Reviews, reflections, conversations.

Mostly Novels
Joan Didion

Words are All She Has

By Emily Burns Morgan
"Whether she's examining politics or Hollywood or New York or death, [Didion's] work is always ultimately about why people do the things they do..." more

Hannah Arendt

"I'm Obviously Quite Unpleasant"

By Jennifer Ruth
That she insists we all have a responsibility to make judgments goes against the very grain of the non-judgmental modernity we inhabit. Arendt, though, is desperate to...more

The Disaster Artist

Asking What Happened in The Room

By Doug Cornett
"The authors' tone exudes a curious combination of innocent wonder, wink-wink collusion, and shoulder-shrugging guilt. Sestero is our fly on the wall, faithfully..." more

Mostly Novels
Carson McCullers

Still Watching

By Emily Burns Morgan
"Perhaps McCullers is trying to say that this is a failure, that they must reach out to one another to achieve some change to the status quo. Or maybe she's..." more

Kevin Sampsell

Ambiguity, Guacamole, and Dirt

"One of the great powers that people who create have is that authority to say when something ends." Kevin Sampsell, author of This is Between Us, answers Doug Cornett's challenging demands. more


Proud Thug No More?

"As China demonstrates, capitalism can always divorce democracy and give us the worst of all worlds: staggering economic inequality with zero political freedoms or legal protections." Jennifer Ruth reviews Slavoj Zizek's Demanding the Impossible. more

Tim Winton

Crossed Paths, Missed Connections

Review by Alan Limnis
"If you have ever wished for a concordance of what European artists, writers, composers, and political figures were doing in the last historical moments before the continent descended into the chaos of the Great War, you have it: it is Florian Illies' 1913: The Year Before the Storm." more

Book Notes
Book Notes

On Titles from Karen Green, Ben Schott

Brief reviews of Karen Green's Bough Down and Ben Schott's Schottenfreude. more


Crafted, designed, choreographed, performed.

Europe Endless

Gerhard Riessbeck, Painter of Ice

By Elizabeth Lopeman
"My paintings are like theater props without a story, and people can wonder about what that story can be." Elizabeth Lopeman chats with Gerhard Riessbeck about his paintings of icebergs, what it means to be a ship's 'expedition painter,' and his thoughts on climate change. more

Europe Endless
Fabio Bianco

Fabio Bianco's Imaginative Freedom

By Elizabeth Lopeman
In conjunction with a vertiginous rendering of space, Bianco's use of color—reds, magenta, oranges and their counterparts, the contrasting blues and green—constructs a language of chaos and excess, the fantastical... more


Finding Their Place: A Q&A With Tyler Corbett and Erinn Kathryn

By Sara Sutter
"Looking at the maps and the paintings for so long, staring at them in the analytical sense, we got much closer to the places. And then when we actually go... more

Lebbeus Woods

Last Chance at SFMOMA: Lebbeus Woods, Architect of No-Man's Land

By Dan DeWeese
Woods proposed temporary architectural scabs that would become permanent architectural scars. His was an architecture that would neither... more


Art form of the twentieth century.


At the close of the nineteenth century, something happened to the world's photographs: they began to move. It was a trick, of course—the photos weren't moving, it was just that when subjected to a barrage of them, the eye became confused and made false reports. What happened next was the explosion of a new medium that, though it hadn't even existed in the nineteenth century, quickly dominated the twentieth. Was it a technology? An industry? An art form? Or just a particular way of framing life? The Propeller Institute of Cultural Speculation has committed its resources to a thorough, ongoing investigating of these questions and more.


Wanda and the Life of an Actual Woman
by Kate McCourt

"Wanda must rank as that cinematic rarity, a movie that really does get better—much better—as it goes along," Roger Greenspun stated in his 1971 Times review of Barbara Loden's first feature film as director. The film stands today as Loden's sole produced work of feature-length writing, directing, and lead acting—she died of cancer at the age of forty-eight, nine years after Wanda's release. The film received... more

WHat ever happened to new Hollywood?

Part I: Capital Becomes Confused
by Dan DeWeese

In October of 1967, Pauline Kael contributed an article to The New Yorker (she would become the full-time film critic there in 1968) in defense of a gangster movie she had enjoyed, but which almost nobody else had seen. Released in a small number of theaters in August, the film had received a bad review in the Times, where critic Bosley Crowther called it "a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy that... more

Linda Lovelace as Herself

The Cultural Symbol Who Wanted to be a Human Being
by Sarah Marshall

Some films haunt you. My mother saw Vertigo for the first time at ten, and the story—of Kim Novak as the icily sensual woman-in-trouble whom Jimmy Stewart fails to save from fate's grasp—has captivated her since. I grew up watching it with her at least once a year, lying on our living room floor in front of the sickly green glow of the screen. My father has a similar obsession with Amadeus (when I was... more

The Influence of Anxiety

Love and Death and Woody Allen (Part 1)
by Benjamin Craig

Woody Allen is regarded alternately as a cinematic genius with a singular vision, and as a deeply flawed jackass who can't make a film without embedding it with his personal neuroses and eccentricities. Both of these are probably fair assessments of the man. When Allen, as Alvy Singer, stares into the camera for the opening monologue of Annie Hall and, for a moment, we are deceived into believing it is... more


Stolen licks and backstage passes.


