HELLO and welcome to the 171st 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 Detroit! 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.
A lil bit of business: starting now, Things I Read That I Love will show up every other week rather than every week. You can read more about that here. Starting this Wednesday and continuing biweekly, I’m gonna start sharing links relevant to business, publishing, media, start-up culture and the other things I read about in order to do this job in a yet-untitled This Business of Art/Media/Web Link Round-up. So you can look forward to THAT too.
The Post-Post-Apocalyptic Detroit, by Ben Austen for The New York Times, July 2014
From the Detroit is Coming Up Roses edition of The New York Times Magazine, a story about a city that came back when nobody thought such a thing was possible. I’m from the area and plan to return, and this piece filled my heart with hope, even the grim parts.
What About Bob?”, by Emily Nussbaum for The New Yorker, March 2015
This is particularly true of Durst. He’s an indelible character, mesmerizing in his strangeness: he’s parchment-skinned, blinky-eyed, lizardlike, but he has a quality of fragility, too, along with a disarming, if often peevish, directness. When he feels misunderstood, a Larry David-like querulousness creeps into his voice. He answers questions about whether he hit Kathie (yes, he did—but, hey, it was the seventies) with a candor that no sane or diplomatic individual would use. Maddeningly, this makes him seem open, even when he’s almost certainly lying. Much of the pleasure of watching “The Jinx” is simply being immersed in the stubborn illogic of Durst’s world view, which is often less cagey than surreal.
The Outsiders, by Gary Kamiya for San Francisco Magazine, February 2015
Reading this article about the homeless of San Francisco in the print edition of San Francisco Magazine was sort of surreal — reading about the homeless of San Francisco alongside advertisements for luxury real estate and the symphony orchestra. I was surprised to hear that San Francisco doesn’t have more homeless people than other urban areas? The author seemed a little defensive of the city, honestly, but also it’s a super thorough report that’ll crank your eyes wide open.
The San Antonio Four
This March 2015 article, Who Told The Truth?, by Maurice Chammah for The Marshall Project, yanked me back into a San Antonio Four k-hole. For those unfamiliar, the San Antonio Four are four women who ended up in prison for 15 years for crimes they didn’t commit — namely, Satanic ritual abuse practiced against children they were caring for. Linda Rodriguez McRobbie’s December 2013 article, written when the women were released, discusses How Junk Science and Anti-Lesbian Prejudice Got Four Women Sent to Prison for More Than a Decade. The author of The Marshall Project case also did a thorough and lengthy discussion of the case in January 2014’s The Mystery of the San Antonio Four in The Texas Observer, which’s probably the one you should read if you only read one.
Ivy League Admissions Are A Sham, by Anonymous for Gawker, March 2015
“But if the force of your pushy little personality fails to shine through in the rest of the application, then I have to try and draw it out in the interview. It’s not psychoanalysis by any stretch. I just want to hear that you like certain things and dislike others, that you’ve run into obstacles and heard the word “no” on occasion. Don’t tell me everything is great, because it’s not. Don’t tell me everything is terrible, because it isn’t. And most of all, prove to me that you’ve spent some time thinking about a big brand-name in education, and what it can do just for you.”
Rogue Wounds, by Daniel Mason for Lapham’s Quarterly
On the history of faking illnesses, from Odysseus feigning madness to a prisoner faking epilepsy in 1876 to faking hysteria in the early 1900s and so much more! History!
Free Joan Didion, by Haley Mlotek for The Awl, January 2015
“This [opening sentence of an article railing against Joan Didion] is almost unbearably painful to read for reasons I’m sure Harrison would have me executed for: there I am! Right in that sentence! There’s my Instagram account, with the page of the Sontag journal I’m currently reading held just so you can see my fresh manicure; there’s my collection of zines propped up conspicuously on the dresser in my bedroom, so visitors can see my eclectic taste; there’s my writing, carefully constrained sentences that hint at my mental health issues, my sex life, my recreational drug use, revealing my inherentcoolness while pretending to casually conceal it. My sympathies lie with my aesthetics, my possessions, my personality bending to material whims and tasteful trends, and not the other way around.”
