Category Archives: Essay

Wednesday 10/11 2017
The Porcelain Menagerie: On Cassie Marie Edwards’ “Figurines”

“Porcelain menageries carry in them the uncanny idealized nature, the oddity of imposing the characteristics we most desire on a totemic form to keep resting beside us, or locked safely away behind class. Consider the bull, or the horse, unicorn, or bear, common tchotchke subjects whose cuteness seems to have an inverse relationship to their ferocity (that a house cat will tear an ecosystem asunder and is, in this way, much more of a terrorist than a bear, speaks to the inherent human perspective from which these caricatures are drawn), or the aforementioned stock-still prey items, for whom sitting is death. Skittish horses, coquettish cats, majestic, cuirass-chested working dogs who cannot maintain their sense of regality while huffing through crushed faces and flapping jowls, all are made into exactly what we wish for them to be: perfect, one note—our favorite note—and within our possession. Figurines are our literal molding of nature, their fragility the proper trade for our wonts.”

Read the rest of my review of Edwards’ show in New American Paintings

Monday 09/25 2017
An Obama Speechwriter’s Memoir Makes Clear the Power of Presidential Words

“He [Trump] does this via shock and awe, brute force and braggadocio, channeling every Wall Street wolf and old school football coach who came before him. He speaks in centipede sutures and staples, exclamations and catechisms field trauma care for the gaping wounds where his thoughts have been punctured or sloughed away. He breaks, plods, stutters, roars, a dog whistle the only sounds cutting through the cacophony, his cadence ambling like a skull rolling downhill and thoughts left dangling from the gallows, the familiar, wayfaring elements of the English language made alien, frightening by their appearance and affect, their design—truly, their lack thereof—and delivery, rhetoric as re-animated cat skeleton.”

Read the rest of my essay on David Litt’s memoir Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years in Paste Magazine

Thursday 08/24 2017
Eastman Was Here: On Satirizing Masculinity

Eastman Was Here follows Alan Eastman, a washed up author who turns to Saigon for the swan song that will save his career and his marriage. Set in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War, the book highlights the type of authors who have cast a spell on us at some point—manly men boasting manly emotions, who dissolve their Pain in drugs, women and prose. These are writers descended from Hemingway’s poisonous line, but with a more urbane spin, like Roth, Updike, Irving, Mailer and their peers. You know, the stereotypical novelists who were the accolade-winning dicks in the American post-war literary scene.

We’ve all been suffering in their long, dark shadows ever since.”

Read the rest of my essay in Paste Magazine

Monday 06/26 2017
Remembering Frank Deford

“When people ask me why I write about sports, instead of some or any other thing, I tell them this: when it comes to social constructs—the membranes and ligaments which hold groups of people together, the bonding agents not visible on a map or in a flag, things that tie us together socially, not politically—there are only three which can rightfully claim true and enduring power: religion, war, and sport.

Those three social constructs reach, bring together, and separate more people than art or music or movies (both so close!) or literature or whatever else is generally deemed “more important” than sport.

And so, should not our writers who cover so important a social construct be admired and examined with the love and seriousness commensurate with what they cover? All of which is a long way of saying, sport matters, sportswriting matters, and Frank Deford was a fantastic sportswriter. His writing matters, and so does he.

And what fucking writing! Go on ahead and Google an image of Deford, because the easiest way to explain his rhetorical stylings is to say that he wrote how he looked. Unafraid of the purple and being picaresque, large but not bulky or intimidating, charming but not unctuous. He’s a rakish hero, broad shouldered and be-pompadoured, glossy and flashy but never to the point of inelegance.”

Read the rest in The Classical

Tuesday 06/6 2017
No Pity: Masculinity and Haruki Murakami’s “Men Without Women”

“Any discussion of male loneliness must begin with two caveats. The first is that our loneliness cannot be the fault of women; this is no fedora-wearing, MRA message board polemic. The second is that the issues which may exacerbate loneliness are our own fault, stemming from concepts of masculinity that have given us a pretty good shake for millennia.

Modern American Masculinity is the one I know best, and it feels defined by stoicism, by beards and guns and backwards Flexfit baseball caps. Such atavistic ideas can be deeply alluring; I know, because I have felt them, too. So when a man who defines himself by his Modern American Masculinity is presented with something corrosive like loneliness, he can either sacrifice a part of that masculinity and express his emotional pain or internalize it and immolate with rage. One guess as to what choice many men make.”

