Assassin of Youth tracks the cultural currents that produced prohibitionist drug policy in the U.S. with an exploration of the work of Harry J. Anslinger, first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1892-1975). Anslinger came up in Altoona through the ranks of the Pennsylvania Railroad and learned the company's lessons well, too well. Part-biography, part-cultural history, part-lyrical fantasia, Assassin of Youth protests the socially catastrophic set of laws championed by a bureaucrat who pioneered the application of corporate practice to government agencies. Innovative form enacts the revenge of those adversely affected by prohibitionism.
University of Chicago Press, 2017.
In a funny, angry, hyper-articulate monologue, an art vandal makes a passionate plea to a judge: you, the reader. The vandal has been charged with defacing a masterpiece of modern art, and asks you to consider the following argument: Maybe the way we turn out is less the fault of our parents and more the effect of larger cultural and historical influences—maybe history is the real culprit. Rich with references to the high art, mass culture, political ideologies, and military maneuvers of the post-war era, from the Cold War to the introduction of television, Brief chronicles the formation of an art vandal, until the story explodes in an enactment of temporary insanity.
Jaded Ibis Press, 2012. Brief was initially released as an app that randomly located images from a cache and then wrapped the text around the images. The design was integrally related to the content of the text.
Reviews of Brief
"Brief seeks to both indict us and exonerate our sources, repiecing them in search of a larger truth about making and thinking, being and acting, in a world where creation paradoxically arises from destruction." —The LA Review of Books
"Chasin's book unwrites definitions, and that's its real power. So don't allow me to define it for you; better that you pick up your own copy and read for yourself its 178-page mesmerizing brief without the safety of knowing what you should think about it." —Fiction Writers Review
"Alexandra Chasin's Brief, an innovative narrative in the form of an iPad app, is 'Exhibit A' in the case that the novel is finding exciting new ways to reinvent itself after the digital turn. Brief, the first novel-app of its kind, would make a rich and wonderful addition to any syllabus or reading list on appropriation, experimental fiction, new media literature, visual studies, violence and representation, or text and image, and I hope in these 'brief' paragraphs to adumbrate some of the reason why." —Hyperallergic
"Rollicking and super-saturated with snippets of pop culture and advertising butted up right next to philosophy and high art. Inqui's rants flip and turn and smash these phrases together, the sonic similarities between them being the primary way they're linked: "Fetuses everywhere scream—you scream, I scream, we all scream—for a large screen." When Inqui delves into cliché, it's with the intention of pointing out how we've come to accept banal language on a daily basis, and it's represented with effective and disturbing accuracy." —Pank
"The narrator of Alexandra Chasin's novella, Brief, displays a close rhetorical kinship with Vladimir Nabokov's Humbert Humbert. An art vandal of indeterminate gender, s/he defends an act of destruction inflicted on a work in the 'midtown temple of Modern Art' through verbal flourishes that rival, and sometimes directly echo, the nymphet-lover's pleas to his readers and jury. But whereas Humbert laments that he has 'only words to play with,' Chasin's narrator also has images, and play s/he does." —Public Books
In this remarkable collection of linguistically acrobatic fictions, Alexandra Chasin employs forms as diverse as cryptograms and sentence diagrams to display a prodigious talent that is visual as well as verbal. In one story, the words are arrayed on the page like troops, embodying the xenophobic image of invading armies that animates the narrative. Another story incorporates personal ads, and another is organized alphabetically, while yet another leaves sentences unfinished. A number of Chasin's stories take metafictional turns, calling attention to the process of writing itself. The last piece in the collection plays with genre distinctions, including an index of first lines and a general index. From the highly political and well-wrought montage about September 11th to a sexual romp that proceeds by punning on philosophers' names, Chasin's work playfully explores the curious and often contradictory qualities of language. Treating love and loss, sex, desire, and war—among other things—and set in New York, New England, California, Paris, and Morocco, these tales are narrated by men and women, old and young, gay, straight, and bisexual; one narrator is not a person at all, but a work of art. Each of these deft, playful, and sometimes anarchic fictions is different from the others, yet all are the unmistakable offspring of the same wildly inventive imagination. Chasin's diction is precise and purposeful, yet it retains a colloquialism that enables a dialogue with the reader. Humorous and heart-wrenching, often all at once, Kissed By offers the sort of acute insight evoked through the interplay of empathy and intellect.
