Posts Tagged ‘self-help’
June 29, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- D. W. Griffith’s film Intolerance is a hundred years old. Its lavish sets—replete with plaster elephants, ornate ten-story walls, and all manner of Babylonian spectacle—testify to a creepy brand of movie magic that has long since leaped from the screen: “Intolerance is where fake movie architecture began its complicated dance with the real thing, affecting how audiences perceive the past, reconfigure their present, and anticipate the future … Even though it’s largely vanished from movies, the attraction of a reality that is recognizably phony and yet honest-to-gosh exists has hardly vanished from our culture … Increasingly, shopping malls, hotels, and the like do their best to emulate the same effect. We’re all on location, baby, even when we’re just shopping or hunting for a bite to eat. Intolerance anticipated many things, and one of them was Disneyland. In turn, Disneyland anticipated a lot of the modern environment we live in—not just at the multiplex or while on vacation, but full time.”
- The journalist Suki Kim went undercover as a teacher in North Korea and wrote a book about what she witnessed there—but her publishers decided to call it a memoir, thus exposing one of the industry’s many fault lines. She writes, “As the only journalist to live undercover in North Korea, I had risked imprisonment to tell a story of international importance by the only means possible. By casting my book as personal rather than professional—by marketing me as a woman on a journey of self-discovery, rather than a reporter on a groundbreaking assignment—I was effectively being stripped of my expertise on the subject I knew best. It was a subtle shift, but one familiar to professional women from all walks of life. I was being moved from a position of authority—What do you know?—to the realm of emotion: How did you feel?”
- In which Geoff Dyer reflects on the condition of the secular pilgrim: “I’m always up for a bit of pilgrimage, really. But I’m so aware of the capacity of the secular pilgrimage to disappoint, whereby you go to the place the great writer lived, and it doesn’t work for you. That’s something I talk about in the Lawrence book [Out of Sheer Rage]. You can’t fake it. You might try to summon up the feeling, but quite often you can’t. So although the pilgrimage itself might be disappointing, quite often there’ll be all sorts of incidentals that render the pilgrimage worthwhile. So in the case of that chapter on Gauguin, you know, it pretty well all sucked, all the Gauguin stuff in Tahiti that I encountered, but there were other incidental things that made it very worthwhile.”
- Stephen Orgel’s The Reader in the Book: A Study of Spaces and Traces reminds us that “the history of any particular book does not conclude with its publication.” As Dustin Illingworth writes: “Over five in-depth studies, including an investigation of a school boy’s 500-year-old Latin grammar book and a deep dive into a bold countess’s library and letters, [Orgel] conducts a kind of archaeology of margins, gleaning sociological insight and human depth from the calcified life at the edge of the text … This historical understanding of books as locations, as readerly edifices within which one might store practical information, binding legal documentation, jokes, and ownership lists, alongside more traditional textual engagement, challenges our contemporary perception of a book’s materiality, one which often equates pristine margins with the value of the new.”
- Let’s check in on the ever-widening field of self-help, shall we? Treatments today—especially, one imagines, in the Greater Los Angeles area—increasingly resemble a kind of conceptual-art experience: “Dream Reality Cinema (DRC) comes from Budapest … According to the company’s upbeat, Kickstarter-ish video, the practice gives you the ability to ‘hack the firewall between the subconscious and conscious minds’ using lucid dreaming … The first half-hour was gentle, screen-saver-y, repetitive — in two distinct sections (with a hypnotic interlude in between), a pulsing orb moved around the screen against changing backgrounds. My soothing female voice instructed me in the ways of the life force, the ways in which knowledge is connected, whole systems can be comprehended, all awareness is attainable. At one point, I saw faces in the background grid.”
March 19, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Melville’s first book, Typee, is, like most literary memoirs, a fraud: though he certainly ventured to Polynesia, many of the events in the book are clearly created out of whole cloth—and they suggest how little we really know about the events of Melville’s life. “There is no reason to believe that Melville didn’t witness clothmaking and woodcarving. However, the scene in which his friend Kory-Kory rubs a six-foot pole between his hands, as his back arches and muscles tense, until it bursts into flame, is most likely a metaphoric rendering of a different act (no record exists attesting to whether Thoreau tried this method at Walden).”
- While we’re talking fraud, Arthur Conan Doyle was set up—by the Staffordshire fuzz, no less. “Newly discovered documents show that the Staffordshire police fabricated evidence to try to discredit Arthur Conan Doyle’s investigation into the curious case of George Edalji, a Birmingham solicitor accused of maiming horses and sending poison-pen letters at the turn of the twentieth century.”
- Amazon’s Kindle Scout program— a “reader-powered” publishing platform in which authors submit their work and readers vote on it—is perpetrating a kind of fraud, too. It’s become “a murderously deft purveyor of books seemingly designed only to be inhaled like so many bibliographic nachos.” Is it the new center of reading as a camp experience? Or is it just shit? “The bigger problem with so-bad-they’re-good novels is that sometimes they’re just so bad they’re … bad. For every camp triumph on Kindle Scout, every daft splendor of weaponized pit bulls, you’ll find three corresponding duds.”
- Everyone loves a good art heist. The trick isn’t so much stealing a painting, though, as managing to sell it again when it’s known to have been stolen. “The misappropriation of masterpieces continues to have a distinctive hold on the public imagination, even as it becomes a type of criminal activity that’s both misunderstood and increasingly hard to pull off.”
- Among the fake self-help books hidden on shelves in an LA Bookstore: The Beginner’s Guide to Human Sacrifice, Learn to … Dress Yourself!, and So Your Son Is a Centaur: Coping with Your Child’s Confusing Life Choices.
January 7, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
November 16, 2012 | by J. D. Daniels
At last I had begun writing my long-planned book about Captain Ahab’s doomed enterprise in Moby-Dick—about Robur’s doomed enterprise in Verne’s Maître du Monde—about the doomed enterprise of Doctor Hans Reinhardt from the 1979 science-fiction film The Black Hole.
Eleven thousand words in, and may God grant that I learn it sooner next time or else not at all, I understood with blinding clarity that my book itself was another doomed enterprise.
As Don Quixote said: y yo hasta agora no sé lo que conquisto a fuerza de mis trabajos—I do not even know what I am conquering.
“Master of the world”! Robur-le-Conquérant!—what a delusion! what a farce! The quintessence of megalomania: Richard Wagner named his dog Robur.
March 15, 2012 | by Andrew Palmer
I recently turned thirty, the age by which, according to William James, “the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again.” But he wrote that in 1890, before mobile devices and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and Lana Del Rey and the fragmentation of the self, and I’m happy to report that my character is as soft as unhandled Play-Doh. For the past year I’ve slept mostly in well-worn twin beds generously provided by writing colonies, my life a new kind of nomadism made possible by America’s patrons of the arts. Every morning I get up at seven, or seven thirty, or eight, or eleven, and record my dreams, or forget them, then make my bed, or not, after which I proceed immediately to take a shower, or start the coffee, or eat breakfast, or go for a walk, then sit down at my desk to begin the day’s work, or write e-mails, or stare out the window, or do absolutely anything else. I usually end my day by reading a book, or talking on the phone, or watching basketball highlights on ESPN.com, or wondering why I keep the channel on Jimmy Fallon when every instance of empty enthusiasm makes me loathe him a little more.
William James again: “There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation. Full half the time of such a man goes to the deciding, or regretting, of matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all. If there be such daily duties not yet ingrained in any one of my readers, let him begin this very hour to set the matter right.” This very hour.
Habits are for squares, is what I’ve always felt. Read More »