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Linh Dinh on T.S. Eliot, American exceptionalism, hunger artists and Santa Cruz

Linh Dinh on T.S. Eliot, American exceptionalism, hunger artists and Santa Cruz

March 19, 2009

If you’re unfamiliar with the work of Linh Dinh—a man whose writing has been compared with work by Borges, Calvino, and Edgar Allan Poe, author of the upcoming <a href=”http://www.sevenstories.com/book/?GCOI=58322100305410″ target=_blank>Love Like Hate</a> and a man whose Blood and Soap was chosen by the Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004—then you’ve been provided with a perfect opportunity to become familiar with the mind of Linh Dinh in a series of three short pieces at poetryfoundation.org. The writing—half prose, half poem, all Linh Dinh—ranges over topics from the prospects of artists (“Quit! It’s not worth it!”, Dinh recounts) to the role of Americans in history to the spectacle of hunger to America’s reputation worldwide to Ezra Pound and the Mexican War.

The articles:

Here’s a small sample from Impossible Life, Dinh’s article on hunger artists:

In 2003, American David Blaine went without food for 44 days while suspended in a plexiglass box near London’s Tower Bridge. For this stunt, he was paid nearly 200,000 Dollars by British television. His inspirations, I kid you not, were Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi and Irish Republican Army’s Bobby Sands, who had died at age 26 after 66 days of a hunger strike in a British prison. Blaine also mentioned Kafka’s 1922 story, “The Hunger Artist.” Before his lucrative affliction, Blaine declared, “I’m an artist—nothing more, nothing less. I don’t fear life and I don’t fear death.” The locals weren’t overly impressed, with some trying to shake the box, aiming laser beams, throwing eggs or driving golf balls at it. Others disrupted his water supply, banged on drums, played loud music or detonated explosions nearby. Men mooned, women flashed. A remote-controlled toy helicopter hovered, dangling a burger. Barbecues were staged. Farce over, Blaine confided before sobbing, “This has been one of the most important experiences in my life. I have learned more in that box than I have in years.”

… After Blaine, a Chinese fasted for 49 days; a Russian, 50, but who cares, really? Kafka on his hunger artist, “For he alone knew […] how easy it was to fast. It was the easiest thing in the world.” These stunts shouldn’t count unless you starve to death, really. Put your corpse where your mouth is. Push that envelope, dude. Die, or shut up.

Linh Dinh’s new novel, Love Like Hate, will be released in 2009 from Seven Stories Press.

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