Quarterly Journal: No. 31, Semipublic Intellectual Issue

September 2021 • 144 Pages

FEATURING: Mary Cappello, Michael Casper, Marsha Gordon, Tomasz Różycki (trans. Mira Rosenthal), J. D. Daniels, Stephen Kessler, Jess McHugh, Annie Berke, Michelle Chihara, Jorge Cotte, Joshua Glick, Sun-ha Hong, Phillip Maciak, Michael Szalay, Kristen Warner, Nylsa Martínez (trans. Anthony Seidman), Amaud Jamaul Johnson, Camille Dungy, Carlie Hoffman, JinJin Xu , Anna Journey, David Marriott, Austen Leah Rose, Paul Tran

Featured Artists: Basma Alsharif, Hannah Black, Fernand Deligny, Walid Raad/The Atlas Group, Jayce Salloum.

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Over the past ten years the Los Angeles Review of Books has emerged as a cultural force, even something of an institution. We enter our second decade knowing that we’re no longer the new kid on the block. Yes, we’re not quite so scruffy these days, but that doesn’t mean we’re any less scrappy. In essence, we remain what we were from the very start: neither prisoners of the Ivory Tower nor street-corner preachers, neither stiff-collared talking heads nor reckless photobombers in tuxedo tees. We are, as this issue’s title boldly proclaims, “semipublic intellectuals” — bringing hard-won specialized knowledge to bear on questions of public significance in fresh, unusual ways, not for the sake of gaining prestige but in the hope of moving the conversation forward. LARB has always veered freely from pop to high, from mainstream to fringe, and the writing gathered here represents that range.

Our “Streaming Symposium,” compiled by LARB editors Annie Berke, Michelle Chihara, Phillip Maciak, and Anna Shechtman, views the latest developments in entertainment through novel critical lenses. Mary Cappello and Jess McHugh shed empathetic light on two semi-literary genres — the lecture and the almanac, respectively. Stephen Kessler extends equal empathy and appreciation to the late Beat titan Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who changed American letters from a position outside the Eastern capitals of publishing, while Michael Casper reveals the remarkable aspirations and accomplishments of the tragically short-lived Jewish-American poet Samuel Greenberg, who has long dwelled in the shadow of Hart Crane, who appropriated his work. In an essay translated by Mira Rosenthal, Tomasz Różycki mourns the loss of the major Polish-language poet Adam Zagajewski, who spent many years teaching in Houston, Texas, while Anthony Seidman translates a stylish, ultimately touching noirish tale by Nylsa Martinez set on the US-Mexico border. Poems by Amaud Jamaul Johnson and Camille Dungy, Carlie Hoffman and JinJin Xu, Anna Journey and David Marriott, Austen Leah Rose and Paul Tran weigh the experiences of anguish and transcendence, the lives of the body and of the mind, taking inspiration from folktales, books bound in human skin, and Triple Platinum rap albums.

Taken together, these pieces show that no slice of the culture is alien to us — which is not to say that we endorse it all blindly. As semipublic intellectuals we don’t so much stand above the fray as slightly off to the side, taking the proper measure of what matters.

 

— Boris Dralyuk, Editor-in-Chief