THE SECOND story in our look at today’s dating scene is a much darker animal: “Cat Doctor” by D.C. Miller. Ostensibly a response to The New Yorker‘s recent Kristen Roupenian story “Cat Person,” it’s more than that– it’s a look at the malaise of the West’s current intellectual class. People who believe in nothing– not even themselves. Whose ideological inanities, post-conceptual art and postmodern literature are an expression of nothing. Representations of the void at the center of their lives. A world in which the villains aren’t men or women, but everyone.
Appropriately, the story is set in Berlin, a city forever on the cutting edge of the end of Western civilization. Last stop before the nightmare of gotterdammerung and oblivion.
It was a catchy statement, and she liked it, but she wasn’t certain where to take it, whether it was true or not, and even if it was, what it would imply. She heard the sound of someone sighing audibly, like an echo from another room, and for a moment felt confused, before she realized it was her.
IN THE FACE of such a pessimistic, albeit truthful, examination of relations between men and women, of ideas and culture, we remain optimists. We believe the culture will turn over because it has to turn over– it’s at a dead end, with nowhere to go but to scrap the present and embrace another direction.
(Featured painting: “The Night” by Max Beckmann. Other: “Sjalusi i Badet” by Edvard Munch.)
WE’VE BEEN THINKING a lot of late about games and strategy. About what we’re doing right and the literary mainstream is doing wrong– or more often, the size of the obstacle they represent and what we’re doing imperfectly in hoping to compete with them. In such discussions, the strategy of chess comes to mind.
AT PRESENT we’re behaving like a tentative chess player pushing pawns forward, hoping to find or create an opening– which, if one ever appears, we’ll need to jump through with all forces, talents, words, and arguments at our disposal.
WHICH BRINGS US TO our new featured story, “I May Have Been a Chess World Champion” by talented international writer Eva Ferry. It’s ostensibly about chess and chess players, but it’s about more than that. A metaphor for– ? The story carries the atmosphere of a spy novel. It evokes the feeling of hopelessness, dread, expectation and fear which engulfs the culture now, perhaps the entire world. But it’s only about chess. Or is it?
The men in the Centre were saggy, they were not handsome by anyone’s standards. But the beauty of their effort, their perfect commitment was real.
I wanted to be real too. That’s why I told the man from upstairs that I would be going to the tournament, even if that was the last thing I did in my life.
Speaking of terrific writers and writing, at the All-Time American Writers Tournament there’s a new Appreciation, this one by Robin Wyatt Dunn about Gene Wolfe. What strong writing looks like. Only 437 words but it’s dynamite.
Painting: “The Chess Player” by Frederich August Moritz Retzsch.