Ben Kafka

  • Damion Searls’s The Inkblots

    The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing, by Damion Searls. New York: Crown, 2017. 416 pages.

    IT’S IMMEDIATELY RECOGNIZABLE: a black-and-white inkblot, symmetrical across the vertical axis, depicting nothing in particular and thus anything at all. Or maybe not quite anything. Because even though it’s silly, we can’t help thinking about genitals. Or rather, we think we probably should be thinking about genitals, that that’s what the image wants from us, but we also feel like we probably shouldn’t, because this can’t actually be serious, can it? Funny thing, the

  • D. A. Miller’s Hidden Hitchcock

    Hidden Hitchcock, by D. A. Miller. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 208 pages.

    ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S FILMS have always invited what Freud called “wild analysis.” (“You Freud, me Jane?” Tippi Hedren’s character says to Sean Connery in Marnie [1964], as he forces her to free-associate.) Indeed, it’s hard to think of any other filmmaker who has been called on to prove so many points by so many critics. And it’s hard to think of any other filmmaker who has embarrassed us quite so thoroughly, by showing us, time and again, that we aren’t nearly as clever as we thought we were. “The New Yorker

  • Jussi Parikka’s Geology of Media

    A Geology of Media, by Jussi Parikka. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015. 224 pages.

    IF YOU TRULY BELIEVE in “nonhuman agency,” then I know a bridge that wants to sell itself to you. The idea seems to be everywhere these days: in books, articles, essays, blog posts, wall text. It’s as if theorists, with the best of intentions (and no small amount of grandiosity), having “given” agency to workers, then women, then the colonized, then racial and ethnic minorities, then homosexuals, then cyborgs, finally decided that agency was something they might as well keep giving away to anything