Uncategorized

The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies Are Changing the Way We Have Kids—and the Kids We Have

Bonnie Rochman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux ($26)

by Victoria Blanco

Four years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I discussed the pros and cons of the routine genetic screening offered to us. We settled against the tests, but three years later, when my son was diagnosed with autism, I thought back and wondered if, one day, genetic screening could detect this condition the way it recognizes Down’s Syndrome or Trisomy 18. How would knowing about my son’s autism have affected me during pregnancy, I wondered?

Bonnie Rochman, a journalist who covered parenting and pediatrics for Time magazine, underwent a genetic screening dilemma during her third pregnancy, several years before she became aware of a study that gauged parents’ eagerness to map their children’s genomes, even when there was no worrisome family history. Rochman’s first book, The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies are Changing the Way We Have Kids—and the Kids We Have, explores the advancements of genetic testing and our emotional responses to a plethora of information not only about our own genomes, but our children’s.

Examining multiple angles of her central question—“is genetic knowledge empowering or fear-inducing, or both?”—is one of Rochman’s greatest strengths as a writer. In the first chapter, “How the Jews Beat Tay Sachs: Carrier Screening,” Rochman takes readers through the story of eliminating Tay Sachs disease through carrier screening of Jews with hereditary ties to Eastern Europe. She introduces the reader to universal pre-pregnancy carrier screening, a sequencing that can identify thousands of genetic mutations in a person’s genome. Companies are offering these screenings when the medical community advises against them, for fear that patients will make ill-informed choices. “DNA is not necessarily destiny,” Rochman articulates. But try telling this to a couple who has learned of dozens of genetic variants, all of which could lead to them, or their child, developing a disease.

In an insightful chapter titled “The Other Scarlet A: Abortion,” Rochman explores a complex aspect of advances in genetic testing and reproductive choice—what to do when you learn your baby has a fetal abnormality. “While there are women who’d never opt for an abortion,” she wrote, “it’s disingenuous to ignore the fact that terminating a pregnancy is one possible outcome of earlier, more sophisticated genetic tests. The issue of how people feel about disability and, in turn, how that impacts their decisions regarding abortion is an essential aspect of any discussion about advances in prenatal testing.” This chapter is remarkable for its balanced and nuanced approach to one of the most charged debates in our country. Rochman presents personal stories from women who have chosen to terminate pregnancies once they learned of a fetal abnormality. Then, she presents the views of disability rights advocates who argue that earlier and more detailed screening is a step backward in the fight to increase awareness and inclusivity for people with disabilities. She challenges the popular conception that prenatal information ensures a healthy baby; rather, she argues, prenatal testing is a means of asserting control over what kind of baby we have. “Perhaps we take refuge in circumlocution because it feels strange to acknowledge that prenatal testing allows us to play a role in deciding what sort of child we will have,” Rochman reflects.

The Gene Machine is a timely book for expectant parents as they navigate the new prenatal testing choices offered to them during pregnancy. Rochman covers fast-changing, emotionally charged territory with intelligence and compassion.

Click here to purchase this book at your local independent bookstore
indiebound
Rain Taxi Online Edition Fall 2017 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2017

Kill All Normies: The Online Culture Wars from Tumblr and 4chan to the Alt-Right and Trump

Angela Nagle
Zero Books ($16.95)

by Alex Kies

The rise of President Trump and right-wing populism worldwide was preceded and normalized by a far-right social media movement. Sites such as 4chan and reddit fostered online right-wing communities that spilled out into internet journalism, Facebook and Twitter, and ultimately the White House. In her book Kill All Normies, Irish journalist Angela Nagle elucidates the circumstances that fomented this ideology.

Nagle posits that the Obama presidency’s veneer of reasoned sincerity led to the disingenuous clicktivism of the KONY 2012 movement and the social media vilification of the Cincinnati Zoo in the wake of their euthanizing Harambe the gorilla. These trends’ self-importance and intolerance of dissent led to a good deal of disillusionment of youth on the left and the right. Gamer groups, various white nationalist and Christian conservative groups, and the remnants of the pick-up artist community congealed into a loosely affiliated, predominantly male movement referred to as the Alt-Right.

