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We'll publish them on our site once we've reviewed them. TM: I was writing this book for a long time, and it changed thematically early in its conception. I personally became very focused on the concept of smart cities and then looking at and writing critiques of the smart city model. They view cities as problems and that there is a generic, off-the-shelf solution for them. People complain that hacking does not translate to the screen, but it translates to novels even worse now. Anyone who tried to read that terrible Bill Clinton hacking novel that came out last year can tell you that.
TM: No! They even describe branding as magic. Is part of your point that we have to have this apocalypse partly because we are getting caught up in seeing this technology as magic, or is magic actually a kind of hopeful way of looking at technology? Tell me all about techno-magic. TM: Exactly. Yes is the answer to both those things, I think. Their interest is in how technology is perceived in magic, and what the intentions are for that. It just works. And I think the magic thing plays into that. AN: One of the ideas in the book is the radicals have destroyed the internet through what is basically a magical piece of technology.
This fits in with your idea of magic, because it appears that we never really understand what the problems were in the first place. TM: Yes, exactly. AN: Yeah, that was so interesting to me. I wonder if you could talk about that idea of not having a plan for afterwards. A similar argument was made by Adam Curtis in his last film. He makes the argument that in the sixties, a lot of bourgeois white people dedicated their lives to the civil rights movement.
They dropped out of their careers, they turned their academic and legal practices over to just the Civil Rights Movement in the U. Because they were able to have the white privilege to go to do that. I write fiction, which is an incredibly selfish and narcissistic thing to do.
I was back in the U. Occupy is criticized a lot for not having a firm set of demands. And what came next? Well, what came next was a few people, the leaders of the movement, have lucrative speaking careers or work at Google. AN: I want to circle back to something that you said just earlier. You said fiction is navel-gazing. You first have to imagine something coming next. Spoiler alert! Dystopias are always about someone trying to push back against the system even if they fail and that is hopeful. Will I write one specifically like that? In other words, a bunch of celebrities had to turn a concept so nebulous that people build whole cultural criticism essays and art exhibits around it into a single outfit.
Not least because Rihanna, who usually nails every Met Gala theme no matter how oblique, was nowhere to be seen. The hilariously impossible assignment of matching a black-tie getup to the concept of camp made us wonder what some other Met Galas might look like if they continued to be themed to literary concepts.
Here are just a few examples. Magical Realism: Florence Welch wears a lady-wizard outfit just like she wears every year. Sarah Jessica Parker wears a dress by a South American designer that in no other way references magical realism. Gisele Bundchen and about seventy-two other female celebrities wear Grecian-draped dresses made of normal Grecian-draped dress material. A bunch of men all wear suits because, um, philosophy?
Rihanna somehow constructs an effect in which she herself does not actually physically appear at the gala, but her shadow is projected onto its walls. Lena Dunham wears a suit embroidered entirely with quotes from Edward Said. Deus Ex Machina: Kylie Jenner wears a naked dress studded with steampunk machinery. Rihanna simply arrives at the last minute, as she usually does.
Orientalism: Oh wait, sorry, the Met Gala already did this one in Lizzo wears a couture Grim Reaper cape and scythe with custom La Perla lingerie under it, and continues to wear it for the next two days, running around New York in it and scaring people on the subway. Cara Delevingne wears a latex bodysuit covered in fake blood.
Jared Leto wears his same costume from this year. Harry Styles wears a Jane Austen costume. Ezra Miller wears a Jane Austen costume. Awkwafina wears a Jane Austen costume. Rihanna wears a better Jane Austen costume than everyone else. Pathetic Fallacy: Billy Porter wears a beautiful golden Christian Siriano tuxedo gown that maybe represents the sun shining. Taylor Swift wears a blue dress. Rihanna wears a hat that automatically pours rain every time Anna Wintour frowns. The Panopticon : Janelle Monae wears a dress covered in eyes that seem to follow you wherever you go.
