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River Weather: Stories

As the D.C. city sprawl moved west along the banks of the Potomac in the late 1990s, what had once been a rural backwater was rapidly transformed into a dystopian suburbia of suspicion, greed, and naked self-interest. This collection examines the resulting blends of money, race, and class that have come to define the ongoing metamorphosis of Northern Virginia. In “Kalim Mansour,” a boy trying to understand

his father fixates on a mysterious Saudi car salesman. In “Rowdy,” a man who was sexually assaulted by his high school football team still romanticizes their masculine code of behavior. In “A Non-Smoking House,” two contractors battle the realtors who control their livelihood as the ties that bind civil behavior pull tight, and then snap.

Each of MacKenzie’s stories explores the incommensurable moments that lie at the heart of shared experience, the yawning gaps that separate us, and our desperate attempts to close them.


The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career

This historical novel traces the real and imagined exploits of Pancho Villa as a youth, bandito, and hero of the revolution while examining the question of what, exactly, constitutes truth in storytelling.

MacKenzie spins his debut tale in language spiced with just the right hint of a Latin lilt to lend verisimilitude and poetic cadence: “The sky was not clearer then nor was the air of a purer smell but in my memory both these things seem as though they were true and so they are.” This theme of a story being true because of the way it is remembered or told runs throughout; and so we see Villa as everything from abused peasant to brutish thug to fair and respected leader. When barely 16, Villa walks in on a confrontation between his mother and sister and landowner Don Agustín López Negrete. He shoots Don Agustín and escapes into the inhospitable sierra, thus launching him into a world outside the law. During his criminal career, he steals cattle, shoots people, achieves daring escapes, and, depending on what versions you believe, becomes everything from Robin Hood to a sociopath. His fellow bandits are Refugio Alvarado and Ignacio Parra. Ignacio is a drunk, but Refugio, an eloquent speaker who can rouse the peasants against the dons, gives Villa his first inkling of a political outlook on their activities. At last Villa wearies of his brigand life and opens a butcher shop. But the peace is short-lived. He is soon back on the run and assumes his role as a commander of the Constitutionalist Army in the Mexican Revolution, where he now commits noble acts such as sparing the life of the man who killed his mother. MacKenzie’s fascinating literary picaresque is told in stark, beautiful imagery: “The night was vacant and dull, the square silent save for the insects that clicked and chirped back up in the trees like little boxes of metal and bone.”

At once original, poignant, brutal, and beautiful; for fans of literary and historical novels.

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Badiou and American Modernist Poetics

Badiou and American Modernist Poetics explores the correspondence between Alain Badiou's thinking on art and that of the canonical modernists T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and Ezra Pound. Utilizing a multidisciplinary approach, the text engages with themes of the void, mastery, and place present in both modernist poetry and in Badiou’s philosophy. Through an examination of classic modernist texts, Cameron MacKenzie reveals that where Badiou hopes to go, the modernists have already been.

“The sharpest, most engaging, most perfect, and most revelatory Badiouvian study of literature that has appeared in English. It produces a tidal wave of insight in an incredibly short space by unfolding Badiou's thinking on poetry and art so as to build a continuous and stunning argument that unites the poetics of Mallarmé, Eliot, Stevens, and Pound in an endless process of comprehension. Reading this beautifully clear book, one does not wonder what it means. One wonders that one did not realize so much about Badiou, modernism, poetry, and the formation of the world.”

Sheldon Brivic, Professor Emeritus of English, Temple University, USA, and author of Revolutionary Damnation: Badiou and Irish Fiction from Joyce to Enright, 2016

“Cameron MacKenzie, connecting canonical modernist poetry and poetics―the work of Eliot, Stevens, and Pound―with Alain Badiou’s latter-day philosophical writing, reveals the surprising continuity that subtends a century of meditations on aesthetics and Being. Students and seasoned scholars alike will find Mackenzie’s book a bracing contribution to current literary criticism.”

Robert L. Caserio, Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, USA

“Cameron MacKenzie makes a strong and convincing case for Alain Badiou's relevance to the project of understanding modernism as something other than a monolithic aesthetic  creed. In particular, MacKenzie provides insight into the way that modernist art draws us  towards the void without capitulating to any absolutist voiding of human value.  This monograph is a very promising point of departure for anyone interested in acquiring a grasp of modernist poetics that is not already in the grip of pious “truths” about the autonomy of the text.  Here we are asked to see beyond the edifice of language to the evolving worlds that are portended therein.”

Alan Singer, Professor of English, Temple University, USA, and author of Posing Sex: Toward a Perceptual Ethics for Literary and Visual Art, 2018

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