Issue 161 | March/April 2016
"What if the critics had to 'fess up and tell the public what exactly, for them, in a woman writer or performer -- in a woman, period -- constitutes being likable? Just what characteristics do you, the critic, need in order to feel that you can relate to her? Name them, and let's see what that says about you. How are those needs different from what you need to relate to a male character or artist? Must you always 'relate' on a personal level to appreciate? Is 'emotional vulnerability' always a virtue? And again, how do you define that? There are many styles of vulnerability, but fewer of them are allowed to women. What do your needs, as a critic, a reader's needs, reveal about you intellectually, emotionally, socially? With Negroland, it's worth charting this in terms or racial difference too, and the intellectual and emotional expectations that stirs up."
"It is easy for the affluent, the winners in the global capitalist game, who move freely with capital, to think that nations are slippery and obsolete as they hop from airport to airport unimpeded. Why would they not? But for the guy with a Third World passport, the guy with the long beard, the guy who doesn't speak with the right accent, the guy whose bank account has one zero or he doesn't have a bank account at all, the nation is very much alive. Look at the rhetoric in Europe and in America today and try to tell me we are in some post-national phase. Look at the xenophobia that flares up in South Africa from time to time, and you quickly see that this is stuff for the elites, not for the rest of us, the great unwashed masses at the bottom of the food chain, who feel its (the nation's) boot on our face. The nation is still an important construct (real or imagined) by which we order the world around us and, more importantly, by which power interacts with her subjects, and, as such, the novel will continue to respond to its continued existence/influence."
"The violence in Somalia, like the violence in Syria over the past year, should make it clear that contemporary local or regional conflicts are usually the manifestation of events, actions, decisions, and linkages that are global in reach and origin. No place in the world is immune. Violence in Somalia -- or Syria -- is directly linked to policy decisions made by the leaders of other countries, to networks utilized by international arms dealers, to ideologies that link people across the globe, and so forth. Refugees thus are fleeing not just a local crisis, but rather are fleeing a place made unlivable by a toxic conflagration produced by global interconnections and factors. Refugees are ordinary people who led ordinary lives before war destroyed their communities. They are doing whatever they can to keep their families safe."
"I also saw a TV news report about a man who'd had a spell put on him by his wife after he had cheated on her. The man woke up with a small wound in his chest out of which flowed not blood, but water. The man was interviewed on television, wrapped in a soaking wet blanket. Though I guess he must have transformed into a river by now. I suspect Angola must be a country with vast rivers, given the frequency with which men betray their wives. And given the power of those wives."
Take Frank Lima (1939-2013): a New York City-born protégé of Frank O'Hara and Kenneth Koch during the 1960s who truly came from "the streets," complete with bad habits ranging from petty crime to heroin use and alcoholism. His early work startled readers with its upfront presentation of these matters, along with a thorough routing of the incestuous and sexually promiscuous home environment in which he came of age. In Lima's case, however, his early books and presence among the very-in-crowd of fellow poets and artists in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world just wasn't enough to secure him a long-lasting wide readership. He eventually ceased writing poetry for a number of years, until he unleashed a surprising flourish of writing beginning in the 1990s, right up until his death in 2013. A reappraisal of his work is long overdue.
Patrick James Dunagan
"A preview of United States of Japan was published on Tor.com recently and someone asked if I felt the internment of Japanese Americans would justify America losing to the Japanese Empire. There's no way I could ever feel that. But at the same time, I wanted to convey the complexity and the horrors of what [the character] Kujira describes as choosing between 'the horrible and more horrible.' Under an authoritarian system -- independent of ethnicity or race -- how do you handle making such horrible choices? How does that shape and inform your whole value system?"