Reading List, Light Leaks edition
I bought a paper magazine for the first time in about a year: The Gentlewoman. It’s a treasure. The internet (my personal internet at least) seems full of pictures and snippets at the moment, and that’s ok. I think spring is on its way, but since I wasn’t really here for winter I don’t know what the hell is going on. That’s ok too.
"A friend recently tried to console me by saying that I’ve failed at more things than most people have ever tried. Most people, I said, try more honestly." Sarah Nicole Prickett in the archives at Hazlitt, on the privilege of fucking up. “Not trying to do something for which you possess the mind, the talent, and the intelligence, because you cannot bring yourself to care enough, or because you succumb over and over again to the deep dark malaise of self-doubt … that’s failure.”
And to flip it around, Cassie Marketos in Medium: ”In retrospect, I realize that I was suffering from a kind of mimicry. Rather than thoughtfully defining what I personally wanted, I had absorbed an arbitrary value system from my surrounding environment. Based on that, I had created a set of goals that I had no real desire to accomplish, but felt crappy nevertheless for failing to achieve.”
Emily Gould’s essay in Medium. <3
At long last, an article has been written about little girls rubbing Barbies together. Ann Friedman, of course.
This photo of Stoya and James Deen, by Clayton Cubitt (NSFW-ish)
The Normcore thing, by Fiona Duncan, NY Magazine
12 months of neon love, by Victoria Lucas and Richard William Wheater.
Very interesting interview with Melissa Gira Grant in The Awl, about her book on sex work, Playing the Whore.
The shapes of stories, illustrated.
Can’t we talk about something more pleasant? By cartoonist Roz Chast in the New Yorker.
The real ending to Harry Potter - Molly McArdie in The Toast.
On the intimacy of binge-watching. Nicholas Miriello in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
The freelancer’s cookbook, by Dayna Evans in The Hairpin. 🍯🍯🍯
Reading List, Little Winter edition
It’s cold now, but not for long. Like Captain Kirk says at the end of ‘Wrath of Khan’: “I feel young.”
[Image: Color Block by Kaitlin Rebesco]
"But the pain of a tattoo is something to which you have to surrender because once you’ve started, you cannot really go back. I enjoy the implacability of that circumstance. You have to allow yourself this pain, you have chosen this suffering, and at the end of it, your body will be different. Maybe your body will feel more like yours." Roxane Gay is brilliant.
"My mom used to be very critical of me when I was a child for how much I needed something to look forward to. She’d say, “Sometimes there’s just nothing to look forward to and you just have to live.” Now I see that I’ve designed my life so that there’s always something to look forward to." Ann Friedman talks to Miranda July.
"I avoid books that seem to conservatively follow stale formulas. I don’t read for plot, a story “about” this or that. There must be some kind of philosophical depth rendered into the language, something happening." Rachel Kushner on reading, in the New York Times, via @dailydoseofjess
On clever kids and procrastination, by Megan McArdle in The Atlantic.
On changing dreams. Emma Chapman.
"Writers are doing other things to make a living all of the time. And yet few of them admit this; and it’s maybe understandable, it maybe does make one seem a little less dedicated to one’s art if you admit how many hours you’re putting in to graft at other things to keep a roof over your head." Jean Hannah Edelstein on how to be a writer (while also paying rent).
Related: Ruth Curry on publishing.
A brief history of having hair extensions in Los Angeles. Julieanne Smolinski in xoJane.
The six stages of receiving gifts (for non-gift people).
Against likeability. Emily Keeler, in Hazlitt.
"Like many thrilling things women do - fucking or hitchhiking, being demoniacally ambitious or telling an asshole to stick a chainsaw in his eye - society tells us that growing up leads to ruin. Yes, you get older, but you can also grow tougher, kinder, braver. You can claw out the life you wanted. But as you age, the world will tell you you’re less worthy, even if you know that’s a lie. If there’s one thing society won’t stand for, it’s for a woman to be content."Molly Crabapple!
"A life of nothing comes from not wanting to be any of the things that you naturally are." Heather Havrilesky
Reading List, Solar Flare edition
Hello February! Currently: in Qatar, jetlagged again. Coffee, books, Imran, pale sun and violet sky.
