recent & notable reading

Why One Chinatown Mini-mall Languishes While Another Thrives by Wilfred Chan in Curbed. idk, lots of feelings about place and interlopers and temporality and class. (10.31.22)

zaddies and they kids from Brandon Taylor's substack. “It really does seem harder to write earnestly and directly about characters who have emotions and motivations. Harder to write a novel that is powered by the pitch and frequency of feeling and self-knowledge than it is to write a novel that is powered by, I don’t know, dull descriptions of contemporary alienation rendered in icily lyrical sentences." — he doesn't miss! (9.03.22)

Behold the Fruit Sandwich by Ligaya Mishan in NYT. "I want to bite into an apple and think of mountain air so clean and sharp that it could cut you. I dream of a strawberry like a small heart, heavy and full, its unabashed red a testament to vigilance and a perfectly timed pluck off the vine. I long for sun-glutted peaches and oranges that have true weight in the hand and blueberries the color of deep ocean where the light is swallowed up." (8.29.22)

Blunt-Force Ethnic Credibility by Som-Mai Nguyen in Astra. One of the best essays I've read in a long time... dare I say all year? (7.7.22)

A profile of 2022 Fields medalist June Huh by Jordana Cepelewicz in Quanta. So many quotable bits; I just love reading about people who love their work; about why their work is beautiful. (7.5.22)

a little life is not your father from Brandon Taylor's newsletter. “Don’t we all feel that way as we watch people do what it is that we want to do in a way that feels slightly too close to the way in which we want to do it? Particularly when our sense of ourselves is not robust and not strong, when we are full of doubt and anxiety." (5.26.22)

Escape from America by Anton Hur. Who among us (diaspora in America, in some sense) hasn't had this fantasy/nightmare? (4.17.22)

Classical Music's Iron Curtain, a New Yorker interview I didn't want to end. Say more! Say more about class, performance, art, nationalism, and also why not talk about music as protest! (3.25.22)

Remembering Jazz Pianist Jessica Williams — one dreams of ever acquiring enough fluency in a medium to express oneself through it as brilliantly as Williams did (3.18.22)

Overheard in New York. “Well, this is fun." Thinking about all the little snippets of conversation that I've overheard, that others must have overheard from me. (2.18.22)

Zadie Smith's close-reading of Toni Morrison. “Imagine thinking of history this way! As a thing personally directed at you. As a series of events structured to make you feel one way or another, rather than the precondition of all our lives?" (1.30.22)

Vol 1 of Sheila Heti's alphabetized diary. I don't have words. Reminds me of dept of speculation from jenny offill — what the plainness of language makes possible (1.25.22)

Every Year He Texts Me: ‘I Love You’ by Jean Chen Ho. "To live in the subjunctive is a manner of seeing the past not as a fixed story but as one that the present continuously acts upon. The present is what determines the past, not the other way around." (1.14.22)

The Black vanguard in white utopia by Tressie McMillan Cottom. "I am reminded that only a fool would bet against the ocean." (12.31.21)

The Soloist / How Ballet Saved Baryshnikov by Joan Acocella. “You know, you learn to dance when you're very young. And in subconsciousness you take pieces from every person. Even worst dancers have two moves, one move, and you say ‘What was that? How did he do that?' And it's already in you." (11.12.21)

Scribble Brain by Emily Flake. Basically the past 6 months (10.13.21)

Revolt of the NYC Delivery Workers by Josh Dzieza. The gig driver piece everyone's been talking about is in fact as good as people have been saying (9.16.21)

The Other Afghan Women by Anand Gopal. Fucking hell — “The Americans did not bring us any rights. They just came, fought, killed, and left.” (9.6.21)

Let Them Eat Fakes by Ligaya Mishan. Reviving this doc because cake! (8.29.21)

The Dread of Getting Dressed by Katy Waldman. Glad to know Virginia Woolf shares my intensely ambivalent feelings about fashion (6.29.21)

I Do Not Want To Write Today by Shing Yin Khor. Captures so well the range of annoyance and irritation and anger I have about ~Asian~ writing (5.27.21)

