Prose at Play: Watching “Kinderkranhenhaus” On Stage


Earlier this week, I was interviewing the writer Jeff Noon when the subject of his past as a playwright came up. Noon’s far from alone in having one foot apiece in the worlds of prose and theater; Samuel Beckett is probably the best-known example of someone doing interesting work in both disciplines, but Cormac McCarthy and Michael Frayn also come to mind. New York has seen a few examples this year of stage work by writers best known for their prose, including BAM’s staging of The Wife of Willesden, a play by Zadie Smith and the subject of this review, The Brick’s production of Jesi Bender’s Kinderkrankenhaus.

Continue Reading

Conventions of Language, Transformed: A Review of Jesi Bender’s “Kinderkrankenhaus”


I’m teaching an online poetry-writing workshop. It’s thematized; it’s called “Moderna-ist Literature: The Poetics of the Pandemic.” As you can imagine, enrollment is low; no one, except for me and 6 other people in the world (class caps at 10), wants to think about the pandemic while in the pandemic. I wasn’t hoping to teach poetry about the pandemic – this would be a stupid or at least non-pragmatic hope, insofar as there’s barely any poetry about the pandemic, barely any writing at all, because we can’t think through, or about, the pandemic. It’s the inverse of David Foster Wallace’s story of the 2 fish swimming along, where then another fish crosses their path and says “Hey boys, how’s the water” and continues on its merry way, and then the 2 fish look at each other and one of them says “What the fuck is water?” Here it’s something like “Please do not remind me of this poisoned air, I ask to be distracted from breathing” – but rather to use the conditions of the pandemic as a metaphor for the conditions of poetry writing, e.g. what is the mask of the poem, how does the poem socially distance itself from the reader or, and this is really interesting to me, is the poem vaccinated; does it have symptoms, is it diseased, is it in some way sick. Poems that are experimental or that are translated or that are written by members of a marginalized community – marginalized due to race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, or mental health, the latter two categories being largely the focus of this review I’m currently writing my way into, of Jesi Bender’s wonderful new play KINDERKRANKENHAUS, which revolves around issues of neurodivergence and takes place in a children’s hospital and whose characters are the neurodivergent patients of said hospital, as well as the one doctor overseeing them all.

Continue Reading

Vol. 1 Brooklyn’s December 2021 Book Preview

December 2021 books

When it comes to books, December often brings the unexpected. This year is no different; even with paper shortages and distribution issues complicating the world of publishing, this month had plenty of notable books to offer. This includes multiple works by certified geniuses and a host of intriguing books in translation. Looking for some cold-weather reading? Read on for our recommendations.

Continue Reading