"Maybe my dreams of plenty are a failure of imagination, settling for the felted comforts of comfort, when what I need is a reason, as in a raison. What I want isn’t actually the toothsome beauty and decadence we crave, but instead some act of becoming to give me purpose, meaning. What I need is a bloody grail quest, a Bond villain to best.” Your selfie-realisation, by Chris Wallace in The Awl.
The empathy exams, by Leslie Jamison in The Believer.
The emergency of your life - What they don’t teach you in writing school. Hanif Kureishi in the Daily Telegraph.
Bim Adewunmi: On desire, expressed. #Bims10Things #ladyboner [Related: This photo of James Deen. And that one of Lake Bell, whose film “In a World” blew my mind on the flight from Melbourne.]
A new Eva Wiseman classic, on fainting. In The Guardian.
Great journalism by Hadley Freeman in this interview with Thora Birch.
Natasha Vargas Cooper in Bookforum, on why making teens read literary canon is wrong: they don’t have the experience to understand the often subtle emotional references, so it convinces them reading is boring.
Coincidentally Kate Carraway, Kate Stull and Phoebe Maltz Bovy all wrote about buying and not buying clothes.
Another story about shampoo-free living (Lauren O’Neal in The Hairpin) and I continue to be intrigued. The initial part seems grim but oh the time savings down the line!
There are a lot of right things to choose, says Kate Fridkis’s mother.
Snow days with Hattie Watson.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anaïs Nin
Reading List, Down Under edition
"The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives." Armistead Maupin
"Sex is not the answer. Sex is the question. Yes is the answer." Stoya
[Image by Tracey Emin]
"Sometimes I feel weird about having such a self-contained trip, so detached from everything in my life; I didn’t have a blog, I didn’t write about everything. I just had it." In The Billfold: Laura Yan spent seven months alone in South America and wrote nothing. For months! For me, that would be like holding my breath.
"Wistfulness is not the most enjoyable emotion, but for a traveler it’s one of the most common." Thomas Swick in The Morning News, via @dailydoseofjess
"I’m not afraid of being old; I’m afraid of being afraid of being old, which for some reason appears to be an inherent part of being old, because the examples out there of adults who aren’t trying to turn back time are few and far between. But a fear of aging turns every second into your enemy." Tavi Gevinson, Rookie.
Remote control, by Sarah Marshall in The Believer. One of those pieces that’s so well-written it doesn’t really matter what it’s about.
Susannah Breslin on how to be a better journalist in 2014. Related: “Twitter only matters to journalists. And tech folks. All of the civilians are on Facebook.” Ouch. Seven hard truths about digital-era journalism, by Ann Friedman in the Columbia Journalism Review.
“ ‘I was really going to be somebody by the time I was 23,’ Lelaina Pierce says in the Gen-X version of this story, 1994’s Reality Bites. I thought that line had a lot of pathos, when I was her age; it’s only now that I’m starting to understand why it’s so funny.” Broken Glass, by Zan Romanoff in The Billfold.
Phoebe Maltz Bovy on trusting your younger self not to have been a complete moron.
"We knew the way you know about a good melon." <3 Claire Zulkey interviews Toasters Nicole Cliffe and Mallory Ortberg.
The Rewrite podcast! This is the dorkiest journalism podcast ever, taking just the one piece per episode and really digging into why it works and the choices made by the writer. Amazing. Sample quote by Molly Young: "It’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever got: As soon as you’re finished interviewing somebody, just start writing. Don’t wait, don’t wait for an hour, just sit down and just write down absolutely everything you can remember. … A good trick is to tell yourself that these are just notes but actually start writing the piece, just tell yourself you will put some thoughts into these notes and make them kinda good sentences. … That’s always the good stuff because it’s so fresh, and because you’re riffing. And also I think that being exhausted helps, because you’re not censoring yourself. You’ll write a sentence and you may have to draw it back a little, but at least it will have something punchy or uber-observant that you’re not going to remember 24 hours later."
Reading List, Second Summer edition.
I’m almost out the door, and I’m starting to get properly excited about Melbourne. My visa came through with a kangaroo and an
ostrich emu printed on top, which I find reassuring. I have a prolonged stopover in Qatar on the way, where Imran and I will be staying in a flat on one of those artificial islands, the existence of which is surely one of the harbingers of the apocalypse. But, you know, it’s sunny and has wifi.
