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A Utopia of Writing

Review ~ Andrey Platonov’s ‘Factory of Literature’

‘Art is organically an essential part of life, just like sweating is part of a human body and motion is part of wind.’

‘I am advocating for the smell of the authors’ soul in his writings and simultaneously for the real faces of people and groups in the same work.’

Available online, introduced by McKenzie Wark and translated by Anna Kalashyan, Andrey Platonov’s essay ‘Factory of Literature’ is a sort of writer’s utopia, a Marxist outline of how to construct an idealised writer’s community. It is a subject with which I have already been preoccupied. …

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Time for Marx, Ricœur and Hudis

The vast concerns of an eternal scene.

Be wise to-day; ’tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is push’d out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
~ Edward Young,

Life in lockdown can lack the markers of prior forms of existence. I have described this subjectively in previous essays, characterising it as a mode of life marked by a peculiar lack of texture. That sense of the tactile is redolent not because…

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A Shattering Capitalism

Of Lockdown and Socialism

Over the last few weeks, as well as my usual run of manuscripts (novels, memoirs, etc.) I have worked daily on editing pieces (interviews, essays, reports, statements) for Mutiny, the socialist organisation to which I proudly belong. I have also put together videos; live-tweeted protests comrades attended, and even applied my decrepit millennial brain to the art of gifs and memes, with little success, it must be admitted.

The experience of coronavirus lockdown has been that of a kind of networked scriptorium. A collaborative if largely virtual effort at theorising and informing as the sweep of events constantly threatens to…

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Interrogating Left Habits

Conversations with the Living and Dead

The previous few weeks have been busy. Not only have I been working on more manuscripts than usual (2020 has been an excellent year for Rowan Tree Editing), but equally I have been commissioning, editing and writing daily blogs for the left organisation to which I belong, Mutiny. Indeed, that partly inspired my previous Patreon/Medium piece. I’m also running a reading group, and in spare moments I try my hand at video editing (also for Mutiny). The latest of these, which are made for YouTube, goes someway to explaining the uptake in activity on the organised left:

It is…

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Literacy and Theory

The Left Must Learn To Write

Thanks to the technologies of modern capitalism, shaped by profit seeking, many forms of self-expression once considered essentially human (dance, song, acting) have been professionalised. Where such activities are still encouraged, it is often uniquely in childhood. And how often do we look to children dancing or singing or playing and comment that they could be a dancer, a singer, an actor, rather than merely acknowledging that these activities are inherent to humanity.

One form of self-communication, however, has been radically democratised throughout modernity. Writing. Literacy goes as far back as 8000 BCE, and thereafter the story of literacy is…

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Atrocity & Games

Playing Humanity

Sometimes and by happenstance I will read two books in proximity and find the content of each overlap in strange and amusing ways. First encountering both Christopher Hinz and Etan Ilfeld’s Duchamp Verses Einstein (published 2019) as well as Stefan Zweig’s Chess (published 1942, shortly before the author’s suicide, and mentioned in a recent, different essay of mine) constitutes such an unusual and unintended coupling of narratives. Both books are fictional mediations on then human condition, which resourcefully utilise chess, the historic rise of Nazism and a wry if bleak sensibility. …

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Gnosticism and Postmodernism

Philip K. Dick’s Time Out Of Joint

Because I’m the center of the universe. At least, that’s what I’ve inferred from their actions. They act as if I am. I only have that to go on. They’ve gone to a great deal of trouble to construct a sham world around me to keep me pacified. Buildings, cars, an entire town. Natural-looking, but completely unreal. The part I don’t understand is the contest.

The premise of Philip K. Dick’s Time Out Of Joint — published in 1959–60 — is simple. Ostensibly, the protagonist Ragle Gumm lives in a late fifties all-American suburb routinely solving a regular magazine puzzle…

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Painful Illuminations

Apocalypse, Revolution, Crusoe

In the short story ‘The Machine Stops’ by E. M. Forster, when the archetypal resident of the machine is informed of the titular event, namely the end of her world, she responds chiefly in disbelief, ‘It would be impious,’ says Vashti, ‘if it was not mad.’ There are many things to unpack about that story, which I recently reread with my wife. And if we get round to a recorded conversation, hopefully some of those things will be unpacked, but for now I would like to sit with Forster’s depiction of this all too human response to crisis.

There is…

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Review ~ The Immeasurable Corpse of Nature

Nature created glorious structures with no intent or foresight, the Giant’s Causeway being one such example. Competence without comprehension. The illusion of purpose by the purposeless.

Humans are “promiscuous” teleologists, interpreting natural phenomena as being there for us.

Nature saw to it that there are far more bacteria on Earth than stars in the universe. She dearly loves her fungi, viruses, prions, and the glorious symphony of decomposition.

Two concerns tie together the stories in this, the second offering from author Christopher Slatsky. The first is an interest in mediums to convey what can be encapsulated as horror. Not just…

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(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Don Quixote on a Motorbike

Review ~ Norman Bissell ‘Barnhill’

The world’s becoming a nightmare as far as I’m concerned.

I have written before about my ambiguous relationship to the legacy and works of George Orwell, pen name of Eric Blair. His writings served as my first introduction to the power of long narrative fiction, and in particular how pathos can be communicated through the tragic tradition. Still, many of his later choices as a writer and human being trouble me. He took decisions I consider awful, but produced works I nonetheless value. At an early stage of my own critical reflections on Orwell (then unspoken), I was fortunate to…

Rowan Fortune (RTE)

Utopian flâneur, writer and freelance editor. Rowan has been published by Envoi, the Tablet, Clarion and others.

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