Novelist Vigdis Hjorth interviewed by Tim Adams for The Guardian (4 Jan 2020) —
“What is interesting, when you go to see an analyst, you find out how many lies you have in your story about yourself,” she says. “Often you survive because you have these lies. But still, you have to get rid of those lies even though you have survived by telling them to yourself. And that’s a painful process. I think that people who have been in psychoanalysis, they learn not to lie as much as they did before. So, like we are talking here now, my mind might be thinking ‘Ah Vigdis, Is this right? Are you lying now? Is this how you like to see it? OK, be honest.’ So you learn the technique of communicating with yourself.”
Marshall Hanig on the use of citations in The Hundreds, by Lauren Berlant and Kathleen Stewart —
Litanies of citations rest at the bottom of each page. At first glance, these fragments seem to function as references and homages, if indirect, to the thinkers who have most influenced the authors. The canon: Foucault, Barthes, Sedgwick, and so on. But it then becomes clear that everyday material and cultural objects serve as much of a referential purpose as do influential scholars of critical theory. A baking scene gone awry parenthetically cites Four Boxes of Cranberry Bread Mix alongside Clough and Massumi. Tomatoes and The Built Environment are rendered scholarly sources.
…[But] for the breadth of theorists that the authors reference, important Black feminist theorists of affect like Audre Lorde and bell hooks are either absent from or scarcely scattered throughout the text. Fred Moten’s indexical contribution might mask the citational absence of predecessors in his field like Saidiya Hartman. Though citations of mundane objects and phenomena raise questions of authorship and theoretical canons, the authors’ choices to cite vegetables and architectural styles above thinkers like Lorde and Hartman instantiate their tendency to follow, rather than deviate from, dominant currents of affect theory centered around whiteness. Viewed in this context, the project might uphold the canonical imaginaries that it aims to critique.
Despite these citational failures, I read the tone of these situated narratives as earnest. I hear the authors’ genuine concern with holding and thinking with all of the contradictions of a diverse, complex, and oppressive world, even if this totality exceeds what their particular ways of looking can possibly represent.
DO NOT GATEKEEP THOSE IN NEED OF A HOME
the harm of a possible scoundrel slipping through the gate does not even come close to the harm you will cause by denying them entry and when you do that YOU have become the villain of your own story
Choire Sicha on leaving the NYT (21 June 2021)—
On your last day at The New York Times — and my last day was Friday — they come out with a big greasy cardboard box from the basement and return to you all the opinions you had when you started working there. Wait, imperialism … I’m against it??? Wow, what else is in here I wonder!
This is a big relief but also distressing in that now I must take responsibility for myself.
I am happy to reveal exclusively here (MUST CREDIT MY SUBSTACK) that I quit my job running Styles at The Times because I did not wish to do it any more.
If you are unhappy, or if you frequently say you are “exhausted,” if maybe you cry at work a little more often than you personally think is reasonable, if you wake up in the morning and consider dying instead of going to work, you CLEARLY owe it to yourselves to do something else. Will making a change maybe make you poor or scared? SURE. Could the change be bad? ABSOLUTELY. But the alternative — staying put, degrading like an old yogurt — is to become a worse person. You can’t solve your own burnout, you can only change the system or your situation. And while it seems like becoming a worse person is a pretty common choice, do you really want to be common?
As it happens, lucky for me, if not for you, it’s a rare moment right now where it’s actually good to be talent. (This moment will pass … quickly.) Why would I want to work myself into dust trying and failing to solve someone else’s problems when instead I can simply be a problem myself?
Alice Kemp-Habib interviews Brandon Taylor about his Filthy Animals short story collection (21 June 2021) —
In a Guardian profile a while back you said that you wanted to use your writing to “make black people feel fully human”, but it seems like you’ve moved away from that idea of wanting to hold a mirror up for people. Do you think that’s something that has changed since you started publishing?
Yeah, I absolutely do. When I started out writing I had this idea that I was going to humanise the black experience. And then I read real literary criticism, and I read more books, and I thought very deeply and I was like, “But black people are already human.” It's possible as a black writer to spend your whole artistic life thinking that it is your job to fix the infirmities of white people. You could spend your entire artistic output trying to make yourself and black people visible and legible and understandable and perceivable by white people. I have no interest in doing that. I don't want to make my art about white people. And I think that, at its basis, the idea that one can humanise the black experience is fundamentally a project that is very much about whiteness and has nothing to do with blackness at all.
