Literary Quartet

by Jen Calleja

We’re in a labyrinth of ladders, arcing and curling around one another, following others’ routes, occasionally being given a hand over treacherous rungs. Some ladders lead to dead ends, others to platforms from where we can shout down encouragement, or ignore all beneath.

Traum

In the video for her song Criminal, I watch Fiona Apple’s body and wait for it to tell me how I should feel about her, or towards her, and in this video, the messages are mixed. Her body says that something is wrong, but what she sings is more complicated and as the way she is filmed renders her as a thing, I come back to thinking that her body, in its communicating that something is wrong, is where the attraction lies.

An Incomplete Taxonomy of Sexually Desperate Women in Pop

The Oilfield Allegorist: Dorothy Ellis — Drill Daddy Drill (1952) Thirty-six years before Dallas brought us the oil-centric Ewing family, there was Drill Daddy Drill, an ode to oil extraction that’s really an ode to sex, and is also not to be confused with the (Republican, therefore deeply unsexy) slogan Drill Baby Drill!

Britney Spears, Pop's Final Girl

No piece of famous-girl gossip has ever surprised me less than learning that the night before her Vegas wedding to Jason Alexander, Britney Spears watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I'll Start with a Line

I got my first tattoo the weekend before my 22nd birthday. I decided – while sitting on the floor of a bathroom stall that I should’ve been cleaning, at the job I worked full-time when I wasn’t in school – on the word “bluets”. Or the title of Maggie Nelson’s lyrical talisman of a book. It was only later that I found out about its cult-object status.

The Volcano Lover

Everybody does it. Watch from the bottom of the escalator at Naples’ Toledo metro station and you see heads stop turning from side to side like loose bottle caps and pivot upwards. They’re looking at a portal into another dimension, or more precisely, station architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca’s perfect cone-shaped tunnel cut deep into the ceiling ...

Hunting Hamburg's Counterculture

The train was to leave Berlin appallingly early. Having confused the German words for Saturday and Sunday in sleepy delirium, I missed the bus to the station. Sitting against a wall on the deserted street corner, my skin blooming with hives, I breathed deeply, clutching the fingers of my left hand in time with each round.

Sifting through Beirut's Stifling Past

If you have the patience, you can find almost anything on the market floor at Souk al-Ahad. Hiding beneath pink plastic pianos, among stuffed Hello Kitties, giant soup ladles and mountains of miscellaneous clothing, fading lives are scattered like dice.

Persephonica

The ground is torn up and black with soot and blood. Bodies, male and female, are piled in great heaps. A lone figure stands amongst it all, his aged face flecked with earth. Spools of smoke gather behind him, then unfurl into the wind.

Victoria and the Fragility of the Expat Dream

Around five years ago, I decided to move to Berlin after visiting the city for a weekend and instantly loving it. A sense of freedom was palpable along its wide streets and in the parks where people sat drinking massive bottles of cheap, decent beer.