The Alt-Right is anti-authoritarian, decentralized, and often anonymous, although it has many (frequently at odds) figureheads. It follows, then, that contradictory ideologies co-exist beneath the same umbrella. Richard Spencer decries homosexuality and drug use as symptoms of Western decline, whereas both are celebrated by Milo Yiannopolis. Nagle posits that the greatest uniting force is “a bursting forth of anti-PC cultural politics through the culture wars of recent years.”

The mainstreaming of Black Lives Matter, safe spaces, transgender bathroom rights, etc. saw transgression becoming the project of retrograde racial and gender politics. Whereas once Prince’s lyrics and Dead Kennedys’ album art were the matter of Congressional inquiry, it is now edgier to release a female game designer’s home address or liken Leslie Jones to a gorilla. Indeed, Nagle argues that the Alt-Right has co-opted liberalism’s transgressive rhetoric and aesthetic. The difference is that the status quo now is more socially liberal than it was in the 1950s and ’60s. The core contradiction of Alt-Right ideology is that its strategies, because they are co-opted from and practiced in an environment of social liberalism, require liberalism to exist. As Nagle puts it, “Trump, rightist 4chan and the alt-right all represent a pretty dramatic departure from the kind of churchgoing, upstanding, button-down, family values conservativism that we usually associate with the term in Anglo-American public and political life.”

While she doesn’t quite make clear how the real-world consequences of this online discourse—especially the election of Donald Trump—were precipitated by the online hate-pit, Nagle’s analysis is trenchant and timely. What makes Kill All Normies such an insightful book is the author’s insistence on the culpability of the left in creating the vacuum in which the Alt-Right expanded. As liberal college campuses and private businesses instituted policies of gender-neutral bathrooms, safe spaces, and trigger warnings, they ironically made speech and thought less free through call-out culture. Nagle’s caution that the left’s stagnant ideas, pedantry, and infighting have made it the weaker party of the two should surely lead those who want change to reflect on their methods.

Click here to purchase this book at your local independent bookstore
indiebound
Rain Taxi Online Edition Fall 2017 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2017

Behaving Madly: Zany, Loco, Cockeyed, Rip-Off Satire Magazines

Ger Apeldoorn & Craig Yoe
Illustrated by Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, & Jack Kirby
IDW Publishing ($35)

by Paul Buhle

Opening this wonderfully odd volume, we find ourselves plunged into the vanished pulp world of the 1950s. As the era of the historic slick magazines like Colliers waned and the low-priced paperback trade multiplied many times over, comic books notoriously went into a crash mode. The Comics Code, threatening circulation-death of any that violated new sex-and-violence standards, had a lot to do with this crash. But so, of course, did TV, reaching from the coasts to the smallest flyover towns. For illustrators, comic book artists and others, it was a crisis, as it became for theatrical (animation) artists, and for analogous reasons: the grand movie studios no longer cranked out thousands of cartoons for audiences now sitting in front of televisions, buying ever fewer pulps of any kind.

For those sufficiently skilled and connected, there would always be consolations, including advertising studios and, for television, Hanna and Barbera (Huckleberry Hound, et.al.), not to mention paperback cover art and such. And there was one amazing print-media growth industry, mostly short-lived but seemingly enormous: wacky humor.

In major college towns, campus humor magazines had provided audiences with spicy cartoons and gags since at least the 1920s, succeeding higher quality, if less sexy, humor magazines like the pre-Henry Luce Life, among others. Mad Comics, launched in 1952 on the power of Harvey Kurtzman and his gang of artists, opened up a new era. Within a few years, as the story goes, parent EC comics faced a crisis of censorship. Kurtzman proposed to his boss, William Gaines, a slick version. Thus, Mad Magazine was born in 1955, and as a toned-down and younger-demographic version of Mad Comics, it caught the wave, its readership reaching millions within decades.