Lady Gaga wears a gigantic hat in the shape of a swivelling camera. Karlie Kloss wears a sexy mini-dress, but in grey, because the carceral state is serious. Kendall Jenner wears a couture sexy-cop costume. Anna Wintour, as herself, is the only person who is truly on theme. The letters and biographical ephemera of the dead white male stars of the canon are like Us Weekly for English majors. They forget to pay bills! They need to figure out how the laundry is going to get done and how to deal with the annoying sister who never reads any of their work!
They also kind of suck at dealing with their moms! Listen, it brings us no joy to tell you this. Well, maybe a little joy. Originally, when we set out to find letters written by authors to their moms, we hoped the literary greats could teach us how to express our inexpressible love and maybe guilt on holidays that demand those kinds of things from us. What we found instead was a series of letters from authors who were snarky, groveling, bored, and a whole host of other feelings towards their mothers.
Poe first explains how much he loves her by way of imagining something horrible has happened to her, and then apologizes for being poor:. May God grand that this letter, so long delayed, may find you well—I ask no more—for I have been tortured, almost to death, by horrible dreams, in which I fancied that you were ill and helpless and I so far away from you. Oh, my dear, dear, good Muddy, I never knew the depth of my affection for you until this long and terrible separation. If you could but know my bitter, bitter grief at not being able to send you any money.
So Twain decides to give her a taste of her own medicine and write a letter on a series of nine scraps of paper, torn from other letters he had received. He goes above and beyond. Scholars at Berkeley have digitized them and you can read the full text here. Ma, I think it likely that some men are so constituted that they will, under certain circumstances of an irregular nature, manifest idiosyncrasies of an irrefragable and even pragmatic and latitudinarian character, but otherwise and differently situated the reverse is too often the case. How does it strike you? In short: Ernest might have kinda started it.
His mother was apparently not keen on the role reversal, and was resisting some of his advice. Hemingway mansplains:. Praying for advice and guidance is an excellent thing but advice and guidance even though unprayed for when accompanied by cash can be an excellent thing too. Believed to be around when he was 26 years old , Proust flipped out after a particularly bad fight, slamming the door behind him. The glass panes in the door shattered. The broken glass will merely be what it is in the temple—the symbol of an indissoluble union. Your father wishes you a good night and I kiss you tenderly.
In , Henry David Thoreau, in an attempt to establish his individualism by way of financial independence, set off for New York, where Ralph Waldo Emerson got him a couple tutoring gigs so he could have time to write.
In a letter home to his Mother , he explains:. I hold together remarkably well as yet, speaking of my outward linen and woolen man, no holes more than I brought away, and no stitches needed yet. It is marvellous. I think the Fates must be on my side, for there is less than a plank between me and—Time, to say the least. As for Eldorado that is far off yet. My bait will not tempt the rats; they are too well fed.
It is very gratifying to live in the prospect of great successes always, and for that purpose, we must leave a sufficient foreground to see them through. Pound is nothing if not concise. I am profoundly pained to hear that you prefer Marie Corelli to Stendhal, but I can not help it. I do not wish to be mayor of Cincinnati nor of Dayton, Ohio. I do very well where I am. London may not be the Paradiso Terrestre, but it is at least some centuries nearer it than is St.
Eliot loved his mom. I wanted you more for my sake than yours — to sing the Little Tailor to me. I only write what I want to—now—and everyone knows that anything I do write is good … There is a small and select public which regards me as the best living critic, as well as the best living poet, in England … I really think that I have far more influence on English letters than any other American has ever had, unless it be Henry James … All this sounds very conceited, but I am sure it is true, and as there is no outsider from whom you would hear it, and America really knows very little of what goes on in London, I must say it myself.
In the first letter from the book, Roald Dahl, nine years old, is careful to cover all his bases: apologies first, justifications next, concern for the family, and then, the real ask, which is still careful to be conservative:. Just send them in a tin and wrap it up in paper Love from BOY. I live on a large underpopulated island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. According to the T. What matters is that wide open sea which symbolises our vulnerability and the boats we place our real and imaginary fears onto.
