Revisiting that which can’t be revisited: Merce Cunningham



Merce Cunningham sits very high in my personal pantheon. In 2011 we got tickets to his company’s final performances. These were big, moving nights for us — even as I’ve always found it hard to describe what is so emotionally moving about his work. I wrestled with this and wrote about it for the Paris Review’s “Revisited” series.

…So even prior to (or outside of) the physical dance, there was already a parallel conceptual-art project that was an intense durational-performance work, an almost literal dance with death, a mourning ritual, an explosion of life within death, and an enlightened embracing and letting go of time all at once.

Read the piece here:




i’ve a review up at fanzine of Lynn Crawford’s wonderful new novel: SHANKUS & KITTO. here’s a bit from it:

Lynn Crawford’s new novel is an inside-out family epic where, instead of the usual sweep of generational time, we are given a perspective that allows us to see familial heartbreaks as a telescoping and ever repeating fractal… Crawford is an accurate, sometimes mordant, more often earnest, observer of a new normal… Crawford’s voices capture a particular type of everyday speech. William Carlos Williams, arguing for an American (immigrant) context said that his work derived from “the mouths of Polish mothers.” By writing in a poetry of vernacular, Lynn Crawford has similarly and bravely gone against the grain and in doing so has slyly re-constructed the family epic.

read the rest of the review here:

but the book here.

Jeremy Hoevenaar’s Insolvency, Insolvency!



Jeremy Hoevenaar’s Insolvency, Insolvency! is now available for pre-order. Here’s my blurb for it:

Making a precise and brilliant artwork out of the transaction-speak of the internet and the baked-in indeterminacy of theory talk, Hoevenaar’s poems have the circuitry and compressed connection you’ll find once you scalpel out the microchip they’ll soon implant in your skull. These are multisyllabic bars of actuarial nerdrap, featuring an exacting stutter-rhythm, and with a fragment-studded and polished lyric. Want to know what our insolvent and complicit-making world looks like from the inside out? Follow Insolvency, Insolvency!’s links.

more info here:

profile in the Village Voice




thanks to Ross Barkan.

[and additional thanks for the illustration to Mich Yeh. you can find her work here, here, and here.]

There’s a point in Eugene Lim’s slim, haunting new novel, Dear Cyborgs, where the cyborgs finally reveal themselves. They are not, it turns out, cybernetic crime-fighters or machine killers with human hearts and laser blaster hands.

“When I say cyborgs, of course I mean us,” Lim writes, laying bare what lies at the crux of his project, an unusual book now drawing the sorts of critical accolades that should vault him into the first rank of American writers. The New Yorker and New York magazine were laudatory. Jonathan Lethem said the novel blew him away.

read the rest here:

New work called “Returning to the Problem” up at the Brooklyn Rail


I’ve some new work (an essay-poem-fiction smoosh) just up at the Brooklyn Rail. With great thanks to Donald Breckenridge.

It’s not true I didn’t remember. I did remember some things. I remembered the city. Big avenues and parks and terminals and plazas. Crowds going to and from work. People strolling. A Chinese writer I’d read said it’s impossible to say if a person is good or bad when they’re walking the street. They may be coming from evil or good, or on their way to committing evil or good, but in their moment of walking they are neither. Thus they are most human at that moment. Blankly human. The Chinese writer had been in prison when he wrote that.

Read the rest at

Christian Lorentzen in New York Magazine


Eugene Lim’s Dear Cyborgs is a novel of ideas, small, elegant ideas about art and protest, and one of the most striking literary works to emerge from the Occupy movement . . . The possible futility, complicity, and co-optation of protest are the ideas Dear Cyborgs circles around without ever giving up on the idea that resistance is essential . . . I had expected the decade’s wave of protests to yield a raft of conventional social novels—some earnest, some satirical, perhaps not a few reactionary—but in Dear Cyborgs Lim has delivered something far more idiosyncratic, intricate, and useful: a novel that resists and subverts conventions at every turn.

Christian Lorentzen in New York Magazine



Interview at Kartika Review



Thanks to Paul Lai for this interview in the latest issue of the Karikta Review.

