Why the Rodeo Clowns Came

by James McGirk I live surrounded by retirees in rural Oklahoma. They are spry. They own arsenals of gardening equipment: lawnmower-tractor hybrids that grind through the fibrous local flora with cruel efficiency; they wield wicked contraptions, whirling motorized blades that allow withered men to sculpt hedges into forms of sublime and delectable complexity. Their lawns…

Three Buboes

by James McGirk To hurtle through space we had to live on asteroids; to live on asteroids, flesh and bone were rasped from our bodies. Glass blowers found three cavities in the porous galactic stone and blew bubbles to contain us. Topped us off with nutritious fluids, and pushed us out— It’s dark. I am…

The Metropolitan Trilogy

by James McGirk After writing a spate of reasonably successful—and very autobiographical—novels, James Ellroy and Martin Amis took the cities surrounding them and used them as test beds, experimenting with new voices and forms and populating this familiar terrain with doppelgangers and villains and foils and sexual obsessions. Amis wrote three novels devoted to northwest…

NORTH KOREA’S NERVE WAR

by James McGirk The Moranbong Band is best imagined as a North Korean version of Celtic Woman: an all-female ensemble band swaddled in fetching formalwear, blasting highly produced, energetic nationalist kitsch. Of course, no matter how much vigorous fiddling Chloe, Lisa, Susan and Mairead can manage, Celtic Woman is unlikely to attract as much scrutiny…

The Powwow

by James McGirk My wife and I moved to the capital of Cherokee Nation, a small city in Northeast Oklahoma called Tahlequah, a few months ago. Tahlequah, as the would-have-been capital of a proposed all-Indian state, Sequoyah, is arguably the center of indigenous culture in the United States, or at least it has a plausible…