peteg's blog

Happiness, Ten years of n+1.

/noise/books | Link

... as selected by the (nameless) editors of n+1 magazine, or so they say. I somehow heard about this lit crit rag aroundabout when it started, but never dug into it before now. Having skipped perhaps a third of this lot, I'm sure they ran more pieces to my liking than what's here. Some casual googling suggests a revolving-door with New York magazine.

Let's get some nits out of the way. The intro is horribly incestuous and lit-crit, presumably written by a prof who shepherded some of the editors through their lit-crit courses at college. The lit-crit pieces are similar: uniformly horrible. What's best here is the small-scale journalism and rants, roughly as follows:

  • Marco Roth: Torture and Parenting.
  • Mark Greif: Afternoon of the Sex Children, about the narrow spread of ages between sex-in-ads and pedophilia. A tad too tendentious.
  • Mark Greif: Gut-Level Legislation, or, Redistribution, about mincomes, unsullied by empiricals. Think of it as Quantity Theory for writers who haven't heard of Will Self.
  • The Editors: The intellectual situation (death is not the end). Starts promising a critique of the analytic tradition that has colonised American philosophy departments, but soon flails about uninterestingly. This proves that it takes someone in the tradition to properly roast it. Is lit-crit / theory good for much? I think we all agree that it should be.
  • Chad Harbach: An Interruption, on climate change. He observes that the Pentagon has a policy for it, which is to draw the obvious conclusion about those who do, those who talk, those who need to get re-elected, etc.
  • Emily Witt: What do you desire? is a New Yorker sex-touring San Francisco. It's a car crash.
  • Wesley Yang: The Face of Seung-Hui Cho. Incendiary observations about (gay) Asian men in the U.S.A. or mere self-aggrandizement? The critics are split. Certainly the most provocative piece in the ensemble.
  • Lawrence Jackson's Slickheads was opaque to this foreigner. Slang city.
  • Keith Gessen (and not Martin Amis's): Money. He wrings his hands while teaching writing at an expensive college. Formulaic. Write what you know, people want specifics and not generalities. Perhaps that's why these types loathe mathematics / empiricism: it just doesn't feel real.
  • Kristin Dombek: How to Quit took Gessen's advice and stuck to the winning formula: what she knows, enough colour to make it real, not so much that you can stalk her in the present tense. Trainspotting for Gen X-Y, for those who are too cool to cite Irvine Welsh.

I don't think I'm going to chase up any of these New Yorkers.

Review at the New York Times.

The Ruffians: Burning Bluebeard at Theater Wit.

/noise/theatre | Link

$36.00, bought on 2014-12-14. Another beautiful winter's day in Chicago, almost hot at 12+ degrees. I spent the afternoon up that way, around up-market Belmont, firstly at Heritage Bicycles for coffee and wifi, and then dinner at a Turkish / Central Asian place further north on Lincoln.

Burning Bluebeard is another Christmas panto, this time with more audience interaction. Apparently it has been drawing capacity audiences for a few years now. The game is to recount the fire in the Iroquois Theatre of 1903, and as such it is a bit navel-gazingly-meta, like Season on the Line, but more provincial. Therefore things worked best in the last movement, where the events of that evening are replayed in some of the tightest theatre I've seen here. The only downside is how much is said rather than shown before this; in retrospect much of the first 80 minutes is mere flaffing about, setting things up for that. At no point did I want to hear more about Mr Bluebeard, but such is dramatic necessity.

The opening held a lot of promise for me, evoking Summertime in the Garden of Eden with clowns artfully shedding their chrysalises (body bags). I struggled with some of the threads, partly due to not really following pop culture anymore, not having a TV, and not really grasping the relevance. I enjoyed the mashup of Teen Spirit and Europe's The Final Countdown. I may have been the only one in the crowd to recognise a very slow variant of Lamb's Gorecki. The adulteration of Lennon's sacrosanct Imagine piano riff by a winking playwright / building manager (?) Jay Torrence lip syncing to Amy Winehouse's Rehab (?) meant something to most of the crowd. A kid sitting in the middle was infectiously amused by many of the comedic pauses. I got handed the last of the Mason jars full of small white LEDs by Ryan Walters (playing Eddie Foy). Pam Chermansky is new this year (the remainder of the cast are back for a third run). The performers clearly enjoyed themselves immensely. With deft timing (after an ending like that!) Torrence convinced me to blow $20 on a donation / t-shirt. The ride home was quite pleasant.

Jacob Davis got right into it. A review from last year with more production history, and another by Tony Adler. Justin Hayford tries to be realistic but ultimately rolls with the crowd. Chris Jones. etc.