Death is Iconic

Death is Iconic IThis summer, Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip, killing hundreds of civilians, bombing schools and hospitals, and even UNRWA shelters. This might just have been another chapter in the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories, but this summer, there was something new: an unprecedented number of photographs and videos made it through to the international community via twitter and other social media platforms. Those who refuse to believe the extent of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, or who believe the oppression of the Palestinian people is strategically justified for the survival of the Israeli state, were in denial about the many images rushing into the rest of the world.

Most famously, George W. Bush’s former speech writer, David Frum, latched onto a conspiracy theory that held that a series of images of two Palestinian brothers expressing raw grief over the death of their father whom they’d just brought to the hospital was simply a piece of propaganda. According to this theory, the photographs were staged, and this could be seen from the fact that in one, the more distraught brother had blood on his hands, and in another, he did not. The blood had been added for effect, went the theory. Unfortunately for Frum and his ilk, these photos had been taken by numerous professional photographers working for international news services, who spoke up and outlined the sequence of events, showing that while the men arrived at the hospital soaked in blood, in the interim, as their father lay in the operating room, they’d washed their hands. Death is Iconic II

When I saw these striking images, I understood immediately what it was really all about. It was about the iconic nature of the photographs. Two men, in a state of mourning, embracing: they look like figures in classical paintings, or religious icons: figures of saints and martyrs. It was a dangerous turn in the image war, and the Frums of the world were scared.

[My paintings are acrylic on wooden panel, 5” x 7”. The original photographs were taken by Hatem Ali/AP, and Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters; my hat is off to these brave photographers who put themselves in the path of danger on a daily basis. My desire was to engage with the ways in which the underlying photographs looked like religious icons.]

Looking at Mughal(s)

Lately I have been thinking about narrativizing visual language of Mughal art. Which is a weird way of saying I want to talk about Mughal art telling stories. Which is even more of a weird way of saying I am beginning to see a future article in which I, a historian of text, looks.

Looking seems to be the motif of the summer, in retrospect.

In any event, gentle readers, I (@sepoy) tweeted a number of images which are helpfully storified here by CM Intern (to be disclosed soon) and CM Head Archivist (@salmaan_H). The article will most certainly look something like this.

Daisy Rockwell Answers

Our lapata is interviewed at CNN’s OutFront on her recent book and her “controversial” art:

OutFront: Our last conversation got a lot of attention and really seemed to upset a lot of people. Why do you think that happened?

Rockwell: It seemed as though people were especially bothered by the fact that I was Norman Rockwell’s granddaughter and was somehow showing sympathy toward terrorists. They saw this as a desecration of Norman Rockwell’s message. The problem with this is that Norman Rockwell has a near-universal appeal that is not restricted to America, in my experience. This is due, in my opinion, to the humanism of his work. For many on the right, however, Rockwell’s work symbolizes something much narrower: a lost Eden in which life was simpler, ‘traditional’ family values were not questioned, and, well, white people were in the majority. Showing sympathy (read ‘humanism’) toward an other (Muslims, alleged terrorists) that is seen as directly threatening America and that particular view of American life is therefore treason of the highest order. The people who were upset by your story about “The Little Book of Terror” couldn’t see that link between my work and my grandfather’s: the impulse to find the humanity in all people. It’s just that the people in whom I try to find it are sometimes harder to relate to than the folks down at the soda fountain.

And my favorite answer ever!!

OutFront: You’ve spent time in India. What can you tell us about the country?

Rockwell: I’ve spent a good deal of time in India, over the years. Lack of funds and a small child have prevented me from visiting recently. India is extremely diverse in so many ways–linguistically, culturally, socio-economically–the biggest mistake one can make about India is trying to boil it down to one characteristic, although this is very popular in journalism.

Go read the whole thing, and then give a shout-out to lapata on twitter.

Some of us have wings: a conversation with illustrious flash fictionista Kuzhali Manickavel

Everybody knows who Yara Sofia is in Puerto Rico. And if you don’t, then sorry darling, this is not your world.

–One of Kuzhali Manickavel’s favorite quotes from Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Season 3.

For the past few months I’ve been up to my earlobes in Blaft Publications. Last week (?) I posted an interview with Rakesh Khanna, editor of Blaft’s Tamil Pulp Fiction series, and Pritham K. Chakravarthy, translator of same. Next week my Blaft extravaganza review will appear in Bookslut. For now, content yourself with this interview with flash fiction author and scintillating blogger Kuzhali Manickavel, author of the story collection Insects Are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings. Besides buying her book, which you should do before reading this interview, you should sample some of her very short stories linked from her website (there’s a whole menu along the right side of the page).

Lapata: In a recent blog post on Indian writing in English, you title a section: “Do not have a name like Kuzhali Manickavel.” You offer alternative names for other IWE writers (Vikram Seth=>Seth Victor, etc.), but not for yourself. I was thinking Carly McKnieval might be good, what do you think?

KM: I’m actually not qualified to be an Indian Writer in English (people have told me this so it must be true) but I feel like that shouldn’t stop me from writing blog posts telling other people what to do, especially when it comes to authenticity for Indian writers in English. Having said that, I’m not sure if Carly McKnieval is the name I’d go with. Carly’s fine but I have some reservations about ‘McKnieval’ because it sorta looks Jewish and Scottish at the same time, which might be confusing for people and may also force me to lie. Because if people were to ask me ‘So are you Jewish or Scottish?’ then I would have to say ‘Yes’. And then if they say ‘Oh, I had no idea there were Jewish people in Scottish…Land.’ I would have to say ‘Oh my God, Scottish Land is like the most Jewish place ever!’

Actually, I don’t mind lying like that because writer authenticity is really important to me and I feel like you need to be prepared to lie and change your name for it and stuff like that.
Continue reading “Some of us have wings: a conversation with illustrious flash fictionista Kuzhali Manickavel”


When: Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 5:00pm
Where: 5 Holden St., North Adams, MA 01247-2423

Three Generations of Rockwell Creators:

For the first time ever, the artwork of three generations of Rockwells will be displayed in the Berkshires, as the work of Jarvis and Daisy Rockwell is exhibited in North Adams as part of DownStreet Art, a public art project of MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center.
Their work will join the art of their father and grandfather, 20th-century American painter and Illustrator Norman Rockwell, which can be viewed at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.
From June 24 to July 25, Daisy Rockwell’s “Rasgulla,” a display of Rasa paintings, will be in the Galerie Inqilab at 5 Holden St.

I really, really, really wish I was there. Please attend in my stead and see Lapata’s latest show.