This was in the s, a time when we reluctantly let them in because we needed cheap migrant labour to help build things and mine things. They got on the first boat out of there. To cut a long story short, they faced a lot of the usual hardship and racism successive generations of outsiders have faced when coming to Australia.
All this brings me to my book No More Boats and the books I want to recommend to you here. While writing my book I looked for similarly complicated texts that dealt with nationalism, identity, borders and belonging and, of course, do what really great books do, which is to give the very personal, very human story of the complicated times we live in. Here are 10 novels about our borders and our fears:. The Good Life Elsewhere by Vladimir Lorchenkov is a wholly original satire about the citizens of a small town in Moldova who are constantly attempting to cross the border into the more prosperous neighboring Italy.
As most of the town is turned away from the border one by one we begin to understand how borders and boundaries can shape the collective imagination. This is a book about big issues like a supposedly united Europe and the Soviet legacies that still hang over the former Eastern Bloc but it tells those stories by taking a microscope to the small lives of people from a small town. Cockroach has this wild energy in the way that Hage throws a dizzying kaleidoscope of image after image down on the page, the accumulative effect of which is to make the reader profoundly and deeply feel the conflicted and contradictory world of the protagonist.
He is the immigrant outsider, the bully, the thief, someone who exposes the hypocritical and overprivileged world of the non-migrant in Montreal and someone who simultaneous longs to be bourgeois himself, someone who engages in the exploitation of other migrants and who plays on the guilt of dogooders by exoticizing his own foreignness and poverty. He also believes he is half cockroach, an effective metaphor which emphasizes his invisibility and the lack of compassion in the world around him. I love that you can never pin him down.
Tropic of Orange by Karen Tei Yamashita is a novel that shows what a complicated and complex discussion of what identity can look like and why fiction is often the best place to stage these discussions. He intervenes whenever one of the characters is overwhelmed with life. This novel takes that old adage that to be a migrant is to always be split in two, quite literally.
Every character in this novel is in the process of crossing and recrossing or even of demanding new borders. In poetic prose Gosh looks at the way that borders not only set people apart but displace people from their own home. What is most interesting is the way that he explores the idea that borders force constrictive national and religious identities on people and the violence that often results in the state telling us who we are and who our enemies must be.
Adua by Igiaba Scego opens with the main character Adua contemplating if she should stay in Italy or return to Somalia after her father has died and she has inherited the family home. Adua once fled a brutal regime but she also fled her overbearing father and the constraints placed on women in her home town only to find that Italy was not the free and radical place she was looking to find herself in.
What I find most impressive in this novel is the way Scego merges African fable and folklore, family anecdotes, and a sophisticated knowledge of both African and Western literature and cinema to explore themes of colonialism, racism, sex and power. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid is the story of Nadia and Saeed, two quite different young people gradually falling for each other when war breaks out in the unnamed Middle Eastern country they inhabit.
The novel is stripped back and unsentimental. Nadia and Saeed are flung into perpetual movement as they discover fantastical doors that act as portals to other places outside their war zone, places which are at once both comforting and unwelcoming. Michael comes from a family of far-right anti-immigration activists, Mina is from a refugee background.
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A relationship between them gradually develops as they meet on the opposite side of rallies and end up at the same school. What unfolds between them is a meditation on race, class, nationalism and the damage parents can do to their children by passing on narrow minded and uncritical perspectives of the world. Last week the New York Times reported that Woody Allen tried and failed to sell his memoir to four of the big five publishing houses. On top of that, Allen has experience as a writer—he started his career as a magazine writer and has authored multiple humor works—and apparently had a full manuscript ready, which is more than a lot of celebrities can offer.
It introduces a bigger question: has the publishing industry finally changed? Allen has been subject to abuse allegations for a long time without damage to his career. Allen denied there was any truth to the story, but Dylan repeated her claim over the intervening years, during which time Allen married his own adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, and continued to be a box office draw, making dozens of movies and working with a raft of famous actors.
