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Prose That Swings

The Typewriter for Orchestra (1950) by Leroy Anderson, performed at “Voces para la Paz,” Músicos Solidarios, Auditorio Nacional de Música de Madrid, June 12, 2011. The soloist is Alfredo Anaya. Euphony—the music good prose makes—matters. It may be the product of rhyme; of rhythm; of consonance (“The repetition of consonants or of a consonant pattern, […]

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How Not to Respond to Hatchet Jobs

As an author who’s seen the fruit of seven years’ labor reduced to a smoking hole by a drone strike in The New York Times Book Review, I sometimes wonder why there aren’t more revenge killings by aggrieved authors. Come to think of it, I can’t recall any, which, given the nursed grudges and preening […]

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Death Sentences: How to Write Your Own Eulogy

When Peter Schjeldahl’s doctor handed him a diagnosis, in 2019, of Stage 4 lung cancer, the New Yorker art critic did what writers do: turned life into art, writing a discursive yet seamlessly joined essay, 9,000-plus words long, tracing the arc of his life (he was 77 at the time) and confronting a mortality just […]

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The Rat King

Live, now, at Boing Boing, “The Rat King: On the Fascinations (and Repulsions) of Rattus.” Click here to read. Teaser: In what he calls “an Experiment in Controlled Digression,” Mark Dery touches on xenogastronomy, ortolan, Edible Dormouse, Victor Hugo’s fondness for rat pâté, rat-baiting as a betting sport in Victorian times, the rat as New […]

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Inspector Magritte is on the Case

“Pipe Dreams: The Curious Case of Rene Magritte,” the latest in my ongoing series, “Self-Help for Surrealists,” is live at Thought Catalog. Teaser: The method Magritte used to solve his philosophical “problems,” as he called them, is a Surrealist’s idea of CSI, a combination of free association, semiotic codebreaking, and Hegelian dialectic. Bridging dream logic […]

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“Permission To Laugh: Isa Genzken’s Exceedingly Unsmiling Art”

So I was at MoMA, having just seen Magritte and, at the Morgan, Poe, when I stumbled on the Isa Genzken retrospective, a reeking midden of craptastic art-school self-indulgence. My thoughts turned to that quote from Poe’s contemporary, the critic James Russell Lowell, who called EAP “the most discriminating, philosophical, and fearless critic upon imaginative […]

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Blinded!

File under COSMIC WHIMSY: Late Thursday night, an Inbox ping alerted me to a mail from my friend Blake Leyh (@EarlOfEdgecombe), composer, sound designer, music supervisor for the HBO series Treme, and live Foley (radio play-style sound effects) artist. Would I join him onstage with THOMAS DOLBY (!), in Albany, New York, in a theater […]

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