At the heart of this new issue are three astonishing essays, by Philip Polefrone, Stephen Clingman, and Sean McCann. Each in their own way, they’re “reviews,” ways of re-reading what we know—reiterations of something already said, already read. And therein resides their originality. Metaphor is a mistake, to begin with, a means by which we identify something as what it’s not. These essays take this linguistic logic to its scary conclusion.
Polefrone reviews Arne De Boever’s Finance Fictions, which, in accordance with strict Freudian rules, aligns narrative realism with neurosis, and insists that its successors—call them what you will—are, at least, correlates of psychosis. Narrative realism is repressive, by this account, the Ego unbidden, producing neurosis by smothering sexual reality, whereas the finance fiction of our time unbinds the Id, and delivers us unto a world where nothing holds, nothing matters. My own piece on financial politics spells this out, or at least tells us where to start reading for the ending.
Clingman wants to probe old Huck’s motto as he heads out for the territory of literature as such, hiking with Primo Levi and Erich Auerbach, also Theodor Adorno, three perfect refugees as his model of the homeless man who brings us back to where he began. That would be were we began, somewhere west of Eden. Clingman asks, what’s the relation between the fugitive and (the imperative of) narrative? His answers will surprise you. They surprised me, at any rate.
Now McCann, he’s a puzzle, but his “review” of Walter Benn Michaels is also surprising, because he lets Michaels make a lot of moves before he shuts him down, or up. No, Sean says, I won’t let you go to the identity politics complaint department, where Walter, along with many other well-meaning liberal others, including Mark Lilla,, have presided for too long Not good enough., McCann says. We need better, less complacent, answers than that.
The table of contents includes other scary shit of which we are quite proud, “we” being the new address of the Left’s political unconscious, the habitat of creatures that cannot or will not play by the rules imposed by the decay—not the triumph—of capitalism. We’re not activists just yet, us marginal critters, but we’re close to knowing, maybe even liking, our estrangement from the thing called reality.
That approach, this attitude, animates the new issue, our #12.