Georgie’s apartment hovers over the corner of 13th and Spruce like a brick exclamation point, between Pine’s sleepy antique shops and the tattooed disinterest of South. When she bought it, they toasted her new life: the boutique she was about to open, the marriage. The exclamation then was: the world is kind enough to allow all things! The boutique closed after ten months of vacuuming the carpet early. The marriage ended after five months of fretful sex. The exclamation now is: I am petrified!
“To life.” Michael lifts his glass.
To life, the party replies.
Dinner begins. The plate of bread circumnavigates the table. The table is round, so no one sits at the head. Or everyone does, Michael thinks, slicing into the butter. Because it is a good dinner party, food is beside the point. Who cares what Georgie served? Vegetable lasagna and heirloom whatnot. A breathtaking salad.
Sarina taps salt from a reindeer shaker. “Salt,” she says, “is a combination of sodium and chloride. They are considered the bad boys of the periodic table. I learned that from our science teacher.”
“It is also what you give people who’ve recently moved into a house,” Ben says. “For luck in fertility. Or a seasoned life. One of those.”
Claudia gives a clipped ha-ha. “Who can afford a house?”
2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Feature image by Gina Beavers, courtesy Retrospective Gallery.
Novels are not bound by the rules of reportage. Far from it. They’re predicated on delivering experience. Of course, they seem to abide by certain basic rules, but these are no more restrictive than the law of gravity is in constraining the variety of living things on the planet. By delivering experience, novels can alter the stance we adopt toward news—not much, I’m sure, but they can make it a little more difficult for us to consign “other people” to our tidy boxes. — How Do You Know?, Jonathan Lee interviews Zia Haider Rahman - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
This fall Guernica will be celebrating our 10th Anniversary and publishing our first print edition, The Guernica Annual. Come celebrate the little magazine that could by hanging with us at our favorite bar on a summer day, listening to the musical tastes of our literary friends, playing shuffleboard, drinking beer & wine, and getting down with your bad self! Dogs and human friends welcome, so get the gang together and come on down!
Tickets will go up to $25 at the door, so get yours here!
I think most people do not imagine how things can change. In Detroit, there are community gardens that are only an indication that the country is coming back to the city. And that is something that actually is necessary to stop the real imminent danger of the extermination of our planet. When I came to Detroit, if you threw a stone up in the air it would hit an autoworker on its way down. A few years after that, if you threw a stone in the air it’d hit an abandoned house or a vacant lot on its way down. And most people saw those vacant lots as blight. But meanwhile during World War II, blacks had moved from the South to the North. And they saw these vacant lots as places where you could grow food for the community. And so urban agriculture was born. And that came about not because anyone planned it, but because the vacant lots, produced by abandonment, created the opportunity for bringing the country back into the city, and actually saving the planet in the process. — Small Rebellions, Michelle Chen interviews Grace Lee Boggs - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Making this year’s tour through the MLA got me thinking, oddly enough, about The Jam, a mod revival group that thrived two decades after the first mods appeared, and my favorite band in early adolescence. In some ways it was a typical obsessive adoration, though through the years—today I’m forty-four—I’ve kept on listening, I think because they provided me my first experience of kinship with a subculture and of resisting the mainstream. I was a mildly privileged white American teen from New Haven, Connecticut, with little standing in the way of a comfortable youth. I wasn’t a working-class Brit seeking an alternative path to upward mobility, as the first mods generally were. No “foreman Bob” was pushing me around at work, as “Billy Hunt,” The Jam’s great song of workplace disgruntlement, complains about. In fact, I was more likely on track to become the sort of proper white-collar conference-attending sod at which The Jam hurled invective (“And if I get the chance, I’ll fuck up your life!” frontman Paul Weller screams at the corporate cog “Mr. Clean”). I responded to mods so forcefully at fourteen because they looked cool but weren’t all that threatening; they allowed me to identify with insurrectionary power and restlessness without requiring me to relinquish the comforts of accessible and formally satisfying tunesmithing. Weller fumed and caterwauled at the microphone and his trio spat out rebellious mini-manifestoes, but the songs themselves were tightly crafted and salable pop gems. In other words, they attacked the world of adult attainment but left it delicately rather than grossly transformed.
