Elif Batuman's perfect piece, structure is not the enemy of unbridled expression, the trauma of Zoom, the difference between misogyny and sexism, is this any of my business?
|Sep 6, 2020|
"… however clear it is to us, intellectually, that the adult who walks around on two feet is the same person as the baby who crawled on hands and knees, we rarely acknowledge it fully. The adult doesn’t look the same as the baby, or feel the same. “Former baby” isn’t part of anyone’s self-image. All we want is to forget that we were ever so weak and helpless." If you only click one link in this email newsletter, make it this: Elif Batuman on Greek tragedy (and — everything. Literally everything that matters?!)
"The writer subordinates the self to the writing just as the therapist subordinates themself to the client, and yet both must remain active in their original roles, as therapist, as writer. This requires a deep introspection, and communication with the self. If the writer does not truthfully communicate with their self, how could they expect to communicate in any meaningful way with the reader?"
“At some point, if you want to have a real life, you have to say, ‘I did that then, this is why I did it, but I don’t have to do it.’ It’s possible to do that. You don’t have to be a martyr or a saint to do that.” Profile of Sarah Schulman. | “If someone throws me a ball, I want them to know I’ve caught it, because it’s a terrible feeling to have it fall forever.” Profile of Miranda July. | "I said: ‘Keep your money. Probably I am richer than you. My book is in many countries.’" Profile of Behrouz Boochani.
"When I realized that structure was not an unartistic preoccupation—that it is, in fact, a thing that would welcome a reader to my work—I felt on fire. Unbridled expression and structure—they can both exist." Raven Leilani (I want to read Lustre.)
"We don’t go to novels because they are timely, but because they feel timeless in their treatment of consciousness and emotional life. We don’t want characters to exist as a bundle of symptoms but as full personalities in their rich confusion and ambivalence."
Has self-awareness gone too far in fiction? | “Too much, they say, in other words, when you try to give them all you can conjure. No, not enough, they say, when you hold back.” | A novel way to think about literary categories.
"That’s how a writer pays attention: you spot details you can’t imagine having any possible use for, and you make a note of them. And when time catches up, and a little gap opens in what you’re writing, out they pop from the dark, all fresh and shiny, and you grab them, and polish them, and slot them in." (I have listened to this podcast episode with Helen Garner many times over the past few weeks. I like how the interviewer says he feels anxious reading Helen's work, and craves for it to be more tidily left wing. I like thinking about what emotions and ambiguities resist being organised away.)
"I remember standing in the shower, nearly weeping with desperation for my book to be done. I have never wanted anything else in quite the same way. There was something both abject and muscular to the wanting, one aspect that felt unseemly — like pride and vanity — and another one more connected to survival, to the promise of relief."
Ana's 2020 summer report!
Matilda Goad’s home tour made me search Paint Magic author Jocasta Innes. Her house in Spitalfields. And by her son: My mother Jocasta Innes, who abandoned us. (Some interior design terms Remodelista is no longer using.)
"These people mire you in your sense of loss just as you are ready to discover what remains to be found." | The trauma of Zoom. | Sweatpants forever: how the fashion industry collapsed. | Fan-fiction about reality. | We're all socially awkward now.
“… it can be useful to assume that anyone we want to be intimate with has experienced sexual trauma at some point. I think this because a) most people have and b) if we strive to treat everyone we’re close to with the same diligent level of care, attention and gentleness regardless of how traumatised they are, way fewer people will get traumatised.” | "… one of the best questions our society could ask themselves is… is this any of my business? If you’re wondering which side of the gender spectrum someone is on -- stop. If you’re not sure if someone should be in the same bathroom as you -- think no further."
"...people who are addicted to Twitter are like all addicts—on the one hand miserable, and on the other hand very defensive about it and unwilling to blame Twitter." Is social media good for anything at all?
"I think of Trump, in particular, as someone who’s extraordinarily punitive toward women who challenge or thwart him in any way, but, at the same time, he is also happy to give quite a bit of power to women who have positioned themselves as his subordinates. And that’s both in business and politics—I’m thinking of Kellyanne Conway and Betsy Devos and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. These are women whom he thinks of, I believe, as competent. So that’s the sense in which he’s not particularly sexist, but he is misogynistic, in how he lashes out viciously and disproportionately against women who don’t defer to his authority."
"Not having money is time-consuming. There are hours spent at laundromats, hours at bus stops, hours at free clinics, hours at thrift stores, hours on the phone with the bank or the credit-card company or the phone company over some fee, some little charge, some mistake." Eula Biss. | "This is the real division between Australians: not between those capable or incapable of directing the course of their lives, those at fault and those not at fault, but between those who already grasp that external structures, forces and events can determine the course of a life, and those who are holding out against that understanding as long as they can." Sean Kelly.
"Belly was always good at finding deals online, but, when they arrived in Bath, the hotel was not as nice as it looked in the photos. Belly seemed strangely affected by this, as if it were more important than usual that every detail of the holiday was perfect..."
Sending special love to Melbourne on lockdown,