A review by Anis Shivani of Mohsin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
“Freedom in this novel assumes fanciful new forms of self-imposed repression. On the one hand, there is no rising Asia, only sinking Asia: an old-fashioned trope like an absconding brother-in-law can sink the whole enterprise, decades of hard work and the care and feeding of the powers-that-be gone to waste in an instant. On the other hand, of course there is rising Asia, steeped in new technologies of communication and imitation, where everyone does have a chance to ascend.”
“How old age doesn’t slowly creep up
but suddenly there in those morning mirrors
we seek to avoid, except as some passing glance in shop windows. . . .”
“Their tears might so easily– flow. Oh no.
I’m hunting around for eloquence here and coming up empty.
The woman and I just nod at each other
as we wait at the post office window. Though I’m an old man now,
I go on looking toward some sort of future.”
“the black water
of our bodies spreads
across the field
after so much rain. . . .”
“It fancies itself
the lost doppelganger
of a mid-
fifth-century saber. . . .”
“He looked away from the blood-spattered circus, but it was too late: his legs trembled, his teeth chattered like castanets, he stared off into space like someone cross-eyed or hallucinating, hearing voices.”
“There was something devastatingly moving about this poem for me. At the time, I attributed the effect to its topic. But this was only part of the cause. The other factor was that never before had I heard literature—aside from the stories my mother used to tell when we were children—spoken in my native language. I listened to the beautiful cadence, the lilt of my mother tongue, and in that moment English ceased to exist. I was thousands of miles away from Nigeria, but in that moment, I was home.”
“Let’s call her Leo. White, thin, auburn-haired, South African. Clan mother to waifs, yet childless herself, monthly mourning missed chances. Fierce as the Chinese dragon, green and red inked, bug-eyed and fire-spitting, tattooed on her back, under her left shoulder. Rebel, polymath, denim-jacket-and-jeans-wearing Leo, swaggering helter-skelter in her grubby tennis shoes, puffing her reefers with a GI Jane sneer, holding her own with the playground bullies, the boys.”
A review of George Singleton’s Stray Decorum by David Holub
“We look to dogs to find our reflections, and, as we do with most everything else, to confirm our pre-existing worldviews, a notion that Singleton explores repeatedly. If we see a dog as incorrigible, it may signal our lack of will and imagination. If we believe that dogs can sense good and evil, it presumes a belief in those absolutes.”
“handbag filled with ‘a typical woman’s things’: $2.43.
Bobby pins, cigarettes. Lipstick, tranquilizers. Tranquilizers?
Tranquilizers. Was the Junior League teasing? Or
the Time Capsule Committee?”
“The beard came right off, and underneath that the man had bright, bright skin, like it hadn’t seen direct sunlight for a long time, which it probably hadn’t. And the clippers brought his hair on top into shape. Soon enough he was ready to join the marines if he wanted, and those green eyes looked like the eyes of a commanding officer. We took a moment in stillness, both of us, to look over the results in the mirror.”
part of our Emerging Poets Interview Series
by Eric Higgins
“EB: I tried to listen not just with my ears but with all of my senses. Not only to words, but to the experience of my body. I journaled every day. I spoke to many people who generously opened their homes and shared their stories with me, some of which were not directly included in the text, but which absolutely informed my understanding and experience of the place. It wasn’t until I was back home in New York that I was really able to process the information and begin to write the poems. As far as whether I was able to buffer my own views from what I heard and read, the answer is that although this book is connected to a highly charged political issue, my intent is for the poems to stand on their own as poems. Taken as a collection, I intend for them to create their own world, albeit shadowed by politics and history.”
“First you were the only
and two mothers cooed
and chewed your food
to make it soft.
Then he came. The choice cut
of lamb, milk with the skein
for strength and you were told
Bring it in a silver bowl!”
