Last Book I Loved: Station Eleven

Station-ElevenFor weeks after reading Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, I couldn’t get it out of my head. So, for The Rumpus’s The Last Book I Loved series, I wrote an essay that tries to explain why it has the best portrayal of life-after-the-apocalypse. It showed how delicate and human our technology is, how they are extensions of ourselves, and how much we would miss them when they were gone. It captures so well the element of civilization’s collapse, people longing to have everything they once had, all while moving on to make new lives for themselves.

Station Eleven is a love letter to technology, one I never could have written myself.

Love letters require distance, and when it comes to me and technology, I can’t put any distance between us. I learned to type as I learned how to read and write. I’ve had computers and the Internet almost as long as I can remember, and a cell phone a little less than that. I’ve memorized three phone numbers, some Latin conjugations and declensions, the complete scripts to five or six movies from the late 1990s, and probably nothing else. When almost every fact available in all of human knowledge has been stored somewhere online, why would I bother storing anything but the most important things I’ll need to access over and over again?

Read the rest at The Rumpus.

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desk lunch – 2015-08-27

Brought to you this week by books. James Nestor’s nonfiction book on freediving and the ocean took longer to read than I expected, but then I devoured Nora Ephron’s Heartburn literally Saturday into Sunday. There’s a movie based on Heartburn, but it’s one of those books that is such a book that I can’t bring myself to watch it right now. Also, Meryl Streep as Nora Ephron and Jack Nicholson as Carl Bernstein? Let’s… not. (This has nothing to do with imagining the wrong actor from All the President’s Men as Carl Bernstein throughout the entire novel. Nope. Totally unrelated.)

Now I’m on Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and with that I will have finished all of Jane Austen! Now that I’m reading it, I’m glad I wasn’t in a rush to get through with Northanger Abbey– it’s so much more ironic and absurd than every other Austen, starting with the author’s note and sinking all the way through into every sentence. I don’t want it to end.


One of the more subtle underlying issues with the rise of Uber is the company’s slow siphoning of the political will to fix existing—or build new—public transit infrastructure in major cities…. As the wealthy—and, as the prices of Uber and Lyft fall, the slightly less so—essentially remove themselves from the problems of existing mass transit infrastructure with Uber and other services, the urgency to improve or add to it diminishes. The people left riding public transit become, increasingly, the ones with little or no political weight to demand improvements to the system.

I chose a particularly cynical quote to excerpt from this piece on the future of Uber/the privatization of the public transport infrastructure, and I made that choice because this is where Uber hits me, right now, in 2015. Fortunately, Philadelphia’s cab system has an app that’s just as convenient as Uber, and it’s still providing regular maintenance to its public transit system, but for how long? That’s really what this piece on The Awl gets at: if Uber is the future of public transit in urban areas, what will it look like in the very near future as public transit collapses but Uber still isn’t any more affordable for those who can only afford public transit?


There’s always been a link between privilege and mobility within the arts. If you are an artist, you are lucky if you can afford the time to work on your craft, and even luckier if you can afford the supplies required of your craft, and even luckier still if you are able to afford to respond to calls for conferences, residencies, and colonies.

This excellent essay from The Rumpus on the cost (financially, day-job-professionally, personally) of attending writers’ residencies. It articulates each of the thousand human complications that ensure I’ve never applied for a residency: what would happen to my job in the meantime? My apartment? My friends? Where would I get the money to pay for it? For expenses there? As prestigious as something like Bread Loaf has always sounded, the odds of being in the 5% who qualify for financial aid has never seemed worth the effort of applying.


It’s been a week and 26 million views, but seriously: have you watched One Direction’s video for Drag Me Down? It’s not news that the song itself is a jam and a half, but when the video premiered last Friday, I was shrieking way more intensely about the gratuitous use of NASA all over the place.

Best of all, this wasn’t a one-way arrangement! Official NASA twitter seemed to have tons of fun promoting their toys and the video all morning. I adored our anthropomorphized space program enough to Storify the moment.


Reading 2015 (1)

I’m writing a mid-year reading post (like my end-of-year reading post) because I added it to my calendar back in January and I couldn’t very well tell my past self UGH I’M BUSY LEAVE ME ALONE, even though ugh I’m busy leave me alone.

Actually, I could, and I would have, but the first half of this year has been weirdly amazing for books, so I should mark this brief and shockingly positive outlook with some words.

Continue reading Reading 2015 (1)

Reading 2014

On Reading Promptly

I don’t read in a timely fashion. I have a long commute so I can finish books quickly, but my choices aren’t timely. Every 2014 release on this list I grandfathered in through some prior care: the latest trade of a comic, a friend’s chapbook (Clever Little Gang), the concluding book in a series (Grossman’s Magicians, the third volume of Stephen Fry’s autobiography), or writers I already read daily (Patricia Lockwood, Anne Helen Petersen, Mallory Ortberg). Here’s the full list of books I read in 2014.

It’s funny: when I was a lit student and researching a book or translation’s publication history, I’d want to reach into past centuries and throw book reviewers into a sewer because their first review of a book was like, four years after its publication and I needed your thoughts on this book PROMPTLY, dead person!! As is the way, I’ve become that which I despise. You can expect my thoughts on 2014 releases in three to seven years minimum. Cut me some slack, undergrad Michelle. Life is hard. I want to read about dragons.

Continue reading Reading 2014

GIRL CANON

Girl Canon‘s business: publishing women’s “secret canons”—books that were part of women’s formative reading experiences, especially books outside of the canon as it’s taught. The idea comes from n+1‘s conversation between female writers and academics, published as the pamphlet No Regrets. Below is an excerpt from my secret canon. Ladies: consider submitting your own.


 

1. Harriet the Spy, Louise FitzhughHarriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh

I read Harriet the Spy when I was nine and thought: YES! I want to write! Except I was nine and not so hot on picking up The Message, so I started a burn book about my classmates. It… did not go well. In the novel and its sequel, The Long Secret (an underappreciated beautiful weirdo of a book), Harriet has this tenacity and knowledge-lust that makes a reader dizzy with the possibility of how much you can know about people, about anything, while still knowing nothing at all.

Click through to read the rest at Girl Canon.