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Valentine’s Day Help Desk with Kristin Dombek

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, the n+1 podcast presents a special live session of The Help Desk with n+1 advice columnist Kristin Dombek. Listen as Kristin answers real submitted questions from readers about love, communication, and relationships. Read her previous columns for The Help Desk here and submit questions for future columns at askkristin@nplusonemag.com.

Announcing Issue 27

Deep End arrives next week! Read the annotated table of contents and subscribe. Get 20% off with discount code DEEPEND.

Writing by George Blaustein, Aziz Rana, Thomas Bolt, Beatriz Bracher, Caleb Crain, Joshua Cohen, Kristin Dombek, Sam Frank, Victoria Lomasko, A. S. Hamrah, and Naomi Fry.

Episode 28: The Selfishness of Others

Does your brother entertain you with witty anecdotes? Does he tell you stories about his day? Does he ask you questions about your own life? Is he contributing anything to this ride situation at all? Or is he sort of sitting there, like some kind of prince who expects to be driven around?

Letters

Watching the courageous and inexhaustible crowds in Tahrir Square, Malcolm Harris must have felt the thrill of divine revelation. This had to be the long-awaited sign. Surely here at last was the messianic “multitude” for which so many readers of Hardt and Negri have searched in vain on all terrestrial maps.

Issue 10 Sold Out

For the first time, we’ve sold out of our current issue, Issue 10. All subscriptions will now start with Issue 11, coming out in March, and the few copies of Issue 10 that we have are now only available at the cost of a rare back issue. We think it’s worth it. But you may still be able to find the issue on sale for the ordinary price at a local bookstore.

The Age of Insolvency

On Tama Janowitz

Janowitz’s preoccupation is with portraying the encounter between an uncertain, struggling protagonist and the chaotic, hostile world around her, which can only result in a downward spiral. As she writes early on in Scream, “Try as I might, for me, other human beings are a blend of pit vipers, chimpanzees, and ants, a virtually indistinguishable mass of killer shit-pickers, sniffing their fingers and raping.” In Janowitz’s memoir and in her fiction, the suffering modern subject who must persist in such an apocalypto-Darwinian landscape is almost always a woman. This is not a coincidence.

Rhode Warriors, Care Crises

Letters from Issue 27

Namara Smith’s “The Women’s Party” argues that Bernie Sanders “sometimes seemed to speak to a phantom of the old white male industrial working class rather than to the black, brown, and female service workers who make up the majority of the working class today.” But his extraordinary success with women under 35 and his staunch, even militant support from the National Nurses United — a majority black and brown union of mostly women — speaks to just how much he did reach the modern working class.

All That Counts Is Getting to a Normal World

The New York Film Festival, 2016

Jackie was not on the festival press-screening schedule, but I managed to see it one night at the Fox building on Sixth Avenue. As I left, passing giant posters of Bill O’Reilly and Brit Hume in the halls, the last presidential debate was about to start, the one in which Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton, a former first lady like Jackie, a “nasty woman.” No doubt he will see that moment re-created in a film someday. Midtown was quiet as the screens in the Fox windows and the ticker on the building showed pre-debate Trump news, delivering his crude messages onto empty sidewalks. Larraín’s film wants us to believe that maybe there really was an American Camelot once upon a time. The blue and red glow from the Fox News building made Jackie’s conclusion mournful, and in comparison not tacky at all.

Ward’s Fool

A memo on the ruins

By the time the twentieth century was yielding to the twenty-first, the worry had been replaced by one strangely analogous: Was a rational agent ever really free to choose a course of action that failed to maximize his economic self-interest? It was to politics that people generally went for an answer, in those years. The philosophers were, as I say, then preoccupied by the problem of the hypothetically powerful computer.

I Didn’t Talk

The calm and muddy river of the satisfied

She needed information about the period, about the education system, the details of daily life in public schools and prison. She said she’d already read my books. I think she was studying pedagogy or anthropology, I didn’t quite catch it. She didn’t know that I’d been a prisoner, had participated in the movement. I didn’t participate, I said. But Teresa made a pouty face, like I was being difficult or modest.

