Earlier in the week, I read Eugene Marten’s novel Waste, which I’d been meaning to read for a while now. It starts out reading like a case study in modern urban alienation: the protagonist works as a janitor, and seems estranged from nearly everyone around him. And then things get progressively more unsettling — one late-in-the-book scene features one of the most grotesque moments I’ve encountered in a nominally realistic novel. A day or two later, I found that moments from the book were replaying themselves in dreams, undeniable evidence of this book’s ability to get inside your head.
Last night, I saw Punchdrunk’s production of Sleep No More on West 27th Street. I can’t say too much about it that hasn’t already been said; points of reference include: Macbeth, Hitchcock, Kubrick, and maybe just a little Stephen Millhauser. I spent close to three hours wandering through the performance space, and nearly as much time discussing the experience with friends on our way back home. Highly, highly recommended.
Nothing I read this week was more strangely intoxicating than Benjamin Wallace-Wells piece for New York entitled “What’s Left of the Left”: a remarkably well written profile of Paul Krugman which, like the best of such character studies, manages to say a lot about the greater state of a culture by personifying it in one man. Here we have Krugman as a model of the data-oriented liberalism that purveyors consider the last stand against national politics run amuck. Rationality in the throes of a time when neither party accepts the other’s graphs. The piece is timely insofar as Krugman has in recent years made a public option his flagship battle cry. “When you realize the fundamental divide in U.S. politics is just this one-dimensional thing, and that is how you feel about the welfare state,” explains Krugman here, “that changes things.” But before we get the big picture, Wallace-Wells gives us the little man:
“There is something admirably unglamorous about the way Krugman has dealt with his fame: When I first tried to reach Joseph Stiglitz, he was in Mauritius, meeting with a head of state; when I first contacted Jeffrey Sachs, he was traveling through Senegal; and when I first called Krugman, he was schlepping home on New Jersey Transit.”
We face the dulled blunt butcher’s knife of Ryancare, which does not merely accept an unjust world but rather solidifies and cultivates inequality: Social Darwinism from those who resent actual Darwinism. Perhaps the great fear for the future of reform is that sound byte politics will bury progress under the rubble of exhausting rhetoric. That any fact can be ignored and refuted by bastardized pseudo-science, or smug dismissal of science altogether. Writes Wallace-Wells: “If you believe, like Obama, that politics is what brings the social compact to life, then the only way to build an equitable society is to make sure everyone has an equal say. Or if you believe, like Krugman, that the data can show you the shape that the fairest society should take, then politics might not always make good on the social compact. Politics, instead, might make it impossible.”
The rest of the week has been about watching lots of Twin Peaks for the first time. If anyone spoils this twenty-one year old murder mystery for me, they will receive a twenty-six year old boot to the head. Plus I’m half-heartedly trying to start listening to new music again, in particular the hot new bands of our fair borough. Why do most of them sound like wimps muttering Kate Bush tunes over the waves-and-Orcas ambient CDs you used to be able to buy at the Sharper Image?
I’m sorry, but the Atlantic culture issue was really bad. Either their “genius” picks were too obvious (Chuck Close, Frank Gehry) or they were Lupe Fiasco. When did we start calling Lupe a genius? Was it when everybody realized that they were getting sick of talking about Odd Future every thirteen seconds, and needed to focus on another over-hyped rapper? Come on Atlantic, you can do better.
I (like Stephanie Anderson at WORD) finished reading The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisene by Alina Bronsky. Review coming soon.