No wonder copycat magazines emerged overnight, like weeds on a summer lawn. Actually, a bedrock of the massively profitable 1940s comic book industry had been the “swipe,” both of artistic gestures and of genres. If one superhero appeared in seemingly silly outfits and with seemingly silly superpowers—to take the profit-leading example—there would soon be dozens, even hundreds, many of them in smaller companies likely to crash in the near future, like Superman with Kryptonite close at hand. Publishers with sudden success also often produced their own imitations, Mad begetting Panic, for example, with most of the same artists in the early 1950s. Paper was cheap in those days, with sales in newsstands and drug stores full of customers of all ages, all looking for something fresh and different. Behaving Madly celebrates the output of these magazines. In charge of the selection and annotation: Ger Appledorn (a Dutch television and comics writer who actually edited a short-lived version of Mad in the Netherlands) and Craig Yoe, born editors mad, so to speak, for identification and annotations even among the dreckiest of dreck. Thus the Introduction is something of a marvel (if not related to Captain Marvel). We find Snafu, Bunk!, Cockeyed, Lunatickle, Thimk, Who Goofed?, Frenzy, Shook Up, Loco, Nuts, Zany. and Frantic, not to mention the name-changing Crazy, retitled Crazy, Man, Crazy and again This Magazine is Crazy, among others! I admit to missing Sick! and Cracked, which both came later and are not excerpted here, or Kurtzman’s three post-Mad productions, Trump, Humbug, and Help!, reprinted or heavily anthologized elsewhere. Everything, each item in this curious saga, is carefully listed with years and leading artists, often enough experienced artists at their peak and not quite finding a place in the diminishing pulps. The lowest of the low, in the estimation of the high class magazine artists, get their due.

And so does the satire of modern life, in the Mad style, albeit knocked off: films, television, advertising, slick magazines, popular literary classics (think Frankenstein), popular science, even sports. Many are drawn by some of the greats, like Mad’s Jack Davis, obviously looking to pick up as many jobs as possible. Some stories are ripped off directly from Mad satires, making them effectively satires on satires. The amazing thing is that the near-anonymous along with the once-notable are so carefully credited here.

What makes these pieces notable as well as fun? Comics scholars without or without PhDs will, for instance, want to see what legendary Stan Lee was doing with Snafu (1955-56). They will find that he was pushing the envelope on sex—no surprise, given that the 1930s pioneer publishers of the comic book industry had been busted on a pornography rap only a few years earlier. The suggestive stuff here seems awfully tame. Captain Billy’s Whizbang and the current college mags—some of them banished by campus authorities—were certainly more suggestive. This luke-warm Hot Stuff was, after all, just one more pulp gambit. Readers will likewise want to glance at utterly tasteless satires, like one of “falsies” (a fooler: this is mostly about denture cream), and also at the rare appearance of Will Elder, Basil Wolverton, and other notables in these super-marginal venues. These are, or were, the pulps, after all, drugstore items bought and soon forgotten, a footnote to popular culture.

Click here to purchase this book at your local independent bookstore
indiebound
Rain Taxi Online Edition Fall 2017 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2017

ANNE FADIMAN—POSTPONED

Due to an injury sustained by the author, this event has been POSTPONED. We hope to reschedule and will provide that information as soon as possible. Thank you!

The Wine Lover's Daughter is a standout―possibly the best memoir, and one of the best books, this reviewer has read in 2017.”
Library Journal (starred review)

Join us in welcoming beloved and best-selling author Anne Fadiman to the Twin Cities! Renowned for her two scintillating essay collections, At Large and At Small and Ex Libris, as well as for her eye-opening and utterly engaging The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award), Fadiman will present her new book, The Wine Lover’s Daughter (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). As Adam Gopnik puts it, “The ostensible object of Anne Fadiman’s wonderful new book is the wine cellar of her father, the once-omnipresent critic Clifton Fadiman. But its real subjects include the insecurities of American Jews, the glories of mid-century ‘middlebrow’ culture, and, above all, the always intricate, often exasperated, and finally deeply tender relation of father and daughter.” Refreshments will follow this not-to-be missed talk, and books will be available for purchase courtesy of Subtext Books. We hope to see you there!

