Toni Morrison on Embracing Failure as Information

It’s as though you’re in a laboratory and you’re working on an experiment with chemicals or with rats, and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t mix. You don’t throw up your hands and run out of the lab. What you do is you identify the procedure and what went wrong and then correct it. If you think of [writing] simply as information, you can get closer to success.

Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison turns 88 on Monday.

Her new essay collection, The Source of Self-Regard, was released last week in Germany and I can’t wait to delve in.

Image: Angela Radulescu, cc-by-sa 2.0

Kaveh Akbar on Poetry

We have to say it in a way that will delight the ear or the tongue or the mind of a reader who will never know us. It’s the only way in. And to do that, we have to be capable of imagining that reader, imagining them wholly, gassy and distracted by their phone and worried about the news and late to pick up their son from ballet.

Kaveh Akbar in conversation with Danez Smith for Granta. Both poets are shortlisted for the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2018.

Photo: Birbiglebug/CC BY-SA 4.0

“Was Holly Golightly Bisexual?”

For the Paris Review, Rebecca Renner compares Truman Capote’s novella and the Breakfast at Tiffany’s movie script, particularly concerning Holly Golightly’s sexuality:

“In other words, Holly’s sexuality doesn’t matter quite as much as how the world perceives and polices it. For Holly, sexuality is part of the persona she has woven around herself. She is a Gatsby for a new era, one where women can only be themselves when they run away from men and society’s expectations.”

Post-Everything: My Favorite Songs of 2018

I’ve stopped attempting to make a top 5 list of my favorite songs of the year quite some time ago. Instead, I have a running list of songs I’ve loved every year on Spotify. Here is the 2018 list.

I don’t think I’ve listened to this much punk and angry pop music in years. Must be the enraging times we’re living in.

(Featured image: Naked Lunch at Obstwiesenfestival 2018. My favorite show of the year.)

“Do You Favor the Country Becoming More Politically Correct?” Is Not a Neutral Question

A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll and the connected article results in what they call a “warning for Democrats: Americans are largely against the country becoming more politically correct.” The question in the poll, like the framing of the article, is.. odd.The full question is:

“In general, are you in favor of the United States becoming more politically correct and like when people are being more sensitive in their comments about others, or are you against the country becoming more politically correct and upset that there are too many things people can’t say anymore?”

Asma Khalid called this a good definition of politcal correctness in the most recent episode of the NPR Politics podcast. I don’t think so. The question is neitehr a fitting definition of politcal correctness nor a neutral one, but rather a definition that at the very least leans towards the use of the term “political correctness” as a right-wing fighting word. It connects “politcal correctness” to censorship.

Not using certain words and supporting certain concepts isn’t about censorship, it’s about not continuing to hurt people.

“In trying to see and hear what professional critics never see and hear, I felt as though I was attending one endless block party. In New York City, Benjamin’s mechanical reproduction has clearly become Baudrillard’s cybernetic apocalyptic ecstasy of communication, in which everything is repeated to the point of meaninglessness. Or is it rather that the massive proliferation of entertainment as compensation, as escape, as the conspicuous consumption of the flattening of history and political consequence, is what urban existence is all about?”

Michelle Wallace “Entertainment Today” (1988)

John Kelly and Convenient Cultural Amnesia

Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Sympathizer,  comments about John Kelley’s remarks on immigrants:

Convenient amnesia about one’s origins is an all-American trait, since we believe ourselves to be the country in which everyone gets a new beginning.
What some of us also forget is that at nearly every stage of our country’s history, the people who were already established as American citizens found convenient targets to designate as unable to assimilate: the indigenous peoples; conquered Mexicans; slaves; or the newest immigrants, who were usually classified as nonwhite.

“I had not been prepared for the simple charm of watching someone you love grow. “

So far the most surprising, beautiful sentence in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power. It’s about his wife and part of one of the meta-essays that introduce his previously published essays in this collection. Some have aged better than others, but the meta-essays alone are worth the read alone. Man, that guy can write.