary oeuvre feels deeply anchored in the extant and its most proximate locales of isolation and communion.
Ingeborg Bachmann, Trans. by Philip Boehm
Rave4 ColumnsBachmann’s moral seriousness, modernist and primeval, is nowhere in doubt, nor is her terror: it rides her language (burning and cooling, by turns) into strange dialectical valleys, up Alpine peaks, into labyrinthine Viennese apartments and sardonic lakeside villas. It strands the reader in transparent waters of time and place (some fairy-tale, primordial past; postwar Austria; a later economic miracle of technology and capital) but also in darker, wetter, more damaging questions of morality. Bachmann’s anxiety is moral, her clarity and lack of clarity moral, intimations of violence moral ... But Malina is also, at times, hilarious ... There is something skinless about Bachmann’s writing, it has no cover.