PRAISE FOR THE WINE LOVER’S DAUGHTER

“If Anne Fadiman’s book about her father were a wine, it would merit a ‘100’ rating, along with all the oeno-superlatives: ‘smooth,’ ‘elegant,’ ‘brilliant,’ ‘with a dazzling, heart-warming finish.’ But as it is a book, let’s call it what it is: a stunning, original, beautifully written, clear-eyed yet tear-inducing account of a daughter’s love for her famous father; and into the bargain, the best family memoir yet to come out of the Baby Boom generation.”
—Christopher Buckley

“This book is as good and rich as one would hope, no small thing, given that it’s written by one of the best essayists of our time about her father, one of the more interesting critics of another. Uncork this book and watch one master go to work on another. I was reminded reading it of what the man himself once wrote about tasting a great vintage, that it was ‘to savor a droplet of the river of human history.’”
—John Jeremiah Sullivan

Adrian Matejka - Gymnopédies No. 3 Broadside

This broadside, featuring a new poem by Adrian Matejka, was printed by supersessionpress on the occasion of Adrian Matejka's appearance in the Rain Taxi Reading Series on September 16, 2017.

Limited edition, letter press broadside measures 11" x 13". Limited to 50 copies. Each copy is SIGNED by the author.

Richard Stephens of supersessionpress pulls another beauty from the letterpress printer.

Available with a donation of $50 to Rain Taxi, a nonprofit literary organization. Donations are deductible to the extant allowable by law.

DONATE-teal

Adrian Matejka read from his poetry at SooVac Gallery in Minneapolis.

Twin Cities Book Festival Poetry Bus

Twin Cities Book Festival, Minnesota State Fairgrounds
Friday, October 13, 2017: 6-7pm Reception; 7-8pm Opening Night Talk
Saturday, October 14, 2017: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

Get on the bus! Each hour at the Book Festival, a different poetry workshop or activity will be taking place on the vehicle with various poets and you.  Drop in for just a few minutes or hang out longer—whatever you need, poetry has it.  Here’s our list of poetry happenings:

10 am - Poetry Drop

Take a minute to drop off a poem that you’ve written, to add to the collection of poetry on the bus for readers to dip into and enjoy all day.  Our featured poets in the programs below will be reading these poems and marking their favorites; we’ll be posting their top choices on our website after the Festival!

11 am - Dream Poems with Brett Elizabeth Jenkins

Drop in to write a poem based on a dream you’ve had—or a dream-like poem, if you’re the type of person who can't remember their dreams! Brett Elizabeth Jenkins has published four chapbooks, including 2017’s Over the Moon

12 pm - Protest (or Gratitude) Songwriting with Brian Laidlaw

In the mood to protest? Learn how to turn your thoughts into great lyrics with an acclaimed poet-songwriter. Not into protest?  Write a gratitude song instead, because it’s still a beautiful world. Brian Laidlaw has published the poetry chapbook/folk album Amoratorium and the full-length book The Stuntman, which also contained a companion album of original songs. 

1 pm - Poetry Mad Libs with Paula Cisewski

Drop in to add your own parts of speech to a well-known (or new-to-you) poem and watch the meanings multiply before your eyes! Paula Cisewski's fourth poetry collection, ​quitter​, won Diode Editions' Book Prize and her third, The Threatened Everything, won the Burnside Review book contest; both were released earlier this year.

2 pm - Poet Laureate Tell All with Juan Felipe Herrera & Robert Casper

Join the 21st U.S. Poet Laureate and the Head of the Poetry and Literature Center of the Library of Congress to learn what exactly the Poet Laureate does and to share your ideas about how poetry can be more visible in our country. 

