(essays and stories)
In addition to the titles below, please see Substack for my latest work.
The Wizard of Oz at 80: Archive of a Rust Belt Girl
Bright Lights Film Journal (October 20, 2019)
I have no memory of 1956, the year of the first broadcast, but from that time until 1980 (with the exception of the MGM Children’s Matinees in the early 1970s), Oz belonged to television, where it drew large audiences at every annual showing. We might say that the ascendancy of “television Oz” marked “cinema Oz” with a cumulative (year upon year) obsolescence. What might it mean that my bright star, the inception of my archive, was also a death star, a process of cultural forgetting? (read more)
A short history of nostalgia (and its lost potential)
This paper was presented at the Freud Museum, London, interdisciplinary conference on Nostalgia, (9th March, 2019): https://www.freud.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Nostalgia-Conference_Poster.pdf )
We might ask what became of its sufferers when nostalgia disappeared from the medical literature. My suspicion is that the world is full of what we used to describe as nostalgia cases. They live in the countryside and in towns and cities, loosely strung like blinking fairy lights. There may be acute cases, triggered by life events such as loss, grief, trauma or exile, but there may also be chronic cases, people constitutionally predisposed to an obsessive attachment to the past. Their symptoms have been subsumed under new diagnostic categories, so this is not to say that people suffering from nostalgia cannot find help. However, this particular experience of memory – still so widespread – has lost importance in the treatment rooms and we are left searching for spaces to speak about it. (read more)
Eclectica Magazine (October, 2015)
She knows it happened. As a fact, an incident. The near-drowning incident. It has entered the family annals, become a narrative, an explanation even, of a child with too many fears. But often, our memories are only what people say happened. And these are constantly revised as they pass from one person to another, one year to another. For example, sometimes, they tell her it happened to her at the age of four. Sometimes, the age is five. Sometimes, they say “now what year was that?” As if the event is receding in importance. As if they are trying to trick her into forgetting it. Into forgetting what she cannot remember. (read more)
Belle Isle Aquarium
Belle Isle Aquarium is the winner of Streetlight Magazine‘s 2016 short fiction contest.
Nina held her hand as they moved slowly through the large gallery beneath an arched ceiling of sea-green glass tiles. From one walled tank to another, each lit from within, one framed neon scene to the next, their girlish faces were illuminated [read more]
- The photograph of Belle Isle Aquarium is by Rod Arroyo and appears courtesy of Mr. Arroyo and cityphotosandbooks.com.
American Dreamers: Badlands’ Kit Carruthers and Holly Sargis
Bright Lights Film Journal (November 4, 2014)
If Badlands is a story outside history, as Malick claims, then Kit is bent on creating one for himself, a history of himself, or failing that, finding a memento to stand in for a history that will go unnoticed and unsung, as our histories tend to do. (read more)
Eclectica Magazine, July/August 2019
“Thus, do we live, forever taking leave.” —Rilke
I am sentenced to that place some call the “prison house of language” and through its bars, I see you out there. I want to explain what happened, how things fell apart. Ask the forgiveness you already grant me without knowing what forgiveness is or why humans crave it. [read more]
The Threshold God
(first published as Side Door, Streetlight Magazine, December 2017
I’m a man now and I can’t help but feel grateful to Deanie. She was fighting for our corner of time and place, our unprepossessing box house on the edge of Detroit. I recall her kindergarten enrollment for which Dad had to drag her across the door sill… It took weeks and a few sessions with the kindly school psychologist before Deanie stopped hugging the house and battling each morning. (read more)
Two Letters: Jackie Kennedy, Ray Bradbury, suburbia, and me
Belt Magazine, July 21, 2017
“Drifting snow, a near whiteout. Left at the end of our street and then over two blocks to a particular mailbox, the one next to the big highway that led to Detroit. Leaving small footprints in the snow to be dusted over by more snow, I passed dozens of box houses strung with Christmas lights, many switched on to make the blizzard festive. These were the last years before my distrust of these little houses and streets began to set in. Each driveway boasted an oversized Ford or Chevy, now disappearing beneath thickening white. Engines silent on cars owned by the people who made and sold them. Detroit, you were quiet that day. Did I dream you? Your glorious skyline, your elegant department stores and grand movie palaces, were lost in the blizzard. [read more]
Sally Draper at the Ford Rotunda
Eclectica Magazine, October/November 2016
“It may indeed be questioned whether we have any memories at all from our childhood: memories relating to our childhood may be all that we possess.” (Freud, Screen Memories, 1899)
Read Sally Draper at the Ford Rotunda
- Ford Rotunda, 1955, photograph courtesy of Leon Reed
Great Lakes Review (March 29, 2016)
“In an unknown world at the edge of Detroit, there is a green diamond ablaze beneath the sky. We, the young ones in this place of pattern houses, call it the Lighted Field.” (Read more)
Of Rumor and Riot
This essay appeared in Belt Magazine (July 22, 2015) and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
For an easier read, please see PDF version here: Of Rumour and Riot
For all my recent essays and stories, including my ‘Postcard’ collection, writings on history/theories of the archive, photography, and memory, please see Amy Kenyon | Substack. Many thanks!