Little Star’s comment to the FCC on Net Neutrality

I started a small literary magazine in 2009, on the promise that digital communications had created for minority interests to find their audience and grow together.  I have worked in literary publishing for over thirty years, and in all that time I had been contemplating such a magazine and preparaing for it, but until the dawn of digital communication I had no opportunity to make it a reality.  My magazine has been well received by writers and readers.  It is utterly dependent on a free and open internet to find its audience. It is the quality of my work alone, and not any corporate or financial muscle behind it, that gains it a hearing;  my work wouid quickly be crushed if it were forced down the ladder by the growing publishing monolopies with the cash to buy first place in the internet.

As you know the arts and ideas are threatened on all sides by monopolizing forces that threaten the free exchange of ideas.  Artists, critics, and thinkers, in the digital environment, can no longer count on making a living from their work or on the support of institutions like publishing houses, record companies, movie companies, that opt to put their aesthetic or intellectual values ahead of the bottom line.  Such institutions are being slowly destroyed. All we have going for us now is a free and open internet. Take this from us, and our culture is in the grip of majoritarian corporate interests.  I beg you, in the interests of culture and also of liberty and quality of thought, to protect the internet from going up for sale and to keep it as a vital resource for the people.

For more information: https://www.battleforthenet.com/

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New from Ingrid Winterbach

“For any type of trauma, mental or physical, even if it was incurred a long time ago,” said Basil. “For disorders of the blood, for festering conditions, black-and-blue spots, or a tendency to bleed. To prevent the formation of pus. For evil-smelling secretions. If the muscles are tender and feel bruised. For abscesses that fail to ripen. For the harmful effect of trauma, financial loss, rage, and revenge; for impotence brought on by excessive sexual activity. If a person fears illness, or sudden death, or great crowds, or public places.”

He lifted a small herb from the soil.

“If there is a compelling urge to pick at the scalp, or at the bed, or at the wall. If the head feels hot and the body cold. If the right eye seems larger than the left, if blood oozes from the ears. If there is a sensitivity to high-pitched sounds.”

Karolina squatted next to Basil. He held up the herb for her to see.

“If the skin looks dark and spotty, and the smallest abrasion turns into a bruise. If the person dreams of death and of mutilated bodies, wakes up in a state of terror—all these things indicate the use of the remedy prepared from this herb,” he said.

Karolina studied the herb attentively. She did not know if Basil was making fun of her. He seemed perfectly serious …

Read more this week in Little Star Weekly

Little Star loves Ingrid Winterbach. We featured a large section of her first novel to appear in English, The Book of Happenstance, in our second issue, and her second, To Hell With Cronjé, in our online diary. Her new book, The Elusive Moth shares with The Book of Happenstance a heroine drawn to taxonomy—two women whose strong impulses and appetites are harnessed to a formidable, meticulous intellect. In The Elusive Moth our heroine observers the strange, often violent and inscrutable inhabitants of the little rural town to which she has come to do field work with the same classifying eye as the insects she studies in the veld. Read all Ingrid Winterbach’s books: each is a hard gem, of a different color.

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Welcome John Zinsser!

Welcome to our new summer curator at Little Star Gallery, John Zinsser! Zinsser is a veteran New York painter who has had more than thirty solo exhibitions in the US and Europe. He co-founded Journal of Contemporary Art in 1987. A lecturer on contemporary exhibitions at the New School, he has also been a contributing editor at The Paris Review and The Brooklyn Rail.

Our mobile app Little Star Weekly will feature a painting selected by Zinsser each Friday through the summer. His first installment, his own painting (at our request) is out today! Subscribe here for more.

Meanwhile, have a look at some more of his work:
The Graham Gallery
Kunstgallerie Bonn
Larry Becker Contemporary Art
Philip Slein Gallery

Little Star Weekly is a mobile mini magazine of poetry, prose, art, and occasional music from Little Star.