Eugene Lim is a singular voice in contemporary American literature—read one of his novels, and you’ll never forget the stories, characters, and atmosphere he evokes in his quasi-dreamlike narratives. His first novel Fog & Car (Ellipsis Press, 2008) traces the diverging and converging paths of a recently divorced couple. The man settles into a quiet life in a small town while the woman starts anew in New York City, and the people who enter their post-marriage lives are not always as disconnected from their married lives as they may seem. In his second novel, The Strangers (Black Square Press, 2013), a larger cast of characters centers around various twins separated by geographical distance as well as starkly different worlds. His third novel, Dear Cyborgs (FSG Originals, 2017), is framed by the story of childhood friends who re-encounter each other later in life, and the stories within this frame consider spies, superheroes, and very pointed commentaries on protest and art. In all three novels, Lim explores resonances, coincidences, and links between characters that bring up questions of fate or otherworldly design. He carries over names between novels as well, so even though the novels seem to concern very different characters and worlds, there is a semblance of continuity that lingers.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Lim’s novels is that the worlds he creates seem at once generic (with a timeless, universal quality) while also strongly rooted in contemporary political concerns. In his latest novel, Dear Cyborgs, for instance, the characters reference South Korean activist Kim Jin-suk who famously spent a year on top of a construction crane; Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden; the Occupy movement in the United States; and the large scale anti-war protests during the build-up to and start of the second Iraq/Gulf War. Lim also includes Asian American characters and narrators regularly in his novels though the plots and themes generally engage obliquely, maybe allusively, with more traditional narratives of racialization. Overall, at least for me as a reader, Lim’s novels also present a haunting atmosphere that treads on possible supernatural elements without tipping over into outright horror or fantasy. We are excited to talk to the author about his writing and working life in the interview that follows…

Read the interview at the Kartika Review.

Interview at The Millions



Thanks to Evan Allgood for this interview.

Eugene Lim will not choose between superheroes and soliloquies. His new novel, Dear Cyborgs, shifts between quick bursts of pulpy action and long philosophical monologues. Characters kidnap, shoot, and poison one other, then weigh the merits of protest and relay brushes with gentrification. Capitalism looms over the book like one of Marvel’s Sentinels — inescapable, maybe indestructible. Low art sits next to high, smudging the hierarchy. The term “thoughtful dystopian romp” comes to mind. The year or universe is hazy, but we can make out some of our less fine hours, our targeted ads. Two worlds slide together and a third comes into focus. Is this how people write in the future?

Lim and I exchanged emails about the value of protest, the act of reading as resistance, and the death and rebirth of the novel.

Read the interview at The Millions.

Interview on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate show


LL Logo

Eugene Lim joins us to discuss his novel Dear Cyborgs. The novel begins in a small Midwestern town, with two Asian American boys who become friends over their mutual love of comic books. Meanwhile, in an alternate/future universe, Lim tells the story of detective Frank Exit, who is trailing a cultural terrorist named Ms. Mistleto, and their chase around the world.”

Listen to the interview here:

Dear Cyborgs gets the Double Take treatment at Electric Lit

spoilers contained, should you believe in such, in these smart, honest (double) takes of DEAR CYBORGS. thank to Jw McCormack and Rosiė Clàrke.

here’s my favorite bit:

“I was certainly misled by the superhero element!”

& also:

“In a way, it’s the most lucid book I’ve read lately. All the books I’ve related to lately have basically brought up the question(s) — what are we doing here? What are we party to? What is desirable? What is apt, given that the correct socio-political view is the horrified, baffled, fearful, woke one?”

& also:

“I think to write a book about immigrant experience that isn’t about immigrant experience, about superheroes that skews their whole purpose, and about capitalism and resistance that doesn’t succumb to bright-eyed idealism or weary cynicism is quite an achievement.”

read the rest here.

