A roundup of some (hopefully) interesting thinks from around the web
“Much of the conversation around bad men hinges on constructing an imagined reader — as white, male and privileged as the author — that absorbs and re-enacts the sins of the book’s characters. This demonstrates a conservative and oddly utilitarian demand for didacticism in novels, but it’s also deeply patronizing to the people who aren’t male or white, but who also enjoy reading these books.
The idea that female readers are somehow unable to enjoy books like Portnoy’s or A Farewell to Arms also belies a strange assumption that the only way to gain meaning from a text is its proximity to the reader. It’s undeniable that for too long literature portrayed an incredibly narrow segment of human experience (and still does), but to shrink fiction to a simple dynamic of relatable versus unrelatable seems to offer a misrepresentation of why people engage with novels, and of what they gain from interacting with them.
To reject a book based on a surface level notion of relatability with the background of its author (or of its characters) negates the possibility of these unexpected connections.”
One of the most exhausting aspects of our current cultural moment are the “ugh, only straight white men like this” takes that completely erase the voices of female critics, critics of color and fans who don’t fit neatly into binaries of who “should” like/dislike something. It’s part of a larger and much more pernicious problem — mistaking pop-culture consumption for moral worth as opposed to, you know, how we carry ourselves every day; how we treat other people; and how we support (or don’t) the causes that matter to us. Instead, we equate what someone watches on Netflix as the mark of a good/bad person. Or that you’re not part of the problem if you performatively state how you’re not gonna see a certain movie with a certain problematic star/director/producer/screenwriter.
This completely side-steps the hard, slow, messy work of progress, and endows our entertainment with a nutritional value that it may not have. Obviously, there are political elements to pop culture — primarily, who gets their stories taken seriously and who selects the tone, cast, script and direction of those stories. But consumption of pop culture can’t be considered a political end in-and-of itself. Nor can avoiding the work of problematic (even awful) people act as the equivalent of dismantling the beliefs and abuses that allowed them to harm others in the first place.
But Hemingway’s writing itself does not fit any straightforwardly heterosexual, masculine mold, and the general perception of him as such is one of the lit world’s most distorted misrepresentations. Hemingway is at once kinder and more lost than we give him credit for. He has an excellent sense of humor. He is often very emotional. His portrayal of women is certainly misogynistic, but it is also complicated, mixed with longing and terror; very often, his women are the most nuanced characters on the page. He was guided closely in his early career by Gertrude Stein, who championed and instructed him, whom he loved and hated and from whom he never quite escaped. And most tellingly, Hemingway’s writing is distinctly queer, so much so that it’s odd that he is not—along with compatriots like Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson—read as such.
Wole Talabi tell us “My Favorite African Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Fiction of 2020“
“While White folks were honky-tonking at clubs like the Blackboard and the Clover Club, Black folks were tearing it up on Lakeview Avenue — now known as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard — at juke joints like the Cotton Club, the Delwood Club and Mom’s Place — from East California Avenue, across East Brundage, all the way south on Cottonwood to Planz Road — and eventually spilling out onto Union Avenue at mixed-race dance halls like the Rainbow Garden, later to be known as Harmony Garden. Today it’s the Kern County Basque Club.”
“One thing that keeps me coming back to this franchise is the way is juggles so many genres and storylines. Do you want a storyline where humans are the bad guys, using everything else an excuse? You’ve got it. Want a tight-knit town fighting together to save a friend? It’s there. Want excessive gore and disturbing twists? They’re ready. Want demons, curses, and betrayal? Yup! All taking their turns and ready to flip in a moment’s notice, this media will make you feel a lot of things at different times. There’s even the mystery solving aspect to trying to figure out how each arc will play out before you get to the answer arcs.”
“The mystery continued when three more farmers tragically lost their cows under the same circumstances. A few days later, a number of well known distinguished men had a meeting at the local tavern to discuss the strange occurrence. They concluded that the culprit behind the cattle killings must be one of the new Europeans that arrived to work at the coal mine. One particular suspect that was under suspicion was a very strange man who lived on the other side of the ridge in a remote cabin. Mr. Rupp had moved to the area recently and it was only after he arrived in the area that the strange cattle killings began.”
“Reverse-engineered knitwear goes well beyond Bernie Sanders and Knives Out; the possibilities are limitless. Reverse-engineered patterns could be everything from a popular beanie and a resurgence of one of Princess Diana’s most famous sweaters from the ’80s after it was featured on The Crown’s latest season to yes, even a cable-knit sweater worn by a random alien in a galaxy far, far away. It can (depending on the type of yarn) be more affordable than buying the item yourself and often far more rewarding. And while those mittens and the Knives Out sweater are only recent examples of the phenomenon, it’s a long and storied fandom tradition dating back decades that, for many, can easily double as a gateway to crafting or picking up a new skill. In some cases, knitting is even a gateway to fandom. And it’s also only a matter of time before the next big piece of knitwear kicks things off again.”