Remarks on the Beasts: On Nick Francis Potter’s New Animals

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Nick Francis Potter’s New Animals (Subito Press) is a startling book, an unleashing of all-too-human humans and other monsters within wildly conceived spaces. While echoing Ben Marcus’s absurdist eviscerations of the nuclear family, George Saunders’s satirical takedowns of post-industrial society, and Brian Evenson’s bleak mind- and landscapes, Potter’s prose is its own animal.

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Some Hopes Against Expectation

My greatest hope is that the new year will bring us, against all signs to the contrary, a less violent United States of America government, which is still very much, as Dr. MLK, Jr. said, the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

May we see a continuing awakening, a fermenting of authentic revolutionary thinking, which opposes the two-party oligarchy, the plutocratic machinery controlling politics, the government’s mass surveillance of everyone, the corporatization of seemingly everything, and all other obstacles to democracy and freedom.

May we see, that is, bring about, by whatever peaceable means available, a ceasing of the violent physical, economic, and psychological assault on, in no particular order, people of color; on immigrants, whether documented or otherwise; on women, generally; on LGBTQ communities; on indigenous people; on people with disabilities; on poor people; on sick people; on older adults; on Muslims, etc.

May we see a ceasing of this country’s assault on the environment; a ceasing of this government’s never-ending wars, which have resulted in countless civilian deaths, displacement, and other catastrophes, and have made this country far less safe.

May we see more artists engagingly confront all oppressive paradigms, not only trespass genre borders but dissolve them, discover new ways of thinking about old things, transform everything one word, sound, movement, image, color, etc. at a time.

Connecting Dots in Between the Lines: On Gabriel Blackwell’s Madeleine E.

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A masterfully collaged prose object, Gabriel Blackwell’s Madeleine E. (Outpost19) defies categorization, privileging fusion and hybridity while also openly displaying its parts: essayings on the mind, on identity, on falling, on death, on marriage; obsessively scrutinous, seemingly frame-by-frame analyses of a classic psychological thriller; self-reflexive reveries on writing and, especially, not writing; deconstructions of patriarchy in the form of control of and/or violence against women, whether physical, emotional, psychological, etc. Like Alfred Hitchcock, one of this book’s many subject-characters/character-subjects, Blackwell “leaves holes” in his art, that is, in Madeleine E., a text with hundreds of ellipses, a constellation of dots pocking pages, signaling absences, voids, pauses, where multiple possible readings, connections of dots, as it were, can take place.

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Happy 60th Birthday, Lance Olsen!: 60 Reasons to Celebrate Lance Olsen

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I’ve had the deep pleasure of knowing Lance Olsen (for at least seven years now), reviewing his work, interviewing him, teaching one of his books, working as his publicist on three books ([[ there. ]], How to Unfeel the Dead, and Theories of Forgetting), all the while impressed by his profound courage, creativity, intelligence, rigor, humor, generosity, and so much more. In fact, here are at least sixty reasons to celebrate Lance Olsen (This is a circular text, of sorts, in honor of Lance’s 720 months: 360 months times two, with best wishes for at least another full circle of 360 months.):

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Happy 92nd Birthday, William H. Gass!

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On the occasion of William H. Gass’s birthday, I’ve cherry-picked sentences from all of his books: a publishing career spanning five decades. This was no easy task, since his fictions and essays and interviews are troves of meticulously rendered, seemingly sculpted, sentences, each one a delight to the eye, music to the ear. I’ve chosen ninety-two in honor of his birthday, but I could easily have chosen a hundred more. Thanks, Magister Gass!

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