The common means for working overtly intellectual content into prose fiction are somewhat limited and limiting. Contemporary authors regularly give themselves space to explore ideas by suspending core narrative conventions of realism. For those who abide by the basic expectations of psychological realism, there cannot be much gap between ideas and characters having ideas. This pairing is often clumsy: each season brings a new harvest of favorably noticed but inert novels in which a smart protagonist walks around a big city thinking smart thoughts, or sits at a desk struggling to write while thinking smart thoughts.
DeWitt is regularly characterized as an unconventional author, but she defies conventions with remarkable economy. But these matters are not digressions introduced by DeWitt—their presence in her work is a natural outgrowth of her creation of intelligent, curious characters. It does not embrace the tenets, central to post-Flaubertian realism including much of contemporary American fiction , that fiction should have a carefully established, stable tone, or tell something just the right way once and only once. Her rejection of these norms is emphatic.
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DeWitt has not been satisfied to do something once. She repeats and permutes freely, and it is permutation that affords such a wide scope for developing ideas without reducing fiction to a vehicle for advancing any definite claim. This is apparent, first, across the whole body of work she has published to date.
Some Trick explores the same handful of themes as her other works—the novels The Last Samurai , Lightning Rods , and the hard-to-find Your Name Here , as well as other published stories not included in this collection. Her individual books, too, repeat and vary episodes and forms. Her job—endless in-home transcription of back issues of hobby magazines—is a nightmare of fruitless repetition. In the second half of the book, Ludo, disappointed by the mediocrity of his biological father, sets out to convince more interesting men that he is their long-lost son.
He collects a few, with varying, always fascinating outcomes. At the conclusion of the novel, Ludo commissions a pianist to make a recording of nothing but variations of a short composition. Some Trick is, like that recording, a catalogue of variations on several themes, most obviously artistic integrity.
The author Eloise, forever reworking her first novel according to the ever-shifting preferences of agents and editors, disappears from the narrative.
The Dutch author Peter Dijkstra, a man with fragile mental health and limited social graces, tries to capitalize on American enthusiasm for his work without being destroyed by the crassly economic form this enthusiasm assumes. The photographer Plantinga, by her studied avoidance of formal training, winds up with both worldly success and a true education. But taken together, they offer no very firm moral about honest work, and vary widely in tone, pace, and outcome.
Sometimes the artists are right to stick to their principles, sometimes they are not. Very often, chance simply offers something good or ill. The formal approach of theme and variations, above all, allows DeWitt to explore the role of accidents, chance, and probability in life, with the firm implication that thinking seriously about chance will unsettle common modes of moral reasoning, as well as fictional conventions.
If things can turn out many ways, there is not one correct way to tell a story, but a plurality of forms, styles, and outcomes, all interesting and mutually enriching. The formal approach of theme and variations has another happy result: it is one that appears to admit of further development, perhaps indefinitely.
DeWitt has long professed her interest in finding ways to integrate probability and statistics, data visualization, and social science into fiction. Some Trick makes modest, engaging moves in this direction, and readers should take care not to be impressed too early: DeWitt certainly has some more tricks up her sleeve. Reviewed by Sam Rowe. Her verse, sometimes messy and troubling but never boring, aims not at transcendence but at the cringe and nervous chuckle.
It finds the tender spots in gender, ethnic, and class politics and tweaks them raw. With her theatrical collaborator Lucy Beynon, she has produced a scathing attack on each of the two recent Tory prime ministers, while Anthology , a solo chapbook out this year from Materials, demonstrates her lyric talents. Jeschke is British-educated and lives in Munich. Jeschke has a gift for political slogan, as in an untitled poem addressed to the AfD:. Against the false choices proposed by the Islamophobic right, it raises a middle finger to both patriarchy and ethnic nationalism.
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A longing for bar-side companionship with the good old boys of British nationalism transmutes here into the fate of all too many migrants vanished into the drink. During the European migrant crisis, the sea has reemerged as a terrible barrier between the Global North and South, whether in the form of the Mediterranean charnel house or the heavily guarded tunnel under the English Channel.
Britain, blessed plot and island fortress, will keep its warm, flat beer to itself. The rest can drink brine. Jeschke is at her most lyrical when attacking such nationalist chauvinism. This strange image of vitality in decomposition, of hardness in relaxation, evinces just the kind of xenophilia we need now.
Much of her poetry and drama engage in a tortured meditation on the idea of retributive political violence. In David Cameron: A Theater of Knife-Songs , Jeschke and Beynon offer a kind of cabaret of edgy political monologues, many of them exploring the poetics of revanchism. The line they walk here is very thin.
As Ute demands a series of theatrical performances from her employee, work, sex, coercion, and animalization blend into one another. It is neither fully in nor fully out of the vernacular, and is somehow both crass and difficult. Against the ever-present Adornian temptation to think that poetry is implicitly political, Jeschke and Beynon seem to think that it must be made so. The genres that flourish in their writing are therefore the genres of political discourse: the slogan, the smear, the demand, the declaration of solidarity.
