Berfrois

Whenever you hear that whistle…

Whenever you hear that whistle…

I write in my rental apartment on Rue de Seine in Paris, while trying to simultaneously ignore the tolling of the church bells in my vicinity as well as the continuous barking of my next door neighbor, Georges. I have never seen him or his owners; however, given the permanent scolding I hear, he must do things well behaved dogs should only do outside.

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As a Fly

As a Fly

Williams skipped college, enrolling directly in the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school in 1902, and it was there that he met Pound, along with Hilda Doolittle, who would become the poet known as H.D. when Pound showcased her poems in the various Imagist manifestoes and anthologies that flourished in...

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Hilary Plum: Behind the Headlines

Hilary Plum: Behind the Headlines

by Hilary Plum The Room and the Chair, by Lorraine Adams, Vintage, 366 pp. The Submission: A Novel, by Amy Waldman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pp. Zone, by Mathias Énard, Translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell, Open Letter Books, 517 pp. Lorraine Adams’ The Room and the...

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Fed

Fed

On a big platter in the middle of the full table sits the fat novel, its dust jacket a cracking bronze, peeling at the edges, its pages sliced and curling, its story stuffed with, well, stuffing: characters mixed with plot in a warm, moist setting, everyone talking at once,...

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Disconcerted

Disconcerted

Poster by Charles Sharland, 1913 by James Warner In The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst explored the iconoclasm of the Thatcher years. But in The Stranger’s Child, he seems to portray England as a country self-defeatingly focused on its past. For some generations now, novels largely set in large...

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Hav Not

Hav Not

From the cover of Last letters From Hav, by Jan Morris, 1985 edition  From Full Stop: Hav is a fictional travel narrative and in it, Morris mixes fact into fiction like mushrooms into scrambled eggs – if you look for the bits of mushroom, you can pick them out of the eggs,...

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Infinitely Gentle

Infinitely Gentle

His polite moments, which were frequent if often implausible (he denied reading quickly, being widely read, being “an especially fluid writer”) were all the more absurd given how caustic he could be.

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The Islamic city functions well in the Nights, with Baghdad offering something of a cosmopolitan utopia…

The Islamic city functions well in the Nights, with Baghdad offering something of a cosmopolitan utopia…

“The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad”, from Arabian Nights, Illustrated by Duilio Cambellotti, 1912-1913  by Karla Mallette The Islamic Context of The Thousand and One Nights, by Muhsin Jāsim Mūsawī New York: Columbia University Press, 344 pp. Readers have long celebrated the Thousand and One Nights as a work that...

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Martha White on E. B. White

Martha White on E. B. White

E. B. White, circa 1923 by Martha White Quotations have a way of shape-shifting, and like the best shape-shifters in mythology or fairytales, they can unexpectedly take on the characteristics of someone else entirely. In 2011 at a Harvard Business School conference, for example, this image appeared on the...

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Pre-Code Horrors

Pre-Code Horrors

From Los Angeles Review of Books: It’s clear in retrospect that the comic book store I frequented at the age of 12 was a piece of shit. The year was 1994, a time of exciting developments in alternative and self-published comics — eventual lodestones such as Chris Ware’s Jimmy...

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‘Poche parole!’

‘Poche parole!’

Verdi’s Macbeth, 1964 via From The New York Review of Books: Verdi adored Shakespeare. Besides the three operas he took from him—Macbeth, Otello, and Falstaff—he considered (though briefly) doing a Tempest or Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet. He considered for a very long time, and came near to creating, an...

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Gloria Nne Onyeoziri: African Irony

Gloria Nne Onyeoziri: African Irony

From the cover of Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, 1959 edition   by Gloria Nne Onyeoziri Some Igbo people say that the millipede that is stepped on keeps quiet while its aggressor is the one to complain. They are not only leveling the playing field of the power to...

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‘Systematic nonconsideration of human rights’

‘Systematic nonconsideration of human rights’

From The New York Review of Books: When a scientific experiment uncovers a new phenomenon, a scientist is pleased. When an experiment fails to reveal something that the scientist originally expected, that, too, counts as a result worth analyzing. A sense of the “nonappearance of the expected” was my...

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Theodore Ziolkowski on Gilgamesh

Theodore Ziolkowski on Gilgamesh

The Slaying of the Bull of Ishtar, from Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, illustrated by Ernest Wallcousins, 1915 by Theodore Ziolkowski Any ten minute search on the internet turns up hundreds of hits for Gilgamesh in recent years. Apart from novels, plays, poems, operas, and paintings, the ancient Babylonian...

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Dear National Geographic

Dear National Geographic

by Tamar Rothenberg American Iconographic: National Geographic, Global Culture, and the Visual Imagination, by Stephanie L. Hawkins, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 264 pp. What is iconic about National Geographic? From the ethnographic “types” displayed as such in the first half of the twentieth century, to the bare-breasted women...

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Yo Borges

Yo Borges

by Jon Beasley-Murray What does it mean to “read Borges”? What are we even endeavoring to read? “Borges” is a cipher: a proper name that stands in for a set of texts with which that name is associated. It’s a figure or speech or language, a form of metonymy:...

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Logan K. Young on The Replacements

I, myself, was barely six months old when Twin/Tone put out The Mats’ Let It Be. The day, they say, was Orwellian: Tuesday, October...

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Tyranny Is a Growth Industry by Vladimir Savich and Zachary Bos

Tyranny is a growth industry. Each day brings exciting new developments. These events imprint themselves upon the world in the form of newspapers, magazines,...

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Tjoa Shze Hui: 1920s

Of the many witticisms that make up The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, one voiced by Picasso really gets under the skin. He says...

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Elias Tezapsidis on Lorentzen, Batuman, Lerner, Smallwood and Stein

Contemporary narrators feel entitled to their own realities now more than ever. The internet has created this fascinating binary, one in which individuals can...

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Henry Giardina on Bob Hope

All mythical creatures need an origin story. The Bob Hope character springs into being, Athena-like, from out of the head of Preston Sturges in...

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Mattilda B. Sycamore: Yearning From Spurning

One problem with gentrification is that it always gets worse. But then I go into a Hooters, and it’s a vintage clothing store. A...

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Alexander McGregor
Alexander McGregor: Trauma

Following World War II, the German philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote, “Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch”: to write poetry after Auschwitz is...

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John Crutchfield: Chords

But music, even bad music, is a symptom of hope, is it not? Naturally one would prefer the music to be good, but any...

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Menachem Feuer on Robin Williams

Regardless of whether you are from Europe, the United States, Asia, or Africa, we can all agree that there is something special about the...

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Reality Principles: Berfrois Interviews Frank Smecker

I don't know if I ever wanted to become a theorist. I struggle with this position. For me, it's a hystericized — and therefore...

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Albert Rolls: Which (Side) Are You On, Man?

James Parker begins his review of Inherent Vice with the quip, “If Thomas Pynchon were a stand-up comedian, and Inherent Vice his newest routine,...

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Keith Doubt
Keith Doubt on Serbia

The intellectual integrity of cultural anthropology is based largely on its commitment to cultural relativism as a principled notion. Cultural relativism is the principle...

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A Gosse in Woolf’s Clothing by Andre Gerard

On May 31, two weeks after his death, and the day before Orlando was sent to the printer, Woolf noted his death as follows:...

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Andrew Gallix: Let’s Go!

Retro-futurism, as we now call it, came out of the closet in the late '70s due to the widespread feeling that there was indeed...

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