One of the rules I set for myself, as I crawl the literary Internet for this column is that I’ll write about the interesting highlights. Some things, I’ve decided, don’t make the cut. They’re not highlights because they’re too frequent and they’re not interesting for that same reason. So I don’t pay attention to literary awards for the most part. I don’t pay attention to anything related to Neil Gaiman or Harry Potter. I don’t mention obituaries. I’m going to break one of those rules now.
Ways of Seeing
The art critic John Berger has died, at age 90. His obituary is an interesting highlight, in part, because of the vast currency it has achieved online, in the days following his death. It’s for good reason, too. John Berger is an extremely important critic. His key critical concepts: ways of seeing and language of images, are profoundly important to the critical conversation about visual art. I like to think of him as the Carl Sagan of art criticism. (Like Sagan, he had a TV show made of his writings and ideas.)
It’s very unusual to see a piece of writing that gets featured in Hacker News and also in the Paris Review’s blog, but that’s what happened this month. Perhaps it’s not so unusual compared to the other oddities associated with its author, John Waters. It’s a short musing about the provocateur’s childhood home, outside of Baltimore, where he first began his penchant for raunchy performance art.
2017 is a new year, with many promising opportunities, right? Yeah, right. Among those are some promising new books, listed by The Millions. This list is also making the rounds in suprising numbers, perhaps because we’re all looking for something good, looking forward, and why not some new books?
The End of a Chapter
If 2017 is a new year, it’s also the end of an era marked by the Obama presidency. There’s an essay, Considering the Novel in the Age of Obama, that asks:
For seven decades, we’ve been studying American novels by talking about “postmodern” and “postwar,” the latter a category that has outlasted its usefulness, at least since the death of Norman Mailer. But in making finer distinctions about books, why wouldn’t presidencies serve as well as decades?
The Opposite of Twitter
Turn on the news, listen to the radio, read a newspaper, and increasingly you’re just getting information regurgitated from Twitter, courtesy of the journalists. Long known for their desire to include the popular voice among their facts, figures, and illustrations, the journalists just can’t help themselves: they quote twitter whenever they can. Why not? It’s easier than an interview, and certainly much easier than the ridiculous charade of standing live at the scene where, hours ago, something happened that is happening no longer.
But what about that other web site, the one that was intended in some ways to be the antithesis of Twitter? Founded by some of the same people that started Twitter, Medium was built to provide long content, as opposed to Twitter’s short content. Like Twitter, Medium is timely and somewhat immediate, but unlike Twitter it is more like a publication in some ways. The content doesn’t feel as disjointed. But does Medium actually work? Is it sustainable? Recent developments suggest that it might not last. Where does that leave us, if we want more substance from the makers of Twitter?