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John Zinsser, Paintings and File Studies.
James Graham and Sons, February 14–March 29, 2014

 

 

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Neighboring World, Yakov Druskin

And there is no end and cannot stop / and everything comes out so that there is no break / and flows like water and finding an obstruction in ice / and the sky is grey / and from here the trams on the bridge go slower / and the bridge itself has lengthened and became boring / and on the bridge a boy goes on the railing and if he falls into the Neva he will smash up on the stone and ice and drown in the water / and the ice goes downstream and ice has hit ice and the ice has broken and on the ice there are stones and bricks and from a stone to a stone and from a brick to a brick an infinity / and more ice went over the ice and the ice went under the ice and went out from under the ice and went on / and the Neva flows and petroleum flows on the Neva: / blue oil and patterns and patches and the head is spinning and it is possible to fall into the Neva head first and smash head upon stone and ice and drown in the water and bricks on the ice and shards of bricks on the ice and from a brick to a brick and from a shard to a shard an infinity and the bridge stretches and it has lengthened and the trams go slower and the granite railings on the Neva and I am lying on the railings it is cold the sky is grey nothing else exists. 

Leningrad, 1927 or 1928
Translated by Eugene Ostashevsky
Read more in Little Star Weekly

Yakov Druskin (1901–1980) was a Russian underground philosopher. He was a friend and supporter of the eclectic group of poets and provocateurs, around Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky, who founded the OBERIU collective in 1928 and managed ten years of mischief (combining readings with elements of theater, circus acts, cabaret, and general mayhem) before being disbanded on charges of confusing the proletariat. Little Star celebrates OBERIU this month on the occasion of a performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music based on Kharms’s novella, “The Old Woman,” starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe, directed by Robert Wilson, and using an adaptation by Darryl Pinkney. The poetry and thought of the OBERIU brilliantly challenged conventional ways of imagining and particularly the totalizing aspirations of the ideology that threatened them. Their work, which fully emerged from hiding only in the 1980s, is giving fresh impetus to artists within and beyond their native Russian.

This week we feature Druskin, a school friend of of Vvedensky and the only member of the group to survive the war years. After the siege of Leningrad, his translator Eugene Ostashevsky writes, Druskin “walked across the mutilated city to Kharms’s apartment. Kharms’s wife, Marina Malich, gave Druskin a suitcase with Kharms’s and Vvedensky’s papers. He tied the suitcase to a child’s sled and pulled it back home. This is how the greater part of their surviving work came down to us.” Ostashevsky describes Druskin, “a profoundly original Christian existentialist philosopher,” as “a living window onto an eradicated world” for the young members of the sixties Soviet underground.

The three pieces we feature this week in Little Star (one above and two in our Weekly) reflect on a notion that preoccupied the group, which dabbled in the occult and styled themselves chinari, or “titled ones,” of “neighboring worlds”—worlds that adjoin ours but operate according to different rules—and how to reach them. Messengers? Windows? Kharms’ stories of the old woman also travel in this alternative geography.

Translator Eugene Ostashevsky is a poet and scholar of Russian literature. He is editor, most recently, of Endarkenment: Selected Poems, by Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, translated with Lyn Hejinian and others.

 

An OBERIU bookshelf:

Eugene Ostashevsky, editor, OBERIU: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism

Daniil Kharms, Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms, edited and translated by Matvei Yankelevich

Leonid Lipavsky, Conversations with OBERIU, in Little Star #2 (2011), translated by Eugene Ostashevsky

Alexander Vvedensky, An Invitation for Me to Think (poems), edited and translated by Eugene Ostashevsky

Daniil Kharms, It Happened Like This: Stories and Poems, translated by Ian Frazier

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Wendell Berry, a letter to Gary Snyder, thinking about religion

I think we have to acknowledge the possibility that practical experience can be condensed to good purpose into moral law: Do not let the topsoil wash away. That does not have to be stated as a moral law. It’s a “universal.” It could also be stated: “God has forbidden us to let the topsoil wash away” or “Grandpop said don’t plow that hillside.” The point is that if such a limit has no lively existence in the community, then the hillside is not safe from authority—charismatic reformer, visionary leader, progressive institute or whatever—that may say to plow it. Or, without that kind of law, how are people going to tell the difference between a person of authentic spiritual authority and some charismatic son of a bitch who wants the hillside to produce a taxable income or a “surplus” to improve the balance of trade?