How I Escaped My Pederast, by Ian Grey for Salon, December 2014
“…what caught my eye about the Singer report was that damned luxe house, how that alleged boy-toy debauchery McMansion reminded me of a similarly opulent operation that Scotty dragged me to often, and it hit me: You never hear from the boys themselves. You never hear our story.”
I’m really surprised that this is the first I’m hearing of the san antonio four.i definitely would have remembered reading about it. i think the article in the texas observer delves into more intimate details about the people involved, the crime and the trials than the article in the marshal project. its also terrifying to learn that the women could end up back in jail if the judge finds the older sister to be more credible, Javier is a dangerous, petty vindictive man.
I will miss TIRTIL every other Friday, but I’m also really excited about the not-yet-titled business / media link roundup situation!
True Confessions: I like Didion. I even taught Didion (admittedly, probably to an “ideal” audience): Democracy once in an intro course, Play It As It Lays once in an upper course (to discuss the queerness). She was on my comps list, in my orals, and scheduled to appear in my dissertation.
I think I read her tone as very consciously ironic in terms of narrative an aesthetic device (I just flipped through Democracy a bit to see, superficially, if I still thought so). I’ve read her as part of the 60s/70s American interpretation of Existentialism that followed the literal 50s interpretation and preceded the later explosive reimagining and diversifications: retaining the cool quasi-French detachment and the fundamental ideas, yet beginning to twist uniquely American elements into it. I agree that many of these elements are the things the writer(s) here critique (as they should be), but I would argue that an alternate way to look at the or reframe them is to inquire how they are part of an American sensibility and what particular sort of such. What, for instance, does it mean to take a concept like the void and affix these traits or concepts to it?
I’ll shut up now. I feel better, even if I don’t make sense.
i love joan didion
Me too. She seems to be getting so much criticism lately– I’m not sure when it started, but I sort of wonder if the Celine ads somehow got the ball rolling?
Doing the math I woulda been only 7 years old at most when the San Antonio Four were convicted. I can’t really recall hearing of them specifically but something vague in my memory that might of been about that case so I can’t really say that it had an impact on my life, but the sort of thinking that got those ladies convicted did
My nieces love me and often demand physical contact or closeness, especially the littlest one. Sometimes I have to hurt their feelings by telling them no because someday I might be out to everyone and I know I just fucking know that someone will be reviewing every interaction I’ve ever had with them.
So I have be above reproach even if that means tears and begging from a little kid who just wants to bunk with her favorite aunt she might see only once in a year.
It also means I have to think with each physical interaction would this be okay if I were an uncle and not an aunt? Cause queer women violate some secret code of desexualised woman safety. We’re secret men and men take things.
TERF-y lesbians make me think of goldfish, poisonous goldfish.
I understand your fear. The conflation of lesbian /gay person to sexual predators is disturbing. I just got a job working with kids and I do if it wouldn’t make more sense to shift my career path.
If I ever come out to all of my family members. I’d expect someone to creepily make a suggestion.
The Ivy League is such a scam.
Oh, man, I binged on all the episodes of The Jinx this week after hearing about the finale, and now it’s all I want to talk about. So much to analyze! So many theories!
I have been a Harvard volunteer alumni interviewer for years and the young people I interviewed were uniformly pretty great–thoughtful, passionate about intellectual subjects, driven to succeed. Several of my interviewees were even accepted. I don’t know why the writer of the Gawker article had such a negative experience in recent years, but the polemical tone seems unwarranted and driven by some nostalgic sense that kids these days are somehow not authentic. Perhaps as the writer ages, he or she can’t relate as well to young people, or young people relate to the interviewer differently. To be honest, the oddest behavior I encountered in the interviewing process came from the parents or the other alumni interviewers. And for what it’s worth, I didn’t feel the students when I was at the school were crazy competitive or zero-sum about success. But I guess if you have an axe to grind, might as well do it anonymously on Gawker.