In an interview aired by the Louisiana Channel, Adonis recounts memories from a simple childhood. “There was no school in the village,” he reflects on his first home, a poor Syrian farming town. “There was no electricity either.” He sketches a portrait of an uncluttered life: one without cars, or high-tech gadgets, or formal education. What he had, he testifies with a wistfulness intrinsic to his work, was his culture. “And the essence of the old Arab culture,” he asserts, “is poetry.”
Albert Camus said that to create is to live twice and, in the case of James Baldwin, this is especially evident in 2019. Why, do you ask, has Baldwin’s fiction recently been adapted into an Academy Award nominated film by Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk) while his life has inspired the art exhibition God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin curated by Hilton Als at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York City (along with accompanying film screenings). The 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro (based on Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House) was a runaway success and it seems that our appetites are barely whetted for more.
Jenkins’ latest feature, an adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk, concludes what can be considered a Trilogy of Black Masculine Intimacies. All three of Jenkins’ features assume a position about intimacy, more specifically a position about the shared romantic, albeit often warped, intimacies of Black men.
Rick Moody—acclaimed novelist, short story writer, essayist and incredibly socially and politically-conscious individual—was kind enough to speak with us regarding the impact of innovative technologies (most specifically social media) and their effects on upcoming political elections. He also discusses literature, the impetus to combine politics and aesthetics in his prose, his 2016 Election Diary and political involvement by those who dwell outside of the “process.”
When my mother first received the breaking news of Amos Oz’s passing, gasping as the Haaretz newsheadline slid across her iPhone screen, I could sense her shock from opposite Starbucks. Glancing back from the barista counter, in line for our drinks and watching her expression absorb grief from the report, I read her lips as she mouthed the headline: “Amos Oz, Author and Peace Advocate, to Be Laid to Rest.”
During the 2016 election, I worked at a large, well known national nonprofit. The organization was firmly part of the political establishment, and among my colleagues, getting tickets to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s frequently sold-out musical “Hamilton” was a marker of social status on par with visiting Cuba in the wake of the warming of Cuba-US relationships. I personally never really understood the appeal of Hamilton. It was everywhere, so I had of course listened to parts of the soundtrack, but it never appealed to me. Overdone. Corny. Yet it sparked something in others.
The first time I saw Kiki Layne perform, I was 17 years old. She was playing Oya in a production of “In The Red and Brown Water,” and I was running props backstage. I remember seeing her in this powerful role and thinking, “Wow. She is going to be famous. She has to be.” When I saw that this year, she was starring in Barry Jenkins’ newest feature film, I knew that “If Beale Street Could Talk” would be a must-see movie. I settled into a plush movie theatre seat last week and was drawn into a delicate, honest, and dynamic romantic drama that James Baldwin would have been proud to witness.
The af Klint exhibition at the Guggenheim is a sublime encounter, simultaneously entirely familiar yet alien and unexpected. Born in 1862, af Klint was a painter preoccupied with mysticism. One of the first women to receive a higher education at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, she painted commercially for money but pursued mysticism throughout her life. As a teenager, she “participated in spiritistic séances but gave them up due to their lack of seriousness” and in her 30’s she and four other female artists founded a spiritual group that met once a week. The group made contact with spiritual beings which culminated in af Klint channeling the messages she received in a collection of 193 paintings, the majority of which are shown in this exhibition.
A common refrain in current activism is “Listen to Black Women”. When the latest traumatic news cycle starts, a chorus of commentators and thinkers invariably chime in, trying to either explain or deny or commodify the moment we find ourselves in. A pervasive response? Listen to black women. This moment is a deep and long overdue reckoning that will take years to unfold - it has of course been building for hundreds of years and is so nuanced so as to require a continual deep engagement etc. But for guidance - what do we listen to? And how?
