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Anna Schuleit Haber

Anna Schuleit Haber was a 2006 MacArthur Fellow and is currently working on The Voice Imitator, a project of 104 paintings and 104 piano pieces, which won a 2013 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) grant.

Illustrator

Anna Schuleit Haber, No. 059 Two Brothers.

American Cool

Summer 2017 | Essays

With most screenwriters, the work lives well after the name is forgotten. So it is with W. R. Burnett, who is all but lost in public memory, and yet the long narrative reach of this screenwriter and forgotten novelist extends to half a dozen key pop-culture tropes, especially cable drama’s dependence on tortured suburban outlaws—Tony Soprano, Walter White, Nancy Botwin. Burnett’s narrative innovations helped shape the arc of a century’s worth of popular culture, starting with his first novel, Little Caesar, a surprise bestseller in 1929 that was adapted into Hollywood’s first gangster film; together with Scarface (Burnett wrote the 1932 screenplay), these two films remain gangster boilerplate. A decade later, he helped create film noir through director John Huston’s adaptation of Burnett’s novel High Sierra and his own screenplay for Graham Greene’s This Gun for Hire. Burnett also has a solid claim to inventing the heist film with 1950’s The Asphalt Jungle, a novel-turned-noir classic (again by Huston) that even had a Blaxploitation remake a generation later, called Cool Breeze. His last screenplay was for The Great Escape, the acclaimed 1963 World War II film that established Steve McQueen as an icon of cool: His character’s nickname was “The Cooler King,” in reference to his ability to maintain his dignity and sanity even in solitary confinement (that is, even in “the cooler”). Five years later, Burnett’s last novel, The Cool Man, was a swan song for his most original contribution to American cool: the existential criminal. This admirable figure was an independent, ethical man within his own code, riveting for his contradictions, and ultimately doomed as someone who, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, lives outside the law because he assumes himself honest.

Illustration by Anna Schuleit Haber

Holding

Winter 2016 | Fiction

This is how it is with my mind, heading out over the ocean, tipping one way so I see only water, shades of blue and green and cloud-shadow slate; tipping the other, all sky and complication of cloud. Ruckus of glinting refracted light. Some days, just empty gray, in both directions.

Illustration by Anna Schuleit Haber

Nashua

Winter 2016 | Fiction

I had driven to Nashua to look for farmhouses. I was researching abandoned farmhouses and wanted to find a part of New Hampshire with both rural and urban poverty. 

Illustration by Anna Schuleit Haber

Renovation

Winter 2016 | Fiction

Water, I learned, was the most abundant element in nature whose only value came from controlled and measured distribution. Our lives invariably revolved around its input and output, and the same rules which governed the natural world were also true for our family’s own ecosystem.

Illustration by Anna Schuleit Haber

Johnny Bill

Winter 2016 | Fiction

On the front porch he lit a cigarette, thinking he’d quit when the baby was born. His neighborhood of Newport appeared peaceful at night, the yards neatly aligned, illuminated by dim streetlights. A slight hum filled the air, its source indistinct, as if all the houses emanated the sussuration of comfortable life.