Advance Praise for Kissed By
"Alexandra Chasin is a hugely brave writer. She dares to push the extremes of style, while daring to push the extremes of emotion." —Jonathan Safran Foer
"Until I read Kissed By, Alexandra Chasin's marvelous collection, I never understood what the term "experimental fiction" really meant. Now I get it. Chasin enters each story as if it's her laboratory. She has the great gift of being able to bring us along on her investigation. It's thrilling to watch Chasin as she pours her chemicals to find out what will fizz and what will explode." —Pagan Kennedy
Reviews of Kissed By
"There exists numerous opportunities in a book like this for the reader to learn the language of want. What these readers find, then is this: Chasin, its author, is a gifted tutor." —The Quarterly Conversation
"Chasin's characters, who are driven by inchoate longing...introduce her talent for animating the inanimate and unusual....Her knack for obliquely nailing everyday absurdities will satisfy an avant-garde fiction need that most people didn't realize they had." —The Village Voice
"What comes through very clearly in this collection is an author who feels wondrously free from constraints, be they linguistic, grammatical, temporal, spatial. Chasin also seems to feel free not to be innovative, which to me is the greatest aspect of this collection: she does what she believe serves the story she is telling. And by doing so, she enriches our concepts of narrative." —The Short Review
"Bitterness, wit, and a delighted enjoyment found in listening to sounds and converting them into language." —The Review of Contemporary Fiction
In the 1990s, a new niche market emerged in the United States: gay and lesbian consumers were targeted by both mainstream and gay and lesbian producers. Gay men and lesbians, in turn, celebrated the social recognition implied by such marketing strategies. At the same time, the gay and lesbian political movement achieved an unprecedented level of visibility, bringing gay and lesbian issues into public discourse. Gay marriage, the role of gays in the military, and anti-discrimination legislation were just a few of the issues debated in court, on the ballot, and on talk-show television. The central question that drives Selling Out is: What is the relationship between the gay and lesbian niche market and the social movement that fights for the civil rights of gay men and lesbians? By looking at specific sites where the market and the movement interact—namely, the gay and lesbian presses, advertising, boycotting, and the funding of gay and lesbian nonprofits—Chasin exposes the dynamics of race, gender, and class, as well as the ubiquitous nationalism, that inform both political and commercial practices in the gay and lesbian community. Wary of cultural assimilation and political mainstreaming, Selling Out ultimately argues that identity-based consumption and identity-based politics are closely related and together stand opposed to progressive social change.
Advance Praise for Selling Out: The Gay and Lesbian Movement Goes to Market
"Describing the concrete effects of money on politics, from advertising to boycotts and fundraising, Selling Out takes a hard look at the losses, as well as the gains, that have come from the marketing of gay men and lesbians. As gay men and lesbians become less of a public and more of a market, and as the movement dwindles into a trend, Chasin's insights will become more and more critical. Dare I say, 'But this book?'" —Michael Warner, author of The Trouble With Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life
"At a time of increasing conservatism in the LGBTQ movement, Alexandra Chasin opens crucial questions. Taking an analytical step back from the clamor for attention from pop culture and niche marketing, Selling Out reminds us of the values underlying the demand for sexual liberation, of the dangers of single-issue organizing, and of the political nature of the struggle. We dare not go forward without considering the issues Chasin raises." —Alisa Solomon, Professor and Director, Columbia University School of Journalism
What does it mean to pursue an agenda based on the accumulation of property and gay consumer visibility, when it leaves in place the structures of exploitation and the ever-increasing gap between the wealthy and the barely surviving? Working from an archive of extraordinary depth, Alexandra Chasin provides for us in Selling Out an acute, eloquent, and vital analysis of the costs and limits of gay and lesbian "market democracy." —Lauren Berlant, author of The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship, George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor of English, University of Chicago
Reviews of Selling Out: The Gay and Lesbian Movement Goes to Market
"Is it possible to have a meaningful revolution in the middle of a capitalist spending frenzy? This, Chasin contends, is the central question facing the gay rights movement. In a passionate, if ultimately utopian, analysis of gay politics, Chasin asserts that the creation of a gay-oriented consumer market--in tandem with the mainstreaming of a gay politic that disavows broad-based coalitions with women and people of color—has prevented homosexuals from pursuing a more radical vision of social change." —Publishers Weekly