a review of Ivan Vladislavic’s The Loss Library
The first fragment, ‘The Last Walk,’ focuses on an image. Vladislavic recalls how his eyes once alighted on a photograph, now well-known, of Robert Walser lying dead in the snow. Here the death of the author brings about the birth of writing, with Walser’s fallen, frozen figure stirring Vladislavic to ‘write a story about the last days, hours, minutes of a writer.’ But the story dies on its feet, first dispersing into digressions, then disappearing completely, just as Walser’s footprints ‘break off in mid-sentence,’ and his collapse ‘carries him onto the silence of a blank page.’ Writing is like dying and being born both at once. Like the photograph, the scene of writing is static but perfectly preserved: a circular, synchronic world in which ‘there is not much else besides snow and the body.’
read the rest at 3:AM Magazine
a review of Lars Iyer’s Dogma
Literature is hard to have done with, and Iyer isn’t the first to exaggerate a report of its death. But if Dogma doesn’t fully succeed in failing to be literature, what, in its failed failure, might it begin to become? Iyer has elsewhere espoused the idea that writers should cultivate their ‘legitimate strangeness.’ Well, what Dogma does is deepen the strangeness of Spurious. Instead of resolving the earlier work’s contradictions, it only makes them more involved, more intractable. We’ve seen how it sets itself up to fail, then fails to do that. In so doing, it doesn’t so much plumb the depths as discover a deeper depthlessness.
read the rest at The Rumpus
winner of an Electric Literature Critical Hit award, April 2012
a review of Kjersti Skomsvold’s The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am
Skomsvold’s book is nothing but a voice whose horizons coincide with those of a mind. And in its inmost intransitivity this voice finds its bedrock in what Mathea terms “totality.” Her problem is that she feels estranged from this totality, yet yearns to return to it. “Perhaps I should stop seeing myself as an individual and start identifying myself with the totality,” she thinks, “but . . . I’m about as far away from it as you can get.” Skomsvold doesn’t need to explain her character’s sense of estrangement, because the limits of the book are those of Mathea’s mind. After all, no one ever really knows why they are the way they are.
read the rest at The Quarterly Conversation
reviews of recent books by Will Wiles and Peter Gordon
I have two new pieces in print this month. The first is a review of Will Wiles’ new novel Care of Wooden Floors in the Times Literary Supplement (2 March 2012). The second is a review of Peter Gordon’s Continental Divide: Heidegger, Cassirer, Davos in issue 172 of Radical Philosophy.