Alice Kemp-Habib interviews Brandon Taylor about his Filthy Animals short story collection (21 June 2021) —
One thing I observed about Lionel is that he had a very clear understanding of his own mental health. He knew the warning signs and was able to check himself into the hospital. He wasn’t portrayed as powerless.
That's one of the things I get frustrated about in stories that depicted a character in the middle of a mental health crisis, because they're often depicted from the outside as being harried and not being very lucid and not knowing what's going on. But, for me, I remember very viscerally making dinner one night and feeling short of breath and panicking and thinking, “What do I do?” and then remembering that I had read Joan Didion's The Year Of Magical Thinking. She called the paramedic and she had this list of things that she was supposed to do. So I walked myself through calling 911, getting my health insurance card, very calmly putting my things together and then waiting by the door for the ambulance to arrive to take me to the hospital that first time.
I wanted to write about a character having a mental health crisis from the inside and not as an observer watching a person go to pieces. Every crisis is different, and I'm not always lucid about what's going on with me, but it felt important to represent this character in this moment who has this bit of lucidity about his condition and his status.
Jessica DeFino, 'Erasing Your Wrinkles Is Not Empowerment', 12 Jan 2021 —
[T]here are two ways to address the stranglehold of Western beauty standards: One, by helping women better perform beauty — to perform it with less effort, with safer ingredients, with an expanded perception of what is beautiful. Or two, by pushing for a future where beauty has no bearing on how women are treated, on how women feel about themselves. Both are valid! But I’m only interested in Option Number Two.
Still, I understand that there are distinct social and economic advantages to better performing beauty standards instead of abolishing beauty standards. I understand that existing within a culture that pressures us to change everything about our appearance from the moment we are born is exhausting and traumatizing and paralyzing and it is not always possible to push back against these systems. I understand that it’s easier to inject a little Botulinum toxin between the brows than to reject the idea that we need a little Botulinum toxin between the brows. That’s all fine and good.
What I don’t understand is why we have to pretend that better performing beauty is empowerment. Again, it might be empowering for YOU, personally, if you deem it so — but it is not empowering for women as a whole.
Shai Held, ‘The Staggering, Heartless Cruelty Toward the Elderly’ —
When people are measured and valued by their economic productivity, it is easy to treat people whose most economically productive days have passed as, well, worthless.
From a religious perspective, if there is one thing we ought to teach our children, it is that our worth as human beings does not depend on or derive from what we do or accomplish or produce; we are, each of us, infinitely valuable just because we are created in the image of God. We mattered before we were old enough to be economically productive, and we will go on mattering even after we cease to be economically productive.
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A list of terms for paisley patterns, related to foods:
Emily Segal in conversation with Colin Everest, 'On not being afraid to start something new, The Creative Independent (17 May 2021) —
Of course, you always are trying to distinguish between a fear impulse, and an intuitive impulse, and it can be difficult in art making, because we have a lot of resistance to things. And sometimes you have resistance to things that are actually really important for you to persevere with. But, sometimes you have resistance to something because it’s just not working. And I was in that sort of puzzled, muddy space with the publishing process, where I was like, “This doesn’t really feel like how projects that I’ve done in the past felt when they were working.” I.e., maybe it’s not working.
Found via Benjamin Wurgaft's tweet, where he described Teen Vogue as 'now to the left of
Boundary 2'. Asheesh Kapur Siddique,'Campus Cancel Culture Freakouts Obscure the Power of University Boards', Teen Vogue (19 May 2021) —
Conservatives continually cite statistics suggesting that college professors lean to the left. But those who believe a university's ideological character can be discerned by surveying the political leanings of its faculty betray a fundamental misunderstanding of how universities work. Partisan political preferences have little to do with the production of academic knowledge or the day-to-day workings of the university — including what happens in classrooms. There is no “Democrat” way to teach calculus, nor is there a “Republican” approach to teaching medieval English literature; anyone who has spent time teaching or studying in a university knows that the majority of instruction and scholarship within cannot fit into narrow partisan categories. Moreover, gauging political preferences of employees is an impoverished way of understanding the ideology of an institution. To actually do so, you must look at who runs it — and in the case of the American university, that is no longer the professoriate.