Generally speaking, when it comes to writers, personal conduct has never mattered much to either publishing houses or the consumer. Ezra Pound and T. Eliot were notorious anti-semites; Herman Melville beat his wife; William S. Burroughs murdered his wife; David Foster Wallace stalked, abused, and tried to push his girlfriend Mary Karr out of a moving car. In fact, being a badly behaved male, usually white writer has long been seen as attractive. What was clearly written as a harmless piece of click-bait now feels like an artifact from another era. The publishing industry has historically rejected any responsibility for not giving abusers a platform—and readers have, for the most part, not made this into a liability.
An additional example is Dan Mallory aka A. HarperCollins will still publish the follow-up to his best-seller, The Woman in the Window. So far, the former seems to be driving the latter; the publishing houses who rejected Allen likely did so at least in part out of self-protection. Investing in an author accused of sexual harassment has become a gamble; authors have been pulled from shelves, had their literary awards revoked, or been dropped by their agents. Exactly how legitimate? His books did take a serious hit; the first installment in the Killing series published after his scandal sold less than half the number of copies in the first week than its predecessor.
But at 65, copies versus , copies, it was still enough to put him in the number two slot of BookScan hardcover adult nonfiction list. I think it goes back to , when Milo Yiannopoulos, a writer for Breitbart and an established alt-right troll, was signed for a six-figure book deal with Simon and Schuster. The conversation around the ethical side of publishing is ongoing, a crucial question that can no longer be ignored. I see this as a heartening sign that publishing, by no means flawless, is working to be an industry that values ethical consciousness at least a fraction as much as it values profits.
An earlier version of this article mistakenly said that Allen is suing Netflix rather than Amazon. Dark and barbarism. It is heady stuff: menhirs looming from the mist, the scent of woad and wet wool, and moonlight gleaming on chased hilts and chainmail as noble warriors gather to stoop down on invaders like wolves from the fold. So far, so Dark Ages. And the hero is not a warrior but Merlin. Stewart chose well. The prevailing historical wisdom of the time was that in an era of petty kings and warlords, women of any class were victims without sufficient agency to do anything interesting.
So Stewart writes about a man, one who is twice royal—but a bastard; straight but not a man of the sword. Rather Merlin is an instrument of divine power, his sexuality subordinated to his priestly role as mouthpiece of the Light. He is mocked by his princely contemporaries for gender noncompliance but, even as they laugh, the reader—that is, year-old me—knows that he holds a far greater power than any blade.
What I really loved about this book, though, is how Stewart immerses us in nature. We feel it, smell it, and hear it; it seeps into our bones and infuses us with a sense of immanence and wild magic. It was this book, and Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff, and Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault, that fired my longing to experience the landscape where I grew up without contrails and car exhaust, to feel how it might be for a woman, in a time when might was right, to be powerful enough in, of, and for herself to make a difference, to be a hero.
In my early twenties I was reading a lot of novels but writing only lyrics: songs for the band I fronted. So I wrote poetry; I wrote nonfiction. Without warning As a whirlwind swoops on an oak Love shakes my heart. Her bold, vertiginous leaps shocked me awake and open the dam in my head. I wrote 30, words of a novel in five days. This , I realized. This is what I will do with my life.
Paranoia (Wisteria, #) by Bisi Leyton
Her lyrics are fresh and astonishing. As Barnard herself says in her footnote, some of her words feel invented in that moment for that line alone. She was writing more than 2, years ago, yet her works speaks directly to us even today. She shaped our understanding of what it is to be human. Poetry by and about women has never been too hard to find, but for a while I could find no historical fiction and very little contemporary fiction about women that was not romance. I despaired until I discovered feminist science fiction. Walk to the End of the World commits to an implacable sci-fi logic of post-apocalyptic gender war.
The world is largely arid and inhospitable, with small isolated populations clinging on here and there. In one region men hate women, and fuck them not for pleasure but to make babies. Women are domesticated animals: bred as both beasts of burden, and food. We follow the story of one pregnant slave, Alldera, and her eventual escape.