Hua Hsu in The New Yorker

“I was a few pages from the end of Eugene Lim’s wondrous new novel, DEAR CYBORGS, when I flipped back to the beginning and started again… His writing is confident and tranquil; he has a knack for making everyday life seem strange—or, in the case of DEAR CYBORGS, for making revolution seem like the most natural thing possible. His writing is transfixing from page to page, filled with digressive meditations on small talk and social protest, superheroes, terrorism, the art world, and the status of being marginal… there’s an intoxicating, whimsical energy on every page.”

Read the rest of Hua Hsu’s review in the New Yorker.

American classics that influenced Dear Cyborgs, mostly in pairs

loa logo

Library of America’s series of guest posts by contemporary American writers returns with the following contribution from Eugene Lim, whose novel Dear Cyborgs has just been published by FSG Originals.

In a concise 176 pages, Dear Cyborgs interweaves two narratives: one about two isolated Asian American boys in the Midwest who bond over a mutual love of comics, and the other about a group of disaffected superheroes pondering resistance strategies in the era of late capitalism.

Novelist Jonathan Lethem, who just edited the anthology Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z for Library of America, is already a vocal fan of the novel, telling The Chicago Review of Books that it “blew me away with its deceptively blithe mixture of cryptic humor, philosophical ingenuity, and genuine political yearning… . I hope it makes a splash out there in this overcrowded world.”

Below, Lim pulls the curtain back on the literary and extra–literary influences that went into his new book.

Read the list at the Library of America blog.

interview at The Chicago Review of Books


CRB logo

thanks to Sara Cutaia for this interview.

the headline might overstate things slightly. it wasn’t *constant* despair at any rate…

If you’re one of the millions of people who check the news every morning, you know citizens are joining marches and calling representatives daily. In the months since the election, we’ve seen the power of civil disobedience. And though these forms of dissent aren’t yet losing steam, they raise an interesting question: can these struggles continue in the face of capitalism?

Eugene Lim’s new novel Dear Cyborgs addresses this question as his characters meditate on art, political dissent, and purpose. In nestled narratives, the novel weaves a story of friendship that calls for a provocative conversation. If the novel is smart, the author is more so: Lim shared recently shared some of his thoughts on contemporary politics, the power of art, and a thorough reading list for those of us who want more after finishing Dear Cyborgs.

Read the interview here:

A conversation with Donald Breckenridge about our new books, volkswagens, emmanuel bove, and boris the bear…


Over at the FSG Work in Progress blog, Donald Breckenridge and I have a chat. Read the conversation here.



Cyborgs, comic book superheroes, protesters in the streets, disenfranchised artists, first-generation immigrants struggling to assimilate—all these outsiders, outcasts, and oddballs have more in common with each other than one might think, as Eugene Lim’s novel Dear Cyborgs beautifully illustrates. Blending Hollywood chase scenes with sharp cultural critiques, hard-boiled detective pulps with subversive philosophy, Dear Cyborgs is a playful and profound meditation on resisting oppression and alienation. Donald Breckenridge is the fiction editor of The Brooklyn Rail and author of And Then, a novel about desolation, regret, and a “father’s long decline into humiliation and death.” Here the two longtime friends talk about the foreign filmmakers and authors who have inspired them to embrace their own “outsider-ness” as “helplessly American” artists and citizens.


short fiction on The Organist podcast

I pledge allegiance to @Joe_Frank as do the radio wizards at @KCRWorganist. On their latest episode — which covers hypnosis, thich nhat hanh, alan watts, and david blaine — I do a PSA for our collective virtual reality (at 32:13). why not give the whole a listen?


How does music resemble food? How can sound work like medicine? To treat chronic digestive pain, producer Ross Simonini tried everything until visiting hypnotherapist Daniel Ryan, who uses only the sound of his voice through a technique shared by orators, monks, musicians, parents—and magician David Blaine.

We also learn about the psychoacoustics of lawn sprinklers with Susan Rogers, a sound engineer who’s recorded albums for David Byrne, Barenaked Ladies, Tricky, and, most famously, Prince’s albums Purple Rain and Sign o’ the Times. Rogers is one of the most legendary female sound engineers in an industry long dominated by men. These days, she’s also a professor at the Berklee School of Music, where she researches how our brains process sound.

Lastly, author Eugene Lim brings us speculative fiction on the interstellar connections between celebrity CEO Elon Musk and the Organist podcast itself.

