by Bruno Diaz

Despite its forward-looking title, The Economist’s 2014 essay “The Future of the Book” begins in retrospective mode, treating the reader to a potted history of the book’s “relentless reincarnation and metamorphosis”[1] before moving on to examine the written word’s recent transformation into digital code. The essay concludes that despite e-readers and storytelling apps the future of the book as a physical object remains bright. But The Economist fails to explore why this is the case. …


Look at me / (don’t look at me) / Look at me / (don’t look at me) / Look at me don’t look at me look at me look at me don’t look at me don’t / look / (Look) / (Don’t look) / I can’t stand it if you don’t look / Look / Look / Please / Stop.

In this passage from Kate Zambreno’s 2011 novel Green Girl, a dynamic usually obscured from the project of female authorship is exposed. Zambreno’s story is of a young American woman who has drifted into thankless work in a London department store as a means of funding larger-scale ambitions to become a writer. Drawing upon lyric poetry, memoir, and internal conflict usually consigned to the ‘minor’ literary enterprises of the notebook or the diary, its prose simultaneously articulates a desire to cast off the burden of ‘being-looked-at-ness,’ and recognises cruder urges to be constituted by its mechanisms. Although these yearnings to be seen and to be implicated as the object of the gaze are not novel, it is rare to find strident textual examples of women who both do and do not want to be scrutinized. …


Once I went to a nightclub with some friends. I bought a ticket in advance because I still carry this vague conviction that when I ‘go out’ I won’t be let in, and that someone, at some point, will try to hit me. Having a ticket makes me feel safer: there can only be so much chaos if you have to print out a sheet of paper with a barcode on it beforehand.

There were lots of ironic things in the club we went to. Some of the guys were wearing vests with American basketball teams on, or those short-sleeved shirts that professional baseball players wear. This was ironic because none of them really played for those teams, or wanted them to win, or even knew how the sports worked (probably). A stick-thin, sweating man was wearing a large T-shirt that said Tony’s Gym 1987. …


The podcast is an audio-essay in three parts: an Editorial, where we’ll give our spin on the episode’s theme, a Feature, an in-depth discussion on the theme, and a Pull Quote, where we’ll draw on texts related to that theme. The episode’s theme will bring together two of our previous essays, which we’ll announce the week before we air.

With Trump and Clinton locking horns on Twitter with the election less than a week away, and Corbyn having recently swept to a second victory on the back of a mass social media movement, we’re talking Instapolitics. How have social media altered the way politicians present themselves and their ideas? …


All art since the Shoah has been ethically contested, and art taking the Holocaust as its object occupies uniquely unstable ground. Films daring to depict it have attracted condemnation at least since Jacques Rivette’s 1961 essay ‘On Abjection’ — a piece with which the filmmaker and sometime Cahiers du Cinéma editor inaugurated a tradition of remarkable tenacity and reach. It was in a sense his mantle Claude Lanzmann took up in 1994 when he denounced Schindler’s List in an open letter to Le Monde. Lanzmann’s Shoah has justly become the measure by which Holocaust films are judged, but the painstaking conscientiousness which governs his film is absent from this critical tradition. His claim that Schindler’s List is “a kitschy melodrama” is unworthy. …


The privileging of ‘hard news’ — national and global politics, business and financial markets — has mired journalism in the language of policy. Take America’s compulsive shooting of its unarmed black citizens, where reportage tends to follow roughly the same format: begin with a heartrending anecdote, move into some broad brushstroke observations, then begin crunching numbers.

But credit where it’s due. Investigative journalism has provided much ammo to black activist resistance. Rarely a day passes when an article like the above isn’t vox-popped by Black Lives Matter. Yet the style of reporting to which we’ve become accustomed presents a paradox: while ostensibly bringing us closer to police brutality, it distances us from its phenomenology, its bodily effects. This is the argument of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (2015). …


At Lunchtime GMT, 15 January this year, I watched Tim Peake’s spacewalk. Like many live transmissions, the first venture into the ‘void profound’ by a British astronaut was a curious mixture of the exciting and the anticlimactic. The hatch opened; I sat up. The endless tests went on; I went back to my sandwich. When Peake finally ventured out he broke off dialogue with Ground Control, liturgical in its stiff formality, to say something simple and moving. ‘Beautiful sunset’, he remarked. ‘I know’, replied his partner, Timothy Kopra, with a chuckle. Peake and Kopra’s spacewalk was far from an aimless evening stroll. They needed to replace a failed electrical box. ‘Beautiful sunset’ was an acknowledgement, however, that to the audience on earth the spacewalk was irresistibly poetic. Peake positioned himself, for a second, in the tradition of the heroic astronaut. This was his ‘one small step’ moment. Yet on arrival at the ISS, Tim Peake was interviewed by the BBC, and did something less weighty. At the interviewer’s request he somersaulted with glee, his bare feet arching into view as his torso disappeared, only to come up grinning as he remarked ‘practice makes perfect’. Peake’s somersault, too, has its precedents. Pete Conrad elaborately planned a somersault across the deck when his Gemini 5 spacecraft touched down in 1965. …


“Real artists rarely wear bags on their heads.”

So wrote Jonathan Jones, the Guardian’s art critic, of Shia LaBeouf’s first performance artwork #IAMSORRY, a collaboration with artists Nastja Rönkkö and Luke Turner. Jones’ remark was relatively typical of commentators, most of whom rushed to characterise the show as incoherent and attention seeking, LaBeouf himself as “erratic”, “bizarre”, even “mentally unstable”. LaBeouf was roundly denied the status of “real artist”; instead, LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner’s project has been framed as the by-product of a mental breakdown.

Jones’ border policing of art, his treatment of LaBeouf as an intruder from the parallel universe of pop culture, is unsurprising. In fact, Jones’ dismissal of LaBeouf says more about the insecurity of the art establishment than the works themselves: both #IAMSORRY and LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner’s subsequent projects constitute a sophisticated response to a question that’s plagued the art world for half a century: how can artists cut through the noise of mass culture and connect meaningfully with their audience? …


Country shade and lemonade
Guess I’m slowing down
It’s a turned back world
With a local girl
In a smaller town.

Oh reality, it’s not for me
And it makes me laugh.
Fantasy world and Disney girls
I’m coming back.

Bruce Johnston’s lyrics to the Beach Boys’ ‘Disney Girls’ fixate on returning — to a slower pace, a smaller town. He imagines a homecoming, a concept the ancient Greeks dubbed nostos. Originally applied to Odysseus’ return home after the Trojan War, the word is the root of ‘nostalgia’, the suffix algia meaning ‘pain’. Nostalgia is a particular kind of algia; an acute longing for home, from a place far from it. In the case of ‘Disney Girls’, this desire is both for a geographical ‘home’ (‘a smaller town’, a ‘local girl’), and for an earlier time. …


For a show that ended 12 years ago people really do talk about Friends constantly, don’t they? At the moment it’s the supposed reunion happening sometime in 2016, even though it’s the actors and not the characters coming back together. Last year, it was the anniversary. The year before, E4’s decision not to endlessly run it. There’s always something. I’m guilty of it, too. It’s my background noise show; my way of not engaging in the world around me, or my own thoughts. Watching it is like wearing that hoodie you got when you left secondary school. It’s familiar, easy. …

The Inkling Magazine

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