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Entries in #nonfiction (3)


Rebecca Solnit is at it again

And when writing about her, there is nothing to do but go straight to the source itself. This time, she's in TomDispatch with a piece entitled "The Longest War."

Go read it. If my recommendation isn't enough, here she is on street harassment-turned-violent:

As for that incident in my city, similar things happen all the time.  Many versions of it happened to me when I was younger, sometimes involving death threats and often involving torrents of obscenities: a man approaches a woman with both desire and the furious expectation that the desire will likely be rebuffed.  The fury and desire come in a package, all twisted together into something that always threatens to turn eros into thanatos, love into death, sometimes literally.

Solnit is so very good at stating things so clearly, logically, and precisely that it is nearly impossible to look away. I don't usually try. That's saying something when faced with sentences like this: "Spouses are also the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S."

Go read it.


On my list

I'm very ready to pick up this one by Nick Turse, hopefully in physical form. The process by which we are capable of mentally shifting humans from the "human" category to the "essentially insect" category is both terrifying and fascinating.

I like to think that fiction is an exercise that helps combat that sort of thinking by requiring readers to humanize mere figments of a writer's imagination--training in humanization, 101, strengthening and inclining us towards empathy. However, it would not surprise me at all if the two psychological procedures are related more closely than I'm comfortable thinking about.

And if I'm on to something with that, it means, naturally, that it's critical we investigate further.


This American Life's retraction and the question that actually matters

I’m not a fan of This American Life. This will come as a shock to anyone (or any robot) crawling through this site gathering demographic information, because I fit the listener profile to a T: well-educated in the humanities, a writer, a liberal, a youngish white woman who listens to NPR almost constantly the rest of the time.

But the show just doesn’t do it for me. It’s a combination of things, I think. They tell a very structurally-specific type of story, one which, as they say on their website, centers around characters, conflict, and a universal takeaway. Clearly, I do love stories with characters and conflicts, but I find the ever-present universal takeaway on this show a bit too easy, something that allows listeners to feel as though they’re participating in the world simply by joining in the larger feelings-session. (More on this, specifically, later.) Also, I just don’t like Ira Glass’s delivery.

So when I realized last weekend that I was likely to be driving a uhaul truck over the Sunol grade from noon to one pm, smack in the middle of the This American Life broadcast on KQED, I was all set to bring my ipod and listen to another podcast. That is, I was going to listen to something else until I remembered that this weekend was Retraction Weekend, a one-hour show about a January episode entitled “Mr. Daisy Goes to the Apple Factory.” As I’m sure you’ve heard, Mr. Daisy was less than truthful about what he found in Shenzhen, and This American Life was retracting his piece and spending an hour talking about how and why this had happened. So I tuned in.

This piece encapsulates my impression of the general fact-checking failure; to put it briefly, Daisy told Glass that his translator, Cathy, could no longer be reached. That was that, until holes started showing after the original piece aired back in January. When Glass and his team started looking into things, Daisy said that, actually, her name was Anna, not Cathy, and he didn’t think she’d like to be contacted as she hadn’t known she was in a story at all.

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