The Blog

Rachel Z. Arndt's BEYOND MEASURE

Anya Ventura

Rachel Arndt’s brilliant debut collection, Beyond Measure, explores the idea of “the quantified self," the movement which purports to grant “self-knowledge through numbers.” Overwriting any sentimentalized notion of a unique and irreducible “I,” the self as the sum of private thoughts, Arndt’s “I” is instead an assemblage of data: sleep stats, Airbnb ratings and Tinder likes, pounds weighed and sweat leaked, to-do lists and domestic routines that function like algorithms. This “I” is the circuitry of feedback loops, the precise circling currents of inputs and outputs, the “I” as digital accumulation. In the opening essay, as she attempts to cure her narcolepsy, Arndt writes: “In the sleep lab I let myself become an object . . .

Heather Derr-Smith's THRUST

Thomas Simpson

Heather Derr-Smith’s fourth collection Thrust, winner of Persea Books’s Lexi Rudnitsky Prize, is a volume of exorcism and ecstasy, of violence and desire. It takes her out of some of her earlier work’s terrain—the refugee camps of Syria and Bosnia-Herzegovina—and into ruins far closer to home: the American South, where her speaker was conceived in distinctly American sin. The broken lines of her opener, “Hide Out,” hint that what’s to come is lethally perverse. It’s the only sort of warning we get before the speaker takes us by the hand into the wilderness of eastern Virginia (“all of it battlefield”), where an overpowering older boy “made for coming like a second coming” sexually abuses her as a child.

Anna Maria Hong's H & G

David Greenberg

Our culture’s obsession with fairy tales and superheroes is both a premodern revival of myth and a form of compulsiveness. It doesn’t matter that Spiderman has been played by multiple actors or that Disney creates microvariants of identical coming-of-age stories. Myths are meant to be retold, and the more retelling, the greater their power. Nor does it matter when the work winks at the audience with an awareness of artifice and convention. (See Guardians of the Galaxy, or Robert Coover’s debauched fairy tales.) Skepticism is a crucial component of the genre, as fairy tales are not just about first enthrallment, but the full cycle of spell, disillusionment, and reenchantment. The fact that a spell is always ready to wear off defines its power—its precariousness stakes its claim.

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