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Posts Tagged ‘Justin Bieber’

All Writers Have a Corpse in Their Closet: An Interview with Andrés Barba

November 3, 2015 | by

Andrés Barba. Photo © Andrés Barba

Andrés Barba’s August, October, now translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman, should bring him the wide Anglophone readership he’s long deserved. The novel follows the fourteen-year-old Tomás as he travels to the coast with his affluent family on their summer vacation. He’s at a point in his life when everything feels distant and strange: friendships, sex, the alluringly lawless behavior of the lower-class kids he meets. Tomás ends up becoming complicit in the sexual assault of a local girl, the central event from which the narrative unspools, and back in Madrid, assailed by guilt, he tries to plot a path toward atonement—one that shines at times with an uneasy air of self-interest. The reader becomes trapped in a story of immaturity and transgression that leaves no room for the usual reassuring tropes of coming-of-age novels. The prose moves on constant commas, swaying between arousal and revulsion, and in its subject matter August, October brings to mind the early work that earned Ian McEwan the nickname “Ian Macabre”: First Love, Last Rites; The Cement Garden.

Barba is the author of twelve books in Spanish. Besides literary fiction he has written essays, poems, books of photography, books for children, and translations of De Quincey and Melville. We discussed his obsession with aloneness, the difficulties of capturing Moby-Dick in Spanish, and why certain “pompous utterances” in literature are “only useful insomuch as Justin Bieber can get them tattooed across his ass.” Barba is fluent in English, but felt more natural discussing his craft in Spanish. Cecilia Ross kindly translated his answers. Read More »

You’re at a Justin Bieber Concert

June 19, 2012 | by

Photograph by Peggy Sirota.

About a year and a half ago—when we were all still riding high on the platinum-certified Justin Bieber of My World 2.0; we didn’t even have the very spirited Christmas album, Under the Mistletoe, yet—I spent a day as a guest educator at an elementary school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In my role as underqualified outsider, I oversaw a battery of improv activities I had made up the night before (taught being too strong a word, for I taught those wee lads and lasses nothing, save that pretending to be in a school-bus accident is more fun than learning how to write in cursive). At my command, the Midwestern moppets acted out one fantastical situation after another: they walked through imaginary mansions in a game called “Real Estate Agent,” took turns delivering absurd one-word-at-a-time answers as a guest on my daytime talk show, “Three-Headed Expert.” When the time came for a relatively simple activity that required them to act out situations as I named them (“You’re at the grocery store!” “You’re coming home from school!”), I provided a couple of mundane prompts, and then, unable to control myself any longer, played my ace.

“You’re at a Justin Bieber concert!”

Some of the girls threw themselves on the ground in a shrieking rapture; others ran around the classroom in hysterics, shouting “Justin! I love you, Justin!” One young lady, offended by the suggestion that she ought to join this breathless frenzy, stood unmoving and angry, her arms hanging at her sides. “I hate Justin Bieber!” she whined. Most of the boys were with her, groaning, pretending to vomit, plugging their ears. Of all the scenarios I guided them through that day, the imaginary Justin Bieber concert was the hardest to break up. It took me several minutes to regain their attention.

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Fever Pitch

February 15, 2012 | by

Morgan and Taylor, a collage.

Have you seen this video of a three-year-old weeping over Justin Bieber? It became an Internet phenomenon, culminating in Jimmy Kimmel flying the toddler to his show so she could sit on Bieber’s lap. A lot of people thought it was pretty cute. Others found it disturbing, lumping it in with the broader societal problem of the sexualization of increasingly young girls.

This particular example may be a little extreme: she’s three. But there’s a general feeling out that girls are crushing way too hard, way too young, on the boys they see in magazines. Look around, and you’ll find no shortage of six-, eight-, ten-year-olds in the grip of a pretty serious Bieber fever.

I’m here to tell you: don’t worry about it.

Remember Hanson? For about five years of my life, they were my life. Them, and another band, The Moffatts. The Moffatts were the Canadian Hanson: an all-brother band that sang and played instruments and had hundreds of thousands of utterly rabid, scarily desperate young girls tearing their hair out over them. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I spent the years between the ages of thirteen and seventeen doing very little aside from obsessing over these two bands. Or that between 1996 and 2000 I went to more than a hundred of their concerts, television spots, autograph sessions, radio interviews, and other public appearances. That I followed them around most of Canada and a good part of the United States. Or that I spent, in total, probably about sixty nights sleeping in parking lots, on sidewalks, in decrepit motels, and in the back of a minivan. My friends and I once spent four nights in a Walmart parking lot, in the rain, just to be first in an autograph line.

Yes, I had friends. I had a posse, and we were famous in the world of band fans. We were interviewed in newspapers and by radio and television stations everywhere we went. The Life Network did a special on us called The Things We Do for Love. When we showed up at the Sally Jesse Raphael show in New York, to see The Moffatts, the fans waiting outside the studio screamed for us, asked us for our autographs. We were famous for loving famous people. Read More »