• 'My idea of a writer: someone interested in everything.' Susan Sontag

Teju Cole’s Open City

In her 1940 memoir, Paris, France, Gertrude Stein wrote that “everybody who writes is interested in living inside themselves in order to see what is inside themselves.” With his first novel, Open City, an elegant exercise in flâneurie, Teju Cole proves himself to be Stein’s writer – as much a tenant of his mind as he … Continue reading

The Power of a Photograph

Among images charting the contours of collective struggle and protest, victory and loss, a man lies in black and white on a carpet of parched grass. I’m looking at his picture in Peter Mugabane’s photograph, ‘Dead bodies covered by newspaper filled streets of the Soweto during the June 1976 riots,’ taken that same month and … Continue reading

‘Blue Velvet’ Revisited

“Maybe I’m sick, but I want to see that again,” the film critic, Pauline Kael overheard after a screening of David Lynch’s 1986 film, Blue Velvet. In her review of the movie in The New Yorker, Pauline Kael traces a sense of this conscious revulsion throughout Blue Velvet, which, she writes, takes the “mystery and … Continue reading

Looper

Rian Johnson’s time traveling movie, Looper is about a fight in the future, for the past. In it, two Joes, the same man, have 30 years between them; Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lives in 2044, Old Joe (Bruce Willis) in 2074. That Gordon-Levitt and Willis don’t really resemble each other – with or without the prosthetic … Continue reading

Woody Allen: A Documentary

Robert B. Weide’s cinema-release documentary of Woody Allen begins with the rudimentary question: How can we make a documentary about Woody Allen? The problem, we are told, is that there are so many Woody Allens; it would be impossible to edit him. But this cinema version of the longer PBS documentary, condensing over three hours … Continue reading

Beach House: Bloom

Beach House established a sound for itself comparable to no other with its third and then best album, Teen Dream (2010). The Baltimore duo, made up of Victoria Legrand (vocals and keyboard) and Alex Scally (guitar), landed on a gloriously outlandish sound in their last album that, for its ethereal quality, has since filed the band … Continue reading

Watch the Throne: Gig Review

As two podiums rise above the standing audience in darkness, the sonic tremors of “H.A.M” start up on the speakers, flickers of accompanying laser-light above our heads. Kanye West emerges in a swath of blue light, pouncing on the beat like a predator, spitting his verse in a leather Givenchy t-shirt and gold chains around … Continue reading

Mad Men, Season 5, Episode 8: “Lady Lazarus”

Last week’s episode of Mad Men, “Lady Lazarus” is probably the most important of the series to date, and therefore, automatically, the most significant of any series currently on television. Namely, other than its standard excellence, it’s because they played the Beatles. It’s a widely acknowledged fact, or so I’ve read, that licensing rights to the … Continue reading

Delicacy

François, sitting at a table in a Parisian café, watches a beautiful girl sitting at another. As she hesitates over the menu, he wonders what she will order. He decides he will talk to her – if she orders apricot juice; not as exotic as guava or papaya, and not as commonplace as orange or … Continue reading

The Art of Fielding

What do we talk about when we talk about literature? More often than not, it isn’t baseball. But when Chad Harbach talks about baseball in his remarkable first novel, The Art of Fielding, among his dream teammates are Melville, Lowell, Emerson, Eliot, Keats and Murakami; his chief game, literature. Indeed, it is nothing short of an … Continue reading