Hieroglyphics is an Oakland based hip-hop collective that has always thrive to dismantle music by tackling the social consciousness through their scrupulous wordplay. With their extensive knowledge of hip-hop, Hieroglyphics focused more on the lyrical flow rather than the gangster life and always positioned themselves as the alternative to the mainstream and this is best exemplified with their first studio album, 3rd Eye Vision.
Canals filled with turquoise water instead of streets bustling with cars and bicycles come to mind when I think of Venice. Joseph Brodsky’s essay Watermark (1993) resonates deeply with the visitor, as does a watery dream conjured by Robert Altman: I was immediately reminded of his film, 3 Women (1977) upon arrival. Brodsky only visited Venice in December for he longed to celebrate the beginning of a new year with “a wave hitting the shore at midnight.” He explained “that, to me, is time coming out of water.” Brodsky also described the city as being “part damp oxygen, part coffee and prayers” and he described the canal-side structures as “upright lace.” Brodsky, born in Leningrad, was exiled from his homeland due to his “having a worldview damaging to the state, decadence and modernism, failure to finish school, and social parasitism . . . except for the writing of awful poems” (Brodsky went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987). He thought of Venice as the closest incarnation of Eden and “the greatest masterpiece our species produced.”
There are many possible ways to make a documentary about art and money. One tack might be to focus on the question of art’s value. Where does this value lie? Is art more valuable than a house? Than liberty? A human life? These are interesting questions, but unfortunately, Nathaniel Kahn’s new documentary, The Price of Everything, barely touches on them. Another approach might be to cast a broader net, and discuss blue chip art as one of many models artists have of making money off their work: regional artists selling to a local market, performance artists living off commission, workaday artists making souvenirs for tourists. These lives are interesting too, but Kahn’s documentary makes no mention of them. One could even make a comparative study of the few activities that receive market attention versus the many that have been practiced and continue to be practiced with no relation to markets at all: hobbies, cave paintings, ritual objects, outsider and underground art, decorative doodles in the margins of notebooks. This would be a fascinating typology, but unfortunately, Kahn’s documentary does not attempt it.
Sally Field is a terrific writer, and I can’t say that I’m completely surprised: She’s been giving stunning, emotionally complex performances for nearly fifty years. Released this past September by Grand Central Publishing, In Pieces is a lengthy read — nearly 400 pages — but I could not put it down until I was finished. I loved this book. Field worked on it for seven years and it shows; this is no run-of-the-mill celebrity memoir. It is the story of an emotionally complex woman’s life, warts and all.
A well-known maxim that has been said for many generations now says that knowledge is power, and one of the ways to gain knowledge is to spend time reading books. The more books read the more knowledge one acquires. Reading is fantastic. It takes you to different dimensions. Reading builds and shapes the mind. It exposes you to worlds that you can create and to be a better writer, reading is highly necessary. Writing alone is not just an activity, it is an art and a lifestyle. You may start from being just a good essay writer or writing short poems or stories, but the art and passion for it will drive you towards exploring your creativity and imaginations beyond every limitation. These imaginations are known to be the wild and free centre of our brain, and once they are let to explore and break free from every boundary, the unique ideas manifested from within are always true gifts to the world. Writers are known to leave lasting impact and legacies in the world just by their thoughts penned down on paper. With the power of imagination, several women in time pasts have broken the norm and excelled in history as phenomenal science fiction writers.
When I first entered this exhibit, I knew only bits and pieces of Whitten’s work - namely, his use of a “developer”, a handmade canvas-sized squeegee contraption that allowed him to make a painting in a manner of seconds. His developer paintings were on display, as were his homages, and sculpture from throughout his career.
