July 8th: Laura Jane Grace, Catastrophe, and the Legacy of David Foster Wallace

Welcome to The Sligo Punch. As always, the origin story can be found here.

Curated by Tim Nelson

A while back, I wrote about the confusing nature of time travel and the confounding idea of fate in Terminator Genysis, a subject near and dear to my heart as someone who loved T1 and T2 quite a bit growing up. As I exited the theater last night after finally seeing Genysis on the big screen, I realized that it was perhaps always fated to be a mediocre movie. The one comprehensible theme that came through was the idea that from the age of nine, Sarah Connor had no choice but to accept her predetermined role as the mother of the human resistance against the machines. It’s an outlandish example, but this hits on the idea that who we become is often shaped by forces beyond our control. Whether these forces act upon us from our very first memory, at a distinct moment in our lives, or even after we die, we make like a T-1000 and reshape in order to adapt. It’s something unpredictable. But in the end is it right? I hope you read on and find out for yourself.

Listen to This:

I know I talked about WTF with Marc Maron two weeks ago when he interviewed Barack Obama, but this week’s conversation with Against Me’s Laura Jane Grace is arguably an even better listen, albeit for completely different reasons. While Obama visited WTF to tout his legacy and share his lessons, Laura offers Marc profound insight about what it’s like to live with and transcend an outward identity that betrays your innermost sense of self.

Various facets of Laura’s experience as the most visible trans performer in punk rock have been well-documented in the press, on the phenomenal Transgender Dysphoria Blues and in her regular advice column for Noisey. What makes her conversation with Marc Maron unique is that it acts as a microcosm of our national conversation about the transgender community. Maron means well with his curiosity, even if his desire to understand the exact contours of Jane Grace’s dysphoria occasionally forces her to field the kind of awkward question she’s no doubt had to handle hundreds if not thousands of times since publicly coming out as transgender a few years ago. To her extreme credit, LJG fields each probing question with a caustic wit and manages to keep the mood in Marc’s garage relatively light. Though not without its uncomfortable moments, listeners will come away with a better understanding of many difficult aspects of the transgender experience. More importantly, we’re reminded that Laura Jane Grace is a three dimensional human being and a lifelong punk whose best work is still ahead of her.

Watch this:

As it turns out, my experience with Amazon Prime is a close match for the narrative arc of Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan’s Catastrophe, now available for streaming through Amazon’s Instant Video service. Delaney, of course, is known primarily as the owner of the best account on Twitter, while some of you may know Horgan for starring opposite David Cross in the underrated The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Together, they write and star in a show that critics have already hailed as perhaps the best new comedy of 2015.

After Rob’s week-long fling in London with Sharon leads to an unplanned pregnancy, he moves to London and puts his life on hold in order to help a woman he hardly knows manage her pregnancy. What saves Catastrophe from simplistic comparisons to Knocked Up is the fact that it’s humor comes from the earnest, fumbling efforts of Rob and Sharon to make the best of a bad situation when they’re both in way over their heads. In the pilot’s dinner party scene, this results in Rob helping Sharon out by punctuating tense pauses with comments about the quality of the food (the only conversation topic she’ll allow him to speak on), before eventually reaching his boiling point and calling bullshit on homeopathic cures in dialogue that could have been lifted straight from @robdelaney’s favstar page. Catastrophe occasionally veers into dark territory, but it never loses its sense of optimism that things can work out if Rob and Sharon are able to adapt to their new reality.

All in all, the show is in the capable hands of two comic talents who are already hard at work writing season two. Rumor has it, Amazon Prime is planning some kind of crazy mystery sale on July 15th, so you might as well get a great deal on that book about how to avoid huge ships you’ve had your eye on and enjoy the six episodes that make up season one of Catastrophe in the meantime as an added bonus.

Read This —

During his lifetime, David Foster Wallace defied easy categorization. At his best, Wallace’s writing was sharply comedic, deeply observant and hypersensitive to the way that we used language. He understood how irony afflicted us and struggled mightily in search of a way to transcend it.

The upcoming release of The End of the Tour gives us a natural opportunity to examine What We Talk About When We Talk About David Foster Wallace, and what we uncover isn’t all that promising. Though Wallace famously grappled with his own post-Infinite Jest identity as an author, in death his legacy rests in the hands of three groups: aspiring writers who feel his depression somehow made his vision more authentic, journalists who have taken his first-person nonfiction as an open invitation to replace real coverage with their subjective experience, and recent college graduates who claim that “This Is Water” changed their lives.

Lorentzen doesn’t offer any real answers here, since that would be counterproductive to the entire exercise. Whether you’ve only heard of DFW in passing or you’ve staged a real-life game of Eschaton, this is a must-read for anyone interested in an examination of how the legacies of our cultural heroes begin to crystallize.