Apr 17, 2016

Sunny Sunday Morning Links

Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis
It’s a beautiful morning in my part of the world, and I have coffee and a stack of new books — which is to say, everything is pretty much in place for the perfect Sunday. I’d forgotten I’d pre-ordered the UK edition of the Angela Davis essay collection pictured above, so having it arrive last week was a wonderful surprise. Yesterday I also got Raymie Nightingale, the new Kate DiCamillo, because I have no self-control. Before I dive into my reading, here’s what’s been on my mind this past week:

  • An essay in which the author explains why he has no interest in the lives of critics or in what he calls “confessional” writing has been making the rounds over the past few days; this got me thinking about how very interested I am in critics’ lives, as well as in the lives of other human beings in general. Most of all, I’m interested in criticism that comes with a context — in the kind that makes visible the fact that our reading of anything is shaped by our circumstances. All of this reminds of Leslie Jamison’s excellent “The Possibilities of the Personal”. I’ve probably linked to it in the past, but no matter — it continues to be important to me:
    I’m interested in essays that follow the infinitude of a private life toward the infinitude of public experience. I’m wary of seeking this resonance by extracting some easy moral from the grit and complication of personal particularity: love hurts, time heals, always look on the bright side. Instead, I’m drawn to essays that allow the messy threads of grief or incomprehension to remain ragged, to direct our gazes outward.
  • On a somewhat related note, I really enjoyed this piece: Black Women Writers and the Secret Space of Diaries.

  • Film Dialogue from 2,000 screenplays, Broken Down by Gender and Age. Sigh. I’ll be in the corner, continuing to make my way through lists of movies by and about women. Speaking of which, I’m almost done with the Indiewire list I mentioned the other day, so any further recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

  • I get very excited when people who make things I like talk about what they’ve been reading, so you can imagine my reaction to this: Lin-Manuel Miranda: By the Book.

  • Bitch Media interviews Sarah McCarry. She’s my favourite.

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates on how feminist criticism has shaped his approach to how women are depicted in Black Panther (which I so need to read).

  • Ferguson Library Director Scott Bonner on the purpose of libraries: Libraries are the public institutions that exist to nurture cultural literacy, lifelong learning, and bringing its community together.

  • On a worrying note, new research maps the extent of web filtering in public libraries. At least 98% of public libraries filter categories. This list of categories differs between each council, and includes categories such as “Abortion”, “LGBT”, ”alternative lifestyles”, “questionable”, “tasteless”, “payday loans”, “discrimination”, “self-help”and “sex education”.

  • This is about American public libraries, but the exact same is true in the UK: declining library usage correlates to funding cuts, rather than signalling libraries are becoming obsolete due to technological changes or any such nonsense:
    The correlation between investment and use makes sense. If libraries have more funds, they can have more staff, more classes, more copies of the latest bestseller, and—maybe most importantly—longer hours. Yet at the same time, people are so eager to use the library that they make time to visit even when hours have been shortened and collections have shrunk.
  • Michelle Dean on Adrienne Rich’s feminist awakening, glimpsed through her never-before-published letters. As I said before, I’m really interested in the contexts that shape people’s way of thinking, so this was a great read. It was also especially timely for me because I’m reading Rich for the first time at the moment (I’m starting with her essay collection On Lies, Secrets and Silence).

  • Fictional Cops I Love, Ranked By How Guilty I, As An Anarchist, Feel For Loving Them. I thought this was great after reading the bit about Detective Jack Robinson from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, AND THEN I GOT TO SAM VIMES.

  • Why Luck Matters More Than You Might Think: When people see themselves as self-made, they tend to be less generous and public-spirited. This reminds me (yes, again) of Upheavals of Thought, of everything it says about trying to accept our common human vulnerability to factors beyond our control, and of all the reasons why that book hit me the way it did. (It’s been weeks since I finished it but I keep renewing it instead of returning it to the library, because I kind of want it to be in my house forever).

  • Speaking of which: Here’s a great interview with Martha Nussbaum.

  • The Year of Numbered Rooms by Emily St John Mandel:
    It was a year of loneliness and long flights and spectacular good fortune, a year of numbered rooms and standing behind podiums. “Culture,” I told the audience, “is an antidote to chaos,” although that year the chaos seemed exceptionally strong. It was a year of mass shootings, of blinking back tears in airport lounges beneath televisions tuned to CNN, of reading about new massacres in hotel rooms at night. The violence that year was stunning and constant and it was easy to conclude that it would never end.

