Skip to main content


Showing posts from May, 2017

Denis Johnson, R.I.P.

In general-education contemporary literature courses, I almost always taught Denis Johnson's "Emergency," and would often show the dramatization of the knife-in-the-eye scene with Jack Black as part of the film adaptation of Jesus' Son. I'd focus discussion on the three real or faux rescues or "life savings" in the story--the man with the knife, the rabbits, and the A.W.O.L. "boy" Hardee being driven to Canada, but I'd try to make time for Johnson's famous lines about the past as a rolled up scroll. Often I'd compare and contrast the role of substance use and abuse in the story to others such as Robert Stone's "Helping," Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," and Raymond Carver's "Cathedral." Once or twice I played the Lou Reed song "Heroin" that I assume the title of the Johnson collection came from.It wasn't until today that I learned that Johnson's story coll…

underground Persian poetry scene

Underground poet Iraj Fereshteh introduces us to ten voices from the margins composing poetry in contemporary Iran:

I slightly deviate from the routine of your page and, instead of providing a list of my favorite Iranian poets, introduce some contemporary Iranian poets less read in North America. My main criterion for these choices is how successfully the poets’ works have created space for new voices and expressive forms in Iranian poetics. What these writers have achieved is immense in that their contributions have occurred despite censorship at home and the discomforts of exile abroad. 

I recommend reading:

Granaz Moussav as a token of thousands of women poets in Iran, who have created a formidable voice in the country’s literary scene.

Maryam Hoolehfor her formalistic experiments, especially for her aggressive, impatient, fragmented flooding metaphors. Also, for the multicultural multilingual (Kurdish-Persian) fabric of her poetry.

Fateme Ekhtesari for her postmodern ghazal movement…

Winter, 1965 by Frederic Tuten

I enjoyed "Winter, 1965" by Frederic Tuten, which I chanced upon collected in the O'Henry Prize Stories 2016and read in the library on a rainy morning this past week. Although it's a cliche for writers to write about the sad doubting lives of literary writers, it's also a cliche to criticize these same stories about writers. In any event, in the right mood, I'm a sucker for such tales, particularly if they have mention of critics past such as Philip Rahv while unpublished, alienated writers read Celine, fret, and ponder their future. 

It made sense that "Winter, 1965" would find me because in the few days before landing on it, I'd been mulling over the opening paragraph of Celine's Death on the Installment Plan

Here we are, alone again. It's all so slow, so heavy, so sad. . . I'll be old soon. Then at last it will be over. So many people have come into my room. They've talked. They haven't said much. They've gone away. Th…

Top Ten Russian Novels!

L.U.S.K. is excited to feature a guest post from Aisha O'Connor-Fratus, writer, editor, parent, and blogger at Hell's Domestic Backside. Enjoy this list of Aisha's ten favorite Russian novels:
1. Anna Karenina (Lev Tolstoy, 1873 to 1877). Anna is rich and bored. Anna hates the way her husband chews his food. Count Vronsky—played by Christopher Reeve, so handsome) sweeps Anna off her feet! But things do not end well for Anna.
2. The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1880). Not about a traveling circus acrobatic troupe. Its sweeping explorations of God, free agency, and morality are timeless and haunting. My favorite part is Ivan’s reciting of the poem “The Grand Inquisitor” in which Christ is resurrected during the Spanish Inquisition.
3. Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky, 1866). Life-long graduate student Rodion Raskolnikov tries to justify an unspeakably immoral act with eugenics and hey—a guy needs to eat.
4. Rudin (Ivan Turgenev, 1856). Dmitry Rudin talks the talk, but…