Persuading the Body to Regenerate its Limbs by Matthew Hutson. Little kids can regenerate fingertips? Also, pros and cons of being a worm in a research lab: they “swi[m] in Poland Spring water and ea[t] organic beef liver” but also have to take IQ tests... (5.08.21)

A Lifetime of Reading by Min Jin Lee. Can't stop thinking about how and why this piece works, from a craft perspective. (Also grew up in novels and have always felt fiction to be my first mediator with Americanness, if you'll excuse the triteness) (4.13.21)

An excerpt from How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee. I can never get enough answers to the question why write. (3.24.21)

The Hater With a Heart of Gold, an interview with Jay Caspian Kang by Haley Mlotek. Makes me feel better about being a compulsive personal-essay writer (2.15.21)

The Wind by Lauren Groff (and accompanying discussion). This one hurts. (2.6.21)

On Cake by Alicia Kennedy. (Her chocolate essay also made it onto this list a few months ago.) On the one hand, I'm very conscious of how viscerally I want the cakes she links, how much I love the idea of fancy sweets (especially, as a fruit fiend, these fruit-focused cakes). At the same time I also know (a) it is just cake and (b) “just cake” is not free of the constraints of real life. (1.25.21)

Coming Home Again by Chang-Rae Lee. This man knows how to make someone cry (1.19.21)

Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying by Alice Sola Kim. No words except omg. "She felt her chin tipped upward by Mom, arranging her daughter like a flower, a sleek and sinuous flower that would be admired until it died and even afterward." (1.2.21)

What if you could do it all over? by Joshua Rothman. This got better the more I read. “Part of the work of being a modern person seems to be dreaming of alternate lives in which you don’t have to dream of alternate lives. We long to stop longing, but we also wring purpose from that desire." (12.22.20)

An interview with Yo-Yo Ma: Really gorgeous view on life (and of course music), a reminder to indulge in joy and art and music, a suggestion of how they might fuel political orientation. (12.4.20)

An interview with Yiyun Li; I don't remember who recommended this to me or why this article from 2018 was among my long list of tabs-to-read but I am now adding her work to my goodreads. “People would say I portray the world in a bleak way. It’s not bleak to me. I think what is bleak is when you create a veil to make the world feel better.” (11.14.20)

On Chocolate by Alicia Kennedy. When a luxury is made accessible by exploitation and homogenization, how can we recover context, dignity, and culture? How do consumer goods reflect history, colonialism, violence? (10.26.20)

The Work You Do, the Person You Are by Toni Morrison. I like to revisit this periodically. (10.16.20)

The Town That Went Feral by Patrick Blanchfield, a review of a book about a hyper-libertarian commune(?) plagued by feral bears. starts out funny in an absurd sort of way; ends depressing (10.13.20)

Mathematics for Human Flourishing and The Lesson of Grace in Teaching by Francis Su, coupled with Math and the Best Life, an interview of Su in Quanta. It's really so refreshing to read—and be reminded of—joy and beauty and delight in thinking and teaching and existence. (sometime this summer, revisited 10.11.20)

Life During Wartime, by Ju-Hyun Park. “Peace, like war, is a state of relation produced by practice, not a temporality that arrives through inevitable progress." (9.18.20)

Jesmyn Ward's untitled? piece on loss, the pandemic, and bearing witness - beautiful in a terrifying, devastating sort of way (9.1.20)

The Pleasures of Protest, among other things, gets my general feelings about chinatowns and my (political) relationship to them so right. (8.30.20)

An interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen - understanding our place in history, the limits of radicalism within academia (8.24.20)

On Becoming an American Writer by Alexander Chee - frankly don't know how to describe this, beyond this quote - (7.17.20)

To write is to sell a ticket to escape, not from the truth but into it. My job is to make something happen in a space barely larger than the span of your hand, behind your eyes, distilled out of all that I have carried, from friends, teachers, people met on planes, people I have seen only in my mind, all my mother and father ever did, every favorite book, until it meets and distills from you, the reader, something out of the everything it finds in you. All of this meets along the edge of a sentence like this one, as if the sentence is a fence, with you on one side and me on the other.

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