Things I Read That I Love #12

HELLO and welcome to the 12th installment of Things I Read That I Love, wherein I share with you some of the longer-form journalism/essays I’ve read recently so that you can read them too and we can all know more about prison, sweatpants, 91-year-old fathers and Tao Lin! Also this week oddly sees marijuana as a recurring theme.

This “column” is less feminist/queer focused than the rest of the site because when something is feminist/queer focused, I put it on the rest of the site. Here is where the other things are. The title of this feature is inspired by the title of Emily Gould’s tumblr, Things I Ate That I Love.

The Caging of America: Why Are We Locking Up So Many People? (January 2012), The New Yorker – Our prison system is totally fucked, solitary confinement is fucked and crime rates are down but it’s not because we’re imprisoning everybody (because we are). This article is really thorough and gets into a lot of shit like the racism of the criminal justice system and the futility of marijuana laws, amongst other compelling topics.

The World of Charles Dickens, Complete With Pizza Hut (February 2012), The New York Times Magazine My favorite writer-about-books, Sam Anderson, visits a derelict failed Dickens-themed amusement park in Chatham. This is basically everything I love about the world in one glorious article.

The Odd Couple: Romney vs. Gingrich (February 2012), Rolling Stone – If you, like me, are physically unable to watch the Republican debates because you might facepalm your face off, you’ll appreciate this hilarious and well-written take on the current state of affairs (the article is worth reading for the perfection of his descriptions of Romney and Gingrich alone).

The Truth Will Set You Free (December 2011), The Morning News – I did not even know that there was gonna be gay stuff in here but there was.

Sweatpants in Paradise: The Exciting World of Immersive Retail (September 2010), The Believer“[Hollister] employees are selected for their insane good looks and friendliness, which creates the disorienting customer experience of receiving attention from people way out of your league over and over again.”

High Society (January 2012), The Washingtonian – Everyone in Washington DC is stoned, everyone is Nancy Botwin, etc.

Cheating, Incorporated (February 2011), Bloomberg BusinessWeek – On AshleyMadison.com, the website for men who want to cheat on their wives with other women and vice versa! Although really I wanted to bang my head against the wall when this guy kept complaining that facebook won’t take his ads and that it’s so hard to find investors for this kind of enterprise — he eventually did, of course, get the $20 million he needed — obviously we here at lesbian-ville have yet to achieve a similar feat.

Daddy Issues (March 2012), The Atlantic“Even if, while howling like a banshee, I tore my 91-year-old father limb from limb with my own hands in the town square, I believe no jury of my peers would convict me. Indeed, if they knew all the facts, I believe any group of sensible, sane individuals would actually roll up their shirtsleeves and pitch in.”

Much Ado About Whatever (July 2011), The Morning News – About Tao Lin’s Muumuu House “web fiction factory” –> “The authors involved with Muumuu are young, relatively unknown to the larger literary world, and seem in their writing vaguely depressed. In their fiction and poetry, nothing much happens to their characters. And they all write like Tao Lin.”

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2743 articles for us.

26 Comments

  1. Oh yes, the descriptions ARE worth it! While I can’t actually feel good about this Republican primary – I mean a coherent and thoughtful opposition is important in a healthy democracy – at least I can feel slightly better about Obama’s chances in the Fall.

    “If Romney is a scripted automaton who could make it through a year’s worth of marital coitus without one spontaneous utterance, Gingrich is his exact opposite – taken prisoner in war, Newt would be blabbing state secrets without torture within minutes, and minutes after that would be calling his guards idiots who lack his nuanced grasp of European history, and minutes after that would be lying to two of his captors about an affair he had with the third.”

  2. The first paragraph of the Muumuu House article confuses me. It’s essentially saying, “This guy’s in magazines and everywhere and everyone has an opinion about Muumuu House, but probably you’ve never heard of them.” Urm? You can’t throw a rock around these here internets without hitting Tao Lin and/or Muumuu House!

    People do have very strong feelings about that sort of fiction. I don’t have a problem with it on its own, really, I just want it to fade away at some point in the future. I don’t want it to become so influential that it changes the course of fiction forever–it’s just not doing what I think fiction can do at its best…

    ….obviously I have a hard time articulating this. I think “realist, self-deprecating, lazily provocative writing” (from the article) sums it up pretty well. And not everyone thinks that’d bad, I guess. It might just be my visceral negative reaction to anything that feels privileged and tunnel-vision-y.

    (I know there are fans around here, I am not trying to offend.)

  3. Funny timing on the Hollister article… About two years ago, my wife and I agreed we had both officially outgrown Hollister but yesterday, on an aimless window shopping excursion at the mall, we happened in to the store. Looking at all the perfect-looking mannequin forms with the effortlessly fashionable pieces on, I actually honestly found myself wondering if there was any person out there who was like that. Like had the entire perfectly preppy Hollister wardrobe and accessories and upgraded it all every season and had friends all equally as fashionable. And, you know, lived the life where they slipped the teeny tiny strapless sundress on their perfectly tanned body and sat around bonfires on the beach with all their chic friends at night and played beach volleyball and all drove Jeeps with pulsing generic alternative-pop type music in the background. I just have never come across a single person who lived the lifestyle Hollister portrays. And it’s weird to me that everyone, EVERYONE, from young kids to high school athletes to the weird soccer mom that sat across from me in a night class last semester, buys into it and gleefully emblazons their chest with the name brand because they feel the name alone makes them cool and stylish.

      • i think because it’s the first thing i’ve ever read about somebody’s dad dying slowly in old age (the opposite of my own experience with my father, obvs) that made me laugh and not feel raging and jealous (i always feel jealous of anyone who had time to say goodbye, anyone who knew)? like i thought the writer was really funny, how she talked about things. i mean, ‘daddy issues’ made me laugh at least 5 times. it felt so removed from me. srsly the graf about her dad’s wife was really funny.