Sheila Heti: Do you feel like if you hadn’t written the book, that truth would sort of be hovering, but not fully realized in you?
Joan Didion: Yes. Writing is always a way, for me, of coming to some sort of understanding that I can’t reach otherwise. … Nothing comes to us out of the blue, very easily, you know. So if you want to understand what you’re thinking, you kind of have to work it through and write it. [The Believer]
Peanut Butter, a poem by Eileen Myles.
Felicia Sullivan’s Melbourne (food) diary.
"At some point, I believe, a punchline will reveal itself — it always does, I’m sure of it — but it’s taking its own sweet time." Jean Hannah Edelstein on leaving before you’re ready. … Which reminds me. I saw two small parrots from my balcony the other day, and then another two, darting around in the trees. Apparently there are thousands of wild parrots in West London. Isleworth, you win one.
On the lack of female perspective in literary canon. Amanda Hess in Slate.
This strangely melancholic piece, by Susannah Breslin in Slate, on all the emails she gets from men wanting to become porn stars.
That feeling of leaving one job, and starting another. Richard Lawson, via @TheBillfold.
How to procrastinate on starting exercising while still being productive about it, by Liz Jordan, The Billfold. … Also, this story of how Dana Stevens got her new ID, which hit me hard because of certain bureaucratic experiences of late … sample sentence: "The moment the prevailing mood went from stoic annoyance to hallucinatory (if internalized) rage."
New rule: no more snooze button! Maria Konnikova in the New Yorker. … As much as I hate to admit it, this works.
The simple answers to every question about every new technology. XKCD.
"People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise." Jessica Olien in Slate.
Gaby Dunn on people who talk about their “crazy ex”. … Only one of my exes ever referred to any of their exes as crazy, and guess what - he’s the only only of mine who I no longer speak to. Because he’s crazy.
Cross Connect - a photography Tumblr.
Fleetwood Mac’s first Rolling Stone cover from 1977, by Annie Leibovitz.
"It comes back to the question, whom are you writing for? Who are the readers you want? Who are the people you want to engage with the things that matter most to you? And for me, it’s people who don’t need it all spelled out because they know it, they understand it. That’s why there’s so much I can’t read because I get so exasperated. Someone starts describing the character boarding the plane and pulling the seat back. And I just want to say, Babe, I have been downtown. (laughter) I have been up in a plane. Give me some credit." [Amy Hempel, via @austinkleon]
Reading List, Secret December edition
I never really remember Decembers once they have passed. It’s like there’s not enough light around to capture the images, and they get lost in the darkness. Does that mean this month doesn’t really happen? I know I’ll forget this, but it feels so physical.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the imaginary is the equivalent to the real: your skin, your vast, breathing skin will insist otherwise.” [Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs]
"I felt like it would work, and it worked; this has only strengthened my belief that I should always trust my instincts and that everything works out fine, even if you don’t plan the least little bit." Mallory Ortberg’s hilarious account of driving from California to Texas, in The Toast. This is a joke, but it’s also not.
"It seems the only language we have for expressing success is numeric. It may be a universal language, but it’s an impoverished one. Maybe we need a word for ’never having to sit in a meeting where someone reads long power point slides out loud’. Maybe we should have an expression that captures the level of success you’ve achieved when you do exactly what you love every day." The sweetest article in The New York Times, where Jim Sollisch, a boomer, writes about his musician son Max, a millennial, and how the definition of success is changing.
Slouching toward neck trouble - Heather Havrilesky on Joan Didion and Nora Ephron, in Bookforum.
Intimate X-ray couples portraits, by Ayako Kanda and Mayuka Hayashi.
"[The internet] means a change of visibility and accessiblilty but it doesn’t change the fundamental nature of sexuality." Tracy Clark-Flory’s chat with Sallie Tisdale on Salon.
"I would like to put in a word for wonky sex writing, both as art and instruction. I don’t know about you but I rarely find passages of sexual description “redundant” in otherwise bloodless books." Laurie Penny on the Bad Sex Awards, in New Statesman. Related: Clem Bastow in Daily Life, on why Hollywood’s fear of cunnilingus is A Bad Thing because “film and TV sets the tone (good or bad) of the cultural dialogue”.