3 pm - Silent Reading

Feeling overwhelmed after a day at the Festival?  Hop on the bus to read some poems to yourself and recharge your batteries. Bring books you’ve bought or dip into the bus’s own trove of books.

Return to the main Festival page

Matthew Rucker

Annie and her Pet Tornado, oil on canvas, 60" x 96"

Matthew Rucker is a colorblind painter who loves to play with color. He is a surrealist who believes that life is too short to spend it painting things as they are, so he paints things as he feels they should be. He is an artist who combines depth and humor to create paintings that simultaneously challenge and entertain.

This painting is for sale! You can contact Matthew and see other wonderful works on his website at matthewrucker.com

Volume 22, Number 2, Summer 2017 (#86)

To purchase issue #85 using Paypal, click here.

INTERVIEWS

Mary Troy: Fluidity of Time | by Ryan Krull
Denise Duhamel: Feminism and Other Isms | by Allison Campbell

FEATURES REVIEWS

On The Islands: Ten Books Toward a Better Understanding of Hawaii | by Mike Dillon
The New Life | a comic by Gary Sullivan
Remembering Joanne Kyger (1934-2017) | by Jonah Raskin

PLUS:

Cover art by Sean Smuda

NONFICTION REVIEWS

Total Chaos: The Story of the Stooges As Told by Iggy Pop | Jeff Gold | by Maria Damon
Robert Lowell: Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character | Kay Redfield Jamison | by Brooke Horvath
Tell Me If You’re Lying | Sarah Sweeney | by Kenny Torrella
Romanian Notebook | Cyrus Console | by Jenn Mar
The History of the Future: American Essays | Edward McPherson | by Kasey McKee
The New Midwest: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction of the Great Lakes, Great Plains, and Rust Belt | Mark Athitakis | by Garin Cycholl
Not A Place On Any Map | Alexis Paige | by George Longenecker
Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises | Lesley M. M. Blume | by Ryder W. Miller
Blood Too Bright: Floyd Dell Remembers Edna St. Vincent Millay | Jerri Dell | by Paul Buhle

FICTION & DRAMA REVIEWS

Huck Out West | Robert Coover | by Ben Sloan
Mexico | Josh Barkan | by Adam Conner
Void Star | Zachary Mason | by Kelsey R. Taylor
Our Dolphin | Joel Allegretti | by Trenary Hall
Wicked Weeds | Pedro Cabiya | by Peter Grandbois
St. Patrick’s Day: Another Day in Dublin | Thomas McGonigle | by Douglas Messerli
Me Against The World | Kazufumi Shiraishi | by Erik Noonan
2084: The End of the World | Boualem Sansal | by Mari Carlson
The Long Dry | Cynan Jones | by Bethany Bendtsen
Russian Absurd: Selected Writings | Daniil Kharms | by C. Mehrl Bennett
Exit, Pursued | Dalton Day | by John Bradley

POETRY REVIEWS

Galaxy of Love | Gerald Stern | by Warren Woessner
Hagar Poems | Mohja Kahf | by Julia Stein
Morning, Paramin | Derek Walcott & Peter Doig | by Florian Gargaillo
Field Guide to the End of the World | Jeannine Hall Gailey | by Sarah Liu
Radiant Action | Matt Hart | by Laura Winton
Abandoned Angel | Burt Kimmelman | by M. G. Stephens
Spiral Staircase: Collected Poems | Hirato Renkichi | by John Bradley
Into The Cycloram a | Annie Kim | by Jennifer van Alstyne
Description of a Flash of Cobalt Blue | Jorge Esquinca | by Kelsi Vanada
after projects the resound | Kimberly Alidio | by Greg Bem

COMICS & ART REVIEWS

Trump: The Complete Collection Essential Kurtzman, Volume Two | Harvey Kurtzman, et al. | by Paul Buhle
Mooncop | Tom Gauld | by Steve Matuszak
A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel | Tom Phillips | by Richard Kostelanetz

To purchase issue #86 using Paypal, click here.

