Required Reading

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  • This essay by Rob Madole, which focuses on Brandon Taylor’s new book of short stories, Filthy Animals, is a great read overall because of the way Madole discusses the recent wave of novels and realism in general:

For readers of millennial fiction, this might feel like familiar terrain: one of the favored subjects of millennial authors who have obtained a foothold in the literary marketplace has been the feeling of status anxiety and precarity that prevails in a generation raised to conflate work with identity—only to graduate into a job market where satisfying work is nearly impossible to find. A recent essay in TheNation by Maggie Doherty coined the term “adjunct lit” to describe this phenomenon, focusing on works by Christine Smallwood and Lynn Steger Strong that are structured like Bildungsromane—novels of education—except “here education means learning just how precarious your future is.” Considered expansively, the term could also be applied to recent novels by Sarah Gerard, Raven Leilani, and Andrew Martin, which address dynamics of precarity within the gig economy. Meanwhile, Doherty’s piece comes on the heels of other attempts to wrestle millennial fiction into distinct aesthetic categories: the past year alone has witnessed the rise of the “internet novel” (a term applied to works by Lauren Oyler and Patricia Lockwood) as well as heated debate about the emergence of so-called “sanctimony literature” (a coinage by Becca Rothfeld to describe novels intent on demonstrating their “unimpeachably good politics”).

In terms of craft and national identity, the Craft Revival movement, which ran from the mid-1890s through the 1940s, comes to mind. During this period, missionaries and women’s groups connected social uplift with Arts and Crafts movement philosophies, creating markets for handmade objects from Appalachia in particular, such as baskets, coverlets, and carved wood figures depicting rural life. Craft produced by white Appalachians became known as traditional, erasing both Indigenous and African-American contributions in documented regional history.

Impelled by the Industrial Revolution and readily available factory work, tens of millions of European immigrants arrived on U.S. shores during this time. Industrial and vocational schools were established to teach people how to assimilate and homogenize American life and culture. African-American and Indigenous communities, as well as European immigrants, were taught to build the nation through their labor and hands. Schools remained segregated, and not all communities were taught the same curriculum or given the same job opportunities. In this blanched history of craft in the United States, tradition became equated with handiwork, and national craft heritage with Appalachia.

For as long as I can remember, my parents have been defined by the work they did together, and by a working relationship so interwoven with their personal one that the two were actually inseparable. David’s first report of Jane, long before I was born, was that she had rescued his novel A Small Town in Germany when it was literally in pieces on the floor. Some of my earliest memories are of him reading, handwritten pages or typescript with annotations in black pen, sometimes physically cut and pasted in the days before computers, and her listening, absorbing, only occasionally responding, but always with immediate effect.

It was easy to misunderstand her as just a typist – and many did – not only because she also typed everything, as he never learned how, but also because her interventions were made in private, before the text was ever seen by anyone else. I was witness to it as a child and then as a teenager, but by and large only they knew what passed between them and how much she reframed, adjusted, trained the novels as they grew. She was adamant that her contribution was not writing, that the creative partnership they had was uneven. She declined interviews and stepped out of photographs – even family ones, so that as we were looking this week for images for the order of service at her cremation, we had very few, and those were stolen moments gleaned before she could practise her invisibility trick. It was part of how it worked: he produced, they edited; he burned, she fanned. It was their conspiracy, the thing that no one else could ever offer him, in which they both connived.

But LGBTQ-owned bookstores have been around for decades. Founded in 1973 in the City of Brotherly Love, Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room—honoring James Baldwin’s queer classic—is perhaps the oldest surviving LGBTQ and feminist bookstore in America. Charis Books and More, in Decatur, Georgia, was launched a year later. A Room of One’s Own has been a fixture in downtown Madison, Wisconsin since 1975, and Chicago’s Women and Children First was started in 1979 by two women who fell in love as students at the University of Illinois.

These stores are more than shops to browse for books; they are hubs for both entertainment and enlightenment, meeting grounds for hearts and minds. They are, above all, vital community spaces.

Naturally, residents living in single-family homes don’t want to give up their backyards and picket fences. And many harbor vestigial, often groundless fears about jeopardizing the value of their properties. At the same time, the killings of African Americans by police and the nationwide protests that followed have highlighted a history of racism and real estate.

And with the pandemic, many single-family-home owners suddenly grasped the realities of housing insecurity and the limitations of zoning rules that foreclose walking to a neighborhood pharmacy or inhabiting the sort of flexible, multiuse, multifamily developments that facilitate live-work lifestyles and an alternative to commuting.

So where’s the middle ground?

  • Republican perceptions of the election are terrifying. Voter Study Group, which is a part of the Democracy Fund charitable foundation created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, revealed the following:

As Rufo eventually came to see it, conservatives engaged in the culture war had been fighting against the same progressive racial ideology since late in the Obama years, without ever being able to describe it effectively. “We’ve needed new language for these issues,” Rufo told me, when I first wrote to him, late in May. “ ‘Political correctness’ is a dated term and, more importantly, doesn’t apply anymore. It’s not that elites are enforcing a set of manners and cultural limits, they’re seeking to reengineer the foundation of human psychology and social institutions through the new politics of race, It’s much more invasive than mere ‘correctness,’ which is a mechanism of social control, but not the heart of what’s happening. The other frames are wrong, too: ‘cancel culture’ is a vacuous term and doesn’t translate into a political program; ‘woke’ is a good epithet, but it’s too broad, too terminal, too easily brushed aside. ‘Critical race theory’ is the perfect villain,” Rufo wrote.

The parents of a student killed in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School duped a former president of the National Rifle Association into giving a high school graduation speech defending gun rights in front of 3,044 empty white chairs — one chair for each student who could not graduate this year because they were killed by gun violence.

  • Today in strange stories, 60 Minutes Australia reports on people in that country waking up with Irish and other accents:

Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.





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