I particularly hate that phrase about women “wanting to have it all.” Because that’s not about women, it’s about humans. The humans want to have it all! Blame the fucking humans who situated themselves halfway between the beasts and the gods and then discovered it was an uneasy place to be.
He knew the habit wasn’t worth it. The inevitable consequences had long resonated, I’m sure. But the culture that says that such remembering, taken one day at a time, is the key to recovery is the culture that drives so many — even those who have sought help in the past — to die in the shadows. It’s just too embarrassing to admit you did it anyway. Again.
There are limits to empathy. Every addict lives in fear of reaching them.
Through this reliance on Netflix, I’ve seen a new television pantheon begin to take form: there’s what’s streaming on Netflix, and then there’s everything else.
When I ask a student what they’re watching, the answers are varied: Friday Night Lights, Scandal, It’s Always Sunny, The League, Breaking Bad, Luther, Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Arrested Development, The Walking Dead, Pretty Little Liars, Weeds, Freaks & Geeks, The L Word, Twin Peaks, Archer, Louie, Portlandia. What all these shows have in common, however, is that they’re all available, in full, on Netflix.
Things that they haven’t watched? The Wire. Deadwood. Veronica Mars, Rome, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos. Even Sex in the City.
It’s not that they don’t want to watch these shows — it’s that with so much out there, including so much so-called “quality” programs, such as Twin Peaks and Freaks & Geeks, to catch up on, why watch something that’s not on Netflix? Why work that hard when there’s something this easy — and arguably just as good or important — right in front of you?
Markets influence taste.
Changing the canon — or even a proliferation of canons, as literary studies has fractured into a collection of increasingly well-defined subfields — takes us only so far. Readers are finite creatures, capable of making their way through only a tiny fraction of the millions of books published over the centuries. The problem, at this sort of scale, has less to do with canonical selection bias than it does with our inevitable ignorance of nearly everything that has ever been written. It’s one thing to claim that a particular book was influential in its day (though influence is a tricky matter, more sociological and economic than literary) or that a text has been treated as important in subsequent scholarship. It’s something else entirely to argue that the same book is “representative” of a genre’s or an era’s output, especially when even the best-informed critics have read almost none of the material in question.
Whenever we invent something new, our neuroses rush over there and get writ large.
George Saunders. And further in his LARB interview:
A definition of parenting: “That state in which, because of the existence of great love, an individual feels that he or she has failed, or is failing, or will soon fail.”
Perhaps we ought to be a little more understanding of the compromises involved in creating art, and that getting bent out of shape once certain liberties are exposed (when just a minute ago we were so thoroughly enthralled!) seems a reaction based more on our uneasiness with our own vulnerability and credulousness than any serious authorial wrongdoing.
The fact that it’s not simple doesn’t mean it’s a paradox: it means it’s not simple.
Focused, competent evil is a very hard force to legislate against.
Life is interesting all over. Every life, properly understood, is compelling. Anyone aspiring to be an artist knows there’s no such thing as why-bother or nothing-to-see.