Rain Taxi Print Edition, Vol. 22 No. 2, Summer 2017 (#86) | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2017

Volume 22, Number 3, Fall 2017 (#87)

Volume 22, Number 3, Fall 2017 (#87)

To purchase issue #87 using Paypal, click here.

INTERVIEWS

Tom Rademacher: Driving into the Fire | by Molly Sutton Kiefer
Gabrielle Bell: “I do try to give people souls” | by Kevin Huizenga

FEATURES

The New Life | a comic by Gary Sullivan
Ursule Molinaro: The Fallacy of Identity | by Ben Shields
Vivid Particularity: Four New Asemic Books | by Jeff Hanson
Works and Interviews | Michael Jacobson
Unknown Messages | Spencer Selby
zinc zanc zunc | Rosaire Appel
Codex Abyssus | Volodymyr Bilyk
Remembering Jack Collom (1931–2017) | by Elizabeth Robinson
Remembering Burton Watson (1925–2017) | by James P. Lenfestey

PLUS:

Cover art by Matthew Rucker

NONFICTION REVIEWS

What is Poetry? (Just Kidding, I Know You Know): Interviews from the Poetry Project Newsletter (1983–2009) | Anselm Berrigan, ed. | by Patrick James Dunagan
Interweavings: Creative Nonfiction | Carol Smallwood | by Ronald Primeau
Little Magazine, World Form | Eric Bulson | by Matthew Cheney
Demand the Impossible! A Radical Manifesto | Bill Ayers | by Michael Workman
In Praise of Litigation | Alexandra Lahav | by Spencer Dew
Certain Relevant Passages | Joe Manning | by Micah Winters
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry | Neil deGrasse Tyson | by Ryder W. Miller
Sirens | Joshua Mohr | by Chad Parmenter
Quaestiones Perversas | Betriz E. Balanta & Mary Walling Blackburn | by Jeff Alford
Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law | James Q. Whitman | by Michael Workman

FICTION REVIEWS

The Shape of Bones | Daniel Galera | by Chris Barsanti
The Teeth of the Comb | Osama Alomar | by John Bradley
Florence in Ecstasy | Jessie Chaffee | by Lizzie Klaesges
Fire. | Elizabeth Hand | by George Longenecker
Literally Show Me A Healthy Person | Darcie Wilder | Meghan Daly
We Could’ve Been Happy | Keith Lesmeister | by Bret Farley
Prosopopoeia | Farid Tali | by Abby Burns
The Drop Edge of Yonder | Rudolph Wurlitzer | by Garin Cycholl

POETRY & AUDIO REVIEWS

Aloha/irish trees | Eileen Myles | by Semina Cooper
Conflation | Rae Armantrout | by Semina Cooper
The Conference of the Birds | Attar | by David Wiley
Surge | Opal C. McCarthy | by Heidi Czerwiec
Complete Poems of Richard Elman 1955–1997 | Richard Elman | by M. G. Stephens
Madwoman | Shara McCallum | by Jennifer van Alstyne
The Diary of Kaspar Hauser | Paolo Febbrato | by Robert Zaller
Cutting Room | Jessica de Koninck | by Sharon Tracey
Lowly | Alan Felsenthal | by Daniel Moysaenko
Bronzeville at Night: 1949 | Vida Cross | by Ian Bodkin
Power Ballads | Garrett Caples | by Chris Oakley
The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded | Molly McCully Brown | by John Bradley
Lion Brothers | Leona Sevick | by Ruth Chasek

COMICS REVIEW

You & a Bike & a Road | Eleanor Davis | by Steve Matuszak

To purchase issue #87 using Paypal, click here.

Rain Taxi Print Edition, Vol. 22 No. 3, Fall 2017 (#87) | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2017