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This Week's Reading

Staff Picks: Social Networks, David Foster Wallace

November 5, 2010 | by

Zadie Smith takes aim at The Social Network, writing, “It’s clear that this is a movie about 2.0 people made by 1.0 people.” It’s an assessment that echoes what Lawrence Lessig wrote for The New Republic a few weeks back: “But the most frustrating bit of The Social Network is ... its failure to even mention the real magic behind the Facebook story. In interviews given after making the film, Sorkin boasts about his ignorance of the Internet. That ignorance shows.” Agreed, but the truth is—you still gotta see it. In the same way everyone joins the real Facebook to complain about it, everyone sees the film in order to join the discussion. —Thessaly La Force

The weather’s turned; time to make a cup of tea and settle down with something melancholy. Jonathan Franzen’s elegy for David Foster Wallace, read at the New York memorial following his suicide two years ago, is a good place to start. Franzen’s heartache as he describes his friend’s ultimately doomed efforts to climb out of a hole of “infinite sadness” is palpable. Follow it up with “The Boy,” a previously unpublished DFW short story that recently appeared on the Internet. Sure, it’s depressing to remember that Wallace will never write anything new, but one can’t help but be grateful for the work he did leave us. —Miranda Popkey

Too much of what I read these days is distraction: an irritating flurry of sexist commentary on the DKE “no means yes” incident at Yale, and a dispiriting analysis of Bush’s attempt at image rehabilitation: “He seems to think that baffled surprise, on the part of a President, is somehow exculpatory. (It is not.)” So it was nice to curl up with something timeless and humanizing this week—Howards End, by E. M. Forster. Here are the Schlegel sisters at the end of the book: “The present flowed by them like a stream. The tree rustled. It had made music before they were born, and would continue after their deaths, but its song was of the moment. The moment had passed … Life passed. The tree rustled again.” Thanks, Mr. Forster. —Kate Waldman

For some good eighteenth-century gossip, read Doctor Augustin Cabanes’s Cabinet secret de l’histoire. It's not an easy book to find: You have to look for copies in carts along the Seine or in antiquarian shops, but they are fun to collect. Apparently, some aristocrats tried to pay Marie-Antoinette’s doctor, Seiffert, to start a rumor that the Queen could not conceive because of de Lamballe’s “moral influence.” De Lamballe was Marie-Antoinette’s attending lady and the envy of all the other ladies of the court. Which is probably why de Lamballe was the first woman to be guillotined during the Revolution, her flesh impaled upon a spike and paraded all over Paris. —Alexandra Zukerman

8 COMMENTS

8 Comments

  1. Sadder Things | November 5, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Do you have to remind us that “it” was a suicide? We know, don’t we? Isn’t Franzen’s “elegy” sufficient?

  2. Obvious-er Things | November 6, 2010 at 1:17 am

    I think it’s “less” about “reminding” than it is about simply saying “what” happened. Just because we “know” doesn’t mean the word is disallowed “from” any sentence related to DFW. This isn’t Harry Potter.

  3. AC/DC Foster | November 8, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    There is no apostrophe in Howards End.

  4. Thessaly La Force | November 9, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Thank you!

  5. Facebook | November 9, 2010 at 2:05 pm

  6. Thessaly La Force | November 9, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    I’m not sure I was entirely convinced by Mr. Madrigal’s rebuttal. Were you?

  7. Chad Parmenter | November 10, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    It seems like Madrigal is really agreeing with Smith’s idea that Facebook lessens our expression of humanity by offering examples, like his long distance relationship, that have a Facebook part but really rely on the real world. If his entire relationship happened on Facebook, and it gave him complete fulfillment, he might have an argument. I’m still waiting for an app to help that happen :).

  8. David Rankin | November 22, 2010 at 1:37 am

    I’m not sure I’m ever convinced by Madrigal.

    Did you read his piece in the December issue of The Atlantic? I thought it had great potential and yet, in the end, it said nothing.

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