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Massachusetts Reviews: Orion on the Dunes

- By Catherine Staples

Orion on the Dunes: A Biography of Henry Beston by Daniel G. Payne (David R. Godine, 2016)

Within the protected lands of the Cape Cod National Seashore, in the small salt-box cottage we rent each summer, you step outside into a place that is simply itself. Chickadees cross above you, wind makes paths through crowns of oak and beech. The cottage—in the hold of scrub pine and sea wind—owes no small debt to writer and naturalist Henry Beston, whose magnificent book The...


Migration and Gender: A Review of Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (Penguin, 2017)

- By Amal Zaman

Responding to the shocking reality of the recent US election, Aleksandar Hemon wrote in the Village Voice, “For me, the symptom of that experience is a constant traumatic alertness, a terrible, exhausting need to pay attention to everything and everybody and not succumb to the temptation of comforting interpretation . . .Trauma makes everything abnormal, but the upside is that living with and in a mind where nothing appears normal or stable is the best antidote to normalization.” Hemon’s next project, with the Bosnian Canadian photographer Velibor Božović, will tell the story of immigrants who fled genocide and war in Bosnia; it has been awarded the 2017 PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History.

The author’s speculations about the...


What Paterson Gets Right About Poetry

- By Michael Thurston

Among the many pleasures of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson is what it gets right about poetry.

The film follows its title character, a bus driver in the eponymous New Jersey city, through a week that seems at once typical and catastrophic. Calling man and city by the same name, Jarmusch obviously cites William Carlos Williams, whose epic from the 1950s begins with the premise “that a man in himself is a city, beginning, seeking, achieving and concluding his life in ways which the various aspects of a city may embody.” Williams appears throughout the movie: in a photograph of famous citizens tacked up behind the bar, in another over the character’s desk, in the books on that same desk and in the hand of a Japanese tourist, in a quotation uttered by a...


MASSACHUSETTS REVIEWS: New Translations of Lost Profiles and White Decimal

- By Michael Thurston

Soupault, Philippe. Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism. Translated by Alan Bernheimer. City Lights. xiv + 99 pp. ISBN: 978-0-87286-727-7. Paper. $13.95.

Daive, Jean. White Decimal. Translated by Norma Cole. Omnidawn. 144 pp. ISBN: 978-1-63243-028-1. Paper. $11.95.

Collage, agglomeration, accumulation and declamation, les memes as no more than memes. As the late twentieth-century poet Pete Shelley put it, “noise annoys.” Call this the dominant trend in experimental writing in French up to...


MASSACHUSETTS REVIEWS: Journalism as a Tool of War in The Age of Jihad by Patrick Cockburn

- By Ross Caputi

The Age of Jihad By Patrick Cockburn
(Verso Books, 2016)

Journalism as a Tool of War

The Age of Jihad is an abridged but unedited collection of twenty years worth of conflict journalism from Patrick Cockburn, beginning with his coverage of the UN-US imposed sanctions on Iraq, then the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring with its successes and failures, and concluding with the rise and decline of the Islamic State. This collection largely refuses the benefits of hindsight or the revisions of scholarship, opting instead to give its readers an on-the-ground, in-the-moment perspective of these conflicts as...

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