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The New Inquiry Vol. 55: Testing

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This is the editorial note to TNI Vol. 55: Testing. View the full table of contents here.

Subscribe to TNI for $3 and get Testing (and free access to our archive of back issues) today.

• • •

BY now we’re a few centuries into a world where truth is held to be revealed through tests. The vouchsafing of fact through contingency is how we transmute the galactic and subatomic qualities of being into quantities of data and pile them up into values. Though a venerably religious concept, the insertion of testing into the most minute pores of everyday life is one of the the secular, bourgeois world’s more striking departures from its precapitalist forbearers. It’s everywhere: prenatal genetic testing, immigration testing, means-testing, you name it. The ideologues of science and rationality preach their love for testing as if it were the blind goddess of justice, meting out harmony and proportion and just deserts. In practice, testing does little more than register social fates already at work.

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“life that could fit in a spreadsheet”

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An interview with Eduardo Rabasa, author of the upcoming novel A Zero-Sum Game (translated by Christina MacSweeney and published by Deep Vellum).

After you read the interview (or before) also read our excerpt from A Zero-Sum Game, God’s Dice.”

I read Eduardo Rabasa’s A Zero-Sum Game in a strange way: I helped copyedit it (Chicago Style for grammar, NY Times for name spellings). This is an alienating way to read a novel. You get so hyper-focused on the details of punctuation and spelling and on the (possibly irrelevant) questions of whether a hyphen suggests the British English of the translator–the great Christina MacSweeney–and whether it should be otherwise, Americanishly, that you can totally lose sight of the big picture, fixating on minutia and utterly losing the grand sweep of the narrative. The sentences lose their sense, and become collections of potential errors; the pages become nothing but containers for mistakes to be corrected. Reading that way, you can cease to be a reader and become something else, a kind of unfeeling robot, constantly referencing outside sources to discover what is true. And so, while I was entranced by Eduardo Rabasa’s hallucinatory debut, I also felt, in reading it, that something was out of whack, out of focus; this society was not quite a society, these people were not quite people, and this story… is not quite a story.

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God’s Dice

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An excerpt from Eduardo Rabasa’s upcoming novel, A Zero-Sum Game (translated by Christina MacSweeney).

(See also our interview with Rabasa)

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The Ponce Scheme

The reforms signified the commencement of perpetual change. From then onward, there would always be work in progress. Hence the dust. And also the noise. The transformations were like a loose hosepipe spraying water in all directions. To give them some coherency, a man capable of measuring everything was brought in.

G.B.W. Ponce had acquired great renown in the socio-scientific community for a statistical discovery known as the Ponce Scheme. After years of battling with his algorithms—his beaky, condor face lost its glow and his hair started to gray—he’d managed to compress thousands of variables into a method he retained for his personal use, in spite of stratospheric offers to share his secret. Inspired by the philosophical notion that history is just an untiring repetition of itself, he proposed to condense the millions of correlations studied into an accurate predictive method: his aim was to quantify the eternal return. If all thought, every impulse or action is contained in the characteristics that define each individual, he could explain real events without having to wait for them to occur.

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Sunday Reading

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Actually Aisha:

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Kitabet:

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Gerry Canavan:

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Reclaim UC:

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Kerim Friedman:

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Al-javieera:

 

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Private Pornography

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Leopoldine Core, in conversation with Mary Elizabeth Borkowski

Leopoldine Core introduced herself to me. Or maybe I introduced myself to her. 

We followed each other. This is the language of Twitter speak, but it’s also the language of appreciation. And nothing could prevent me from introducing you to her work upon the release of her first collection of stories When Watched. Poet, writer, artist, theorist, patient observer, quasi therapist; it’s all there. 

Our conversation follows.

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