Once I gave a talk in France with live simultaneous translation. The translator was sitting right next to me. It was a little awkward, to be honest, but also exciting. Given the nerves and excitement, I found myself saying slightly kookier things then I might have otherwise—like I said something about how Facebook and Google will even "surveil... your lovelife." My memory of what happened is shaky because my focus was divided between the room and what I was saying, while at the same time, I was vaguely aware of the translator's interpretion. But, I swear, as I recall, she translated this as, "surveil l'amour" and even said the words with dramatic horror.
Zut alors! Surveil l'amour!!!
I was reminded of this reading the Snowden memoir, which I really liked. It took me back to the spook country of the Washington, DC suburbs, where I lived around the same time as he did. It's a deeply nerdy book and self-aware about it, in a way that is funny. I kind of wish it had been an audiobook read by the author. Snowden seems like someone who could say the words "surveil l'amour" in total earnestness. He speaks French, so maybe he already has.
And I loved Parasite, which is the best movie of the year. I saw it in Methuen, Massachusetts (for the several of you who know what that means.) Thrilling to see a movie like this find an audience. But why wouldn't it? It's art for the masses — after all, the masses have experienced hardship. I saw it the night I learned I lost my day job, and would have been apt to feel extra sensitive to any of the pandering class-drag that tends to happen whenever less accessible contemporary books and films take on the subjects of poverty or precarity. But it was not like that. It felt like a story I already knew, while all the twists came as a surprise. Kind of like learning a new Grimm's fairytale as an adult, a real obscure one, like the Town Musicians of Bremen or something.
If you read Carmen Maria Machado's In the Dream House and see Parasite, you can feel like you have done culture for 2019, at least in my book. There wasn't a whole lot that was good this year but those two are just so astonishingly good and inventive. Even if either or both are not totally to your taste, there are enough risks taken, to keep it interesting for just about anyone. (And it’s just nice when the weird stuff wins, y’know?)
I have a stupid amount of stuff I need to be doing at the moment, but I put all of it off this afternoon to watch my friend Tim Maughan do a live interview in a VR public access program:
It made me wish there was more on the internet that intentionally reveled in wacky and playful unreality. More leveled up Second Life weirdness, more things like Pseudo.com's "Launder My Head":
I watched the first episode of Undone the other evening and it is interesting. Not sure if I’ll keep with it. Mostly, I hope that between this project and Alita, Rosa Salazar ends up as this generation's Matt Frewer.
I keep telling people I want to read something “with a fucking plot” but I've had a paperback of True Grit in my bag all month and have yet to crack it open. (Yes, I’ll probably love it once I do, but I just haven’t found the right time.) I did, however, begin The Maze of Transparencies by Karen An-hwei Lee, which a poet friend gave me the other day. It seems very much a novel by a poet. Baroque in the right ways. I also started reading Raymond Kennedy's odd, antic Ride a Cockhorse. That's got a plot. The Memory Police, on the other hand, was a little too low key for me. I got an ARC of Jenny Offill’s Weather and really loved that one. It’s even better than Dept of Speculation, and it is always nice to see a writer go deeper and sharper with their own unique style.
There was something else I was going to write here about a worker-run newspaper by factory girls in Lowell during the Industrial Revolution. But I'll have to get back to that.
My other news is I'm subletting a place in New York starting next month. I might stick around a little longer than that but next month is for sure. Invite me to your holiday parties or to lunch or drinks or to see Cats! (I really want to see Cats! I'm not kidding....I do....Let’s see Cats!)
Thanks for reading.