HELLO and welcome to the 299th 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 know about John Updike!!! 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.
Malfunctioning Sex Robot, by Patricia Lockwood for the London Review of Books, October 2019
It’s impossible to pull just one passage from this epic roast — with pause for appreciation as warranted — of John Updike’s work.
In a chronological reading, the serious lapse in form comes earlier – with Couples (1968), the novel that chronicled the adulterous whirlwind of the early Ipswich years and notoriously made Updike a million dollars. Perhaps I am more puritanical than I realised, because the mere thought of wife-swapping in New England against the backdrop of the Vietnam War sinks my heart like a stone to the riverbed of my body; even so, I can say with reasonable assurance that the book is bad. Something chants behind the prose, even when it’s good: waste, waste, waste, waste. Sodden somehow, as if the sad Old Fashioned that Janice was drinking at the beginning of Rabbit, Run had spilled and seeped into the text. Dim, carpeted, brown, pressing our faces perpetually into the plaid of some couch. It is also the book in which Updike becomes 25 per cent more interested in feet, which is not something the world needed.
The Balloon Boy Hoax – Solved!, by Robert Sanchez for 5280, October 2019
You know I had not thought about these people in quite some time.
An Oral History of Lilith Fair, by Jessica Hopper with Sasha Geffen and Jenny Pelly for Vanity Fair, September 2019
I obviously went to Lilith Fair in 1998, I loved it, I remember it well. It’s funny at the start they talk about how you couldn’t put two women on a show because I was always annoyed when Iw ent to see female artists perform and had to sit through some random dude ahead of time. Like, know your market! This is what happens when everybody at the top is a straight white cis guy, I guess. Also the Indigo Girls as the band that made everybody play together is perfect and warmed my heart.
ThirdLove says it’s by women, for women. But women who’ve worked there disagree, by Zoe Schiffer for Vox, September 2019
Interesting that the decision to go so hard against Victoria’s Secret was initiated by the man at the head of the company, not the women within it.
The Dark Power of Fraternities, by Caitlin Flanagan for The Atlantic, March 2014
Caitlin Flanagan’s not my fave by any means, but there’s some pretty interesting information in here about how many people fall from the sleeping porches of fraternity houses and the byzantine system that exists around the inevitable lawsuits that ensue from typical fraternity activities. Here’s a line to remember: “It takes a certain kind of personal-injury lawyer to look at the facts of this glittering night and wrest from them a plausible plaintiff and defendant, unless it were possible for Travis Hughes to be sued by his own anus.”
End of Discussion, by Soraya Roberts for Longreads, October 2019
Social media’s inability to support a Joker discourse — in fact any discourse — is part of its DNA. “Flow,” a form of engagement which started out as a reference to a psychological idea before it was adopted for video games and then social media, is designed to keep us darting from one thing to another, searching for but never achieving gratification. The goal is to keep us gorging on shallow content without any reflective commentary interrupting the next meme.
Am I Writing About My Life, Or Selling Myself Out?, by Shannon Keating for Buzzfeed, September 2019
In addition to mentioning MY LIL BLOG way up top, which gave me immense personal gratification, this is a fitting meditation on the functions and benefits and drawbacks of telling your own life story in the post-personal-essay-boom era.
The Odds of That, by Lisa Belkin for The New York Times, August 2002
I have not stopped thinking about this piece since I read it two weeks ago! AHHHHH
On Heteropessimism, by Indiana Seresin for The New Inquiry, October 2019
A certain strain of heteropessimism assigns 100 percent of the blame for heterosexuality’s malfunction to men, and has thus become one of the myriad ways in which young women—especially white women—have learned to disclaim our own cruelty and power. Like most lesbians, I have found myself on the receiving end of approximately 100,000 drunk straight women bemoaning their orientation and insisting that it would be “so much easier” to be gay. Sure, it probably would be! That “men are trash” is not something I am personally invested in disputing. Yet in announcing her wish to be gay, the speaker carelessly glosses over the fact that she has chosen to stay attached to heterosexuality—to remain among the (slightly more than 2 or 3) women who are, despite everything, still straight.