So, granting the limits of moral law, I would still disbelieve the authority of any spiritual teacher who encouraged or condoned or ignored the waste of topsoil, or the corruption of community or family life. I think such a teacher would have to meet that kind of test.

What I’m feeling more and more inclined to argue, in other words, is that there’s no “high culture” without low culture. No use talking about getting enlightened or saving your soul if you can’t keep the topsoil from washing away. No use expecting excellent art if there’s no excellent farming and carpentry. This is hard (and instructive) to deal with because, of course, it means that I’m in the wrong lifetime to expect Port Royal [Kentucky] to produce an excellent poet. I’m in the wrong lifetime to even get a good glimpse of what the excellence of an excellent Port Royal poet might be.

That is so hard for me to think because I came along under the specialist system in the arts, which proposed among other things that diseased society could be ransacked for the “subject matter” of “great poetry”—a notion full of silliness and despair. I think, now, that our work must settle for being, at best, a fragment of a glimpse of a better possibility. Speaking for myself, I’m pleased with that conclusion. I see a lot more hope and satisfaction in that than the possibility of making an “artistic triumph” out of the ruin of the world …

Read more in Little Star Weekly

After nearly fifteen years travelling back and forth between Japan and California, studying Zen Buddhism and writing poetry, Gary Snyder built a house and farmstead in the Sierra foothills in 1971 where he lives to this day. Wendell Berry completed a Stegner Writing Fellowship at Stanford in 1958, travelled to Italy and France with a Guggenheim, and taught English Literature at NYU’s University College in the Bronx, before buying a farm in the vicinity of land his family had farmed for generations in Port Royal, Kentucky, in 1965. He too lives and farms there still. Between them they have written dozens of books of poetry and some of the most essential reflections we have on our relationship to the land. In the early 1970s they began a correspondence about farming, poetry, and much else besides, from which Counterpoint is just now publishing a generous selection edited by Chad Wriglesworth.  A portion of a 1980 letter about religion and the sacred appears in the current issue of Little Star Weekly.

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Copyright ©2014 by Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint
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Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, in praise of analepsis

It is the custom of my fellow writers sometimes to go back and leap over a period of time and connect an event that happened before it to an event that happened after it. This is called analepsis (tawriyah), that is, “taking backward” (waraʾ). They may also start by mentioning everything about the protagonist from his first whisperings into his beloved’s ear until his reappearance as a married man. In the course of this, the author will relate such long and tedious matters as how his face paled and his pulse raced when he met her, how he was reduced to a tizzy and felt ill while he waited for her answer, how he sent her an old woman or a missive, how he met with her at such and such a time and place, and how she changed color when he spoke to her of the bed, of drawing her close, of embracing, of leg over leg, of kissing, of kissing tongue to tongue, of intercourse, and the like …  The leap backwards is acceptable, in my opinion, if the author finds himself faced with a block to composition; afterwards, he can return to what he was about. But leading the man to his bride’s bed and then shutting the book on the couple without peeping through the crack in the door to find out how they fared next I cannot accept; I have to know what happened to them after the wedding …

Read more in Little Star Weekly
Translated by Humphrey Davies

One of the most brilliant literary discoveries of recent years, for the English language at least, has been Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s nineteenth-century picaresque, Leg Over Leg, which NYU’s Library of Arabic Literature is just wrapping up in four bilingual volumes. Al-Shadyaq was at once a founder and a bad-boy of modern Arabic literature, impishly creating modern Arabic in his lexigraphic and journalistic work as he produced a subversive, bawdy, digressive, literary oeuvre that was almost immediately censored. Humphrey Davies’s bravura translation of Leg Over Leg renders its festival of wordplay and jokerdom with beguiling ease, enshrining al-Shadyaq with Sterne, Rabelais, and Cervantes among our founding clown-sages. We bring Leg Over Leg to Little Star in three parts.

