N1BR: Issue 2

May 2009

Alex Ross is the most important arts critic writing for the New Yorker. I do not mean he is the best writer (though he may be) or the most intelligent (also possible). Rather, more than his contemporaries, he draws an attention of rare sensitivity to modern classical music—a sphere of cultural activity that shows few signs of recovering in any respect from its mid-20th century decline. More…

Many readers are by now thinking: Wait a minute. Germany? Isn’t that where all that old fetish porn comes from? Aren’t Fassbinder, Klaus Nomi, and that guy who lip-synchs in the motel in My Own Private Idaho all, in their own way, German perverts? Yes, but that was a generation ago…. These days, it’s all as normal as watching the World Cup. More…

Petterson patiently maps the filaments that bind his characters’ interior lives and the exterior world, walking them not just through their surfacing memories of the past, but through their mundane muscle memories in the present. Milking a cow, cleaning a house: these acts provide physical cathexis for psychological pain, allowing his characters to organize and reorder a life dislocated by death. More…

Four years ago after writing twenty-one books about vampires, witches, mummies, psychic humans, and pleasure slaves (there were five books of erotica, under pseudonyms), she progressed one step further on the ladder of heroes. She announced that she was abandoning her vampires. From now on, all her books would be for and about “the ultimate outsider, the ultimate immortal of all”: Jesus Christ. More…

The Updike who deserves attention isn’t the snowy belletrist who ginned up thought experiments like Gertrude and Claudius and inflicted the 928-page nonfiction omnibus More Matter on already cowed bookshelves. It is, instead, the Cheever-era “writer of his generation.” More…

“In literature,” said Henry James, “we move through a blest world in which we know nothing except by style, but in which also everything is saved by it.” What James blesses, Bolaño damns: his style ensures that we know little beyond our own ignorance, that his locales lack all plausible density, that everything seems always far away. More…

Image: Boris Mikhailov, "Superimposition," 1965. Color Photograph. Courtesy of the Barbara Gross Galerie. www.barbaragross.de/exhibitions