The only genuine theosophy is one wherein participants contribute toward the upgrading of three creature world so that it more closely approximates a world where no theodicy is necessary. The only genuine theodicy is one wherein one creates out of our “best of all possibility worlds" an even better world.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ nearly-packed show at Barclays Center on Friday, October 26th was electric. It was deafeningly loud and Nick was on fire, as per usual. It was more of an experience than anything else: I gritted my teeth and applauded until my hands tingled. Tall and thin with jet black hair and dressed in a fitted black suit, resembling a debonair villain of the Old West, Cave looks like an icon. Barclays is huge: It seats 19,000, and except for the rafter seats, the venue looked mostly full. These kinds of arena shows are new for Nick Cave in North America; at age 61, his fame and his audience keep growing. There are no gimmicky stage antics, just pure heart and emotion, running the gambit from sweetness to terror. The band played mostly hard rock, but Nick also sang some piano ballads like “The Ship Song” and “Into my Arms.” The emotion of the latter was breathtaking; Nick’s striking blue eyes tearing up as he sang. I was engaged on every level, even though I was seated some distance from the stage: There were two huge screens with exquisite black and white clarity so that even those sitting in the rafter seats were connected on an intimate level.
In The Great Derangement: Climate Change and The Unthinkable Amitav Ghosh sets out to comprehend our collective failure to deal with climate change. A surpassingly urgent question if the climate-stable Holocene that has cradled our civilized existence is truly at an end - and a turbulent human-driven geologic epoch, the Anthropocene, is now at hand. Ghosh takes as given that this newly proposed epoch is settled science, and while it remains contested, its markers are already real enough. They include radioactive debris and other forms of human pollution, species invasion and mass extinction, shifting weather patterns and accelerating planetary warming at a rate unlike anything observed in the previous 12,000-year geologic interval. We would add to this list the human elements that are the stuff of today’s headlines: climate refugees disrupting the world’s political orders, sparing no nation, including the USA, as caravans of the dispossessed head north.
Theater in the English speaking world is not doing well. Our dramas are suffused with hock-Freudian placidity and overwhelmingly proud of their lack of any desire to look beyond the scope of a single family or relationship between individuals. Our comedies are not funny and rarely comical in their lack of humour, while our fantasies (musical or otherwise) are limited to a slightly more functional update of the world as it stands, unsurprising given how many of them function as adaptations of Disney films that functioned, even when originally released, as soporifics. If you are looking for visions of a future world better than this one, stay as far as you can from the theaters of Broadway or the West End.
I have been counting down the days to the opening of A Star is Born, teased by the alluring trailer which so well paints the image of an enticing music-meets-love story. With the trailer flashing scenes of the talented dreamboat Bradley Cooper, fashioned like the dingy, drunken country star I always found secretly charming, and the iconic Lady Gaga flawlessly belting the earworm ‘Shallow’, I knew that this was going to be the movie to look out for. I hyped myself up for a love story full of song and fun; when I hit the theater the weekend A Star Is Born opened, I had no idea that I was headed for a nearly perfect storytelling of love, passion, sacrifice, and disease.
Paul Greenberg, a New York City writer and journalist, who has written books about fish before, takes the reader on a journey around much of the world to explore the health benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in The Omega Principle. Greenberg focuses on the subject of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and sees where it takes him. Onto many subjects and places in this trip to validate the enthusiasm the compound brings. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, found in fish but also in some nuts, is trumpeted as a medical remedy and cure helping our hearts and our minds. The enthusiasm over the find rivals that of other miracle drugs, but there are those who doubt whether it is a valid medicine. There are many though who swear by it, and Greenberg follows its use even into ancient times. He is a convert here, and fish consumer and promoter, but also an inquiring mind with great prose and refreshing use of phrases and language. Eating Omega-3 Fatty Acids maybe can be a bit of a cure all for some of our present environmental and public health catastrophe, but fish are also on the decline. A Mediterranean Diet with more fish is recommended by Greenberg who sees it also as a remedy for some of the ails of middle age.
A City on a Lake by UC San Diego History Professor Matthew Vitz tells a pained and difficult history of Mexico City. The book uses academic language and vocabulary, and references many places, things and actors from Mexico, resulting in very thoughtful treatment. The book is a history, presenting a story of the city that we can learn from. It also shows the movements and actions of the past that are still part of the cities political environment. The book recounts mostly an pre World War II history attempting to explore “Urban Political Ecology and The Growth of Mexico City.” Vitz is argument that we can learn from the past presented here.
