My Top Ten Short Reads* for 2011

Posted by Mikki Halpin

*Because, to quote Sean Nelson, “I don’t have that much *time* for *reading* as I’m out there really trying to make a difference in the community.”

1. Christina Kelly, Five Reasons Why Black Swan starring Natalie Portman is a Sickening Male Fantasy (145 words)

Sure, 145 words is a lot, but Kelly lays out her case in easily-understood bullet points, each one an imaginary quote from the male writers of the film: “It’s really hot when psycho dancer chicks lose their minds and stab themselves to death.” I didn’t even need to see the movie!

2. Mindy Kaling, Untitled Twitter Post (21 words)

Kaling, who later in 2011 dominated various long-form lists with her book, Are You Guys Hanging Out Without Me?, gained my admiration with this confusing battle cry:  When I make my strong feminist statement you’ll know it (Janelle Monae sparkle suit, Emma Goldman tattoo, corset worn ironically, Vans).  This masterpiece of spiraling irony—I mean, is she a feminist or not??—fit into Twitter’s format with just 4 characters to spare.

3—6. Lars von Trier, Apology For Cannes Press Conference Remarks About Hitler (32 words), Sobriety As Explanation For Cannes Press Conference Remarks About Hitler (28 words), Retraction of Apology For Cannes Press Conference Remarks About Hitler (45 words)

Immediately after what many termed a “disastrous” press conference for his film Melancholia, during which von Trier referred to himself as a Nazi and said he understood and had sympathy for Hitler, the director issued this apology through his publicists: “If I have hurt someone by the words I said at the press conference I sincerely apologize. I am not anti-Semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi.” The statement struck many, including the world’s Jewish population, as inadequate. The French—always touchy about people who sympathize with Hitler! —expelled him from the festival.

The next day, von Trier was less contrite. He gave a long interview to the New York Times, but the relevant quote was bite-sized: “I would suggest to everybody, don’t stop drinking. If I had been, I would be almost asleep at the press conference and would not have said those stupid things.” The sobriety defense was ingenious, even from a man whose game is as advanced as that of the Dogme founder—I imagined a drunken Mel Gibson mulling it over.

Von Trier’s Hegelian third act came in the September issue of GQ. He masterfully retracted both the Nazi sympathy and the apology, saying: “It’s not true. I’m not sorry. I am not sorry for what I said. I’m sorry that it didn’t come out more clearly. I’m not sorry that I made a joke. But I’m sorry that I didn’t make it clear that it was a joke. WHY IS HE NOT ON TWITTER?

7. Megan Carpentier, Strangely Erotic Tumblr Message About Salt Mines, 37 words

I’d posted on Tumblr about how I’ve always wanted to go to a salt mine and that in my imaginary world they are full of carved salt castles and fairy bridges over salty lakes, etc. (shut up). Ms. Carpentier revealed that salt mines belong to a different fantasy altogether with this informative missive: “I have actually been to a salt mine in Germany. There was a slide and we got to wear leather chaps. Nowadays, they mostly fill them with water, suck out the brine and dewater the salt after.” TWSS, amirite?

8. New York Times, The One Page Magazine (approximately 1,150 words weekly)

The Times entry into the short-reads market is distillation of what they used to produce with outdated features like turn pages. The One-Page Magazine is uncompromising in quality, offering A-list contributors, including Maud Newton and Tom Vanderbilt, and it doesn’t skimp on the trademark behind-the-cultural-curve subject matter we expect from the more wordy sections of the Times, with pieces on beards in Brooklyn, celebrity Twitter accounts, and a “meh” list. Kudos to this spot-on brand miniaturization.

8. Anonymous Wikipedia editors, Richard Doyle’s Wikipedia Page (259 words)

Doyle is the author of several novels, including Flood, Executive Action, and Volcano. But his true achievement is his actual life, pithily distilled by the Wikipedia machine into 4 mind-blowing paragraphs that are just barely longer than the Wikiplea at the top of the page. Doyle’s entry briefly notes such dazzlers as a childhood stint at a “fortified bastide in Gascony”; his tutelage of the author Gabriel Garcia Marquez; his expertise on the flooding of London; the fact that he is a “keen yachtsman”; and this brilliant run of just 47 words: “Doyle was expelled from Tripoli by military coup, has lectured on fighter training to the Italian Air Force and has survived several earthquakes, two hurricanes, and a tsunami. He appears regularly on radio and TV, talking about the flood threat, climate change, writing and his own life.” WHY IS HE NOT ON TUMBLR??

9. Ruby Karp, Rosa Parks and Nicky Minaj Chat (375 words)

This piece of next-level feminist fan fiction, written by an eleven-year-old, should be on every intersectional short reading list. Ms. Parks is struck by Ms. Minaj’s outfit; Ms. Minaj tells Ms. Parks that she will someday be “more famous than the Queen!” (Though not, it must be said, more famous than Ms. Minaj.) Don’t let anyone tell you kids today aren’t awesome. Disclosure: Author is my best friend’s daughter.

10. Midwestern Mountain Mama, Flaccid Cocks (110 words not counting smiley face)

The author brings a critical eye to the heretofore-unexamined (at least by me) genre of soft-cock imagery. You’ll have to click through to see the picture, but first, ponder her challenge: “It’s always an amazing intervention on the Cock As Weapon Of War narrative that loves to position cock as swords or otherwise bully type creatures. To see a beautifully flaccid cock allows one to imagine a new type of cock based sexuality, a new way of being a cock bearer, etc. etc.

Think of it—a world in which dicks are free to be soft or hard, and reads are free to be long or short.  Happy 2012!

1 comment