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Against fiction

This may be a personal shortcoming, a failure of my own imagination, but I no longer understand the purpose of fiction. I'm not sure what is significant about someone's making up events that happen to made-up people and lead to made up denouements, especially when it is so easy to research events that actually happened to actual people. Isn't much fiction, especially the sort that eschews formal innovation or stylized word play just lazy reporting, wherein writers draw on information they've gathered without bothering to verify it?

Fiction at its most basic provides a vehicle for escapism, a world the reader may enter and feel like the all-knowing master of that universe's simplified, obvious rules for cause and effect; such fiction offers the illusion of power along with the escape into a more comprehensible and more orderly world. These simplified rules for how the world works provide the much trumpeted moral instruction that novels are sometimes held to provide, but the moral instruction is usually the pleasing celebration of values and formulas for living that readers already hold (This seems especially true of genre fiction, which indulges preordained fantasies that correspond with power balances in the actual society such fiction services.) Researched accounts of actual events seems much more likely to reveal alternatives to the status quo, paradoxically, than made-up fictions which are circumscribed by the habitus of its writer, which reflects all the biases of class and the imposed limits made by common sense of what is even possible. Imagination is actually more circumscribed than the real, whose capability to astonish only increases as one devotes energy to investigating it. Fiction seems to me a kind of abdication, a retreat from the possibilities that trouble the delicately balanced worldview that perpetuates the status quo.

Reality programming on television seems to be a reflection of the threat technology levies against fiction, whose flimsy justification once may have rested in the difficulty of gaining information about other people's lives. But obvioulsy these programs impose the formulas derived from fiction on hours and hours of raw material; it reveals more of the process of the fictionalizing of reality; these are our social novels. Literary fiction seems to be a product with increasing snob appeal; the fundamental result of reading such books is reveling in a kind of moral superiority to the people who one imagines is missing out on such edifying experiences, reading such books is a way of consuming an image of oneself as "wise, perceptive reader," capable of appreciating subtle nuance and whatnot like the writer whom one imagines as a peer, a fellow soldier in the war to preserve Culture.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

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Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

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