Revisited Gen X Parody?

Reconsidering the Tracks of Reality Bites

By Jessica Machado
If you were a young person in the '90s, you probably consider Reality Bites the epitome of nostalgia disappointment, the piece of cinema that's most painful to watch as an adult because...more


Music Discovery or Hoax?

Milky Edwards and the Chamberlings Cover Bowie's Soul

What if this discovery is nothing more than that in the hands of talented musicians, early Bowie can be easily turned into some pretty infectious soul music? In that case...more

The Listener

A Legend Snubbed

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Denies Its Loving Son

By Matthew Kauffman Smith
Imagine two musical artists. Both have distinct looks and are instantly recognizable. Artist A is a band that released its first studio album in...more


Investigations and lived experience.

Talking to Ads

Apple Ad as Psychopath

Apple's Delusions of Grandeur

By Pete Tothero
Back in the day, 60 Minutes used to chat with Charles Manson once in a while because they could rely on him to say stuff exactly like this. That girl should get out of the car and run away from you as soon as possible...more


At the Flight 93 Memorial Visiting Shanksville

At the Flight 93 Memorial

By Patrick McGinty
On the left in place of a fence is a triangular charcoal cylinder, a prism that points up, its base grounded, and that's when you realize it is out there. It's not the port-o-johns or the marsh or the guys fussing with...more


quiz Is This Just You?

Are Times Tough, Or Is It Possible You're Just Bohemian?

A Propeller Quiz
Select the answers that fit you best, add up your points, and find out...more


Language, pushed.


Letter from Oaxaca Five Poems

Five Poems by Frank Kuenstler

Poet and filmmaker Frank Kuenstler (1928-1996) was the author of nine books of poetry. Today, the only volume of Kuenstler's work in print is The Enormous Chorus (Pressed Wafer, 2011), from which these poems were drawn. more


Jane Lewty Six Poems

Six Poems by Jane Lewty

"Octave One feat."
"There has been a beam of light since"
"small automaton you do not come for nothing"
"Twist in the body being this"
From the author of Bravura Cool (1913 Press). more

Reading LInes

David Rakoff A Romantic's Primer

Rakoff's Love Dishonor Marry Die Cherish Perish

It cannot escape anyone's notice while reading the passages describing Cliff's death that Rakoff wrote this as he was dying of cancer, and also that this novel in verse ought to be maudlin and a disgusting gimmick. It isn't. more


Invented worlds, invented selves.


Fiction by Mary Rechner Alone in Vermont

The A-Frame

By Mary Rechner
She was constantly shopping, searching, choosing, hoping that whatever it was she found would fit, would be satisfying, would reflect well upon her. This was the way she thought about men, too, and if she was always... more


A Perfect Waste Story

A Perfect Waste

By Alissa Nielsen
I stare at the car—a smashed Toyota—with insect-like intensity. "Who is the owner of this vehicle?" he asks. "That's Jim's car," I say. "Why was your husband—" the officer flips a page in his notepad, "Jim Richards driving Jim Schumacher's car?" more


Letter to Earth Letter to Earth

Dad to Seth, On His Tenth Birthday

By Benjamin Craig
There'll be something special on the way as soon as Donna and I can get clearance to fly into a shipping port. I think you're gonna like it. They're picky about this new ship I picked up—something about the couplings that connect...more


Reports from court and field.


NFL Picks Scary Accuracy

NFL Week by Week

By Pete Tothero
Tothero outpicks the experts through ineffectual living, personifying teams in false or ridiculous ways, and applying the worst tropes of pop psychology. Week 8. Week 7. Week 6. Week 5. Week 4. Week 3. Week 2. Week 1.

Personal HISTORY

Fear of a Little White Sphere With Dad at Fenway

Fear of a Little White Sphere

By Derek Stackhouse
One strange story involves Richie Ashburn, who in 1957 struck Alice Roth twice with two separate foul liners. As she was being helped to the exit after the first ball, the second hit her in the back...more


NBA Quiz Is the Fix In?

Is It Possible the NBA Team You're Playing For Is Tanking?

A Propeller Quiz
Was it a good game? Did both teams play hard? Take our simple quiz and discover the truth...more