Hypnosis segment produced by Ross Simonini.
Interview with Susan Rogers produced by Jenny Ament.

Ross Simonini
Andrew Leland

GERMINAL by émile zola


J’s on an intense Zola kick and this book was the one that started it. she said i had to read it. i went dragging my feet. a 500-page naturalist book from the 19th century seemed like it, um, was not going to be my bag. i imagined, semi-rightly, endless pages of description and plot not to mention a moribund philosophy and a long-ago decided politics. i slogged through the first half, which was better than i expected but still slow going.

and then something clicked. it wasn’t exactly needing to find out what happened next, it was a different kind of suspense…. it’s a spectacular biography of the mind of the mob, and with little piercing sketches of psychology. godlike in its handling of the landscape and the multiple minds of its society. like pedro costa in its use of natural light. and an honest, admirable, and relevant politics. (the title referenced finally on the last page, which seems countered by every page before it.)

it is said that sixty thousand marched at zola’s funeral. sixty. thousand.

and o god the horses of germinal. the horses of germinal are more awesome and terrible in their nightmares than the horses of nietzsche or tarr or tarkovsky.

two paragraphs, one from mid-way through and one from near the end, to give you a hint at its arc, as if you needed it. coal miners. won’t be but should be read by everyone who voted for trump and everyone who didn’t. we’re dying “miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” i didn’t want to read it but i’m shattered, glad, and changed now that i did.

It was a scarlet vision of the revolution that would inevitably carry them all away, on some blood-soaked fin de siècle evening. That was it, one night the people would rise up, cast caution aside, and run riot like this far and wide all over the countryside; and there would be rivers of bourgeois blood, their heads would be waved on pikes, their strong-boxes hacked open, and their gold poured all over the ground. The women would scream, and the men would look gaunt as wolves, their fangs drooling and gnashing. Yes, these same rags and the same thunder of clogs, the same terrifying pack of animals with dirty skins and foul breath, would sweep away the old world, as their barbarian hordes overflowed and surged through the land. There would be blazing fires, not a stone of the towns would be left standing, and they would become savages again, living out in the woods, once the poor had enjoyed their great orgy and garnered their harvest, sucked the women dry and sacked the cellars of the rich. There would be nothing left, not a sou of inherited wealth, not a line of legal entitlement, until the day when, perhaps, a new order might at last spring up from the earth. And that was the future out there, tearing down the road like some natural disaster, and buffeting their faces with its great hurricane wind.*

& from the last chapter:

‘You’re right, you’re better off leaving, if you can . . . And I’m glad I’ve seen you, because at least you’ll know I’ve got no axe to grind with you. There was a time I wanted to kill you, after all that butchery. But then you think it over, don’t you? You realize that in the end it’s not really anyone’s fault . . . No, it’s really not your fault, it’s everyone’s fault.’

Excerpt from Dear Cyborgs up at Vice.


DOOM RERUNS: Komagata Maru

Have you heard the story of how a racist country tried to keep out non-whites through hasty legislation, got rebuffed by the courts, but then passed a similar immigration ban that was successfully upheld? 

i came across this the other day, right around the time when news came out of SCROTUS’s 2nd try at an immigration ban. The Komagata Maru incident, 1914, Canada.

baba gurdit singh

After Canada and the United States stopped South Asian immigration, Punjabi and other South Asian activists concentrated on trying to reopen the door to Canada. They believed they had a more powerful argument in dealing with Canada than with the United States because, like India, Canada was a part of the British Empire. From the beginning, they were very persistent in supporting would-be-immigrants from India (including women and children), in fighting individual immigration cases in court, in lobbying officials in Ottawa, London and Delhi, and in publishing propaganda aimed both at white Canadian and South Asian audiences.