Last Sunday evening at New York Theater Workshop, Heidi Schreck, playwright of What the Constitution Means to Me, walked on stage and the house lights dimmed imperceptibly. The confirmation hearing of, now, Justice Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court had taken place only one day prior. But Schreck doesn’t make us forget the outside; in fact, she keeps that door open and thanks us for being there during this time. This play only grows when the context of our reality bleeds into the room, it feeds on the here and now, unflinching from one of the more dire truths we find ourselves facing: the US Constitution is in need of attention and we must decide if we are to stand by it, or to cast it aside.
Where are you? Who are you? Which path did you take when you left us here alone? Why did the grass look greener? How could you run when we needed you? These and many more questions are asked by those who stayed the course. Just because you got a job and started to grow up and accept the establishment's values of what life should be didn't mean you had to abandon the moral fiber of who you once were. Assimilation into a society that put blinders on your eyes, denying the movement as though you were never apart of it, surely doesn't let your spirit rest when you remember the cause that you so fervently loved. There was a time when words were louder than actions and peace was our banner that moved like fire across a country. Who fooled you? Who coerced you into thinking you were wrong and they were right? These are questions that I am seeking as I look for the revolutionary generation that still burns in my inner being.
If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. And I almost made it in New York. The grand irony being that when I was finally strong enough to live in the city, I decided to leave it. The first half of my thirties were spent annulling the many mistakes of my twenties: the unavailable men, a daily struggle with bulimia, that phase in the fetish scene. By the time 33 rolled around (the exact age in which Jesus had died for our sins, according to my Catholic upbringing), I had learned to keep my meals down and my head up.
15 years in the Big Apple had afforded me a wild ride, but I was in danger of becoming rotten all the way through. Despite the perks of living a semi-glamorous life in Manhattan—being a wellness guru to celebrities and scions while living in a centrally located shoebox—40 was a threat, not a promise. I had become so good at distinguishing the married women from their lonely single counterparts on the subway, before ever looking at their fingers, only their faces, whether their eyes possessed a certain softness or not, that I avoided my own reflection in those train windows. I didn’t need to be married, but I was sick of being single.
If you’ve read any of my other reviews (or any of my work at all, really), you’re probably familiar with my mother: the stunning, savvy, Israeli cosmetologist, whose brilliance surpasses that of her art. Her wisdom is so apparent, her intelligence so easily gleaned through her speech -- the difficulty being that most Americans have a tough time understanding her.
My mother’s way of speaking is familiar to me. Her heavy Middle Eastern accent and “incorrect” grammar are components of my second language: I understand her English as easily as I understand that of a native speaker. However, I also recognize the effect that her idiosyncratic English has had on her experience in America -- the prejudice she faces in everyday encounters; the stigma surrounding her foreign speech she’s learned to internalize; the “evidence” she receives that her English is inherently lesser, because she doesn’t speak a standard English. That’s something called language prejudice, and it’s a force that’s ever-present and ever-pervasive in her life.
In 1955, during this era of segregation, a subdivision for middle class and affluent African Americans was built in New Orleans. It was the only one of its kind built in the city and one of the first in the nation.
This subdivision, Pontchartrain Park, consisted of a horse shaped 83 acre golf course and Park surrounded by modern single family ranch style homes. The impact on this development gave blacks the realization that they too could also have a place in the sun.
This is Gabriel Don. Her light cannot be kept in a jar. Her words turn lead into gold. Don’t mess with her babies — she will G check you without a posse. She is Queen Elizabeth I encamped at Tilbury, she is Isis piecing Osiris together, she is dangerous and vulnerable and powerful. Powerful because vulnerable. This is Gabriel Don’s first collection and she doesn’t mean business; she means “Oh Henry you can’t be so clumsy with your cock.” Don’t let the politeness fool you.
- Sharon Mesmer, Polish-American poet, fiction writer, essayist and professor of creative writing