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Johannah Rodgers

Johannah Rodgers is a writer, artist, and educator whose work explores issues related to representation and communication practices across media. She is the author of 52WordDrawings (mimeograph, 2017), At, Or To Take Regret: Some Reflections on Grammars (2016), Technology: A Reader for Writers (Oxford University Press, 2014), and the digital fiction project DNA (mimeograph/The Brooklyn Rail).

Tree Street City

The terms natural and artificial can quickly become somewhat confusing in a place like New York City, where even the so-called natural places, like Central Park and Prospect Park, are built environments.

How Far Is Brooklyn From Manhattan?

I’ve lived in Brooklyn for thirteen years, meaning I have at least five more to go until I can say I “grew up” here. And, while I’m still decades away from establishing the kind of family history many have in Brooklyn, I have been here long enough to see some pretty significant changes.

The Price of Ratner's Hoopla: Brooklyn Stadium a Money Loser

The much-anticipated report on the financial feasibility of the proposed Atlantic Yards project was released on May 1, 2004, and the message was not only stark, but considering the fact that the study was commissioned by Ratner & Co., rather startling.

Letter to Ratner

Dear Mr. Ratner and Members of the Forest City Ratner Company Board: I took the liberty of visiting your company’s Website the other day since, as a Brooklyn resident, I’ve been very concerned about the proposed Atlantic Yards development project. I also tried to look up Mr. Ratner’s home address since, having noticed that the Ratner Company was located in the 1 MetroTech Center, I thought Mr. Ratner might also reside in Brooklyn and understand some of the concerns that local residents have about this new project. Sadly, I was not able to find his home address, so I have to assume that he does not live here. If he did, I don’t think he would be proposing to ruin his own neighborhood with irrational development projects.

New York City’s Most Famous Birds

While many New Yorkers consider Columba livia, or the conventional street pigeon (an estimated 7 million of which live in New York City), the only bird in town, for Paul Sweet, collection manager of the Ornithology Department at The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), it accounts for less than a dozen of the over 800 thousand bird specimens he must care for.

Breaking Bad vs. Badly Broken

Call it what you will—coincidence, cultural zeitgeist, or just dumb luck. But the proximity of the October 1st federal government shutdown to...

Works on Paper

The fact and/or discussion of the publication of the small writings on scraps of small pieces of paper by a German writer may sound like a bad joke, but since Robert Walser is now (finally) firmly part of the modernist canon, the publication of a selection of Walser’s late writings is not only cause for celebration, but will certainly provoke many thousands of words in response.

Seeing and Knowing: Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production

If it is often the case that only books that get talked about are read, I can only hope that because there is so much to say about the information, textual, and graphic design scholar Johanna Drucker’s latest work, Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production, the book will continue to garner attention and readers for quite a while.

Required Reading

Harry Matthews, the first American writer admitted to the official ranks of the OuLiPo, has commented that constraints often allow what cannot be, or what was not intended to be said, expressed.

You Are What You Eat

Two new books about food production in America have recently been released, and those hoping to learn about why and how our food choices matter will find both excellent reading.

In Conversation

MARK MIRSKY with Johannah Rodgers

Mark Mirsky is the author of five novels, including Thou Worm Jacob (Macmillan, 1967), The Secret Table (Fiction Collective, 1983), and The Red Adam (Sun and Moon Press, 1990). A professor of creative writing at the City College of New York, Mirsky is also the editor and cofounder, with Donald Barthelme, of the literary magazine Fiction.

NONFICTION: Why Everyone Talks About Ulrike Meinhof

“Complicated” is the word I kept coming back to as I was trying to write this review of Everybody Talks About the Weather…We Don’t: The Writings of Ulrike Meinhof.

Three Ways of Looking at It

Perhaps it is inevitable that a book which takes issues of representation as its topic would be both beautiful and terrifying. How could that not be, after all, when sentences grafted one onto the other are not only representing the “real,” but self-consciously creating it.

from DNA

On April 20, 2075, an e-mail message with the subject heading JFDAKLJFDA was sent to six billion computers and unleashed the GORGON worm, which became responsible for the longest continuous interruption of the global network--three days--to date. Resulting in an estimated STM55000000000000 in damages, GORGON ushered in a new age of global systems architecture and security.

Two Stories from Portraits and Conversations

You seem different, she might say, or is that what she wished she would say. Do people ever change and if so, how? Go off and join the circus, disappear for a couple of years. Everyone would probably forget about you by then which is why no one does that. Or would it be better to say “you are exactly the same.” Ten years is a long time, long enough for something to have changed.

The Last Election

No one expected that it would happen the way it did. When the system started unraveling as it did in 2016, it was perceived to be an aberration. A freak event emerging from freak circumstances.

The Absence of Absence

Sure, there were “bodies” everywhere. But not actual bodies. Just the carapaces or shells of “bodies.”

What Holds Ink To Paper*

From sentences (Red Dust, 2007), a collection of short stories, essays, and drawings.


p>Now, I live in a city and things are never quiet. Even if there is a moment with no car alarms or sirens or voices, there is still noise – the swooshing sound of a car driving past, the ca-chung of the upstairs neighbor flushing the toilet, radios, televisions, steps – just the sounds of humans living close by.

Translating Oneself

I know already what your response to this letter will be: that my time is too valuable to be spent speculating about the exact type of irony that is evident in my undertaking this latest translation project.


And it is not, I realize now, just the progressive narratives that constitute my life as fiction—the ones that end up changing my life in the direction of economic and emotional prosperity—but all of the subtexts and regressive narratives as well: the realization that the character the pronoun “I” inhabits and that I often refer to as myself is fundamentally defined by her tendency to make bad decisions, thus accelerating a spiral of downward mobility and diminished expectations which is ultimately inescapable.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

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