Faculty Writing: On Organizing Care Beyond the Family, Fassbinder’s Life and Legacy, and Close Reading as an Ethical Project

Writing in London Review of Books, Sophie Lewis finds the latest from Angela GarbesEssential Labor: Mothering as Social Change, a follow-up to her 2018 pregnancy memoir Like a Mother—heavy on communitarianism, or “acts of reciprocity,” but rather light on actual politics: “Garbes seems convinced that mothering’s progressive character is assured. Organized political activity and redistributive policies aren’t required.” Although, notes Lewis, “Garbes positions her memoir-manifesto as a sibling to socialist-abolitionist, disability-liberationist and critical-race feminist titles,” she winds up advancing, quite the contrary to those she cites (Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Cathy Park Hong, Silvia Federici), the “transhistorical dignity of housework, swooning over its messy, intuitive, edifying beauty.”

Then, writing in 4Columns, Christine Smallwood applauds Ian Penman’s “sneakily brilliant” new book Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors, a “wise and chatty” essayistic reflection on Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s life and work—and an occasion for Penman to work through his own identifications and fascinations with it: “Penman…goes down all the alleyways: musings on postwar Germany; on RWF as punk or post-punk; on modernism, shock, sleeping, and dreaming; on Sirk, Nabokov, doubles, television, and a persuasive theory of the cinema as ‘entertainment bunker.’ Thousands of Mirrors has style to burn.”

And, in New York Review of Books’ interview series with its contributors, Smallwood talks with Daniel Drake about trauma plots, backstory (and side-stepping it), literary criticism as close reading, and close reading as an ethical project: “Close reading is my passion in life. It’s an ethical project to attempt the impossible task of allowing a text to speak on its own terms, from its own time, while never losing sight of the fact that whatever you find is colored by who you are and what you bring to it.”

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