Things I Read That I Love #174: Characters Arise Out Of Our Need For Them

HELLO and welcome to the 174th 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 illness in comic books! 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.


How We Are Sick: A Diagnosis, by Al Rosenberg for Women Write About Comics, March 2015

I really think y’all are gonna like this one.

“I wish I could have had these three bottom panels that Constantine gets to experience. He is shocked and has a moment of silence to contemplate this news. Doctors give characters in tv shows, movies, and comics a moment to let the news sink in. Doctors in real life have other patients waiting to be told different news. They talk straight through all of the things you should now know about your situation, ask if you have any questions and then rush you on your way. Maybe this isn’t true everywhere. Maybe somewhere there are doctors who really say, this is serious, take your time, I’ll let you have your moment of silence.”

From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself, by Marlon James for The New York Times, March 2015

This is FUCKING BEAUTIFUL. I know I said you were gonna like the last one, but you’re also gonna like this one, so.

“In creative writing, I teach that characters arise out of our need for them. By now, the person I created in New York was the only one I wanted to be. Over the next two years, I came and left often, pushing the limits of a student visa. I’d make friends but never get close enough to have them ask me anything too deep, playing at being aloof when I was really just shy, and I’d walk past gay bars, turn and walk past again, but never go in. Back home I fell back into church, knowing I didn’t belong there anymore. Once I forgot to code-switch in time and dashed to the bathroom in J.F.K., minutes before my flight to Kingston, to change out of my skinny jeans and hoop earrings. Eight years after reaching the end of myself, I was on borrowed time. Whether it was in a plane or a coffin, I knew I had to get out of Jamaica.”

The Bizarre, Unsolved Mystery of “My Immortal,” The World’s Worst Fan Fiction Story, by Abraham Riesman for Vulture, March 2015

I continue my journey down the road of reading a lot of stuff about fan fiction but never actually reading fan fiction (well, except the first 50 Shades book, which was AWFUL), this is about an epic fanfic that is probably satire and nobody knows who wrote it but it’s hilarious because it’s awful.

A Deadly Dance, by Skip Hollandsworth for The Texas Monthly, April 2015

Just some good old-fashioned true crime by Skip Hollandsworth for you: “Two prominent doctors. One beautiful woman looking for romance. And a likeable misfit who spun tall tales. Their lives intersected after an intense relationship turned sour, but no one guessed that the path to love would lead to murder.”

Lottery Tickets, by Elizabeth Alexander for The New Yorker, February 2009

I mean this is a personal essay by a woman about her husband — how they met, what he was like, and how then he died — but it’s got a certain lyricism to it that just gets you in the gut.

The Exile of the Bohemians, by Ian S. Port for Radio Silence, April 2015

I’m not even intentionally reading things that make me feel glad about my decision to move away from this area soon, these things just keep getting written. This one is especially fantastic. This is about the history of the idea of bohemia and about how artists can’t afford to live in San Francisco anymore (if you want to read about other plights of people in even more dire situations w/r/t getting priced out of the city, of which there are many, I suggest this) and it’s really interesting and good.

Permanent Records, by Molly Knefel for The New Inquiry, March 2015

On what young people these days can never leave behind. There’s a part where she’s talking about how the youth have this record of their youth on social media and how for older people like me, “unless they kept a meticulous diary, it’s unlikely that there’s a textual record of how it played out on a day-to-day basis.” I laughed because, you know. I kept a meticulous diary.

Going for the Gold With Dominique Moceanu, by Alicia Thompson for narrative.ly, March 2015

The author was completely overwhelmingly consumingly obsessed with gymnast Dominique Moceanu, which doesn’t surprise me ’cause I was super into her also. Then the author grew up and became a writer and ended up working with Dominique on a YA series and it was a lot!

ZPM Espresso and The Rage Of The Gilted Crowdfunder, by Gideon Lewis-Kraus for The New York Times, April 2015

It’s so tricky, that dance one must do in situations like these.

Eventually, though, the advice became overwhelming. “They’re doing it on their own schedule, nights and weekends, taking up a huge amount of Igor’s time when he’s got a ton of work to do,” she said. “People got insulted because they couldn’t be involved as much as they wanted.” The ongoing calls for transparency put pressure on ZPM to carry on all of its business in public, but transparency and efficacy can be incommensurable ideals. ZPM couldn’t blame its vendors in updates, even for the mistakes they were consistently making, if the company wanted to keep working with them — or with anyone at all. The backers had a hard time understanding this; they continued to operate under the shared assumption that more demo­cracy, more engagement and more transparency lead inexorably to more success.

How To Make It On Social Media Without Even Trying, by Doug Bock Clark for The New Republic, April 2015

You know how suddenly somebody has 2,000 more followers than they did yesterday and if you look at the followers it’s pretty clear that they don’t exist? This is about a company who invents those followers and sells them.

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 2798 articles for us.

10 Comments

  1. That article on the gentrification of the Bay: the passage on Los Angeles sounds very much like it was written by somebody who has never lived in Los Angeles.

    Otherwise, I loved it.

  2. How has Heather not inspired you to read fanfiction yet?

    That permanent records article was great. Last night I was rereading my diary from 1999-2002 and the things I had to say during that time were just breathtakingly mean. Happy it isn’t all over the place now (unless I put it there).

    • i would’ve been TORTURED by social media as a kid. i mean, i felt pretty tortured by the idea of my friends calling each other on their landline phones with call waiting and possibly saying mean things about me, i think myspace would’ve thrown me into a panic

  3. My great-great grandma kept a meticulous diary that got published. Besides it being a link to my biological family (and thus fascinating for that sake) it is boring as hell. Things like:
    Dec 17, 1886 Thursday
    Jesse went to the coulee again to take a cow to Gilmore. Mr. Ti’s folks went after their hogs so Emma and I went over and stayed over night there; I learned to knit and helped milk the cows

    Yawn.

    And just recently I bought one of those advertised books, and it was 330 pages simply of Facebook status updates (and comments) plus profile pictures since 2008. I’m so glad my published work is going to be less boringly written than great granny’s ;)

  4. The NY Times Magazine article was about a fascinating subject, but the writing style was so irritatingly stilted I couldn’t get through it. Please tell me I’m not the only one.

    I really appreciate these roundups though; I look forward to them every week! Thanks for finding so much cool stuff for us to read.

  5. “How We Are Sick: A Diagnosis” is amazing. I’ve experienced so much of what Rosenberg talks about with my illnesses and disabilities – the astronomical costs, the bureaucracy, the awful doctors, everything. It’s hard to understand why the system moves so slowly and why no one seems to care when you’re in so much pain. To quote the article, “The “quest” is for a cure. Are diagnostics too boring to be a game? In real life it takes up so much time and energy that it seems strange to be left out of so many narratives.” We fight two wars: one with the illness and one with the cure.

    (On a lighter note, we should start a petition to get Riese to read fan fiction. We must bring her to the geeky side. By sending her so much quality femslash that Fifty Shades of Gray is but a distant memory.)

  6. Portland is experiencing similar problems with gentrification, to the point where people are becoming openly hostile towards transplants, especially from California. Even neighborhoods that have been long-time artist hotspots are getting over-run by chain restaurants and massive condo complexes to house people still working remotely for silicon valley companies. People are converting garages and tool sheds into “apartments” and advertise them on craig’s list for up to $1500 a month. I think more people would leave if they knew where to go. It’s a nightmare.

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