Jascha Kessler

27 posts
Jascha Kessler is a Professor of English and Modern Literature at UCLA. He has published seven books of his poetry and fiction as well as six volumes of translations of poetry and fiction from Hungarian, Persian, Serbian and Bulgarian.

Centuria: 100 Ouroboric Novels by Giorgio Manganelli

Americans in this therapy-mad epoch tend to take, rather mistake, an “experience” for that fateful “event.” Perusing Centuria, we may come to understand that the myriad catastrophes blazoned in newspapers and splashed over our screens — love, celebrity, athletic prowess, failure or fame, marriage, illness, crisis, smashup — do not concern the soul; nor can they illuminate whatever meaning life might propose.

Between Alpha and Omega: Some Observations on Poetry and Poetry’s Task in our Time

We lived heretofore in the multitude of villages scattered world-wide amongst the ruins of the Tower of Babel. Civilization’s tapestry, its complicated patterns interwoven from multitudes of poets and poetries, once covered their walls and held our attention. Will there come to be in the global village but one faceless, boring bard who speaks with the reduced, infinitely reductive voice the simplified and platitudinous messages of the Media?

Dianetics: A Dialogue

“You clear me? I clear you? It’s not hypnotism, if that’s what scares you. You’re fully conscious. You merely learn how to scan your tapes. Then you’ll be getting full recalls in real time. Visio, sonic, tactilic, and olofactoric. Kinesthetic — which is weight and motion. Somatic — that’s pain. Thermic and organic — your insides. In Dianetics, organic is also emotive. The fact is, you don’t cry because you’re sad. You’re sad because you’re crying. Emotion is physical, not mental like that spooky Freudian stuff.”

A Long Day’s Day with James Dickey

“Ah yes,” he whispered to me, ”I spent one helluva long night wrassling all over the floor of a room there with one terrific Jew gal. You know Susan Sontag?” “Personally, no, I never met her, though I’ve read her.” “Well, that novel,” he chortled, “that opening … in the abandoned railway tunnel? That was me! That shadow man; that spook; that brute. None other than Jim Dickey! One helluva a long night that was, boy, lemmee tell you!”

Frau Braun and The Tiger of Auschwitz

The principal accused was an Auschwitz commandant, one Wilhelm Boger, whose sobriquet was “The Tiger of Auschwitz.” He was a man who had been arrested after a successful post-war career, having become a rich businessman who’d never been questioned before. At that time he was in his late 60s. Of the many witnesses for the prosecution there was a woman called Frau Braun.

Book Review: In the Basement of the Ivory Tower by Professor X

X’s short 21 chapters of informal prose mix the personal-poignant and social-pathetic. They illuminate the pathology of a multi-billion-dollar purely-American enterprise: the community college network snaking through 50 States. Bloated with the goodwill of the ingrained national optimism, it expresses our mania for pieces of paper guaranteeing employable skills supposedly learned from hundreds of pages of sociopsychological babble, the ink-tracks of text in thick books laying out techniques of “administration” by the numbers.

Book Review: Myths from Mesopotamia by Stephanie Dalley

I asked them why they, unannounced, wished to meet with the director and they told me that they had just discovered Noah’s ark in Turkey. As I had met a few others along the way conning people with this ark stuff I asked to see the proof. He immediately pulled out a black and white photo showing what looked like a rock cliff and asked, ‘What do you see?’ I looked at it closely and replied, ‘All I can see is that someone took a ballpoint pen and drew a photo of a ship on the rock face’. They replied, in that charming Tennessee accent, ‘Well, it’s a bit hard to see so we’all took a ball point pen and highlighted it for ‘y’all.’

The Second Book of the Tao

The principle idea at the core of Existentialism was the denial of Descartes’ I think, therefore I am. Instead it was, I act, therefore I am. As for fishing, Thoreau never tells us what sort of fish there are, or were in his stream; nor if he ever caught anything. It was the fishing that was his active thought, and that sky full of pebbled stars was where his thought was actively cast. That is poetry, and it is untranslatable as paraphrase or a set of maxims. Whereas the sort of profundities Stephen Mitchell sets down in this book — neatly-designed and printed withal — are for this reader rebarbative.