Have a Good Time

April 2, 2013

Ghosts are real: Nevada

I’m a little hesitant to write too much about Imogen Binnie’s debut novel Nevada, published this month by the wonderful transgender-focused Topside Press—partly because the experience of reading an advance copy was an unusually charged and emotionally complex one for me, which I’m still processing and which I’m still not sure how to write about, two months later; but also because Nic Bravo wrote a beautiful review on Tumblr which you should probably read first, and, furthermore, Stephen Ira has already called dibs on writing the definitive critical analysis, and who am I to try anything that would approach violating a double-doggy pact with Stephen Ira?

But I wanted to add one more voice to the chorus (and I’m sure it will only continue to grow) heralding Nevada as a gorgeous, hilarious, important, and, under the right conditions, very possibly lifesaving book. Binnie’s writing has mattered a lot to me since I first encountered it in one of the inaugural articles for PrettyQueer, which was a dialogue between her and the site’s managing editor, the great Red Durkin, on the existence or nonexistence of ghosts. In that piece Imogen lobbies strongly and convincingly on ghosts’ behalf, because they’re great, and because who are we to determine, really, what’s real and what isn’t?—“Fuck a scarcity paradigm.” And Nevada is not only a novel suffused with the fierce generosity of “fuck a scarcity paradigm”—it’s not only a radical and empathetic critique of the psychological and emotional and gender scarcity paradigms embedded in American culture. I think it’s also, in its own similarly funny but serious way, a further treatise on different forms of ghostliness. It may not be irrelevant that Star City, Nevada (the setting for the story’s second half, where Binnie’s protagonist Maria Griffiths, fleeing a personal crisis in New York, enters the life of a young person named James) is, outside the pages of the novel, a ghost town. Beyond Star City, though, I think Nevada as a whole finds new and unique ways of being attuned to hauntedness, to the affective reality of being haunted, whether by past lives and selves, romantic attachments, normativities, fantasies, gambles taken or untaken, or necessary coping mechanisms that have hardened into obstacles to life.

Which is why, for whatever it’s worth, I would recommend Nevada to anyone interested in literary explorations of cruel optimism, as well as to anyone of trans or queer experience, or anyone sympathetic to such experience, or maybe even anyone who, as Maria might put it, has ever felt weird, because “who doesn’t feel weird?” I’m hoping everyone reads it, I think, is what I’m saying. It’s available through the Topside Press online store and in bookstores starting right about now.

March 31, 2010

Remains as courtesy

Filed under: futurity,obsolescence,the city — by Daniel @ 10:27 am
Tags: , , ,

Chicago parking meters were privatized last year in a deal which was pretty awful for everyone but Morgan Stanley.  The new deal came with a new physical apparatus, boxy pay-and-display machines that take credit cards.

What happened to the traditional mounted gray houses?  I took this picture on my cell phone at 55th Street and Kenwood:

“METER REMAINS AS A COURTESY TO CYCLISTS. PLEASE PAY AT PAY BOX.”  Though no longer serving as quarter-banks, the parking meters remain as bike lock-up posts, aids to another form of transportation.  The city even provides an illustration of how to position a bicycle to lock it to the meter.

How long will this last?  Will there be a time when the original function of the traditional parking meter is entirely obsolete and its bike post function primary?  One could imagine other apparatuses of urban transportation taking on new functions in their proper obsolescence: El stations repurposed as helicopter docks? Underwater canals in the subway?

On a similar note, a footnote to a recent article in the venerable LRB directs the reader to a discussion of a certain point “on the Channel 4 website, if you Google ‘factcheck end to boom and bust’.”  Perhaps John Lanchester was too lazy to look up the link?  At any rate this reluctance even to signal the coming print obsolescence in actually providing the link–to the website of a TV station–only further emphasizes the weakness of the medium.  Or perhaps it is an attempt at a statement of revolt: denying print’s coming function as only an ancillary vestige to a superior form, like the eerie ads in the print edition for the LRB blog.

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