“Four weeks after first recording “So What,” on March 2nd, 1959, Miles Davis’s band recorded the song again in a Manhattan TV studio. Shot for a thirty-minute episode of CBS’s short-lived Roy Herridge Theater series, the footage aired as The Sounds of Miles Davis, an episode dedicated to the trumpeter’s music and broadcast during the era of his skyrocketing fame. What makes this televised version significant isn’t simply the way it captures the first recorded public performance of one of jazz’s most beloved compositions. Nor is it that the band plays the song without alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley (he was sick with a migraine), or that pianist Wynton Kelly takes the place of pianist Bill Evans, although those elements do contribute. What’s significant is its feel.”
“He has woken her with the sound of broken wings. Her blanket is polished rock, cold and weighted to the bed. From this angle the knife is hidden. . . .”
“Imagine the world’s most well-functioning and stable country, where parents have forty-seven weeks of paid parental leave and prison cells look like budget hotel rooms. And—as a final flight of Lennonesque imagination—imagine all the people, or at least some, living life in peace in these cells—because they are pacifists.”
“Hoping for a make-over,
he exiled his failed self to Sahara sands,
while he would peg-leg down to the sea again,
adjust his eyepatch, growl AAArgh, and tack
to where the wind would belly his sail, anchors
“Caravaggio was a closet Muslim, converted at twenty-three by the Turkish dye-merchant
Who supplied a rare brown needed for the Virgin Mary’s eyes.
Degas attended his first ballet to gawk through binoculars at naked ankles.
Perspective, in the first years of the technique, much like polyphony made European churchgoers vomit.”
“Archie greets me the same way each day. ‘Any rich bankers rent bikes today?’ He’s shameless about selling his paintings. He will accost anyone at any time. It’s uncomfortable to watch. But Archie doesn’t seem to mind one bit. Not one part of him is humiliated. I’ve always been amazed by this. People don’t like him. He comes on strong. He’s got bad teeth. He’s twitchy. His eyes flick over his shoulder. His eyes search your face. He talks too fast and certain words come out like yelps. But he’s disciplined, my god. The man paints. He doesn’t miss a day. Then he’s got the guts to grab his canvas by the scruff of its neck and walk it down the street, prop it up against my shop window.”
“The daughter of the Corinthian potter attempts to sketch quickly, wedding her stroke to this silhouette which means a shoulder—or a hip, for all I know. But in fact her line veers away from the contour, plunges into the shadow’s heart and lingers there; it emerges only with regret, pursued by a thought that seems hard to shake off.”
A review of Nick Lantz’s We Don’t Know We Don’t Know and Darcie Dennigan’s Madame X, by Benjamin Landry
“If, as Barthes convincingly claims, the text is a ‘tissue of citations, resulting from the thousand sources of culture’ and the author’s ‘only power is to combine’ these sources, then how can we continue to insist that the author’s stand-in, the persona, be unified?”
“Surrender, as it comes, comes
zipped in pillow feathers,
in sheepskin. Its animal suit
tracks prints across the lawn.”
“Two mites are copulating
on page 15
of Raymond Carver’s
With Other Water”
On June 4th, Poetry Daily featured Melissa Green’s “Leda, Later,” a poem first published in AGNI 77.
Robert Long Foreman has won a Pushcart Prize for his story “Cadiz, Missouri,” which first appeared in AGNI 75. Pushcart will reprint the story in its 2014 anthology.
Two more strong votes of confidence in what we’re up to! Harper’s Magazine, in its February 2013 issue, reprinted Robert Leonard Reid’s short story “That Doubling Is Always Observed,” from AGNI 76, and The New Yorker’s Page Turner blog is reprinting Jamie Quatro’s story “Relatives of God” (AGNI 73). That story and two others from AGNI are part of her debut collection, I Want To Show You More, which James Wood reviews in the March 11th New Yorker: “The best stories are passionate, sensuous, savagely intense, and remarkable for their brave dualism. . . .”
Poetry Daily featured David Wojahn’s “My Father’s Soul Departing” (AGNI 76) on Thursday, November 15th.