Shidyaq was born to a Maronite family in Mount Lebanon in 1804. He become (like the hero of Leg Over Leg) a court copyist and from there a printer, journalist, translator, and reformer of the Arabic language, living at different times in Damascus, Cairo, England, France, and Istanbul, where he died in 1887. Although entailed throughout his life in bureaucracies, particularly religious ones, both Christian and Muslim, he became increasingly skeptical of orthodoxies and institutional authority, which are satirized mercilessly in Leg Over Leg.

Humphrey Davies is translator of of Arabic literature, including Yusuf al-Shirbini, Elias Khoury, Alaa Al Aswany, Bahaa Taher, Muhammad Mustagab, Gamal al-Ghitani, Hamdy el-Gazzar, Khaled Al-Berry, and Ahmed Alaidy. He lives in Cairo.

Read about Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq in the LA Review of Books
Read an interview with Humphrey Davies about his work on Leg over Leg in Moby Lives

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New Juan José Saer

Each of them surveys the landscape with the same withdrawn expression he might have assumed had he been alone in this deserted place, the details each observes not coinciding with the other’s, each of them assembling it therefore in his own way, as though it were two distinct places, the island, the sky, the trees, the red slope, the aquatic plants at the riverbank, the water …
—Translated by Steve Dolph

Read more in Little Star Weekly

Little Star loves the work of Juan José Saer, the great Argentian novelist whose work is being comprehensively translated by Open Letter. Next month they will bring out Saer’s masterwork, his final novel La Grande, which follows the lives of a group of friends from their revolutionary youth to not-so-settled adulthood. Like all Saer’s work La Grande accumulates its meanings in delicate layers of precise and attentive human observation, sedimentary accretions in a capacious literary landscape. We also loved the strangely titled Sixty-five Years of Washington, which similarly showed a close attentiveness to ties of friendship and how they weave through history.

Open Letter, with their terrific blog Three Percent (referring to the paltry 3 percent of US books that are translations), their sponsorship of the Best Translated Book Award, and their great, beautifully designed books, continues to expand in dizzying ways they parameters of what we can read in English.

Juan José Saer (1937–2005) was born in Santa Fé, Argentina, and moved to France in 1968. He was the author of numerous novels and short stories and a winner of Spain’s prestigious Nadal Prize. Steve Dolph is the founding editor of Calque, a journal of literature in translation. His translation of Saer’s Scars was a finalist for the 2012 Best Translated Book Award.

La Grande, will appear in June.

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Cairo evening, 1952, by Sonallah Ibrahim

Father lights a cigarette. I sit at my desk. Pour some seeds from the tube out in front of me. I open the English reader. He finishes drinking his coffee, gets off the bed, and throws a towel over his shoulder He lights a lamp and heads toward the bathroom to wash for prayer. When he comes back in, he stretches out the prayer rug on the floor. He prays the sundown prayer. He pulls open the glass doors to the balcony, and pushes out the wooden shutters to open them too. He drags the desk chair over to the narrow balcony, sits down, and lays his right arm on its metal railing. I stand next to him. 

The balcony across from us is closed and dark. The window next to it is opened and lit up. We know it is a guest room that is only opened when they have visitors. Its curtains are rippling. There is a pale light in the apartment on the second floor where the iron merchant lives with his two wives. The light is in the first wife’s room. It’s put out and then comes on in the room of the second wife. The voice of Um Safwat screams at her son. Our Coptic neighbor Abu Wadie appears coming out from the entrance to the alley. He wears a dark suit. He carries sacks under his arms. He stops in front of the door to our house, and calls just like every night: “Wadie!” He exchanges good evenings with father. His wife answers him from the apartment above ours. Just like every night, he says to her: “The basket.” She lowers it down to him so he can put the sacks in it. The basket goes up slowly. He comes in to the house …