The Last Last Summer

Donald Trump and the fall of Atlantic City

All along the Boardwalk, the sun-bleached, tattered banners read do ac — the city’s latest marketing catchphrase. The Boardwalk was a scrum of such imperatives, with Trumps on every side issuing edicts and diktats, offering bargains. Trumps in toupees and with their guts hanging over their change belts, out on Steel Pier, out on Central Pier, trying to get me to try the ring toss, though the rubber rings always bounce off the rubber bottles, or to try the beanbag pitch, though the lily pads they’re supposed to land on are kept wet and slippery with a shammy. Try Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy, which contains no saltwater. Step right up and I’ll guess your weight, or at least I’ll make your wallet lighter. What American literature taught me — what Melville taught me in The Confidence-Man, what Poe taught me in “Diddling,” that imagination or fantasy can be a form a greed, even a uniquely American form — the shills and carny barkers taught me first, at $2 a lesson: I would never win that stuffed elephant.

Don't Be Scared, Homie

“My sternum hurt for, like, almost two years“

There are of course many dedicated MMA news sites, and ESPN has ramped up coverage, but the best discourse takes place elsewhere. Half of what I’ve learned has been from podcasts like Heavy Hands and Fights Gone By and pseudonymous YouTube analysts and a Twitter user handled @GrabakaHitman, who’s devoted his life to GIFing every last fight anywhere anytime. Exemplary tweet: “Can someone find a Fuji TV One stream so I can watch a Russian hand-2-hand combat expert fight a Mongolian wrestler on a moat at 4am? Thanks.”

Old Ship

What did you think, that joy was some slight thing?

You asked for philosophy and I am bringing it, late-night dorm-basement style. But I’m not just splitting hairs. This variety in our actual experience suggests — I think — that Camus got the question wrong, or that the question itself is the problem. The only important philosophical question isn’t why we each, individually, might choose to live. It’s how to live with each other, given that the facts of our lives are contingent on the facts of others’.

Inversion of Marcia

People keep offering me tongues

My sister grabbed a sheet, tripped on it, ran out of the room naked. I stepped back, mouth open. Marcia’s bare feet pounded down the hall. A door slammed.

Alicia was naked, too, but she didn’t move. “It’s OK,” she said slowly. “It’s all right.”

I closed my mouth. (Why was I the one blushing?)

Alicia kept giving me the same steady look, but I could hear her breathe. “OK? It’s no big deal. We were playing around.”

Decolonizing Obama

What happened to the third-world left?

We may be witnessing the completion of a political cycle, one that brings us back to the left dilemma of forty years ago: how to create a truly transformative majority, at once cross-racial and class conscious? This majority will need to be built at a moment when the right is as ideologically and institutionally unconstrained as at any point in the postwar era. How we answer will speak to the legacy not of Obama, but of the freedom movements that emerged in his wake.

The Obama Speeches

Drones need no Churchills and deserve no Lincolns.

In the narrative world of an Obama speech, the protagonist of every story is in some sense a generation, and the climax of every story is a moment. For Bush, time was always running out, like Jack Bauer’s clock in 24. The decision point was that instant when one billiard ball hits the next, and God willing, your aim was true. But in the greatest Obama speeches, because of their eloquence and ceremonial grandeur, time itself slows.

No President

There is every reason to expect the worst

On Tuesday night, some of us are in the living room, watching the returns, rapt, as we would be anyway. A few more are in the kitchen, cutting the flag cake into smaller pieces, making bad electoral-college jokes, or wondering whether flag eating will also be banned under Trump alongside flag burning and national-anthem protests. The friend who baked the cake nearly severed a finger in the process and wound up in the hospital. What’s an American flag without a little blood baked in?

In Tbilisi

”It’s forbidden to be sad in Georgia.”

Most of Günel’s reports deal with women’s rights in the South Caucasus.

“The lives of Azerbaijani women living in Tbilisi are different from those of Georgian women,” she said. “Azerbaijani girls are taken out of school by their families in the ninth grade and married off at the age of 14. If Azerbaijani girls resist, it’s suicide. Our child’s nanny became a grandmother at 32. Talk to her.”

Their nanny, Renka, agreed to pose for a portrait and talked a little bit about herself.

She was married at 13 and had a daughter when she was 14.

Emptiness

Narcissists are imitators par excellence. And they do not copy the small, boring parts of selves.

The narcissist is, according to the internet, empty. Normal, healthy people are full of self, a kind of substance like a soul or personhood that, if you have it, emanates warmly from inside of you toward the outside of you. No one knows what it is, but everyone agrees that narcissists do not have it. Disturbingly, however, they are often better than anyone else at seeming to have it. Because what they have inside is empty space, they have had to make a study of the selves of others in order to invent something that looks and sounds like one. Narcissists are imitators par excellence. And they do not copy the small, boring parts of selves. They take what they think are the biggest, most impressive parts of other selves, and devise a hologram of self that seems superpowered.