Conferences remind me a little of those rock bands that want to thrash, yet also yearn, as they grow older, for a little respect and attention from the mainstream (if you’ve ever seen Aerosmith play “Dream On” for MTV’s 10th anniversary, backed by a full orchestra, you know what I’m talking about). The Jam, and the first-generation mods after whom the band was patterned, serves today as an intriguing analogue to the academic world of literary studies on display at the MLA: both perform balancing acts, between subversion and rebellion on the one hand and professional respectability on the other. Mods and literary academics are caught between the allure of wildness, ingenuity, and nonconformity and the desire for some sort of stability, recognition, and achievement.
Going Underground, by Raphael Allison - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Feature image by Sarah Awad.
They were a bad luck family. The Tongs’ daughter had been struck by a seizure while planting rice, and though the water had been shallow, she’d been alone and had drowned. Afterwards, Fushan had returned home from Nanjing to help his parents, but despite being an educated man with a good salary, had not been able to find a wife, and now the family name would die out. These acts of fate were inexplicable. The Tongs were honest people who worked hard. They shared with their neighbors in lean times and had always repaid favors. In any person’s life it was possible to find tragedy, but in some equal measure, also happiness. The Tongs were out of balance. There, looking at the corpse, an old farmer named Lung Bonu, whose family had lived in the mountains for five generations, theorized that a Tong ancestor had acted in bad faith during his life and his family was still paying off his accounts. — Switchback, 1994, by Jack Livings - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Like a pair of cats, sexed. Lesbian said everyone but us.
We swung Lycra-packed thighs over loaded crossbars.
We ferried into America on the pitch of the same folksong.
Our nervous joke, Louisiana’s downhill all the way.
West, our first direction, was sameness unraveling.
Compulsively, I put on a girly top and asked do I look fat?
Cycling century days unfit, you threw my favourite D. de M.
off a bridge. Too much weight: books, Jung, romance.
We lugged into unmarked woods, unlocked churches,
unpacked disdain for hot-water campers. Mid-week,
you lost the taste for fresh food and antiperspirant.
What now? I asked a supper of day-old doughnut.
Your exhausted look: we kill the Buddha of our culture.
You bitched out history, shook its dust from your up-spiked do.
I combed out long-haired poems, dredged up bolts of muslin.
Five days to cleave across New England. In Champlain,
you cheered this trip erases, crotch-first but my leg was sad
hambone. A portentous housefly licked a bead of blood.
Remember the antique car parked next to the model rocket?
That was a hasty decision, a lifetime of fidelity and distance.
In our last camp, I was a stack of water-damaged hymnals.
In the pews, you sang a feast of sacrilege.
Without us, a road slid down the map to New Orleans.
Like an egg thrown against a wall-atlas, broken just because.
Originally published at Guernica.
In Funeral Art (1971), with a bit of dark humor, Paulo Bruscky announced his own funeral as an artist, transporting a coffin with canvases to a gallery. Local newspapers were amused and called the action an exhibition. At the end, spectators were handed prayer cards and candles. It could not have been a more literal interpretation of Roland Barthes’s The Death of the Author, the seminal text that challenged the notion of authorship, and with which Bruscky was familiar. For him, this newfound and freeing perspective on art became a tool against political violence: he realized that the ephemeral art he was making could be both conceptually and politically liberating.
The Unlearning, by Tatiane Schilaro - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
The necking couple at 13th and Spruce has fogged up most of the Honda’s windows. The man presses his lips against the woman’s neck, her earlobe. Her eyes are closed, but she leans forward as if straining to see something through the misted window, Ben Allen perhaps, who is several yards away coaxing the last drag from his cigarette. Ben had been about to leap the stairs to Georgie’s house when he caught sight of the pawing couple. He watches until nostalgia forms in his lower gut—he once made slow work of someone’s neck, but whose? Certainly not Annie’s—but not long enough to be a cad. He takes Georgie’s steps in two leaps, as usual the last to arrive. His sanctified role in this group is showing up unforgivably late but armed with a story of what kept him that is so compelling he is at once forgiven. — 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas, by Marie-Helene Bertino - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics