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In Conversation


In April 2008, the ComicCon was still more or less a showcase for mainstream superheroics, but even there you could see hints of diversity. Manga, underground comics, and indie work weren’t easy to find, but they had more room than ever before. As the days grow longer, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art will celebrate this diversity when it re-opens in Midtown Manhattan. The MoCCA holds its annual Art Festival at the Puck Building the first weekend of June.

NONFICTION: Homeland Mythology

We can put it like this: the Christian Right has diabolically fused biblical storylines, which are generally socially retrograde in the first place, with an updated, inspired jingoism, laced it with an extract from the conservative beliefs of Puritans and Southern slaveholders, and secreted it as a poison into the bloodstream of the American polity.

NONFICTION: Atomic Childhood

Kelly McMasters’s haunting new memoir, Welcome to Shirley, tells the story of a small Long Island community struggling with the unseen poison showered on their suburb by the nearby Brookhaven National Laboratory. It is a tragic, at times horrific tale—yet McMasters manages, with great grace and introspection, to deliver an eminently readable book of hope and strength.

NONFICTION: Decline and Fall

Debord, after all, explicitly defined himself and his work as part of a revolutionary project—one of his greatest hopes was that the Situationist International he had founded would in time be superseded—and for him, this project involved not only staking out terrains of combat unexplored by previous revolutionary movements, but also supporting and where possible extending the scope of existing global struggles.

FICTION: The Gessen Game of History

The photo captures Bill Clinton and Al Gore, youthful and vigorous, lifetimes away from Lewinsky and the 2000 election. Clinton’s smiling face leans toward Gore’s, as if he has just made some jovial remark, and Gore smiles in response. Each man gazes out beyond the photo’s frame with all the confidence and hope that the newly elected, upstart duo inspired back then.


For whatever reason, Americans still tolerate the thumbs up. Occasionally we expect it, like on the deck of an aircraft carrier, or we may even use it ourselves (think double-thumbs up for a missed layup). The thumbs up—a peace sign of the ,80s and the international symbol for awesome—changed forever in 2004 when it became the hallmark of photos taken at Abu Ghraib prison.

NONFICTION: Power of Steel and Wood

In AK47: The Story Of A Gun, Hodges takes his willing readers on the winding, turbulent, and terror-laden journey of the infamous rifle, commonly known after its inventor as the Kalashnikov.

FICTION: A Handful of Change

The final scene of the 2005 film, Jarhead, is a montage depicting life after wartime for a disbanded troop of marines, boys thrust back into lives in the trenches of society. Its soundtrack, the song “Soldier’s Things” by Tom Waits—singer of American born-under-a-bad-sign stories—lyrically rifles through the garage sale of an unknown solider: “Cuff links and hub caps/Trophies and paperbacks/It’s good transportation/But the brakes aren’t so hot…This one is for bravery/And this one is for me/And everything’s a dollar/In this box.”

FICTION: The Penitent is Mightier

Ron Hansen’s novels often use historical settings, and have been increasingly concerned with Catholic themes such as faith and unconditional love, and his latest effort is one-third riveting historical drama and, essentially, two-thirds religious meditation. Exiles opens with Hopkins sequestered in a seminary in Wales, where life appears dull and his fellow theologians less quick-witted; nonetheless, he is convincingly grateful to be there in service, having renounced the worldly calling of poetry.

Poetry Roundup

Lewis Warsh—luminous waltz. These writings possess an otherness, an alterity that persists as they switch from verse to prose to poetry. The introspective narrator achieves a sui generis quality, unlike anything you’ve read before.

Prose Roundup

Rudolph Wurlitzer, The Drop Edge of Yonder (Two Dollar Radio, 2008), Peter Conners, Emily Ate the Wind(Marick Press, 2008), Carl Watson, The Hotel of Irrevocable Acts (Autonomedia, 2008)


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2008

All Issues