Read the rest of my essay in Paste Magazine

Tuesday 05/16 2017
The Effective Narcissism of Chuck Klosterman

“Klosterman’s essays matter, because—despite focusing on a bunch of middle-aged-white-guy-things—their content tackles well-known subjects. These are not meditations on obscure punk records; these are treatises on KISS, for fuck’s sake. It’s like pulling David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster from a black backpack covered in Toy Machine patches and poorly rendered Sharpie doodles. Klosterman pulls the literary equivalent of Jeff Koons’ art—validating your love of something with nary a pat on the head in sight.”

Read the rest of my essay on Klosterman’s new book, X, in Paste

Thursday 04/13 2017
Houses on the Sand: “Sunshine State,” Real Estate, and Our Future

“Florida is nothing if not a haven for builders and dreamers, down low where the laws are looser and the warm weather means construction season never ends. Cheap swampland is converted into mansions and country clubs, orchards into a Magic Kingdom, the Everglades into sugarcane fields.

How American is it, this rush to build in an inhospitable place? To turn aside nature and decide to build atop it? How darkly, cruelly, perfectly American is it that a “housing first” approach to ending homelessness in a state with a dire need and an obsession with building is met with fierce hostility, as Gerard chronicles?

That all of those pricey lands, those millions of dollars in assets, will soon be washed away hasn’t slowed their proliferation. This, too, is America in microcosm; it is a blind hunger for lucre and a blind faith for solutions, a bet that either the payout will be worth it or American ingenuity will beat back the seas. Sunshine State does not provide easy answers to any of the questions it dredges up, nor is it meant to; it is left to the reader—and the nation—to sift through the mangrove mud and crab carapaces.”

Read the rest of my essay about Sarah Gerard’s essay collection Sunshine State in Paste Magazine

Thursday 04/13 2017
Alternating Currents: On Bipolar and David Leite’s Memoir

“Mania is, as Leite described, neon. If I am full-blown manic, I am All; I am the Greatest Writer Who Ever Lived, I am a Deity and, as such, require My Pronouns and Titles to be capitalized. I rive skulls, rend nature, exert Myself upon the universe, Intelligence and Sex and Creativity, a Perfect Creature, Napoleon, immune to even heat-death, My mind red-shifting, driven by murmuring voices which I can hear but never make out. I am a Run-On Sentence, a Living James Joyce Passage, and I file essays with 386 word lede sentences, which are, really, as apt a metaphor as I am able to offer, a truly definite porthole, in My Indomitable Opinion; I am Ego, Great and Powerful and Right Ego, gloriously and deliriously thrilled with Me, Myself, the complete and utter inverse of bitter depression, I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, flipped and reversed and shot screaming up in to the night like a bullet, a Catherine Wheel, a cruise missile, a Saturn V, the Immolating Flight of the Wendigo, the very thoughts and prayers and animus of the Earth and creation itself, King of the Towering Peak with tears lashing My eyes, and everything laid out before Me, for Me, to be manipulated by Me; I am Galactus.”

Read the rest of the essay in Paste Magazine

Monday 03/20 2017
On Numbers on Words

Blatt’s approach sounds unorthodox, because, as he so aptly notes, we are used to studying literature in a granular way. We spend days, weeks, months on the reading and analysis of one work. We draw conclusions about culture and place until we exsanguinate it, and then we place it within a broader canon. What Blatt’s numbers can do is study the aggregate, massive swaths of work that can reveal broader trends than any single book can. More data, as far as science is concerned, is always better. The more points one can make coalesce into a picture, the better the odds of that picture being accurate.

Read the rest of my essay at Paste Magazine

Monday 03/13 2017
Cinema Fatalite: Ben Murray at Moique Meloche

“In Life Review, Ben Murray’s solo show at Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago, continues the artist’s reconnaissance of the maddeningly amorphous landscape of memory, here pinned to the walls in its most dramatic form. The “life review” is the classic, quasi-paranormal event wherein one’s life flashes before one’s eyes—in totality, crystal-clear—during a near death experience. A fictional trope and indelible fact to those who have experienced them, the life review is memory armed with the exigency of death, its celerity contrary to every little thing we imagine about ourselves—that we are some grand elegy in our total, that we are incapable of reduction to a series of scenes—when in fact we are, of course, nothing but scenes, none ever seen from the same perspective twice, singular in both our mind and the minds of others.”

Read the rest of my review in New American Paintings