    But every day of the tour, in seven countries, I met people who cared about life, about civilization, about books, and by the end of the tour this seemed to me to be a reasonable antidote to despair. I thought very often about the world you’d be born into, about what it means to hold on to one’s humanity in the face of horror. In my life, the humanities have been the antidote to mere survival. In the book for which I traveled, the line Survival is insufficient is tattooed on someone’s skin.
  • A couple of weeks ago I read Dawn Foster’s Lean Out, an excellent book about the limitations of corporate feminism. This piece touches on some of the same concerns:
    Here’s where we are right now: Most Americans must consider their employment ahead of all other needs. Work schedules dominate our abilities to see friends and family, to care for our health concerns, to squeeze any drop of joy out of our day.
    (...)
    What if we didn’t have to work at an unhealthy pace? What if our lives weren’t job-first? We are a resource-rich country on a resource-rich earth—a truth that could continue in perpetuity if we were strategic about how we grew food and how we distributed energy. And how we spent our money.
  • Lastly, here’s Neil Gaiman on Terry Pratchett’s memorial at The Barbican. I have a lot of feelings about the first paragraph of this post, and also about the photo of Neil wearing Terry’s hat. My friend and I entered the ticket raffle for the event, but we had no luck. As we said the day after, it was probably for the best: chances are that if we had been there we would still be crying right now.
  • 19 comments:

    1. I remember Dream of a Common Language having a profound effect on me, but I can't remember specifics because it was long ago that I read it. For some reason, I feel so much pressure not to RE-read, because of all there is TO read. But I think that is a mistake, because there is so much that is more worth a RE-read than there are books worthy of reading just to have read a new book, if you take my meaning!

      Love the article on fictional cops! Thanks as always for all the links, which when you do them, *are* in fact worthy of reading! :--)

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      1. I know exactly what you mean! Maureen wrote an excellent post about rereading recently, and I especially love what she said about how tracing changes in your reaction to a text is a way of tracing changes in your thinking and outlook. I need to make more time for rereading myself.

        And thank you, friend ♥

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    2. I have quite the love/hate relationship with your link posts. Oh don't worry, it really is a good 99% towards the love side. Everything you introduce me to is valuable, and always I come away more aware, more curious, more informed, etc. That 1%, it simply comes from that "OMG, how did that last hour and a half just go by so quickly?!!" feeling.

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      1. Aww - I hope that at the end of it you felt it was time well spent!

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    3. I guess I can see why libraries would filter some of those term categories- but "self-help"? What's objectionable about that??

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      1. To be honest, all of the categories really worry me - I'm sure there are many, many people for whom the library is the only place where they could search for information on being lgbtq, or abortion, or sex education, or abuse, or what have you. There might also be people who have internet access elsewhere, but who rely on libraries to conduct these searches in privacy and with safety. And even categories where the logic seems to be to protect people from themselves, like "payday loans", I'm hugely uncomfortable with the paternalistic reasoning behind it.

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    4. NO OH NO I ALREADY WAS FEELING WEEPY ABOUT LILACS.

      SAM VIMES.

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      1. This was on the whole both a thoughtful and totally delightful article and I love it but mostly SAM VIMES.

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      2. I KNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW. TOO MANY FEELS I CAN'T

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    5. I had chills reading that Leslie Jamison essay. I'm going to be re-reading it--it's exactly what I need to hear, and understand, and absorb, at this juncture on my path as a reader, and writer. Thank you for sharing it!

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      1. You're most welcome! I'm glad it found its way to you at the right time. Have you read her book The Empathy Exams? I highly recommend it.

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      2. Nope, I haven't! I'll look it up! :) thanks!

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    6. Don't you want to hug Sarah McCarry for saying that the "art and madness they be linked" narrative nearly killed her? I DO both because I am sad she went through that and because I'm glad she's saying it in interviews.

      I also don't feel guilty at all for loving Jack Robinson. I love other anticolonialist things too. I CONTAIN MULTITUDES and Jack Robinson wears really sharp hats and leans on things real good. But I do wish Bert and Cec had carried on doing more communisty things. (Perhaps still my favorite thing in that whole series is when Bert meets Jack for the first time and says "Oppressor of the widow and orphan!")

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      1. Also that chin.

        (And yes, on Bert and Cec.)

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      2. Hahaha, I know - such a great line :D Anyway, I love reading that piece but I don't feel seriously guilty either :P

        And yes - I really do <3

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    7. I do wish they had broadcast Terry's event though. Then I could cry alone, along with everyone else.

      And now I am thinking about how strange it is to love fictional cops ...

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      1. Aww, I know! We could weep from the comfort of our homes and tweet at each other.

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    8. Wasn't that report about library use and funding really interesting? It makes you hope government will pay attention but that might be too much to ask.

      Regarding Adrienne Rich. Thanks for that link as I had not seen that article and Rich is one of my favorite poets. I wrote my Literature M.A. thesis on her and had the privilege to see her read a couple of times and even have lunch with her (in a small group of students). She was a very smart and amazing woman.

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      1. I remember the tribute post you wrote when Rich died, and how it made me vow to read her sooner rather than later. How amazing that you got to see her read and have lunch with her! I'm nearly done with the essay collection and I love it so far.

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    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.