"It’s my belief that everyone has the right and the duty to be as gay as they possibly can. Not as gay as you think you should be; as gay as you are capable of. This may mean dating a few women, eventually taking a husband to your bosom, but always supporting shows with lesbian characters, or occasionally looking at femslash on Tumblr, or maybe even just loudly proclaiming that Kate McKinnon is your favorite SNL cast member. The important thing to remember, I think, is that you can be just as proud of being a little bit gay as you would be of being enormously so.” Mallory Ortberg! The Toast!
Why Popular Science is shutting down comments.
27 swoony aerial views.
The Bold Italic, a magazine celebrating the free-wheeling city. #SanFranciscoHeart … This article on the big brick circles at city intersections. And this article on that sign at Turk and Larkin.
"I have said all this in interviews, actually, but in nearly every case, it’s been cut. People forget sometimes that an interview is a selective fragment of a conversation, not a transcript." Loved this thoughtful interview with author Eleanor Catton, in The Lumière Reader, via @dailydoseofjess
A 24-hour music video by Pharrell Williams. And Jeremy Deller with Rollo Jackson and Rustie, Rave at Tate Britain. The Britishest.
Reading List, In-the-Picture Edition
"Just go ahead and do your thing no matter what." Life advice from Marian Cannon Schlesinger, age 101.
[Image via Nicole Suza; quote by Khaled Hosseini]
"As teens we never read Foucault, so we didn’t know we were burning with lack, and we weren’t," Prickett writes in the editor’s letter. "We were the opposite. Too much for our lives we wanted age to catch up with us. That is the wish we want this magazine to bring back. To get older again… To get love, and from that love, make other things worth having. And to have sex be right there in our lives all the time, hot and healthy and messy." Interview with Sarah Nicole Prickett about Adult Magazine, in The Daily Beast.
"Pieces like this … seem to be written by people who are observing others using their phones without ever paying attention to how they actually use one, themselves." Yes mobile phones change stories, but dismissing it as a dead end is just lazy, says Zan Romanoff.
Related: Nathan Jurgenson in the New Inquiry: ” ‘The disconnectionists’ selfie-help has little to do with technology and more to do with enforcing a traditional vision of the natural, healthy, and normal. Disconnect. Take breaks. Unplug all you want. You’ll have different experiences and enjoy them, but you won’t be any more healthy or real.”
And last in today’s "I don’t think the internet’s to blame" broadcast is Rachel Simmons on the selfie, in Slate: “As with sex and hooking up, we assume there is only one motivation, and it’s a bad one. … If you write off the endless stream of post as image-conscious narcissism, you’ll miss the chance to watch girls practice promoting themselves—a skill that boys are otherwise given more permission to develop, and which serves them later on.”
Dehydration, preparation and boredom means airplane food just has to suck. John Brownlee in FastCo.Design, via @felsull
Seth Godin: What ‘no’ means.
Thanksgiving in Mongolia, by Ariel Levy. Story of the year.
“You don’t want to be Mrs Tampon do you?” Jessica Ciencin Henriquez in Salon is hilarious in this piece on abstinence-only education.
Tongue in cheek: Amanda Hess being brilliant again, in this piece on rimming, of all things, in Playboy, of all places.
"Or else I am spoiled, a too-often praised child, and impatient with myself and anything that is, or was, a little too much of a challenge. The way as a child I hated learning how to swim, swatting at my parents in the pool: Get away from me. How often has my petulance held me back, made me stew in my own incompetence? I am still that child.” Meaghan O’Connell.
Autumn Whitefield-Madrano on learning to share your space, and what this means for make-up. Feeling this! Does a night in mean putting on make-up now because you’re no longer alone? #FreelancerProblems
"I wish feminism were more complicated because it would explain why so many people misunderstand it." Hadley Freeman on why feminism doesn’t need a makeover. … Hadley’s been really good lately btw, including this piece on the so-called thigh gap, which is A Bad Thing, but: “To reduce body obsession to empty-headed narcissism feels like yet another way to criticise women and girls.”
