The dark web was her safe space.
Meghan Daum, a long-time L.A. Times columnist, faced two endings: Obama’s government and her marriage. What resulted was a distancing from her gentrified bubble and a new love affair with the shadowy corners of free-speech internet. In “Nuance: A Love Story,” Meghan charts her growing infatuation with the public intellectuals touting controversial political ideas. They’re the folks arguing against identity politics, for example, and in favor of fundamental biological differences between men and women that shape their roles in society.
But to Daum, these issues are all more complicated than what you can put in a sound bite or summarize in 280 characters. They require nuance. “I didn’t agree with my Free Speech YouTube friends on every point; far from it,” she explains. “Still, I was invigorated, even electrified, by their willingness to ask (if not ever totally answer) questions that had lately been deemed too messy somehow to deal with in mainstream public discourse.” Suddenly, the intractable problems of the day — and of Meghan’s life — seemed like they could be dealt with head-on.
Listen to Meghan perform her essay (2:28), along with music and sound design, then hear a conversation between her and host Manoush Zomorodi (47:28) about the fear of honest conversation, loneliness, the role of course correction in political speech, and the limits of social media discourse.
Press play at the top of this page to listen to the episode — or listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, or your podcast app of choice.
Ten Questions with Meghan
At what time of day do you do your best writing?
For some reason, I seem to do my best writing between 4pm and 8pm. Tends to interfere with dinner.
Where do you do your best writing?
At my desk at home. I cannot write in public places. I’m too easily distracted and noise sensitive.
Where do you do your best thinking?
I do my best thinking while in motion, for instance walking down the street in New York City or driving in the car somewhere else. Sadly, neither of these situations lend themselves to taking very effective notes.
Most difficult thing you’ve written?
Most difficult thing I’ve written is the essay “Matricide,” which appears in my book The Unspeakable. I was only able to finish it when I decided I’d never publish it. And then I only published it because I realized it’s probably the best thing I’ve written. It’s also the most unforgivable thing I’ve ever written. This is the definition of a no-win combination.
What are you nostalgic for?
I’m nostalgic for the 1990s when I was in my twenties in New York City. But this is not the same as actually wanting to go back to that period, because the truth is I was broke and miserable a lot of the time and wouldn’t want to do it over again. I think the whole concept of nostalgia might have an element of logical fallacy to it. We’re nostalgic because we’re remembering something in a more positive light than it actually occurred in. It’s not the era itself that matters but our processing of it. I mean, in 20 years, will I feel nostalgic about the way my life is right now? It seems insane, but maybe it’s possible, which doesn’t bode well for the future!
The last TV show you binge watched?
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I love it.
What’s your favorite word in the English language?
What writer would you most like to meet — dead or alive?
Shakespeare — if only to ask if he really wrote the stuff.
Hope for 2019?
I don’t have much at the moment.