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Chase Dimock

Writer, Editor, and Researcher in Comparative Literature and LGBT Studies

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Literature

The Pop-Up Halloween Store

 

I published a Halloween poem on As It Ought To Be, and made peace with the loss of my childhood Toys R Us store.

The Pop-Up Halloween Store

is the zombie corpse of a long dead
retail outlet rising from the grave.
Beneath the orange banner
looms the faint spectral glow
of a Borders Books sign.

Crumbling red Circuit City tile
lines the gates of hell.
The ghosts of VCRs and Walkmen
haunt the shelves now lined
with sexy nurse costumes
and adult sized My Little Pony onesies. Continue reading “The Pop-Up Halloween Store”

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My Review of “Cruel Optimism” By Lauren Berlant

Judged solely by its title, Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism (Duke University Press) could easily be dismissed by some as just another cynical work of cultural critique. Instead, Berlant strives to distance herself from “the ease with which intellectuals shit on people who hold to a dream.” It would be easy for Berlant to join the in tradition of satirizing optimists as fools and simpletons like Voltaire’s Candide or 30 Rock’s Kenneth. However, her goal is not to ridicule the optimist, but instead to trace the psychological disposition toward attaching optimistically to an ideal and the social and political impact that results when the entire public pursues their version of “the good life.”

Although the book does not specifically name queer studies as its main subject, it nonetheless bears the hallmark of queer theory’s challenging of normative categories of gender, bodies, and desire. Borrowing Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s work on affect and attachment theory, Berlant asserts that all attachments we have to ideals, objects of desire, and our dreams are inherently optimistic because we pin our hopes to them, believing they can satisfy our desire and recognize in us the identity we wish to inhabit.

(Full Review Available at Lambda Literary)

My Review of ‘The Weather in Proust’ By Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

With his seminal novel, In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust created modern literature’s most famous and poignant symbol of remembrance: the madeleine, a cookie whose taste and texture suddenly unlocked long-forgotten memories of his childhood and granted him the inspiration to write his epic coming of age story in turn-of-the-century France. The Weather in Proust (Duke University Press) is the late Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s madeleine—a remembrance of queer theories past. The deeper I delved into the book, the more I became reacquainted with Sedgwick’s indispensable contributions to queer studies and was reminded of what a loss the discipline had suffered with her passing in 2009.

The Weather in Proust is a collection of nine essays, five of which were intended to become part of a book on Proust and an additional four that encompass Sedgwick’s three decades of queer scholarship. The book is a meeting of the old and the new, both a retrospective on this founding mother of queer theory and a glimpse into what occupied her mind in the final years of her life. In Proust, Sedgwick finds a kindred spirit. Both writers are notorious for their excruciatingly detailed and nuanced literary dissections of the hidden crevasses of human desire and esoteric references to spirituality, philosophy, and classics. Yet, for those who may be turned off by the prospect of daunting literary analysis, only the first chapter of the book is dedicated to closely reading Proust. Instead of deconstructing Proust, Sedgwick calls upon his queer-inflected vision of mysticism and sensuality as a muse to guide her through her own meditations on subjects ranging from Buddhism, to Melanie Klein’s psychoanalytic theories on affect, to textile weaving.

(Full Article Available at Lambda Literary)

Robert McAlmon’s Psychoanalyzed Girl and the Popularization of Psychoanalysis in America

A writer, publisher, and a connoisseur of the Parisian nightlife, Robert McAlmon was a fixture of the Lost Generation’s expatriate community in Paris in the 20s and 30s. McAlmon took Hemingway out to the bullfights in Spain that he would immortalize in The Sun Also Rises and he typed proofs of James Joyce’s monumental novel Ulysses. Through his publishing company Contact Editions, he was the first to publish works by such luminaries of the modernist movement as Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, William Carlos Williams, Djuna Barnes, H.D., and Nathanael West. Yet, his own reputation as a writer never reached the heights of those that he helped.

As a bisexual man in what most presumed to be a marriage of convenience to lesbian poet Bryher (H.D.’s longtime partner), McAlmon was one of the first American writers to depict the queer subculture of American expatriates. In Distinguished Air: Grim Fairy Tales, he detailed the exploits of Berlin’s cabarets and in the recently rediscovered The Nightinghouls of Paris, he dished on the queer affairs of the writers that inhabited the bistros and bars of Montparnasse during the famed expatriate period. I have written on McAlmon’s biography and poetry in greater detail in this previous article.

The story below comes from McAlmon’s first book of fiction, A Hasty Bunch. James Joyce himself suggested the title to McAlmon, commenting on the speed with which he wrote the stories and their roughness. By reading just a few sentences of the story, it is apparent that Joyce’s judgment is well justified. “The Psychoanalyzed Girl” should be considered part of McAlmon’s juvenilia as its awkward phrasings search for the more polished voice of ironic detachment and sardonic wit that would come with his later, more mature work.

Nonetheless what I find fascinating about this piece is its place as a cultural artifact of the influence of psychoanalysis on the Lost Generation of American writers. McAlmon’s opinion in this story is none too favorable. He satirizes the hyperawareness and self-centeredness that psychoanalytic therapy causes in his friend Dania, depicting her as perpetually self-analyzing and becoming progressively more alienated from her own reality as she obsesses over self-knowledge at the expense of self-experience.

(Full article available at The Qouch)

Dispatch from West Hollywood: A Booklist on the Pre-History of Pride

June is GLBT Pride month, which means for most (including myself) festivals, parades, 18-dollar cosmopolitans, and picking glitter out of my hair until early August. At the West Hollywood Pride parade last weekend, the marching pageantry of floats and performers compressed the collective unconscious of gay culture into a one mile long rainbow yoking together sobering identity politics with unfettered bacchanalia under the all-encompassing banner of pride. We queue the Trevor Project volunteers and their solemn reminder of queer youth suicide a few slots after a float filled with go-go boys in Speedos and yet somehow neither disrespect the memory of those tragically never given the chance to join us nor completely kill the buzz of merriment and libido. Rather it reminds us of the broad spectrum of what we must fight for: the right to be subjects of our own desire. This is a desire that ranges from a teenager’s right to realize his or her gender and sexual identity without shame or persecution to an adult’s right to mould and sculpt their own body into the shape of their own desire.

(Full article available at As It Ought To Be)

Robert McAlmon: A Lost Voice of the Lost Generation

A writer, publisher, and a connoisseur of the Parisian nightlife, Robert McAlmon was a fixture of the Lost Generation’s expatriate community in Paris in the 20s and 30s. McAlmon took Hemingway out to the bullfights in Spain that he would immortalize in The Sun Also Rises. He typed proofs of James Joyce’s monumental novel Ulysses, and due to the convoluted system of notes and addendums in Joyce’s manuscript, the voice of Molly Bloom that the first generation of readers received was actually McAlmon’s interpretation of Joyce’s. Through his publishing company Contact Editions, he was the first to publish works by such luminaries of the modernist movement as Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, William Carlos Williams, Djuna Barnes, H.D., and Nathanael West. Yet, his own reputation as a writer never reached the heights of those that he helped.

(Full Article at As It Ought To Be)

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