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I could go this way or that, tell this story or that. I could seem to believe in words, I could pretend to believe in words and in the power of stories. I could insist: I am a storyteller. I could take comfort in conventional wisdoms and make many references, shoring up my position, to defend myself to you and from you. I could hate words, distrust language, forego stories. I could do all this, everything. I could use everything, I could try it all.

I could, but I don’t want to. I don’t care, though that’s not entirely true. It is partially true and partial truths are after all what one must settle for. If one settles. I don’t know about you, but I feel like hell. The country is falling apart, what does anything matter, people are dying, starving, being blown out of the sky, people are suffering, and what does anything matter, what difference does this nothing make, what matter do words make?

— Lynne Tillman, “To Find Words”
"Feminism folded itself into the wings of history; Solanas refused to budge." I reviewed Breanne Fahs’ biography Valerie Solanas for n+1.

"Feminism folded itself into the wings of history; Solanas refused to budge."

I reviewed Breanne Fahs’ biography Valerie Solanas for n+1.

In persuasive technology—from mobile apps to design features of Amazon and Facebook—are “users expected to accept the basic premise of the ‘correctness’ of the designers’ chosen end behavior”? I looked at the ethics of persuasive technology for Pacific Standard.

In persuasive technology—from mobile apps to design features of Amazon and Facebook—are “users expected to accept the basic premise of the ‘correctness’ of the designers’ chosen end behavior”?

I looked at the ethics of persuasive technology for Pacific Standard.

"Though a number of factors contributed to the birth of the teenager, Teenage focuses on two forces in particular: consumerism, primarily seen through an obsession with American music; and, perhaps more notably, the impact of World Wars I and II and the various labor programs which readied youth to fight in them. While teenagers are generally associated with cultural consumption — of fashion, music, film and so on — their labor and role in the World Wars is often overlooked in the development of contemporary youth culture.” I reviewed Teenage for NPR.

"Though a number of factors contributed to the birth of the teenager, Teenage focuses on two forces in particular: consumerism, primarily seen through an obsession with American music; and, perhaps more notably, the impact of World Wars I and II and the various labor programs which readied youth to fight in them. While teenagers are generally associated with cultural consumption — of fashion, music, film and so on — their labor and role in the World Wars is often overlooked in the development of contemporary youth culture.” 

I reviewed Teenage for NPR.

Sunday reading, Tuesday edition

Cops in Midland, Texas, made a game out of stealing signs from homeless people (Vice)

The best and worst counties in the US for extremely low-income housing (Atlantic Cities)

True Detective, as Rust says of a parish he visits in the show’s pilot, is just someone’s memory of a place rather than the thing itself.” (This Recording)

Does the feminist kill other people’s joy by pointing out moments of sexism? Or does she expose the bad feelings that get hidden, displaced, or negated under public signs of joy? The feminist is an affect alien: she might even kill joy because she refuses to share an orientation toward certain things as being good because she does not find the objects that promise happiness to be quite so promising.
The creditor-debtor relation concerns the entirety of the current population as well as the population to come. Economists tell us that every French child is born 22,000 euros in debt. We are no longer the inheritors of original sin but rather of the debt of preceding generations.

Maurizio Lazzarato, The Making of the Indebted Man
"Sunday reading," exorcism edition

Maryland mom kills two of her children, injures two others during attempted exorcism (CNN)

Catholic church trains more priests to perform exorcisms (The Independent)

"Exorcism is on the rise as a weapon against the ever-escalating violence of drug cartels, priests and religious experts say. Though no one keeps statistics, priests say the heightened frequency is fueled by the growing popularity of Santa Muerte (St. Death), the favorite saint of narcotics syndicates and about 10 million followers around the world, an estimated 2 million of them in Mexico.” (New York Daily News)

How to Perform a Christian Exorcism: 18 Steps (with Pictures)

