From the set of Intolerance.
- 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?”
- 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.”