N1BR: Issue 8

October 2010

More than elsewhere, the 1968 protests in Germany were a means of reckoning with the country’s past as well as a rebellion against the present. This has made German debates about the legacy of 1968 uniquely divisive. In Germany, right-wing detractors do not just hold 1968 responsible for the usual litany of sins from sexual lawlessness to moral vacuity; they also blame the 1968 generation for making impossible a healthy patriotism and for permanently disgracing the German nation. More…

The most controversial rap song in history, unfortunately, is not actually a rap song. “Cop Killer” was released in March 1992, one year after Rodney King’s beating and one month before the riots that followed his attackers’ acquittal. It included the lyric—sung, not spoken—“Cop killer / Fuck police brutality!” and was condemned by Tipper Gore in a Washington Post op-ed called “Hate, rape, and rap.” And still, it isn’t rap. More…

How does one come to have certain ideas about LA without actually experiencing it? Between 1980 and 2007, I’d watched any number of movies about the city (Pretty Woman, Shampoo, Double Indemnity) and some TV shows, too (Beverly Hills 90210; The Hills). I’d listened to The Doors, Jane’s Addiction, and X. At a certain point, I’d also begun fact-checking at a celebrity weekly. Most crucially, however, I’d read Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero. More…

The impact of early Cahiers on global film culture is undeniable. As the New Yorker’s Richard Brody wrote recently, reflecting on a Sight and Sound poll of film books in which Truffaut, Bazin, and the politique’s principal American exponent Andrew Sarris all took top five spots, the nouvelle vague “is still the cinema’s center of gravity.” But at the heart of this phenomenon is a myth of Cahiers’s priority that is impossible to sustain, and Bickerton’s book only amplifies it. More…

Mary Gaitskill’s characters do not give blowjobs. But one does bend down to a man’s waist “in a position that was not very pleasing either aesthetically or psychologically.” Her characters do not have random hook-ups. But a woman who’s had too much to drink may kiss a stranger with “an escalating slur of useless feeling.” Phrases like these force the reader to slow down in a way that the characters do not, revealing oral sex as a self-conscious pose, and a kiss as vivified desperation. More…

Berman’s writing in his new book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, is tighter, more claustrophobic. Gone are those sensational sentences; present are rage-filled declarations. The intellectuals have been willingly duped by a smooth Muslim con man; more important, they have abdicated their responsibility to anti-fascism and human rights. Berman is angrier than ever before, and indeed maybe for the first time. More…

The disconnect in Russia between language and reality can at times become disturbing. It isn’t just the standard “double-talk” of politicians, a screen of incomprehensible loan-words and convoluted syntax. It’s worse: a feeling that the basic descriptions of reality don’t correspond to their objects. Subway escalators that were working five minutes ago are arbitrarily declared “broken”; stores take random and unpredictable “technical breaks,” even if the technicality is a cigarette. More…

Image: Carter Mull, Little Joy, 2008.