It will give you nightmares, and those nightmares have teeth. But Alldera does escape, to the world of Motherlines , a world of all women who breed their own domestic animal: not fellow humans, but horses. It was the first book I read with no men in it at all, and refutes essentialism effortlessly. They are the others of us all. I had to read it—and instantly finding myself in familiar science fiction territory: time travel. In Los Angeles, Dana, a young black woman married to a white man, is somehow called to the antebellum South to save a young white boy from drowning. And Dana has to keep saving him to ensure her own existence, because he is the father of one of her ancestors.
Each visit to the past—in which the people in the past age while Dana does not— is worse than the last, until she finally frees herself by killing the adult Rufus, already a father. What makes all this work as realism is that Dana does not escape unscathed, and her loss is tangible, not just internal and metaphorical: she loses teeth, and her left arm. This had a big impact on my work, as did two other things. One, the way Dana learns the reality of master and slave via personal, visceral experience: somatic knowledge that helps her unlearn the extra-somatic modes of dry text and TV representation.
Dana suffers; her life as a slave is brutal—but not too brutal. Though, oh dear me, their relationship is not filial. At all. Not safe from bad men. Safe from the dull-eyed herd, each plodding behind the placid beastie ahead. Our protagonists, you see, are telepaths. Also a parody of Victorian porn. And, literally, a comedy of manners. Exhilarating stuff. And then take the Russ Pledge : whenever you talk about books, talk about books by women about women. Picture this: an existence punctuated by yoga classes and country walks, sustained on a quinoa-heavy diet, swaddled in Merino wool.
This is Golden Oaks, known as the Farm, a surrogacy facility that allows the global elite to outsource the labor of pregnancy to surrogates. In a world of ubiquitous Louis Vuitton, the most conspicuous form of wealth, the truest status symbol, is the ability to buy back time. That work here is given its due, a dollar value. But surrogacy as work turns its women into more than a labor force—the women become units of capital. Those coming to the novel expecting a burning-down of this new system will, however, be disappointed.
Every party has a seat at this fire. The novel rotates between four characters, the capital-owning class represented by Mae Yu, an executive at the conglomerate behind the Farm. Reagan is a white, privileged, millennial with a still-calibrating moral compass who finds herself a surrogate on the Farm. Finally, Jane, an immigrant, a mother, and now also a surrogate. At the same time that the novel pioneers a new business model for pregnancy, it consecrates a quality of traditional motherhood.
The four characters, who exist across class strata, are unified by a single motivation: they want more for their kids. The Farm throughout is very deliberate about documenting lives across the class spectrum. Can you talk about writing across that divide? I do believe many people of privilege are well-meaning and want to help when they see injustice, or inequity.
We came to the States when I was six. I was born in Manila. It was a typical immigrant story, you know: make it. I grew up, like many immigrants, straddling worlds. We moved to Wisconsin in the late s, in the wake of auto factories closing. They were part of a tight Filipino community. Then I went to Princeton.
It was the first place I started to sense what class might mean, or entitlement, or really great privilege. Like many immigrants to the States my dad and mom believed in this idea of American meritocracy. All you had to do was play by the rules and work really hard. MN: With its yoga routines, wholesome food, and dorm dynamics, the Farm is half tech campus, half university campus. Why create this contrasting environment for the surrogates on the Farm? JR: What I realized when I was raising my kids was that the only Filipinos I knew day-to-day in Manhattan were housekeepers and nannies and baby nurses.
They would tell me about their kids still in Manila who they were supporting, and the dorms where they lived, renting beds by the half-day to save money. Like my mom knew Bruno Mars. You made it. You guys are smart. Like this crazy college scandal here where rich people were buying their kids into college—that could have been in my book. You show how one privileged vision of motherhood exists at the expense of that type of motherhood for others mothers.
