For a young writer who hopes to produce literature, the greatest difference between now and twenty years ago may be that now she expects to get paid. Twenty years ago, art and commerce appeared to be opposing forces. The more you were paid for your work, the more likely you were to be a hack.
The Intellectual Situation
It was inevitable that social class would re-emerge as a topic of concern. But class could not come back fresh as a newborn, trailing clouds of glory; nor could the movements that rose up in the interim be brushed aside. What has emerged, as a sort of compromise-formation, is the concept of privilege.
My mother has health insurance and her husband doesn’t. The cost of putting him on her plan is too much, but he was turned away from their local free clinic because my mother’s income is too high. I don’t ask my mother how much money she makes; it seems rude.
Fiction and Drama
Now, all my life I had fantasized about being used sexually in every way. How naive I was, I said to myself. In actuality this was like using a bedpan on the kitchen counter. I knew with certainty that “pain” is a euphemism even more namby-pamby than “defilement.” Look at Stephen! He thinks he’s having sex! Smell his hand! It’s touching my hair! I thought, Tiff my friend, we shall modify a curling iron and burn this out of your brain.
As long as the Verrazano remained in sight, Darya was forthcoming, telling her dad all about the ID-card policy announced at school and the air-monitor men walking the halls in hazmat suits, but once their Mitsubishi Diamante veered off the highway, an exit short of a bridge that symbolized freedom yet led to Staten Island, she cut off abruptly. What did she expect?
A male chorus is howling around them. Teammates, coaches, fans, fathers, and sons—each of us is singing his release. We’re urging or critiquing a fighter, cheering or hissing, pushing him to give more of himself or ridiculing him if we think he’s holding back. We’re a bizarro panopticon, thousands of guards overlooking our captive.
The ninth rule of hit songwriting is silence. Why? Because most people who are listening to music are actually doing something else, he explains. They are driving a car, or working out, or dancing, or flirting. Silence gives you time to catch up with the lyrics if you are drunk or stoned. If you are singing along, silence gives you time to breathe.
Perhaps an artist’s greatest fear is to have his work go ignored. And perhaps, in the era of punk upheaval, the act of simply hanging these works in a downtown gallery and inviting visitors to contemplate their useless beauty seemed too easy. So Donald—a handsome young white man with a bright future—chose to call the seven pieces in his first exhibition The Nigger Drawings.
I thought that life was giving me a second chance, and I told him OK. I ditched my products on the side of the highway and got in his car. On the road he got into details, and I couldn’t believe it: what he really wanted me to do was to be his tough guy, to mess up the drug pushers and then he would pay me with stolen cars. You’re going to think I’m an idiot, but I never liked to steal. You can accuse me of pretty much anything, but I’m not a petty thief. And so I go back to Culiacán without a fucking cent.
Poetry like this isn’t for everyone—no poetry is—and the lowercase typography and bare emotional content are likely to remind many readers of high-school poetry (their own, perhaps), triggering a squeamish antagonism that distracts from how, tonally, taken as a whole, these poems manage to be assertive without being overbearing and pitiful without lapsing into vanity, neither of which seems especially high school—or even college, really—to my mind.
Telling the story of our current crisis as primarily one of inequality and oligarchy misses how quieter and more gradual economic changes have transformed how politics is conducted today and set new limits on what it can accomplish. The “depoliticization” of economic policy-making has made possible the proliferation of markets. But it has hamstrung democracies, preventing them from making their own decisions about how deep and wide the market’s hand should reach, and making it ever more difficult to respond to the social dislocations that have resulted.
Your article on standing desks convinced me to buy one, since my “jelly-like” legs aren’t getting any younger. I’ve been using it for about a month, but to quote Tai from Clueless: “My buns? they don’t feel nothin’ like steel.” I’ve stacked my chair on top of three dictionaries and gone back to sitting. I’m sorry. I hope you’ll come to my funeral.