Read more in Little Star Weekly this week

Translated by Hosam Aboul-Ela

 

Sonallah Ibrahim amazed us last year with That Smell, a novel about a man recently released from an Egyptian prison in the 1960s, brilliantly translated and with a comprehensive introduction by Robyn Creswell. From Creswell we learned the epic arc of Ibrahim’s career: how within the familiar story of modern Egypt lay another story of its progressive intellectuals, defining modernism by reading Hemingway, Camus, and Woolf, sometimes from fragmentary newspaper accounts smuggled into prison, against the backdrop of their traditional culture and overwhelming political institutions. Published in 1966, That Smell was a breakthrough in Egyptian prose, delimiting an existential challenge within minutely detailed, affectless prose.

In this newer work from 2007, Ibrahim returns to an earlier Cairo but from another angle: a traditional family captured by poverty within the city’s eroding ancient ways. The deadpan style is used to equal but quite different effect: in That Smell, it registers a man’s struggle to recapture his connection with his world, piece by intimate piece; in Stealth, a young boy catalogues his surroundings in a bewildered effort to comprehend the emotionally stunted environment in which he finds himself, alone with a remote and lonely father. In Stealth, even more than That Smell, the method rewards us with a treasure-chest of its moment—how the lantern was lit, how the snack was bought in a paper cone, how the men gathered to talk in the evening, how the halvah was heated with milk for a humble dinner, a religious text’s instructions on household management. These artifacts are fascinating in themselves, but in the novel they ache with the boy’s need for the embrace of home.

Sonallah Ibrahim was born in 1937 in Cairo. He was drawn early to revolutionary politics, in part, Creswell recounts, by his childhood reading of adventure stories like Robin Hood and Captain Blood and their lesson of “sincerity, loyalty, self-sacrifice, aceticism, and chivalry.” He was arrested in 1959 when Nasser moved to repress Egypt’s leftists. It was his prison reading and its fragmentary exposure to literary modernism and the world’s arguments about changing literary language that forged his identity as a writer. He revolutionized Egyptian prose with That Smellwhich was published a few years after his release in 1964. Eight novels novels later, he turned down a major Egyptian literary prize, condemning the Mubarek regime for its corruption and stifling of Egyptian thought and culture. His most recent novel is Ice (2011).

Hosam Aboul-Ela is an author and the translator of Soleiman Fayyad and Ibrahim Abdel Maguid.

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Photo ©Philippe Matsas

Copyright ©2007 by Sonallah Ibrahim, translation copyright © 2009, 2014 by Hosam Aboul-Ela. From Stealth, published this month by New Directions

 

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Mina Loy: Taking in an itinerate surrealist

Insel panted into my place all undone, despairingly waving a sheet of blue paper.

“Das blaue Papier,” he articulated hoarsely, ducking his head as if the Papier was one of a shower of such sheets bombarding him in his dash for escape.

“Something the matter? Have a porto. Sit on a chair. Whatever it is—out with it!” [...]

Well, it turned out that the blue paper was a summons for rent involving the evacuation of his studio.

Insel’s system in such emergency was this:

Never to pay. To work himself into an individualistic kind of epilepsy whenever served with a summons or notified to appear in court to explain why the money was not forthcoming. Computing illusory accounts to find the exact sum he could promise to pay by a certain date, knowing full well he would not be able to pay anything at all, in order to scare himself into fits awaiting the fatal appointment.

Now one could watch him following the path of pursuit at an easy canter, having proved he had something definite to flee from.

His role was helplessness personified. So here he was without a roof. In spite of the ceiling a pitiless rain seemed to be falling upon him already.

Whenever I have seen poor people asleep on stone seats in the snow, like complementary colors in the eyes, there arise in my mind unused ballrooms and vacationers’ apartments whose central heating warms a swarming absence. To the pure logician this association of ideas might suggest a possible trans-occupation of cubic space, while mere experience will prove that the least of being alive is transacted in space, so much does sheer individuality exceed it; that providing a refuge for a single castaway brings results more catastrophic than a state of siege.

