Hard as things are, despair is easy. Don’t get me wrong; the state of things, the order of things, for billions of us is terrible, and likely to get worse. Viz., I agree with Marcello Tarì, who wrote the following in There Is No Unhappy Revolution:
[C]apitalism revolves around catastrophes, crises, pandemics, even uprisings, trying each time to carve out its own method of governing, some earnings for its businesses, and last but not least, the production of apocalyptic subjectivities. For government, the crisis-apocalypse is an exemplary political-technology. It is a regulatory method for managing the catastrophe that reproduces itself in every movement and through which it tries to mold the mass perception of reality in a way that suggests that government is here to secure the perpetual deferral of the end. It even does so while making it an advert that grabs your attention: “Thanks to security, technology, and the police, you have a little more time to live it up!”
The apocalyptic model offered by governance is not, therefore, a sign of capital’s terminal crisis, but is instead a part of its hellishly mechanistic vitality. We live in a non-world that functions but has nevertheless become unlivable, a non-world that continues to produce but has become uninhabitable. Our subjectivity is not external to all this; it also functions and produces but it’s both unlivable and uninhabitable. Generating apocalyptic subjectivities means producing subjects that habituate themselves to the catastrophe, smiling about it for the most part while establishing aseptic environments, preferably digital ones, that are the abodes of enforced confinement. They have even given a more modern and “smart'” name to this new technology of governing survival: they call it “resilience” precisely to indicate the absence of exits from the present location, the very equivalent of confirming the necessity to remain happily there where one merely exists and does nothing.
Yes, there is this non-world. But there are other worlds. Better ones. Much better ones.
Yes, there is mere existence. But there is life.
Yes, there is nothing. But there is also something.
There are new worlds.
So rather than despair, I choose love, joy, gratitude.
I choose celebration. Like Rilke said, “Let us disappear into praising. Nothing belongs to us.” As Adam Zagajewski, who died this year, wrote, “Praise the mutilated world […] and the gentle light that strays and vanishes and returns.”
I choose a continuum of study, practice, and sharing within life-affirming community.
I choose revolution, which is ongoing and perhaps necessarily perpetual. Revolution, for me, is changing the order of things, and where this begins is practice, that is, the abovementioned continuum of study and practice and performance, that is, it begins with the body, which includes the mind, of course, the body in a continuum of the body, that is, the people, that is, the multitude, that is, the world, that is, it is being the change you want to see in the world, yes, but being always an always becoming, maybe even being that becoming that D&G talk about, the “body without organs,” that “ultimate residue of a deterritorialized socius,” where, through active experimentation, you activate, instantiate difference, potentials, becomings.
I praise all the rebels, renegades, and revolutionaries: the writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, intellectuals, critics, journalists, actors, dancers, organizers, and activists who aren’t merely passively canceling and tearing down only to leave vacuums and ruins in their wake but actively and radically studying, critiquing, dreaming, imagining, celebrating, building, and sustaining; who aren’t simply “resisting” and “persisting” but attacking, that is, loving and raging against the death machine, in whatever nefarious form it takes: the military-, prison-, celebrity-, fashion-, art-, university-, and/or publishing-industrial complex, etc.
I also praise all the superb writers I published in Big Other this year. Viz., I’m grateful for having once again published a host of great writers across the genres, among them National Book Award winners Daniel Borzutzky and Arthur Sze, and a host of other stellar writers: Louis Armand, Cynthia Atkins, Elisabeth Ly Bell, Sarah Blackman. Jeff Bursey, Julie Carr, Ewa Chrusciel, Robert Coover, Jane Ciabattari, Tom DeBeauchamp, Elaine Equi, Brian Evenson, Joan Frank, Geoffrey Green, John Oliver Hodges, Charles Holdefer, Jessie Janeshek, Norman Lock, Dan Magers, Christina Milletti, Aaron M. Moe, Ted Morrissey, Lance Olsen, Aimee Parkison, Dawn Raffel, Chuck Richardson, Elizabeth Robinson, Jerome Sala, John Schertzer, Peter Selgin, Elisabeth Sheffield, Curtis Smith, Rodrigo Toscano, Tony Trigilio, and D. Harlan Wilson.
I’ve collected this superb literary art from 2021 in the form of an anthology, which you can read below.
Always Crashing in the Same Car
Air and Fog, Light and Flight
The Protocols of People and Other Monsters
D. Harlan Wilson
Centralia Mine Fire
The Age of Flesh and Fire
The Weight of Lost Objects
Writing What You Don’t Know: Poetry and the Arcane
Tell Me a Story That Isn’t a Means to an End
Folio: Robert Coover
From Open House
“The Illiterate, the Maimed”
Robert Coover: An Appreciation
Elisabeth Ly Bell
Robert Coover and Fairy Tales
On the Trail of Robert Coover’s Noir
The Alluring Obscurity of Noir: A Lesson Before Writing
He Can’t Remember, He’s No Longer Sure, Maybe
By Jeff Bursey
Selgin’s Entanglements: A Review of Peter Selgin’s Duplicity
By John Oliver Hodges
John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.