“Real Pretend People”: An Interview with Justin Taylor

The characters are products of that world but they are also the justification for its existence (which I recognize is itself a thoroughly religious notion), so the characters and their world have a necessarily symbiotic relationship, which means that in order to get the story to a point of completion the characters must feel completed too. If anything else could be done with them then the story would simply not be over. But of course nothing is final, least of all completion. That’s just a noble(ish) lie we tell ourselves so we know when to turn the printer on…

Gaza, Ferguson, and the Perils of White Guilt

On Monday night, a ninety-year-old woman named Hedy Epstein in Ferguson, MO, was arrested wearing a t-shirt that said, “Stay Human.” This was the tenth day of protests over the murder of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. Epstein, a Holocaust survivor and a Jew, said of her arrest, “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I’d have to do it when I was ninety”…

Dead or in Jail: Ferguson and the Bounty on Black Life

In Ferguson we see the collapse of the urban economy and the explosion of the defense industry all in a single shot. What we see, in fact, is the buoying of our economy, and the enrichment of the 1%, at the expense of human lives, lives like Michael Brown’s. This is the family portrait of late-stage American capitalism: our weapons, deployed all over the world, have no targets left but ourselves.

Read Like an American

I recently picked up A Room of One’s Own because I am beginning to write a novel, and I was wondering if my room and income count. Do I have, quite literally, what Woolf thinks it takes to write fiction? It crossed my mind to see if, adjusted for inflation, I make enough money. What would 500 a year in 1928 be in 2014?

Spaced Out: The Other Berlin Wall

The ultimate fate of the wall is not merely to leave remnant spaces, be they lines or open squares. It is, rather, to reinforce, even in its absence, the primacy of inside over outside, of capital over province, of city over town.

Staff Picks: Ventura, The Appendix, Georges Perec

In the wake of Knausgaard’s My Struggle, it would be easy to pull a Person of the Year and inaugurate “the self” as the exemplary character of contemporary narrative. But this maneuver would too readily stoke the rage that lies beneath the widespread claim that we are all narcissists now.

Imagined Conversations (7.30.14)

D: We are giving people larger derrières.
Dr. C: They want more ethnicity.
D: If Martha Stewart can do it, anyone can do it.
A and B overhearing.
A. Can you believe that guy! I will seize my own day. Carpe penis!

Spaced Out: The Lower Depths

There is a strange word that appears in Ancient Greek literature, a verb that describes a mental process: bussodomeuō. We could translate it as “to inhabit the base” or, more succinctly, as “depth-dwelling.” Such a gloss might be the best we can do.

Imagined Conversations (7.16.14)

A: Please don’t eat me.
B: Listen, even after you’ve become a cadaver, you’re still retrievable. God is within us and he has different ways of showing it in our lives, and this is just one way of showing it.
A: Don’t eat—
B: —My friend sent you to me, assuring me that I can use you freely…

Spaced Out: The Subway Map NYC Loves to Hate

Abstract representations of space like Vignelli’s map might make the viewer imagine that she is lost in an overgrown circuit board, a geometry problem, a modern Arabesque designed to awe without representing life. Maps, after all, are always more than utilitarian schematics; at times they are expressions of faith.