Poetry Daily featured two pieces from AGNI 75: Alison Powell’s “Imagining Heaven” on Thursday, June 7, and as prose feature for the week of June 4th, Yves Bonnefoy’s “My Memories of Armenia,” translated by John Naughton.
Jen Percy’s essay “Azeroth” (AGNI 74) has won a Pushcart Prize and will be reprinted in the 2013 anthology.
Robert Boyers’s essay “A Beauty” (AGNI 74) has been selected for The Best American Essays 2012.
AGNI author Edith Pearlman has won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for her story collection Binocular Vision, also a finalist for the National Book Award. Our warmest congratulations to Edith!
Rachel Swearingen’s story “Mitz’s Theory of Everything Series” (AGNI 74) has been chosen for New Stories from the Midwest 2012.
Kathleen Hill’s story “Forgiveness” (AGNI 73) will appear in The Best Spiritual Writing 2013.
Congratulations to Robert Boyers, whose essay “A Beauty” from AGNI 74 was awarded a 2011 Sidney Award by New York Times columnist David Brooks.
As its Prose Feature next week, Poetry Daily will reprint Askold Melnyczuk’s essay “Beating Toms,” which appears in AGNI 74. On November 21, PD featured Kevin Ducey’s “Ewigkeit” from the same issue.
Three pieces from AGNI have received Special Mention in the 2012 Pushcart Prize anthology: Idris Anderson’s poem “A Correction” (AGNI Online), Matt Donovan’s poem “Elegy with Mistakes All through It” (AGNI 71), and Paul West’s essay “Lightning-Rod Man: The Migraine Headache as Heuristic Tool” (AGNI 71).
On September 20, Verse Daily reprinted Kate Northrop’s poem “Cat,” which originally appeared in AGNI 72.
Three poems from AGNI appear in the new volume of The Best American Poetry: Julianna Baggott’s “To My Lover, Concerning the Yird Swine” and C. K. Williams’s “A Hundred Bones” from AGNI 72 and Lee Upton’s “Drunk at a Party” from AGNI 69.
Two stories from AGNI 72 have been chosen for Dave Eggers’s Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011: Henrietta Rose-Innes’s “Homing” (part of The AGNI Portfolio of African Fiction) and Joan Wickersham’s “The Boys’ School, or The News from Spain.”
Phyllis Barber’s essay “The Knife Handler” (AGNI 71) is cited as notable in The Best American Essays 2011 and The Best American Travel Writing 2011.
Do you know about the author pages at AGNI Online? They form a massive repository of info on contemporary literary writers. Click on any writers’ name.
Tom Bissell’s “A Bridge Under Water,” from AGNI 71, is reprinted in The Best American Short Stories 2011, where Majorie Sandor’s “Wolf” (AGNI 71) and Joan Wickersham’s “The Boys’ School, or The News from Spain” (AGNI 72) are cited as other distinguished stories of the year.
On November 21, Poetry Daily featured James Pollock’s poem “Northrop Frye at Bowles Lunch,” originally published in AGNI 72. Carol Moldaw’s essay from the same issue, “The Bottom Line,” was PD’s Prose Feature of the Week starting on November 23rd.
Two AGNI stories have been selected for Chamber Four’s The C4 Fiction Anthology: Michael Mejia’s “The Abjection” (AGNI 69) and Scott Cheshire’s “Watchers” (AGNI Online). The collection is available for free download in several ebook formats. Chamber Four calls AGNI one of the “best places to read online.”
Two AGNI pieces have won Pushcart Prizes and will be reprinted in the 2011 anthology: Valerie Vogrin’s “things we’ll need for the coming difficulties” (AGNI 69) and Ravi Shankar’s “Barter” (AGNI 70). Two essays, Mimi Schwartz’s “When History Gets Personal” (AGNI 70) and Emily C. Watson’s “Still, Sky, Girl, and Marriage” (AGNI 69), plus Adam Day’s poem “Combine” (AGNI 69), were given Special Mention.