Somewhat shorter this week, which speaks more to my ability to focus on (non-work) things at work than the actual state of the Internet (which we already knew was deplorable to begin with), but nevertheless, I offer you my recommended reading from the past week:
by Jess Row
For many white writers since the 1960s, the fantasy of deracination has become uncoupled from the wilderness as such. Wilderness is now more and more remote, as a concept or a destination, and has migrated onto the experience of landscape more generally—absorption in a landscape, confinement within a landscape, quest for a landscape, loneliness or alienation within a landscape. These landscapes, where inner and outer experience fuses in interesting ways, are nearly always empty of people of color. Of course, the absence of the original inhabitants is a defining, if usually unacknowledged, trope of American nature writing, but here I’m talking about a broader and more willful kind of elimination—a turn toward regions, spatial and psychic, where whiteness is once again normative, invisible, unquestioned, and unthreatened, and where repressed social guilt becomes a vague subjective state of discomfort and anomie, if it does not evaporate altogether.
I haven’t actually finished this essay (I had to put a pin in it the other day at the end of work, and haven’t gotten around to it… though I’ll probably do that once I’m done with this), but I love the first half and have found it an extremely useful new lens to think about American Lit (I’d be embarrassed I hadn’t really realized it before… but then, that’s the point of “The Essay”: to help you think about things in a new way). I have also not read as much of the authors (or that era of American fiction) that Row discusses, but, minimally, I love lines like this one: “‘Realist’ writers believe that individuals are best exposed against a largely erased background.”
Edit: another great pull:
“The usual rotating miscellany,” he assures us. “None of this is really anything terribly serious”: that is, slavery, black culture, “black” and “white” as categories, the use of the word “nigger.” This, in Ford’s view, is how race appears as a subject to “most white people—who aren’t bigots.” There’s perhaps no more honest expression of default white attitudes toward race in the age of white flight and re-segregation: for white people living in low-density suburbs or exurbs, which is to say most white Americans, to think about race is a choice, and not a very serious or meaningful one.
Edit-edit: AND THIS! I WAS THINKING ABOUT THIS:
An optimist might say that this trend can’t possibly continue, but if we look at the popularity of the HBO series Girls—a fantasy of a virtually all-white, bohemian, twenty-something Brooklyn that critics hail as the “voice of a generation”—we might say that, to the contrary, spatial deracination has begun to metastasize. Nature may abhor a vacuum, but in our current situation, many American readers, even well-meaning ones, haven’t learned to live outside one.
(Obviously, I finished the article before posting this. It was long, it was great, I strongly encourage you to read it.)
by Ruth Gilligan
The more I began to research, though, the more I began to discover that actually, since Bloom, there has been a real lack of fictional Irish Jews. The reason for this, I suspect, is that writers have been too anxious at the prospect of treading on Joycean toes (at least, even more so than the inevitable) and have thus avoided the topic altogether. But what a shame! For there is so much more to the Jewish community in Ireland than one guy swanning around in 1904. There is the key role Jewish politicians and artists played in the fight for Irish Independence; there is the troubling stance Ireland had on Jewish refugees during WWII; there is the wonderful story I kept hearing about Jewish immigrants arriving to Ireland by “accident,” bound on boats for New York, but disembarking when they heard “Cork! Cork!” instead.
I mean, it’s LitHub, so it’s more or less a buy-my-book essay (not that that’s a bad thing), but there’s some interesting history here, and it’s always fun to hear writers talking about the ‘anxiety of influence.’ Also, happy late Bloom’s day.
“There was like a Ghost World-kind of girl behind the counter,” he said. “I set [the book] down, and she said, ‘Ugh, Infinite Jest. Every guy I’ve ever slept with has an unread copy on his bookshelf.’”
Pure comedy gold. This lady is brilliant.
by Ghadi Ghosn and Virginie Le Borgne
The reason for this is the country’s religious diversity which makes the contours of morality difficult to police (18 different sects, from Maronite Christian to Shia Muslim to Druze, are officially recognized and no one religious community is a majority).
I’ll be honest: I know less about Lebanon that I should. But anyway, this was super interesting and a good shorthand way to explore some of the various conflicting interests in the country.
I told Dan simply that I would post the bike anywhere it needed to go but that if he had really fallen in love with the bike that much and was willing to spend a quarter of the asking price just to ship it over then the best thing he could do was book a flight and come to me. On a good day you can book a round trip from Melbourne to Tasmania for around about $60. I told Dan that if he did choose to come over I’d pick him up, take him for a ride around the mountain that sits in my state’s capital and then help pack up his new bike and deliver him back to the airport. I really didn’t think that he would take me up on it but, for the second time, the bike brought out the trust in both of us because less than an hour later I had another call from Dan telling me he was on the way over in a weeks’ time.
Heartwarming. Fun. A really fun story about a bike and a new friendship and a ride, and a great way to end this week’s post.