Berfrois

April 2020

Unherd Immunity

Unherd Immunity

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, supported by Downing Street, has persistently denied that attaining herd immunity, by allowing the disease to infect most people, was ever a policy, goal, strategy or even “part of the plan”.

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‘You might be better off just talking on the phone’

‘You might be better off just talking on the phone’

Last month, global downloads of the apps Zoom, Houseparty and Skype increased more than 100 percent as video conferencing and chats replaced the face-to-face encounters we are all so sorely missing.

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Remember to Eat

Remember to Eat

Remember restaurants? I do, but dimly: candlelight, cloth napkins, a basket of warm bread. Food delivered in courses

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In Soviet Russia, food cooks you!

In Soviet Russia, food cooks you!

Food is a window into any culture. In Soviet society, gender and food were always tightly interconnected, which looks like an ideal representation of the ambiguous nature of Communist ideology...

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Who is free from Melancholy?

Who is free from Melancholy?

Melancholy is a condition unsuited to a pandemic. Like ennui, it is an ailment born of stability. The strong light of catastrophe withers it.

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Screening Screen Screentime

Screening Screen Screentime

Up until COVID-19 changed everything, I’d been pretty strict in regards to screen time for my sons. They earned video game time...

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Cam Scott on Robert Glück

Cam Scott on Robert Glück

“In the 1430s, Margery Kempe wrote the first autobiography in English. She replaced existence with the desire to exist,” writes Robert Glück...

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Dear Lockdown Diary

Dear Lockdown Diary

A diary can serve as a stimulant to feeling. It can remind the author, whether she is writing from prison or the warfront or a sickbed or—blessedly—from the safety and comfort of her own home, that she is alive.

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Ed Simon: The Hidden Lightbulb

Ed Simon: The Hidden Lightbulb

Work No. 227: The lights going on and off consists entirely of an empty white-walled gallery in which the lights flicker off and on for five seconds apiece.

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Jeremy Fernando on Cancer

Jeremy Fernando on Cancer

When we think of cancer, we tend to think of death — but what if it is of the order of life?

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Anandi Mishra: The Self in Quarantine

Anandi Mishra: The Self in Quarantine

I was just wetting my toes into the sands of self-isolation in Delhi, when a putrid smell came along, an estrangement within another estrangement.

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Susanna Crossman: Riding the Baking Edge #3

Susanna Crossman: Riding the Baking Edge #3

This is the third in a weekly baking series dedicated to Leonora Carrington. This recipe fell into my hands on a day I don’t remember...

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Poet Times

Poet Times

The poet is born in squalor, his first love. Some of the poet’s favorite words include seedy, shabby, seamy.

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In these days of solitude and waiting…

In these days of solitude and waiting…

Statue of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Hamburg, Germany. via Flickr/KeokiSeu (cc) by Stephen R. Haynes Why did 13 people make their way to my campus on a dreary February evening in 2020 for a new class I was teaching on a long-dead German theologian called Dietrich Bonhoeffer? We obviously shared...

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Browsing On Your Own

Browsing On Your Own

Solitude has become a topic of fascination in modern Western societies because we believe it is a lost art – often craved, yet so seldom found...

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Nicholas Rombes: X’ed Out and Vivarium

Nicholas Rombes: X’ed Out and Vivarium

Both X’ed Out and Vivarium assume an other world that leaks into the main frame world where most of the action happens...

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The Heyday of Epic Phoning

The Heyday of Epic Phoning

One of my favorite sentences in twentieth-century fiction is the one that goes: “She was a girl who for a ringing phone would drop exactly nothing.” It’s from J.D. Salinger’s short story...

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Julian Hanna: Do It Now

Julian Hanna: Do It Now

If you want to garden and you’re able, do it now. If you want revolution and you’re able, do it now...

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Close Reading Patti Smith by Ed Simon

Close Reading Patti Smith by Ed Simon

The collaboration between heartland arena rock bard Bruce Springsteen and punk poet goddess Patti Smith which led to “Because the Night”...

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Susanna Crossman: Riding the Baking Edge #2

Susanna Crossman: Riding the Baking Edge #2

Borges wrote, “I owe my first inkling of the problem of infinity to a large biscuit tin...

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Joseph Spece
Joseph Spece: When Gamers Attack

Like many ugly controversies, the beginnings of #gamergate are linked to the end of love — well, the end of a relationship, at least....

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Jeremy Fernando: Not

A response — Bartleby’s response — foregrounding the fact that it is the “I” that “prefers not to”: not that ‘I cannot’ nor ‘I...

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Owen Vince on HARK

As a poet, you are your grandmother; you are browsing the obituaries with a red pen and an address book in your hand. The...

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Jay Aquinas Thompson Interviews Eric Weisbard

Eric Weisbard wrote twenty years ago, introducing the voluminous, era-summarizing, contrarian and contradictory Spin Alternative Record Guide.

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Collective Destruction by Keith Doubt

What, then, is sociocide? Sociocide resonates with the term demodernization formulated by A. V. Tishkov to account for the consequences of the war in...

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Heather Lang on Fiona Sampson and Sarah Morgan

Poet Fiona Sampson is a former career violinist, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, overt references to music appear in her work.

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Setsuko Adachi: Azalea Exuberance Strikes

In May, in the garden of the elevated house at the bottom of the hill, four shrubs of stunning azaleas come into full blossom....

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Joe Linker
Joe Linker on Li Po

Florence showed me what she called the most famous of Chinese poems. She had made her own translation from a Chinese language newspaper clipping....

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Teresa K. Miller and Gregory Giles Discuss Luc Moullet

To begin at the end: After nearly two hours exploring facets of exploitation in the globalized food system, Luc Moullet closes Genèse d’un repas/Origins...

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Adam Staley Groves: Iowa Nasty

Now it seems the state’s radical conservatives are degrading the historic, populist-provincial mentality of Iowa; they are revising the state’s legacy within the broader...

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Animal Spirits at the Nueva Burdalesa Bakery by Jessica Sequeira

A few years ago all I had was a certain ambition and an understanding, more or less, of how things work in this world....

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Sebastian Normandin
Meaning and Pseudoscience by Sebastian Normandin

The persistence and proliferation of pseudoscientific thinking in contemporary culture demands explanation. Clearly there are some pragmatic reasons for its expanded existence, and people...

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Janice Lee For the Ghost

The memories are like stutters. Sometimes I inhale for air, and exhale a shaking chain of memories. A choking hazard. I for the ghost....

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Edi Rama’s Bunker Mentality by Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei

As many former Eastern Block countries in the EU display a hardly dissimulated form of racism and religious hatred, Albania, always a little behind...

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