"In the spring of 2005, a novice nun at a remote convent in north-eastern Romania heard (or thought she heard) the Devil’s voice inside her head. The convent priest’s solution was to perform an exorcism. He ordered 23-year-old Maricica Irina Cornici to be bound to a cross and gagged with a towel. Then he left her alone in a damp, dark room until the cure could take effect. She died three days later of suffocation and dehydration. The Cornici case is the true-life phantom in the wings of Beyond the Hills, an exacting, disturbing new drama from Romanian director Cristian Mungiu.” (The Guardian)

"Judge dismisses charges in exorcism case …. The Arwoods were charged after Andrew Byrd said he suffered cracked teeth, a lost crown and a torn leg muscle during the Feb. 21, 2012 exorcism." (AP)

Cyber Exorcism - The truth is inside!

Don’t read Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon’s Nothing without the tumblr

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what I read in 2013

Mahmoud Darwish, Journal of an Ordinary Grief
Tamara Faith Berger, Maidenhead
Henry James, The Aspern Papers
Kate Zambreno, Heroines
Ariana Reines, Coeur de Lion
Dodie Bellamy, Academonia
Renata Adler, Speedboat
Henry James, The Golden Bowl
Tom Bissell, Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation
Maggie Nelson, Bluets
Kate Zambreno, Green Girl
Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star
Rachel Kushner, Telex from Cuba
Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers
Claire Messud, The Emperor’s Children
Mario Alberto Zambrano, Lotería
Anton DiSclafani, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer
Alex Marwood, The Wicked Girls
Laura van den Berg, The Isle of Youth
Michel Houellebecq, The Elementary Particles
David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years
Alissa Nutting, Tampa
Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin
Abby Geni, The Last Animal
ed. Rob Spillman, Fantastic Women: 18 Tales of the Surreal and the Sublime from Tin House
Marisha Pessl, Night Film
Ramona Ausubel, A Guide to Being Born
Aimee Bender, The Color Master
Joy Williams, The Changeling
ed. Steven Fraser, Audacious Democracy: Labor, Intellectuals, and the Social Reconstruction of America
Laura van den Berg, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us
Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries
Karen Russell, Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Andrea Portes, Bury This
Samantha Irby, Meaty
Hilton Als, White Girls
Eleanor Catton, The Rehearsal
Mary Gaitskill, Bad Behavior
Amina Cain, Creature
Kate Zambreno, O Fallen Angel


Many women, which is good, but too many white women, which is bad.

Up it would come, from beneath the water, of this you can be sure, without any ripple or wave. Just a little white showing. Air. Air tipping over in linked white collections. I get so violently upset often. But now, look at this, not anymore! This morning everything is fine with me. I even stay after eating some toast, which broke up pretty badly into very unequal pieces when you tried to apply some cold butter to it.
“Her isn’t the first film to depict a relationship between a man and an object. Nor is it the first to characterize a sweet, subservient artificial intelligence bot as female: Computer science and pop culture actually have a long history of casting artificial intelligence programs, which are necessarily servile and obedient, in caretaking, supportive, traditionally feminine roles. While Her is part of this tradition, it creates something more disturbing out of it: a conscious being that’s owned as if it were property.”On Spike Jonze’s new movie Her, chatbots Agent Ruby and Eliza, and the femininity of technology.

Reading Eleanor Catton’s novel The Rehearsal after her fantastic The Luminaries, and the saxophone teacher might be one of my favorite characters in fiction. Her spasms of cruelty immediately threw me off, and I’m only now righting myself as the novel reaches its midpoint.

"Mrs. Henderson. At present your daughter is simply too young. Let me put it this way: a film of soured breast milk clutches at your daughter like a shroud."

More to come.

“These novels depend on the failure of the fantastic, thus begging the question: what is the fantastic really for? Laura van den Berg at least begins to give us an answer, more fully integrating the strange with the mundane and creating transformative literature in the process. Rather than deriving power from a startling juxtaposition of the real and the unreal, van den Berg makes the strange normal and the normal strange to the point that her stories add up to something more than montage.”I wrote about Laura van den Berg’s The Isle of Youth, fantastic realism, and modern fairy tales for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
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