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Essays and Reviews

The independent online literature magazine Statorec inaugurated its Corona Issue on April 16 with an essay by the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Andrea Scrima, titled Corona ReportReturning from Italy at the end of February 2020, just as the first lockdowns went into place, she reflects on the beginnings of the pandemic and on the Bergamo/Valencia soccer game in Milan, the biological bomb that led to the virus’s rapid spread throughout northern Italy. The hallucinatory prose in William Cody Maher’s Double Featurepublished one week later, gropes its way through a labyrinth of internalized fear as human encounters are measured in terms of physical distance. In late April, Statorec editor David Dario Winner’s Daisy Assassin followed, which exposes the uncomfortable barriers of ethnicity, civic cooperation, and racism as experienced by someone going out for what is no longer an ordinary run. In Windows, Beverly Gologorsky’s quiet meditations probe the geography of pandemic isolation in old age, while in Excerpts from Another Love Discourse, taken from a novel-in-progress, Edie Meidav weaves the virus’s sudden appearance into a larger narrative of love and loss. German jazz pianist Christian von der Goltz’s Halted Time listens to what’s behind the eerie silence of the virus’s global spread; Matthew Vollmer captures some of the more absurd aspects of lockdown in his kaledioscopic Quarantine Diary; and Aimee Parkison’s dreamlike riff Masks and Guns captures America in all its absurdity in a cops and robbers game gone horribly wrong. In Corona Diary, former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief Joan Juliet Buck masterfully assesses the wear and tear on the psyche as we attempt to feel our way through this strange time.

What motivates us at Statorec is a concern that, faced with things potentially far worse to come, we will forget the current time and the feeling that there was nonetheless a fragile chance to be seized, if only we could sustain our attention and belief long enough to act on it. True to its mission, Statorec (“Statement of Record”) is motivated by the urge to record a variety of voices going through the same experience, but in very different ways—before the drive to return to normality becomes so strong that the time of lockdown, of charts and graphs and epidemiological factoids, will eventually seem like a bizarre dream. It’s this we find ourselves thinking about the most: how our reality shifts with each new outrage, and how little we understand about the way these events are changing us in the long term as we undergo a kind of grinding down of reality in the process of adapting to unheard-of change.

As of late May 2020, we are mid-issue (in blog format), with eight or more pieces in the pipeline. Authors to come: Cliff Thompson, Cheryl Sucher, Barbara Fischkin, Scott Martingell, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Alice Stephens, Rebecca Chace, and Alexander Graeff, among others, with essays on the othering of the virus; on the difference in economic impact and lethality between whites and people of color; on the plight of parents prevented from working and attempting to home school; on autistic people in assisted living who have suddenly lost all contact to the outside world; and on anti-Asian sentiment and ethnic persecution as compared to Japanese internment camps during World War II.

 

 

Read an in-depth conversation with artists Simon Lee and Eve Sussman, online in my Artists’ Conversations series at 3 Quarks Daily:

“The guys in Dubai’s Old Market were being oppressed for less than minimum wage, they were worker immigrants from Bangladesh that lived in a work camp and sent their wages home to support their families; the construction site that Eve and I originally fantasized about producing Stalkerpooh on became luxury apartments in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; the deceits of powerful people—their spoken words—became our script; we built a useless factory that circulated water for no reason.”

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andrea scrima

via 3 Quarks Daily

I’ve been a columnist at3 Quarks Daily for over a year. The result is a collection of in-depth conversations with artists and writers on the creative process.

I’ve talked to artist Joy Garnett about her famous Egyptian poet and beekeeping grandfather; David Krippendorff about his exploration of the subjects of home and identity; Patricia Thornley about the layers of American identity in her video installation work; German author Ally Klein about her literary debut, “Carter”; Liesl Schillinger about literature and politics; and my editor, Christopher Heil, about the German edition of “A Lesser Day,” “Wie viele Tage” (Droschl 2018).

I’ve written about reading, mass shootings, and about the complex work of Alyssa DeLuccia and the balancing act it performs between photography, installation, and collage. There’s also a conversation with Myriam Naumann that explores the connecting points between my book “A Lesser…

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“Thirty years later we speak of the ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall,’ but the Wall didn’t simply tumble down like a row of dominoes on November 9th. The GDR continued to exist for another year, during which the East German authorities did what they could to keep up appearances. The border guards let East and West Germans cross the border freely, but when it came to foreign residents like myself those first few weeks, they didn’t quite know what to do. My passport wasn’t enough for them; I had to go to the foreign police and apply for an interim document, a ‘Lichtbildbescheinigung’ that was essentially a stamped sheet of paper with my address and a photograph stapled to it. It was a pretend-document for a situation in which the authorities pretended they still had authority; a document for a charade.”

My essay on November 9, 1989 for the Times Literary Supplement

Non-subscribers can read the PDF here. 

 

“I know of no love that exists with moderation, at least on my side. The older I get, the busier I am, and the more engrossing my social life becomes, the warier I grow of submitting to the powerlessness of being in a love affair in which the heart is truly engaged. There’s a Kenneth Koch poem posted on the wall behind my computer that explains why. It says, ‘You want a social life, with friends/ A passionate love life and as well/ To work hard every day. What’s true/ Is of these three you may have two.’ When love comes in the door, my work and social life seem to fly out the window. Yet every now and then… even though I know how disruptive it is, I succumb, and all balance is lost.”

I talked to Liesl Schillinger to celebrate the publication of the Strange Attractors anthology with UMass Press—you can read the full conversation here

Strange Attractors cover

 

And come to the reading at McNally Jackson in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: 

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Joy Amina Garnett is an Egyptian American artist and writer living in New York. Her work, which spans creative writing, painting, installation art, and social media-based projects, reflects how past, present, and future narratives can co-exist through ‘the archive’ in its various forms. She has been working on a memoir and several other projects around the life and work of her late grandfather, the Egyptian Romantic poet and bee scientist A.Z. Abushady (1892–1955).

Joy Garnett: “Growing up, his ghost was all around me, the stuff of fairy tales, but I didn’t have a real sense of him as a person. My mother and aunt put him on a pedestal—their father, the famous Egyptian poet and doctor. Much literary criticism has been written about his poetry, so I spent years reading and absorbing as much as I could while trying to put together a more intimate and complex picture of him. As an undergraduate, I studied classical and spoken Arabic, and recently I took a series of hands-on beekeeping classes.”

Read the conversation here

 

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Caricature of A.Z. Abushady by the Persian/Alexandrian cartoonist, Mohamed Fridon (ca. 1928)