exit west

Mohsin Hamid’s Novel Exit West Opens Doors to the Migrant Experience

Mohsin Hamid’s latest novel Exit West tells the compelling story of migrants Saeed and Nadia as they face the challenges of a nameless country in the midst of civil war. In fleeing their country, the couple passes through Greece, England and the United States and face literal and psychological obstacles on their way. Hamid successfully penned a novel regarding a pertinent topic with an anonymity that appeals to human experiences of abandonment and cultural detachment that explicate the migrant experience to his readers. Through simple but poignant prose, Hamid spins a tale of anxiety and hope that is equally engaging and humbling. Mohsin Hamid is an internationally bestselling author and essayist who is known for tackling topics that shake global social and political spheres.

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The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek Shines at Schwartz

The Department of Performing and Media Arts’ production of The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek explored complex personal relationships and the impact of the Great Depression on American families, serious themes which the cast of five was well equipped to handle. Led by Director Nick Fesette and Assistant Director Chisom Awachie ’17, the play is gripping, dark and surprisingly sexual. The play opens on Dalton Chase (Jack Press ’18), a 15-year-old boy, sitting in a room by himself and making shadow puppets, yelling at 17-year-old Pace Creagan (Elise Czuchna ’18) to go to hell. Shortly after, we see the two hanging out under a trestle bridge, waiting to watch the 7:10 train that Pace is committed to outrun. Pace, a typical tomboy, is unquestionably a bad influence, encouraging Dalton to try to outrun the train with her even though her friend Brett died doing the exact same thing, and meek Dalton is almost incapable of standing up to her.


Light and Sound Synesthesia

“Would we be able to detect music without the ear? Of course not. Well, we are surrounded by things whose existence we never suspect, because we lack the organs that would reveal them to us.” – Guy De Maupassant

De Maupassant’s quote provides an interesting touchstone for Yael Erel’s exhibition, Light Topographies, on show in the John Hartell Gallery. In this unique exhibit, the artist seeks to explain the subtleties of light, texture, sound and their relationship to one another.


Skull Island Puts the King in Kong

Despite the fact that King Kong can boast three movies to his name, their respective plots are largely formulaic and predictable. Though individual directors imbue their own style in their interpretations, the essential tenets remain the same throughout: rapacious executives go to a mysterious island that proves to be full of deadly creatures. They find Kong and bring him back to New York, where, after romancing a blonde, he is gunned down by military planes. (A rendition of “it was beauty that killed the beast” usually follows.) The latest installment in the franchise, Kong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts has all the same ingredients. Brie Larson plays the blonde, Kong is as ferocious as ever and the island of which he inhabits is full of terrifying monsters.


TEST SPIN: Vagabon — Infinite Worlds

Anthony Fantano, David Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors and Hua Hsu of the New Yorker think that indie rock is all out of ideas. Hsu writes, in an article called “Parquet Courts and the Uncertain Future of Indie,” which examines Parquet Courts’ latest release, that “it can seem a little beside the point to play rock music that aspires to sound like rock music” and ponders if there’s any “conceptual heft” left to the idea of an indie musician.  

This is a story that’s been written over and over again over the past few months: indie is on its last legs. Critics and artists argue that Mac DeMarco and Parquet Courts and and Car Seat Headrest’s music is tired, uninspired, and reaching backwards into an older musical ethos for a sound and a feeling that today, is extraneous. I agree.


New Zelda Installment as Legendary as its Namesake

“Open your eyes….”

“Open your eyes…”

“Wake up, Link!”

This was the first time I ever heard voice acting in a Zelda game. Frankly, it was a little unnerving. It wasn’t what I expected. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the game I’ve been waiting six years for, ever since the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword in 2011. A few 3DS games and Wii U remasters of older titles have been released since, but none of them could get me as excited as when I saw Breath of the Wild’s first teaser trailer in 2013.


The “Bad Hombres” of Savageland

Living 15 minutes from the U.S-Mexico border, I’ve seen ridiculous crimes in the news, from health care fraud to marijuana being (very poorly) disguised as limes by smugglers. This does not mean that the fact that we have nine percent of all undocumented immigrants in Texas is the reason behind this. However, in the film Savageland, border town Sangre de Cristo of 57 loses over half its population in a mass murder and all fingers are pointed to Francisco Salazar, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who had been living in the town for years, due to the fact that he was an undocumented immigrant. Our nation’s current political climate makes Savageland hauntingly relevant, as throughout the film, Mexicans are stereotyped and said to “glorify death … because it’s the only thing they have to look forward to.” The non-Mexican residents of the area surrounding Sangre de Cristo claim they can’t pronounce the town’s name and just call it “Savageland,” because it’s mostly inhabited by “savage” Mexican immigrants. As a Mexican, the stereotypical statements made me laugh, but I know that there are people who truly believe that stereotype, which reminded me that if I encounter such people and I will not be laughing then.


Spinning Singles: EDMONDSON, “Meanwhile”

Legendary producer and so-called “Fifth Beatle,” George Martin, once told a story about the 1967 classic “Strawberry Fields Forever.” According to Martin, the track’s slow build, its fusion of traditional rock elements with studio innovation, came about after a frustrated John Lennon decided to join two different versions of the song together in the studio. Beatles comparisons are a lot—but “Meanwhile,” the new track off EDMONDSON’s upcoming record, Strange Durations, recalls some of their later work like “Fields” in its willingness to push the listener in unexpected directions. Beginning with bittersweet piano licks, the track veers into new territory midway, eventually settling into a horn-driven groove, as sassy as its first bars are reflective. It includes shakers, changing time signatures and what sounds like a circus whistle. “Meanwhile” assembles its pieces into an intriguingly new sound, one that challenges the listener while inviting her in.

Simon Shaheen plays violin during his performance of Zafir at Bailey Hall.

Winds of Exchange: Simon Shaheen’s Zafir at Bailey


Something special happened last Friday at Bailey Hall — where master violinist, oud player, and composer Simon Shaheen and his ensemble presented their program, Zafir — before a single melody was played. As the musicians were tuning, Shaheen’s brother and fellow oudist Najib asked that the house lights be turned up. “We can love you better this way,” he quipped to the audience, a statement which, after a smattering of laughter, sank in as deeply as any of the music that followed. “No one ever does that,” Shaheen told me when I remarked on it after the show, and by those words closed a circle that I will remember most from among the evening’s plethora of conceptual shapes. None of this is meant to imply that what transpired was any less moving; only that the heartfelt fluidity of it was all the clearer in being so prefaced.


ALUR | Tiny Desks and Tank and the Bangas

The Tiny Desk concert series is a favorite of mine. I routinely turn to NPR Music’s YouTube channel when I’m in need of something new to listen to. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the series, the host of NPR Music’s “All Songs Considered,” Bob Boilen, created Tiny Desk Concerts as a way to host and record live performances. They take place at NPR Music’s office in D.C., and over the past 9 years, the series has featured musicians from a wide range of genres and levels of fame. I’ve been watching Tiny Desks for several years now, and I’ve seen some of my long time favorites (Death Cab for Cutie, Lianne La Havas) perform from behind Bob Boilen’s desk, as well as discovered some incredible new artists through the series.