A moment of great encouragement came in November 1913 when a Canadian judge overruled an immigration department order for the deportation of 38 Punjabi Sikhs. These immigrants had come to Canada via Japan on a regularly scheduled Japanese passenger liner, the Panama Maru. Immigration officials had ordered them deported because they had not come by continuous journey from India and because they were not carrying the requisite amount of money. The judge found fault with the continuous journey regulation and also the regulation specifying a $200 requirement. He looked closely at the wording of these regulations and ruled them inconsistent with the wording of the Immigration Act and therefore invalid. He then allowed the passengers to land. It was this victory for the passengers in the Panama Maru case that encouraged the sailing of the Komagata Maru in the following April 1914.

Unfortunately, by April the legal situation had changed. The Canadian government had quickly rewritten its regulations to meet the objections it encountered in court. Although briefly invalidated, the continuous journey and $200 requirement regulations were back in force by January 1914, three months before the Komagata Maru left Hong Kong for Vancouver. The leadership of the Komagata Maru passengers might have been deterred from sailing after the reissue of these regulations. Instead, they convinced themselves that a Canadian court would rule in their favour.


gurdit singh with passengers

Section from Erika Lee’s The Making Of Asian America.

Other links:

BLIND SPOT by Harold Abramowitz

 godard poetry

“One thing I tried to do while writing Blind Spot was translate the text into an imaginary French, since I can’t actually speak French, as if the text were actually the voiceover to a French New Wave film.”
–Harold Abramowitz


though not quite with the immediately accessible vocabulary of a philip glass composition, harold abramowitz takes similar risk with a modular, repeating structure in his latest book BLIND SPOT. the result is a very very beautiful and meditative work, the experience of which i thought of as like watching the haunting and mesmerizing sway of tree branches in a summer wind… the thing that can be grating or even mockable about philip glass’s music is also what makes it elsewhere revolutionary, i.e. its foundation on modular phasings and accretions, which can verge on boring repetitiveness but which also on special occasion, after toying with dull sugariness, suddenly transcends to find deep emotion.

along with abramowitz’s artful use of repetitions, recursions and phasings, there is also throughout an elusiveness — a blind spot — which the reader seems to have a different vantage of than the protagonist and which houses some violence, trauma, or crime. the book begins with a section called HOTEL that tweaks the bygone europa tropes of hotel life as appearing in such disparate sourcetexts as thomas mann or norman lock or marie redonnet or wes anderson. a guest, perhaps an undercover agent of some kind, consorts with a general, has a bad car accident where he hits some form of beast, is on vacation. similarly the second section, FUNERAL, involves a cemetery, a missed rendezvous or two, an explosion… with a few elements like these, abramowitz builds a space full of both movement and stasis, one that is anguishingly incomplete and with a feeling of entrapment and yet also one that achieves a very sublime and melancholic beauty. BLIND SPOT takes a great risk and by it becomes an innovative and ravishingly elegant triumph.

Harold Abramowitz reading from Blind Spot

more info and an excerpt at CCM

find it at your local independent bookstore.


PS and utterly beside the point : PG’s Wichita Sutra Vortex


PPS just through arpeggio association that glass bit brought me to this. which then led me to this. so, like, um, yeah. the internet.

mark baumer 1983-2017

i barely knew him. but i loved him. probably many people feel this way. he was a seraph mash of andy kaufman, ray johnson, and tehching hsieh. what am i saying. he was entirely his own being. but like these, his mindful performances carefully studied empathy and mortality. his video diaries are fantastic! precisely raw, absurd documentaries of his compassionate durational art. watch his last entry, from his 100th day walking, in which he shouts YOUR IGNORANCE IS KILLING PEOPLE! then watch all the rest.


among other things, his walk was a fundraising effort for the environmental FANG collective. please consider donating.


an interview with mark baumer on steve roggenbuck’s plantliker podcast

Mark Baumer died. He was hit by a car and killed while walking along US 90, in Crestview, Florida. Mark was walking barefoot across the country to raise money for the FANG Collective, but also, I suspect, to both find solitude and meet people. Mark was an artist, not only through his poetry and videos, but in his life, and he was always searching for inspiration.

Mark was at the fringes of lots of labor, social justice and climate actions in Rhode Island, but occasionally he stepped up to take a more central role. His work always seemed to be based in a deep sense of compassion…

ji jang bosal ji jang bosal ji jang bosal

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