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Posts Tagged: the new yorker

You Are Invisible

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Writing in the New Yorker about the smartphone app Cloak, Mark O’Connell offers a thoroughly beautiful and poetic commentary on the ontology of visibility:

By generating a kind of omnipresence—whereby we are always available, visible, contactable, all of us there all the time—the technologies that mediate our lives also cause us to disappear, to vanish into a fixed position on the timeline or the news feed.

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I Cook Because I Love You

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When my grandmother taught me to make banana pancakes, which we did every Wednesday night through much of my childhood, she would counsel “Hold the bowl” as I stirred, which became, in our letters to each other, code for “I love you.”

Might cooking for another person be considered an act of love?

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What Would Lynne Tillman Do?

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It is nearly impossible to live in New York City without feeling a flicker of Lynne Tillman’s exacting presence. Over at the New Yorker, the indomitable Colm Toibin writes about the (equally) indomitable Lynne Tillman in the introduction to What Would Lynne Tillman Do?: Essays. 

Lynne Tillman’s essays, and indeed the interviews she has given and conducted, are thus an essential part of her work.

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Wired in for Life

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…the unplugging movement is the latest incarnation of an ageless effort to escape the everyday, to retreat from the hustle and bustle of life in search of its still core.

Phones, computers, and tablets, once seen as a way of facilitating interpersonal interactions, are increasingly being seen as barriers when it comes to face-to-face interactions.

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The Academic Writing Debate

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At the end of last month, Nicholas Kristof published a piece in the New York Times calling for academics to come out from their insular bubble and participate in the mainstream conversation—especially with respect to writing. Joshua Rothman responded in the New Yorker that academic writing is only as “knotty and strange, remote and insular, technical and specialized, forbidding and clannish” as the academy itself.

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You’ve Told Your Worst Secret

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Gordon Lish, acclaimed writer, editor, and teacher, is renowned for giving fiction writers the following advice: tell your worst secret. Lish encourages writers to put themselves at risk, first making themselves emotionally vulnerable, and then restoring themselves. Through dramatized confessions, Lish hopes that students will capture their readers’ attention; writing, in this case, is viewed as a constant attempt to seduce readers while staving off boredom.

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I Know Death Too Well By Now

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In a breathtaking essay on aging, Roger Angell reflects on death. At the age of 93, he writes: ”A weariness about death exists in me and in us all in another way, as well, though we scarcely notice it.”

Angell has experienced his share of loss and hardship, but emphasizes the dailiness of his own experience, and how infrequently he thinks of his own impending visitor: death.

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Man vs. Terrifying Gigantic Agribusiness

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…“grew up in world (S.C.) that wouldn’t accept him,” “needs adulation,” “doesn’t sleep,” was “scarred for life.”…“What’s motivating Hayes?—basic question.”

An actor’s notes for a role? A writer’s sketch of a character for a novel? Actually, these are observations by the communications manager of agribusiness giant Syngenta, as she and her colleagues try to figure out how to discredit the scientist who found one of their herbicides to cause “birth defects in humans as well as in animals.”

For the New YorkerRachel Aviv tells the story of the corporation’s relentless campaign against one biology professor—and his increasingly desperate attempts to fight back.

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Acclaimed African Author Comes Out as Gay

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Supporters of African LGBT rights were so relieved about Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni’s veto of an anti-gay bill that they were nearly blindsided when Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan’s signed a similar bill into law.

The law prompted Binyavanga Wainaina, a prominent Kenyan author who also spends a lot of time in Lagos, Nigeria’s capital, to share something his wide readership did not know: he is gay.

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Bibliophilism: On Love and Addiction

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It is possible to give one’s life to books, to dedicate years to collecting, reading, teaching, translating, writing, and studying them. In an essay for the New Yorker, Thomas E. Kennedy, a writer, editor, translator, and professor, reflects on his own experience of leading a life “decided by books,” the result of being given a book that reeled him in when he was still at “a susceptible age.”

Kennedy writes: “You wonder whether you actually love books or are merely addicted to them, obsessed by them.”

By the end of Kenendy’s essay, it remains unclear whether an obsession with collecting books is a good or a bad thing.

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Reflecting Your Radicalism, No Matter the Cost

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Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones), known for his poems, plays, and for the initiation of the Black Arts Movement, died on January 9th. Though there have been many articles talking about the man as legend, over at The New Yorker, Hilton Als discusses the man as human through the lens of Als’ personal relationships with various members of the Jones family.

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“Pop,” “Soda,” or “Heaven Bubbles”?

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You’ve probably seen this regional-dialect quiz from the New York Times making the rounds on your social networks. You answer questions about your vocabulary and pronunciation, and it tries to determine where in the United States you’re from.

But the New Yorker‘s Shouts & Murmurs blog is really upping the ante with their own dialect quiz, which asks questions like “What do you call sweetened carbonated beverages?” Do you use “soda,” “pop,” or “Coke”?

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When Language Fails

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2013 has become the year of the emoji as the pictographs have made their way into iMessages, poem translations, and recently, an art exhibition. Betsy Morais’ article called “Do You Speak Emoji?” refers to emojis as “a new form of language that is, by turns, keenly expressive and cheerfully cryptic.”

The reasons for using images of shooting stars, thumbs up, and hearts instead of words to convey meaning might be difficult to understand at first, but as Morais writes, “when language poses a risk, employ a playful image whose interpretation may be negotiated upon receipt.”

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The Stories of Osama Alomar

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In a recent essay in The New Yorker, Lydia Davis discusses the very short stories of Osama Alomar, a young Syrian writer who has lived in the United States for the past five years.

The plight of a writer who has an established reputation in his own country, and none at all here in his adopted country is a plight shared, of course, with immigrants of other professions… It involves a profoundly disturbing change of identity in his new world, and often in his own eyes.

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This Year in Literature and Gender

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Matters of gender and sexuality come to the surface repeatedly in the scuffles discussed in The New Yorker piece called “Literary Feuds of 2013.” In the past year, there have been debates over the double standard to which the personalities of female protagonists are held, criticism of a female writer’s novel as being “too macho,” and an article promoting the idea that mothering more than one child can be detrimental to the work of female writers.

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Rockwell and the Law of Opposites

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In the New Yorker, Lee Siegel sheds light on the oft-seen contradiction between artists and their art in her review of Deborah Solomon’s biography “American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell.”

In contrast to his idealized paintings of happy hetero Americans, Rockwell is described as a depressed, compulsively obsessive, and “a repressed homosexual.”

You might call this condition of artistic creation the law of opposites, which can be a displacement of identity, as in the case of the gay composers and actors of yesteryear, or a transmutation of identity.

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