painting of a woman reading a novel
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There’s a David Shields quote that I have encountered multiple times, first in his own book Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, and most recently in “Note to Self” by Elaine Blair, a review of the work (both written and editorial) of John D’Agata, subtitled “The lyric essay’s convenient fictions.” Both D’Agata and Shields are proponents of blurring the distinction between fiction and nonfiction. This is the quote (boldface mine):

Why do I so strenuously resist generic boundaries? Because when I’m constrained within a form, my mind shuts down, goes on a sit-down strike, saying, This is boring, so I refuse to try very hard. I find it very nearly impossible to read a contemporary novel that presents itself unselfconsciously as a novel, since it’s not clear to me how such a book could convey what it feels like to be alive right now.

More… “Why Read Novels?”

Elisa Gabbert is the author of L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems (Black Ocean), The Self Unstable (Black Ocean) and The French Exit (Birds LLC). Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.
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In the first few weeks of World War I, Evelyn Underhill published a little book about mysticism. Practical Mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People was written during the last months of peace. But was a book about mysticism for the common man really necessary when the whole world was collapsing? Underhill decided it was, more than ever.

The contemplative life, wrote Underhill, is not some dreamy, silly pursuit; “a game fit only for idle women and inferior poets.” Neither is it a pious “special career, involving abstraction from the world of things.” Mysticism is a call to arms. It is a challenge to engage with true reality, to see things are they really are. “The mystical consciousness,” Underhill wrote in her Preface, “has the power of lifting those who possess it to a plane of reality which no struggle, no cruelty, can… More…

Robert Rauschenberg, 1955.

 

Robert Rauschenberg died last week. That makes it, I suppose, the end of an era. There’s no question that Rauschenberg changed art — the way it’s practiced, the way it is received, the things you can do and still call it art. Contemporary art is Rauschenbergian. Even Warhol, the other father of contemporary art, owes the man a massive debt.

The simplest way to explain what Rauschenberg did is to say that he made the canvas three-dimensional and worldly. Or to put it another way, he thought of the canvas as something you could walk inside and inhabit. There’s a famous quote that has come to define Rauschenberg’s practice. It goes, “I operate in the gap between art and life.”

There’s a piece by Robert Rauschenberg that now lives at the MoMA. It’s called “Bed” (1955). It isn’t… More…