Posts Tagged ‘Internet’
March 29, 2013 | by Jason Novak
October 30, 2012 | by Francesca Mari
I was the 501st person to join Facebook. The inimitable Hatty Hong, number 499, urged me on from her desk across our freshman dorm room. I hardly used it the first few months because so few others were active, and as a senior I logged on to look at dead people’s profiles. Or to click through photographs of myself to remember where my time went. I didn’t think it was appropriate to remain a member after graduation. Facebook was something you were to outgrow, like Tommy Girl perfume or AOL Instant Messenger. Five years since graduation, I use it more now than ever.
As an elder user, I can say one thing with authority: When it comes to disseminating news about Facebook, few media are more effective than Facebook itself. That’s how I came to learn that longtime users like me are more likely to believe others happier than themselves. At least according to a study from Utah Valley University. The longer one has used Facebook, they found, the more likely he or she is to recall other people’s positive posts: the stunning honeymoon in Greece of a girl you never really knew in high school—and whose last name now looks, well, Greek; a list of very impressive graduate school acceptances, the likes of which prompted one Awl writer to dash off a lesson in Facebook manners. Read More »
September 4, 2012 | by Caleb Crain
A non-question has recently preoccupied the literary corners of the Internet: How rude should a book critic be? I call it a non-question because its non-answer is the same as for people in social situations generally: it depends. It’s impossible to find a universal rule that licenses rudeness. There’s always going to be at least one observer who feels that a conflict could and should be handled politely. (And who knows? Insofar as politeness is a skill, maybe there's always room for improvement.) Also, there’s always going to be at least one observer who describes as honest what others call rude. But even if you give up on unanimity and settle for a majority opinion, you still can’t formulate a general decision. Try it and see. Was William Giraldi justified in adopting a rude tone about Alix Ohlin’s novel? Was Ron Powers, about Dale Peck’s? Only the particular questions are worth debating, and no matter how many questions like them you answer, you never reach a rule that has the purity of math. The most you can hope for is etiquette.
August 9, 2011 | by Brian Gresko
Novelist Helen Schulman doesn’t shy away from controversial subjects. Her last novel, A Day at the Beach, examined a marriage that falls apart hour by agonizing hour over the course of September 11. Her latest, This Beautiful Life, follows the Bergamot family. They seem a picture of success: Richard a high-powered if overly-committed university man, Liz the stay-at-home mom, Jake a high school student on the road to college, and Coco, their adopted daughter of seven. When Jake finds himself the recipient of an erotic video made by a thirteen-year-old with a crush, Daisy, he forwards it to his friends. The video goes viral, the story becomes tabloid fodder, and the repercussions undo his life and bring the fissures in Richard and Liz’s relationship to light. In Spring 1995, The Paris Review published the story that grew into her novel The Revisionist. Schulman, now the Fiction Coordinator of The New School’s Writing Program, chatted with me about the book over a campari and soda and homemade potato chips.
What led you to write This Beautiful Life?
It started with what was happening in the news—the beginning of “sexting.” One incident in particular, at Horace Mann, had been written up in The New York Times and caused a scuttlebutt among the mothers. I thought I would write a nonfiction book about it, so I wrote Horace Mann, but I was totally stonewalled. Nobody wanted to talk to me. And so I thought, Well then, I’ll make it up.
Do you feel novelists have a responsibility to make social commentary in their work?
If you tell the truth about the world, you’re always being political, because the world is so highly charged. In these last two books I looked at the times we were living in very closely, almost as if I were a photographer or a social historian. In A Day at the Beach, I was really interested in the culture at the moment of a big event. I wanted to write about the nineties, but I didn’t know how until 9/11 crystallized it. For This Beautiful Life, there were several events in the decade post-9/11 that interested me. One was the incredible, unparalleled greed and rush for money. Another was the Internet infiltrating our lives in a new way. The Internet created a divide between parents and kids even larger than sex, drugs, and rock had in the sixties. Read More »
February 1, 2011 | by James Atlas
Douglas Coupland is the author of Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!, a pithy biography of the Canadian professor and communication theorist. McLuhan, who was born in 1911, is perhaps best known for coining the phrase “the medium is the message” and for anticipating the Internet decades before its arrival. Earlier this month, Coupland answered a few questions about his work as a biographer and what drew him to McLuhan.
You used an unconventional form for your biography of Marshall McLuhan such as MapQuest, an autism assessment test, use of Wikipedia as a source.
Was this innovative method a deliberate reference to McLuhan’s own idiosyncrasies? Or is it the reflection of a personal quirk?
Since starting the project I’ve felt like an unwitting manifestation of McLuhan’s beliefs about the effects of media: born 1961, TV child, Photoshop user, and so on. Having said that, I think I started the book at the crisis point in the history of biographies, and it’s a happy coincidence it happened to be Marshall.
Twofold. First, if I want to know about Marshall or anyone, I can YouTube them, hear their voice, see them in action, read capsule biographies and dissertations on them—you name it. You can get a subjective and highly factual dossier on most anyone in the public realm almost instantly. It’s why publishers don’t worry about author photos any more; people just google a person and get on with things. Second, we’ve obviously entered the age of near total medicalization of personality. To write a biography of anyone, let alone someone so neuroconnectively fascinating as Marshall, seems like a gross abnegation of duty to truth. The biography has begun to morph into the pathography. Note: Marshall McLuhan’s left cerebral cortex was vascularized in a way only ever before seen in mammals in cats. He wasn’t just different; he was very different.
January 18, 2011 | by Miranda Popkey
Heather Havrilesky’s uniquely endearing voice—always witty, often self-deprecating—has been delighting and enlightening online readers since 1995, when she cocreated the weekly Filler column for Suck.com. At Salon, where she was a television critic for seven years before recently making the jump to new iPad newspaper The Daily, her incisive columns reflected on the ways in which television mirrors its audience—and she managed to be funny. In the recently published essay collection, Disaster Preparedness, Havrilesky takes her own life as the subject, examining scenes of trauma—losing her virginity, her parents' divorce, her father's death—with brutal honesty, a sense of humor, and a willingness to forgive. She spoke to me recently from her home in Los Angeles.
The book is called Disaster Preparedness, and each of the chapters deals with some kind of problem or disaster. How did you decide to organize the book around this particular theme?
I had written an essay for All Things Considered about planning with my sister some way of dealing with catastrophes, probably as a result of seeing too many disaster movies. And I started looking at that essay (which is now my introduction) and saying, What does it mean that we had all this preemptive defensive stance toward the unknown?
I also have an appetite for the most humiliating, sad—to some people depressing—dark stories from my own childhood. Maybe it’s because I’m screwed up, but those are the stories that I love the most, that I think are the most sort of delightful to read in anyone else’s memoir or book of essays. Those were the stories I remembered the best, too. And I had a lot of fun with that kind of dark stuff. Certainly there were times when I leaned into the emotional core of it. I mean, I didn’t want it to be a cavalier take on the past. I really wanted it to be an honest attempt to look at the things that happened to me and how they affected me and how my perspective now is different from what it was when these things happened. I learned a lot through that process.