You could call it the establishing idea behind the Farm. How did you decide to begin here? JR : The first real thing I ever wrote was about Jane baby-nursing. She was a mother with a newborn at home who she left to be a baby nurse. It allowed me to broaden my lens. That was only available to me because the Farm suddenly became a part of a luxury goods conglomerate. MN: For me it was notable that the novel was not representing a dystopia. Is there a reason you have resisted the tropes and label of dystopian fiction?
I realized when I was raising my kids that the only Filipinos I knew in Manhattan were housekeepers and nannies and baby nurses. I meant it to be a snapshot of our world pushed forward a few inches, but not miles ahead. I was really interested in motherhood, and more broadly the sacrifice that parents or immigrants make for the next generation. I was less interested in making a futuristic, sci-fi thing that people may be able to dismiss. MN: Despite not being a dystopian book you invent a taxonomy for use on the Farm that sounds dystopian.
Reagan knew one of them by name. But Jane never addressed any of them by name. I think that also speaks to the power differential between those characters. Agency is to some degree, maybe to a large degree, dependent on how privileged you are.
MN: Even the way Jane and Reagan see their clients is very different. In some ways that makes it clearer. She is there to make the big money for her and [her daughter]. Of the four narrators Reagan was the hardest one to crack as far as motivation. She needed another reason to want to be there.
She has more complicated reasons for wanting to be there than Jane. MN: Because the chapters revolved through four different characters, it was hard to make an easy villain of anyone. I found it very nuanced. How did you arrive at this rotating structure? What separates a successful life in America from one deemed less successful is more happenstance than any kind of merit. JR: Jane and Ate were the ones who started me off.
For instance, I have this one story in the book about one of the newer women in the dormitory in Queens being enslaved by her Filipino employers in New Jersey. Growing up I knew a Filipino family who were actually jailed because the housekeeper I had known growing up was never paid. These stories were always there if you knew or were connected to immigrants.
I had to pare it back to make it seem realistic. Then I realized that those two perspectives in a surrogacy facility allowed me to broaden the lens, like to the perspective of someone running it so I could talk about the system. It goes back to debates about free trade I had with my dad growing up. He was the immigrant who came over here and fe. That became Mae Yu. She allowed me to talk how it felt for me being a woman in a very male world when I was in finance.
She also makes some very questionable decisions. MN: Ate is probably my favorite character. Both of them are not questioning the system but are trying to make it work for them, to master it. All of us compromise. Straddling worlds again, I know people who I consider my friends who have left their kids back home and work here very hard, some legally, some illegally. To a fault I see different sides to everything. I met with one reader recently through a presentation.
She ended up saying that what made her feel uncomfortable about the book was that a lot of this was already happening. Just to hear her say that was incredible. Was that my intent? I hoped to explore the questions that have consumed me for most of my adult life. I was trying to find the right, most salient questions to ask given where we are right now as a society. We used to drive forty minutes into Anchorage to shop at a Korean grocery. The one vaguely Chinese store was associated with a Chinese mainlander, and mainlanders lacked values.
That owner, my mother said, stirred rat meat into the ground pork; when you unwrapped the butcher paper, you might catch a faint scent of urine. Pork, in turn, was passed off as beef with a squirt of red dye. So she shopped at a Korean store no bigger than our garage, blocking pinched aisles to ponder the mystery of Korean packaging, while I snuck promising foods into the cart: purple rice, tofu that came in a squeezable tube, a can of what looked like shiny pretzels but turned out to be candied lotus root. At the end of winter, my mother and I made our first visit to the store since Ruby had died.
Six weeks had passed. It was to return bigger and brighter in , but which of us would be alive to see it? Our aliveness was precarious. Divers had found the crew compartment of the Challenger with all of the bodies inside. Soon the wreckage would reveal that four emergency air packs had been activated; not all of them had died instantaneously. At the grocery store my mother stood in an aisle and stared at the bottled vinegar. She walked the length of the display, following the spectrum from clear to black, and then stood staring at the blackest vinegar.