Friday, September 29, 2023

Precipitating Their Downfall

convective precipitation
Old saws like "when it rains it pours" are basically predicated on the pathetic fallacy wherein nature reflects an inner state. For instance, the above makes no meteorological sense. Sometimes a forecast of rain turns into just a wet mist or drizzle. The homily is used in a Casandra-like way to predict doom but also as a sign of good fortune. Taken too far by immature characters who suffer from distortions of perception you get Don Quixote chasing windmills. The fact is, rain is not a sign of good or bad fortune. Remember those urban legends, tidy summaries of phenomenon based on anecdotal evidence, prized more for their poetic value than veracity? 

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy in Booklife

and listen to Mr. Pitiful by Otis Redding

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Master Builder or The Power Broker?

A city is an agglomeration of intentions. But what is the result? Is the difference between the sum of the parts and the whole tantamount to that between between the popular vote and the electoral college--which has been such a source of controversy in recent elections? Citizens emigrate to a metropolis either to find themselves or get lost in the crowd. This latter allows for self-invention to the extent that no one is there to pierce the "corpusorate" veil. Transformation is the lingua franca  of urban life. Remember Bicycle Thieves (1948)? De Sica’s neorealist classic is ultimately about proliferation with Rome pictured as a massive lost and found. It’s easier to get away with murder in Milan than Assisi where all the vendors of memorabilia know each other. But amidst the planned chaos is the stilted logic of stunted dreams. Anita Ekberg’s frolicking in the Trevi Fountain--La Dolce Vita (1960) makes a mockery of all the wishes thrown away in Three Coins in the Fountain (1954). A city is like the roulette wheel with its Croupier (1998) crying out “les jeux sont faites.” There are always winners but the majority of gamblers walk away empty-handed. The avenues attest to both the winners and losers among all the failed dreams. The Master Builder and The Power Broker both have their say.

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy in Booklife

and listen to Everybody is a Star by Sly and the Family Stone

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Scales of Politics

Kierkegaard defined three "spheres of existence." In order of importance, they were "the esthetic, the ethical and the religious." Politics rarely crosses paths with ethics, as might be noted by picking up a daily newspaper. "The trolley problem" and "Prisoner's Dilemma" are two of the most well known in that branch of ethics known as a "game theory." The fact is that politics and ethics tend to face off to the extent that a great many politicians are corrupted by the need to get votes. There are colorful figures and dynasties like the Kennedys but few of these have left a legacy of truth. A great Supreme Court justice like Ruth Bader Ginsberg is in a better position to distinguish themselves in comparison to their counterparts in The White House. LBJ did great things but he also enjoyed shaking "jumbo" onto his colleague's shoes. Even today with clowns like Clarence Thomas handing down decisions you’re safer taking a leak at the men's room of the Supreme Court than in Congress. 

Read the review of The Kafka Studies Department in The East Hampton Star

and listen to "Dance With Me" by Peter Brown

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Unnameable

How fast can you think? And how many items can you contemplate at once? Some people find they achieve a certain clarity and ability to make withdrawals from their memory bank, when they’re going so fast there isn’t time to forget. Thinking too much is the villain and that pertains to writing too. Remember the old Yellow Pages jingle “let your fingers do the walking.” It also goes for those yellow legal pads on which many writers still like to scribble. Naturally you want mind, but the question is: how to get there? Do you like milk in your coffee? Apparently a cocktail of hysteria and digital acuity are the path to scrivener's Mecca. The yellow brick road to the unconscious is where imagination maintains a rent stabilized dwelling. In the middle of the night you’re trying to remember the names of Kafka parables, "A Hunger Artist," "The Great Wall of China," "In the Penal Colony," “A Report to the Academy.” Then you think Bad Behavior. Who wrote that book? The same writer who wrote the story in which Secretary starring James Spater played the sadistic male lead. "Mary"--it starts to come. You seem to remember everything about the story but the writer's name. 

listen to Francis Levy read from The Kafka Studies Department at Unnameable Books, September 26th at 7PM.

Read the review of The Kafka Studies Department in The East Hampton Star

Monday, September 25, 2023

QAnon or Euclid?

the Eye of Providence on $1 bill

Reality is unfathomable enough that there's no need for transcendence. It’s nice to think about supernal forces that account for the massive amount of interconnection in the universe. It’s very much like conspiracy theorists for whom life in its otherwise naked form is meager and desicated. You’ve met people who aren’t on the fringe but still insist on making everyday things more complicated than they need to be. These are the selfsame individuals who are challenged when it comes to the notion of a straight line being the shortest distance between two points. You might say they're suffering from a kind of epistemological Peyronie's. What would you rather believe in QAnon or Euclidean geometry whose laws possess knowable wonder? If you’re not satisfied delve into imaginary numbers or group theory or quanta which deals with the universe of subatomic particles—which, for instance, are capable of being two places at the same time. However, stay away from kooks and medicine man, pushers who get you hooked on millenarian garbage.

read the review of Francis Levy's The Kafka Studies Department in The East Hampton Star

and listen to "You Never Walk Alone" by Patti Labelle and the Bluebells

Friday, September 22, 2023

Das Unheimliche and Der Verfremdungseffekt

Guess Who? 

The notion of “the uncanny” is prosecuted by both Freud and Heidegger. The particularities of their views may differ but in German the word is the same, Unheimlichkeit, which loosely translates as "eery." Unheimliche bears some resemblance to another German term coined by Brecht with respect to the audience and the players in a theatrical event. Verfremdungseffekt or estrangement is the opposite to the kind of empathic or cathartic experience produced in a Stanislavsky production of a Chekhov play. The familiar becomes unfamiliar and in so doing allows for a healthy didacticism in which one learns by distancing rather than loosing oneself in the fun.

Listen to "Every Little Bit Hurts" by Brenda Holloway

and read the latest review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy in The East Hampton Star

Thursday, September 21, 2023


To regret the future. Is there a verb in any Indo-European language which expresses this action? Intransitive or intransigent? How about the door closing metaphor that’s used to describe rejection and failure or the fact that people are neither here nor there? Is to be in the hallway  a viable infinitive? Not if you’re there because you’re a kid who’s been kicked out of class for talking. To take things one day at a time is a verb used by Buddhists seeking satori. Then there’s to be on the same page and its popular first person plural iteration. Sounds like a plan is a rough one. OK you can say it sounds like a plan but what to do about the other declensions? Can you use the third person singular of plural? He sounds like a plan isn’t English. 

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy in The East Hampton Star 

and listen to "Dance (Disco Heat)" by Sylvester