        • Perhaps I am surprised by Loh because she complains about caregiving in her late 40s, which is actually pretty typical. I got to be a frequent caregiver to my ill parents in my mid teens to early 20s and when people in their late 40s and 50s complain about caregiving I think “well at least you’re doing this at the expected age when you aren’t fresh out of high school with no concept of what power of attorney is or how to tell someone they’re being permanently moved to a nursing home”.

          There was a commenter named chillj who gave the comment that I think best appraises the Daddy Issues essay:
          “I am a woman, and I cared for my own intermittently psychotic, bipolar mother throughout my life, including her old age. I have also cared for the elderly as an occupation. It is no picnic. We all wish our parents dead on occasion, but when their capacity is diminished by age or infirmity, reveling in bitterness because they need care is not productive. The last stages of life are heartbreakingly sad, and the aged do not actually live it specifically to annoy their middle-aged childre n. They do what they do the way they do it because their options are limited; it is not their fault. I know women in their sixities caring for a parent. Do they kvetch? Certainly – and they deserve to be allowed to, especially as their own health is an issue. But Ms. Loh pimped her ill nature about her father’s very existence to a national magazine and that is in unforgivably bad taste. Who needs to read it? There are subjects to be addressed with a therapist: this woman’s relationship with her father is one, because it sure is an ugly read. Mark my words, in thirty or forty years her children will say the same about her. I could have written this about my own abusive mother, but my aging has taught me that I can never know her demons; I can only respect that she lived- survived with them- to the age of 83. Her life was no fun for me, but it was even less fun for her.”

          • The references to the Jane Gross article was the only worthwhile read in the whole article. I have a really dark sense of humor and really need it while caring for two elderly parents–but I found little about Loh’s writing funny, just ugly and not even particularly well written. I didn’t read the comments but the one you referenced is excellent.

          • i was commented back at Donna M is that the confusion? Anyway, the rest of your links are appreciated as always and keep up this feature, it’s great.

          • I found Daddy Issues fascinating because it seemed to resonate with many care-givers and repel just as many. I watched my father care for my grandfather during the last two years of his life, as dementia gradually robbed him of much of his life. I can understand where some of Loh’s frustration is coming from – if my grandparents had not been lucky enough to have substantial savings, caring for my grandfather would have severely eroded my father’s savings and ability to provide for himself, his wife, and his children. Her discussion of her father’s fixation on sex particularly resonated with me, since my grandfather often acted inappropriately (one time he groped my father’s wife). I regret that now my memories of my grandfather are dominated by how he was during the last two years of his life – with little awareness of who any of us were, and general withdrawal from the world in many ways. My father chose to care for my grandfather after he was kicked out of/removed by his sons from several assisted living facilities. I do think it greatly improved the quality of his life to have a personal care-giver and to live in a semi-familiar environment with people who love him. My father gave up a lot in order to do so, and not everyone can handle it, particularly when they’ve had contentious relationships with their fathers (as Loh seems to have had). While in some cases I was apalled by her attitude, I also thought she did an excellent job of presenting what it’s like to care for an aged parent and the conflicting emotions that such an experience raises. I think more than any response to how she handles the situation or feels about her father, what the article did for me was allow me to think about my own experiences with care-giving and what I might anticipate in the future. And I appreciated the opportunity to read about another person’s experience and read how people in similar situations responsed in the comments.

          • Yeah, I was also a little blown away by the level of vitriol directed toward the piece. Part of the thing for me is: it seems like she probably is actually doing a pretty darn good job taking care of her dad, right? Which is what counts. Thankfully I’ve never had to go through anything like her situation yet, but it seems completely obvious that it would be horrifying to watch your parents’ lives disintegrate that way. Of *course* you’re going to wish that it would all just end sometimes. And what’s funny is that a lot of commenters didn’t so much express that Loh was terrible for *having* these feelings, but that she was terrible for *sharing* those feelings. Such outright advocacy of repression and dishonesty is not something I expect to see these days — I suppose some filial taboos are still awfully strong.

          • I think there’s a difference between presenting conflicting emotions and just outright trash talking a person in a vulnerable position. Caregiving is a gendered and difficult job and it’s important that caregivers get space for ourselves and chances to vent. But while it is frustrating to care for someone with say, dementia, it’s not like someone with dementia (even a formerly abusive or neglectful parent) is raising hell at your expense just to spite you. Loh’s article reminded me of one I read a few years ago by a mother who resented her son who had autism. It was an ugly piece that wasn’t justified just because her frustrations were valid. There has to be a way to acknowledge frustration at the people we care for without turning them into caricatures. I have read other pieces by Sandra Tsing Loh and I like her, but I don’t think she will be proud of this essay 10 years from now.

  4. As someone who’s lived in DC forever and works in the non-profit sector with the wives of senators and generals, I can totally vouch for the Washington hearts weed thing. Loved the article, thanks for the rec, Riese.

  5. You had me at Hollister…but only cause that’s where I live. I’ve never actually been into a store. But it makes me laugh, cause Hollister brand seems all super california cool and the town is not even on the coast (though it is in California). Good lols
    And thank you for the lovely reading update.

  6. RIESE! Your comment about the Dickens piece got printed in this week’s New York Times magazine! I always read the nyt magazine cover to cover (in paper format for real), and when I started reading your words they sounded familiar and now I feel like it is my friend getting a letter printed but really I am just one of your thousands of readers. I hope this generates some good traffic and now I will imagine that someone at the nyt editorial office checks autostraddle regularly.

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