Unlike some pundits, however, they know both how to throw a hard punch and how to envision a better world. For American readers, at least, the name may also evoke the politically ambiguous figure of Paul Volcker, an early pioneer of monetary austerity in the Carter and Reagan administrations and a sharp critic of investment banks in the Obama administration.
Reviewed by Julian Murphet. A collection of this size and stature does more than mark a moment of consolidation, more than announce an oeuvre. Each period has its distinct pleasures and demands, and yet there are enough consistencies—of diction, syntactic torsion, tone, and voice—to navigate a movement through them that attends to their broader evolutionary arc.
This is the body convulsing, writhing in extorted Rimbaldian jouissance, under the asphyxiating pressures of a world devoid of real satisfactions. Yet just as often, the lyric affect has been so scrambled, subject to such a terrible vivisection, that it seems to have succumbed to scabrous negation. But in the early work in particular there is a countervailing and extremely productive interest in the ability to forge a new kind of lyric music out of paragrammaticality or the appearance of glossolalia.
You are as such precise in having gone to die event peed. The periods shimmer with a rhythmic energy triggered by the loosening of grammatical strings. The pulse from part of speech to part of speech is rendered ecstatic.
- Depravity: Being Honest With Sin;
- Tales of Wisdom.
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- Title 21A Zoning;
In a typical clause there is a single pivot, the verb, around which everything turns; and metrical stresses typically gravitate to those pivots. The sense is of omnipresent invisible and inaudible ellipses, an inscrutable tectonics of voices, tones, moods, and styles, working its way out underneath the familiar spill of stanzas and lines. It is not unwarranted to seize hold of the logic of such nominal phrases, and apply it to other orders of experience.
It cannot do this ex nihilo, but must work with the debased jargons of the public sphere—of advertising, politics, and the news, among others Sutherland also likes instruction manuals. Merely to harden th blow not otherwise roughly squatted to, but in they do peel off, any case of Muslim litter heads cum vaginas trees etc. Giving them free reign would amount, however, to a travesty of the poetic vocation in a world that has butchered language in order to justify butchery.
Staying true to the poetic task perversely entails its barbaric refutation, its exposure to immanent tortures by the jargons and cant of a torture-driven social order. Reading like a malfunctioning computer readout, such lines from Hot White Andy take to new lengths the Poundian tactic of extrinsic incorporation.
A stanza in the original ends:. But in the present collection, the line reads:. The unsatisfactory, halting music of the original is rendered into an epideictic hypallage; a poor cadence is remade into a vibrant sonic image of the thing being described—a mode of the beautiful itself, whose precious rarity in this long satanic ode requires careful cultivation.
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For Hot White Andy marks an epoch. The poem is itself formally heteroclite and polyphonic, moving through stage dialogue and short story modes, and lurching crazily from vicious satire to tender lyric in an arrhythmic heartbeat. All of which foments a new dispensation for the voice itself: as if the multiplication of modes and the unmooring of vocal discretion have allowed for an exponential expansion of horizons.
There is a minor movement in the later parts of the book toward a kind of meta-poetry, where individual poems begin to comment on their own forms and rhetorical operations. But the most important formal development visible on the later pages of this volume concerns the relative, and perhaps permanent, eclipse of lineation in the poems. This is not to say that he has abandoned prosody as such, as there are extremely complex rhythmic and sonic textures fretted into the resulting prose-like monoliths of text, sometimes even rhyming tetrameters—but without lineation, it is as if a certain visual logic of constipated blockage has been suffered to usurp the exquisite sound patterns.
Auden—namely, the ode. It is the mode in which he has actuated the remarkable and as yet unheralded shift from coterie poet to public poet, honing a voice through which increasingly to inveigh, accuse, and anathematize the enemy, but also to celebrate, inspire, and commemorate the resistance. What is to be done with the rise of any number of intervening mediations—institutional, structural, logical, and ideological—between the existential and the economic, in which welter the shape of the event, the occasion of exploitation, gets lost?
The ode is the lyric mode in which these wracking contradictions between private agony and public disorder can best be squared. Or, like John Milton and Wordsworth before him, gravitate toward epic. Reviewed by Kamil Ahsan. You see that crater there? That was gonna be a dam for a water reservoir. You see that pile of shining steel poles tied down with chains and locks? That was gonna be electricity. You see that shack with two buffaloes in it? Are they Arabs? An American man named Ellie who was supposed to bomb this very Camp has crash-landed nearby.
The enterprising Momo wants Bro Ali back—and Ellie is something of a bargaining chip. The culmination of the drama will arrive when we get to the Hangar. A keen reader may find reprieve in sussing out the things Hanif has left out. And Mutt?