Posts by: Jesse Nathan

Chasing J.X. Williams: The Rumpus Interview With Noel Lawrence

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J.X. Williams directed 54 feature films, wrote 78 screenplays, and compiled an FBI file 6,000 pages long. Noel Lawrence has poured his life into the maintenance and curation of the J.X. Williams Archive, a vast and unsettling collection of photos, documents, and ephemera that tell in fragments the story of Williams’ life.

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Elena Dmitrievna Diakonova a.k.a. Gala Dali

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Artists are fickle, except when they’re not, and then their lovers are. Elena Dmitrievna Diakonova was born in Tatarstan, Russia to a family of intellectuals — as a kid she hung out with future poet Marina Tsvetaeva. (Tsvetaeva would write in 1938 “I have no need of holes / for ears, nor prophetic eyes: / […]

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A Novel, A Junta, A Murdered Bishop

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A book—that’s an artifact, often long, filled with deep analysis, and pages, and made of paper—by Francisco Goldman undoes an electoral campaign, triggers assassinations, and drags its author into a political minefield in Guatemala. But can the tome bring closure to the eleven-year old investigation into the murder of human rights champion Bishop Juan Gerardi? […]

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Feverish

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“Fever Dreams at the Crystal Motel” is the name of Laurel Nakadate’s new show, opening this Thursday at Leslie Tonkonow in New York City. Nakadate’s work hurls us into discomfort and the awkwardness of lust—read about it in The Rumpus interview with Nakadate. “I’m not turned on by danger,” says Nakadate, “I’m turned on by […]

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STORIES WE RECOMMEND: “The Mourning Door”

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Nearly a decade after Ploughshares published it, Elizabeth Graver’s short story “The Mourning Door” remains shrouded in a slippery surrealism that’s at once impenetrable and, simultaneously, the source of the piece’s staying power. In it, Graver’s pregnant narrator discovers a tiny human hand in her bed. Then she finds a shoulder in the laundry. Next […]

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Strunk and White take it on the chin

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The Elements of Style, the classic writing handbook by E.B. White and William Strunk, Jr., just turned fifty. The New York Times celebrated by posting the opinions of five “experts” on its blog about the book. All of them turn their nose up at the book’s style and substance and so… it’s no surprise the […]

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Florida’s Torture Chamber for Delinquent Boys

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For 109 years, Florida has sent bad boys to the Florida School for Boys–for things like rape and assault, yes, but also for petty infractions like truancy or smoking in the bathroom, or sometimes because the state wanted an easy solution to a kid with no parents. A long overdue spotlight has been directed onto […]

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The End of Mass Media

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“Once Al Gore gets the fiber optic highways in place,” writes Crichton, “and the information capacity of the country is where it ought to be, I will be able, for example, to view any public meeting of Congress over the Net. And I will have artificial intelligence agents roaming the databases, downloading stuff I am […]

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True/Slant/Hmmmm

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It’s worth applauding the creative efforts behind True/Slant. It’s a website founded by a former AOL executive who’s hired 65 “knowledge experts.” “Knowledge experts,” in this context, means professional journalists or commentators, some of whom work for the New York Times, the Financial Times, or Rolling Stone. Each member of this array of writers files […]

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Across the Harbor, Silver-Paced… and Soon Defaced?

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Decades ago, Hart Crane wrote “To Brooklyn Bridge,” his most famous poem. “And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced / As though the sun took step of thee, yet left / Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,– / Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!” Crane would be appalled to learn, then, that the Brooklyn Bridge will […]

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Show Your Work!

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Matthew Zapruder proposes we meet the current explosion of variety coursing through contemporary poetry head-on with a new kind of criticism. Zapruder wants critics to talk a little less about what the poem said and a little more about how the poem said it.

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Be Knocked Flat

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Poetry readings are notorious for putting audiences to sleep. Which is why Poems Out Loud‘s devotion to the notion of experiencing poetry read aloud—and read well—is so thrilling. The site was inspired by Robert Pinksy’s just-published book Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud. Not to be confused with slam or spoken […]

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Best American Nonrequired Blog

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The Best American Nonrequired Reading, edited by Dave Eggers, is compiled by a team of high school students who spend the year reading everything they can get their hands on. The students debate the merits of the year’s crop of both fiction and nonfiction and, in the end, they come out with an eccentric anthology […]

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A Jittery Spoonful of Surrealism

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Monkeybicycle.net is the punchy literary magazine edited by Steven Seighman and Eric Spitznagel. The mag publishes writers like Tao Lin and Ryan Boudinot, and the piece on the site’s main page, “Wish” by Mike Valente, is representative of Monkeybicycle’s aesthetic. “Wish” is a jittery spoonful of surrealism that lives at the corner of poetry and […]

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Jesse Nathan: The Last Book I Loved

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How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone by Sasa Stanisic was the last book I love love loved. It’s explosive, a text that’s sinewy and daring. It tears open the marks left on the narrator during the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 90s. The chapters are introduced Twain-style–like this one called, “How sweet dark […]

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Beautiful Booze Hags

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In a flash that’s maybe as much prose poem as it is non-fiction (does it matter?), John Griswold injects us into a scene at the end of a man’s life. Three waitresses at the restaurant where the man ate every day for eight years show up at his bedside. The man has no breath to […]

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How Not to Lie

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Alexei Tsvetkov calls Prague “a place where you wait for something to happen.” It’s from there he wrote this dispatch on the occasion of his recent (somewhat permanent) departure. It’s a meandering, dreamy piece drifting between nostalgia and a hard-nosed hope. For twelve years, a fifth of his life, Tsvetkov had planted roots in this, […]

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Words Before the Doors Close

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For a certain segment of the American Mennonite population, a segment whose ancestors passed through and lived in Germany, the language of the old country was low German. Low German’s Jewish counterpart is Yiddish–and it even sometimes sounds like it. Last March, Der Bote, then one of the last three remaining German language Mennonite periodicals […]

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A Change in the Air?

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“Something is happening in artists’ studios: a shift of emphasis, from surface to depth, and a shift of mood, from mania to melancholy, shrugging off the allures of the money-hypnotized market and the spectacle-bedizened biennials circuit.” So wrote New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl six months ago in a review that’ll likely prove seminal. It’s […]

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Yelling ‘Bout Yelp

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The San Francisco-based website Yelp allows users to post reviews of businesses. The idea’s simple enough: trust consumers to tell you the truth about the kind of service you’ll get at this or that restaurant, or the kind of waits you’ll experience at this or that tire shop. Yelp reviews can send a formerly obscure […]

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The Bin Laden Machine

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Only a few genetic lines–the Hapsburgs, the Hans, the Roosevelts, for instance–have shaped geopolitics as much as the Bin Ladens. In his NYRB review of Steve Coll’s The Bin Ladens, Frank Halliday details Coll’s methodical deconstruction of the inner workings both of this filthy rich family and the Saudi society that gave it wings. Halliday […]

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Agents of Information

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The Internet was supposed to wash away the walls governments use to keep information from the people. But the Web is a resource and, like oil or art or love, corporate hands have capitalized in every way they can. While companies like Google and Microsoft help shuttle info at light-speed around the globe, they’re also […]

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Random Brilliant Ephemera

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“I won’t pretend to specialize or present myself as an expert in anything,” says Luc Sante, introducing his blog, Pinakothek. “Subjectivity is my middle name, a trick memory is my pack mule, and self-contradiction is my trusty old jackknife.” Sante proceeds to dazzle with a stream of images of odd, out-of-the-way, intensely interesting artifacts. Each […]

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