Reading List, Fringe Trim edition
So, clocks gone back into darkness, winter coat, a cold that won’t quit. But, onwards! Being against things got boring.
"It had been so long since I had considered whether I wanted to be doing this or not, and back when I did think about it the answer had always been yes, so it was a little unsettling to realize now the answer was not yes anymore. But the answer also wasn’t no. The answer was ‘meh’." Rachael Maddux on realising that the thing you always wanted isn’t what you want anymore.
"Children have fewer responsibilities than adults, certainly, but they are hardly free, as they’re beholden to their impulses and their desire to emulate what’s in fashion." Cord Jefferson in Scratch Magazine
This amazing Jessica Valenti piece in The Toast, which keeps getting better and better.
The Spook Lights of the Ozarks - a photo series by Lara Shipley and Antone Dolezal (via @annfriedman)
"My problem with this last, ultimate defense of the selfie is the assumption it needs defending at all. We have been depicting cool animals since the #LOLMAMMOTHS of the Chauvet Caves, yet pseudo-historians are not lining up around Greenpoint to place the cats of Instagram in a lustrous tradition of art. Likewise, I have not read twenty-eight minor essays defending Thanksgiving dinner pics as new Dutch-masterly still lifes. The face alone has launched a thousand think pieces. So now the question is not one of basic selfie-justification, but rather, why must a photo of my face be justified when a photo of my bookshelf is not?" Sarah Nicole Prickett’s last word on the selfie, in Artforum
"It’s never the whole story or the deeper truth. It’s an attempt to get there." Our Tumblrs, our teenage selves, by Ann Friedman.
" “When I interviewed Sofia Coppola for the site, she said she’s consistently drawn to teenage characters when writing films because they have time to be introspective, a luxury that adult lives tend to get too crowded for,” Tavi Gevinson writes." Kim O’Connor in Slate on Rookie Magazine.
"Those fears have since faded, but I’m still slightly haunted by Suggested Posts of that fucking watch on Facebook." Work bathroom, by Esther Werdiger in The Awl.
"You always think you’re a badass who doesn’t give a fuck until someone says: ‘Hey, well done. Go you!’ Then your need for external validation – however small – comes to the fore and your cheeks are hot with the pleasure of being seen." Bim Adewunmi is learning German.
"Comfort is so underrated. If only those who strive for excellence, for riches, fireworks and panache could see what bliss they could find on a sofa at half-past nine." Eva Wiseman
“We are so much bigger in life than we realize,” Danes said. “We’re betraying so much more than we think.” This interview with the everlasting Claire Danes in the New Yorker. I’m finally watching Homeland. I came for the ginger but stayed for the blonde, never quite having got comfortable with Danes not actually being Angela Chase. But hot damn. And whoever decided to pair her with Mandy Patinkin is a genius. (Also! Claire Danes in this old Gap ad. Lanky hotness.)
Katy and Katie try all the tips from the internet so we don’t have to: A Tumblr.
A potentially genius time hack idea from Laura Vanderkam at FastCompany.
The New York subway signs experiment. The Big Apple is a definite for 2014. And I think I’m going to like this city. (via @aelaineo)
Reading List, Charm Attack edition
London is wet today after a week of warm autumn evenings, the sort that feel magical as they shouldn’t really be happening. I love this city. It’s a wish that comes true, over and over.
"Unfortunately, I am not homosexual. In technical fact, I am humasexual. I am attracted to humans. But, of course … not many." Morrissey.
"I feel sorry for need, which gives us life and wastes our time. But I am deep down just that way, and it is good." Elizabeth Wurtzel.
"This is one of the things I like about middle-aged sex: the level of comfort required." This lovely, beautiful piece in The New York Times by Joyce Wadler (via @aminatou)
Alice Gregory on nailing it (via @dailydoseofjess)
The Believer interview with Erica Jong.
"I had a lot of bougie Brooklyn-born expectations about how things should work and how things should smell and how people should act, and I felt guilty for feeling peeved when those expectations weren’t met." Emily Gould spent three months in Moscow.
The photography of Victoria Hannan.
”While escapism looks lovely on paper, in practice it’s difficult and expensive.” Loved this piece by Felicia Sullivan on Medium (via @rachelhills) on building your own life, nurturing new literary voices, and the thing about lifestyle porn.