So I kept saying to myself, “Remember, you don’t care a damn what happens to this thin man…” 

Read more in Little Star Weekly

 

Poet and painter Mina Loy’s life spanned the avant gardes of several generations and continents. When barely in her twenties, having abandoned her education to study painting, she took up with Gertrude and Leo Stein’s salon in Paris, soon decamping to join the Futurists in Florence and then the Dadaists in New York.  Throughout her life she continued to experiment with novel forms in art and literature and reject the comforts of the establishment. In writing she is best known for her highly unconventional poems, collected in Lost Lunar Baedecker, but for many decades she labored on a novel, Insel, based on her friendship with the surrealist painter Richard Oelze and featured over the next few weeks in Little Star Weekly. It was never published during her lifetime and appears now as part of Melville House’s excellent Neversink Library. (Loy had a walk-on in the account of the sensation surrounding Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain at the Exhibition of the Society of Independents in New York in 1917 by Beatrice Wood that we featured in our March 14 issue, and many of her friends show up in Max Jacob’s Paris in our current print issue.) The Neversink edition includes as an afterward an archival chapter depicting the author in conversation with her skeptical daughters, which invites us to wonder, poignantly, whether the narrator’s anxiety over whether her houseguest was a hapless vagrant or a rare spirit might not apply also to herself …

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April Bernard: Ghastly but possibly interesting

Alvin Lightman’s life first touched mine when both of us were staying at Holdon House Facility upstate. Formerly it was Holdon Hospital, before that Holdon Asylum, and called variously by those who have worked and lived there, among other witticisms, Hold It, The Hold, and Hold On I’m Coming.

That I had “committed myself” was a distinction that became meaningless within moments of my arrival. (I had not written anything in three years; eight months earlier I had lost a newborn child, to death; and shortly thereafter a nonhusband, with whom I had lived for a dozen years, to the winds.) I felt cold all over all the time, even in the heat of July, even in the heat rising in silken ripples off the asphalt drive up to Holdon House. I emerged shivering from my taxi and tugged on my luggage. Weak and petulant as well as chilled to the bone, I gave way to babyish whimpers and was glad to let the attendants carry my things up the shallow steps.

Alvin Lightman, though I did not yet know his name, was sitting in the front parlor, designated the “lounge,” his long legs stretched out across a wicker ottoman. As he later told me, he watched my arrival circumspectly, from behind the traditional screen of an open newspaper. He thought I looked “ghastly” but “possibly interesting.”

Plenty of people have suffered worse than I; I knew it but the knowledge did not rouse me from my chilly and haphazard torpor, my thoughts that alit and then slid away from ideas, or names for things, or images. It was difficult to focus on the kindly man, not wearing white thank goodness, who showed me to my room, speaking gently and moving smoothly, as might an expert with wild animals. In my small private room, whose window looked out on a broad sloping lawn interrupted by tall pines, the attendant helped me unpack—that is, he relieved me of my laptop and cell phone and explained that Holdon was firm about these things. Supervised email once a week for each patient; no cell phones; no TV.

Television deprivation might be serious. Recently it had become necessary for me to sit in front of the television set with my eyes averted from the screen, and to sit in this posture for most of the day. Once in a while, I would slide my eyes back to the dazzling pixilated world of cars and pets and investment strategies; of carefully dressed women turned sideways in their chairs to ask slightly younger and more beautiful women about their movie roles; of Rice-A-Roni, which apparently people still ate somewhere; of soothingly incomprehensible yet ostensibly tense discussions between characters from old television shows, cops and doctors and cop-doctors and hookers and dealers and hooker-dealers. For an entire week, a channel that claims to air programs “for women” aired a “reality” series called “Snapped! Women Who Lose It.” Wonderful stories, I thought, if only I could have followed them …

Read more of April Bernard’s story “The Fixed Idea” this week in Little Star Weekly

April Bernard is the author of two novels, most recently Miss Fuller (read some here), four book of poems, and numerous essays and reviews.

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