"Eat the fucking Pad Thai, what do I care." Miranda July’s ‘We Think Alone' project has become a treat.
Boys of San Francisco in their natural habitat. Photos by Yuri Syuganov (via The City by the Bay). And also via this wonderful SF Tumblr: On what could be done with the old Bay Bridge. *swoon*
"But Jake has felt comfortable and correct for a long time, even longer than the past ten years it’s been my preferred name." Jake Mohan on The Billfold on the highs and lows of changing one’s name.
On Kanye and the maybe-racism gaslighting. Cord Jefferson in Gawker (via @annfriedman)
This Twitter rush from Amanda Hess, by way of her excellently titled blog: ‘Not a player, I just crush a lot’
Generation of Jessicas: Sixty years of the most popular names for girls, in Jezebel.
"But never have I been a blue calm sea, I have always been a storm" Daily Fleetwood: Storms
Reading List, New Leaves edition
All work and no play makes Jess a dull, cranky gal. Right now happiness is an airplane, a blanket, rum on ice and an old Bond film as I’m staring down many hours of blissful peace courtesy of Emirates Air as I head out to see my guy. I still live in West London and I will get over that eventually, but I’m starting to realise that’s going to take a little longer. Turns out, you can’t take Hackney out of the girl.
“You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.” Joan Didion.
Romance in the age of the internet is lovelier than you think. Amanda Hess, Slate.
"I have been mistaken for a mirror, a punching bag, a solution. I have never been the solution." Amanda Oliver, This Recording.
Pie chart: “Which popular activities do not appeal to us at all?” … Here’s my personal pie: Festivals 100%. Seriously.
" ‘We’re afraid to stop and do nothing because we feel this constant need to be in ‘doing mode’,’ says physiologist Dr Nerina Ramlakhan. ‘But we underestimate just how much mental effort is involved for the brain in processing all this information.’ The real reason why we’re all so tired, in The Times (£).
"Many, many men in our society feel they have to be needed, because they can’t imagine they could ever be wanted." The Good Men Project, via @rachelhills. (Related: Ann Friedman on manhood in 2013.)
"Nobody wants to be unhappy? Nonsense." Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian.
"Is ‘I’m 124 Sandwiches Away From an Engagement Ring' a chauvinist exercise? Ha, ha. If only we had the luxury of grappling with such advanced questions here. No. We are in ‘plant or animal?’ territory now.” Amanda Hess, in Slate, on the story that threatens both love and sandwiches.
" ‘It’s not real, obviously,’ I say. ‘It’s still nice to get,’ he says." Tim Dowling, The Guardian.
Loved this so hard, by Meaghan O’Connell on the oddness on being congratulated on marriage/engagement, as if it’s an achievement. Not that I’m not grateful, but you know, lots of things were hard but this really wasn’t one of them.
Why we cry on planes. Elijah Wolfson, The Atlantic.
"There’s an old episode of This American Life that has stayed with me for half a decade because of a moment when a speaker remarks of his long distance relationship: "no one ever asks ‘how did you two stay together?’ Everyone always asks ‘how did you two meet?’” We’re fascinated with beginnings: the meet-cute, the set-up, the relationship-constructed-for-digital-media-friendly-experiment. We like hearing about the endings, in the spirit of schadenfreude. But the relationships that last remain something of a black box. That’s because those stories are more likely to be experiences that are gruelling or depressing; they’re about making compromises that we might scoff at outside a relationship and leap to embrace if we’re inside it. They’re not sexy. Lasting relationships are about will as much as they’re about love, or maybe it’s better to say that they’re about the will to love.” Jean Hannah Edelstein, Daily Life.
The City by the Bay, a San Francisco Tumblr.
The New York City ballet at sunrise on top of 4 World Trade Center, via @thehairpin. *Swoon*
The morning against the shore.
We are living in each other’s mouths before we even wake.
You are soft in all of your hard places.
My fists curl into your waist.
I have lived beside you all of these seasons; unknowing.
[…] I do not recall the prayer that escaped me with every letter you wrote
but it was always beginning with the way you moved towards me
in a crowded room.
A taste I could not teach myself to forget.