In our afternoon reading: covers for “The Great Gatsby,” an interview with Mark Leyner, and more.
In Defense of Despair: A Reaction to J.David’s “In Defense of Joy”
by Alex DiFrancesco
This morning, I am watching the sun rise over Lake Erie after a horrific month in a horrific year for the entire world. It’s been particularly bad for me, encompassing a bad health scare, a serious drug relapse, several suicide attempts, and reactionary behavior that lost me some friends. Serendipitously, Brain Pickings has a thoughtful and carefully curated selection of Albert Camus’ thoughts on suicide. Camus rejected suicide, but he did not do it without carefully considering it himself. In fact, he based all his subsequent philosophies on this as the basic question. For me, it is a question that has no firm and lasting answer. Often, my actions and my behavior have pointed to despair and the ending of my own life. Fortunately, which Camus believes is a basic function of life and the human body, I have rejected this over and over. I have made a decision to keep living, though the torment of the notion of suicide as a sane reaction to an insane world has never been something I’ve eluded for long. I originally read Camus far too young, and far too wrapped up in my own despair to not focus on the darkness he insisted was important to look in the eye. I was marked as chronically depressed in mental hospitals through my 20s because I would say things like, “If one doesn’t think deeply about death, every day, how do you find your approach to life?” But that was and wasn’t his point. It is also not my point that this darkness is, will ever be, or should be continual or cultivated. This is a mistake I still make, and I am well-aware of, when not in its throes. But I do defend this darkness as inevitability and something that great understanding, compassion, empathy, and intellect can be derived from. Just as I am finding great joy in the Lake Erie sunrise, I can find deep introspection of this broken Midwestern city night’s dark and desperate hours; just as some are predicated towards, to borrow a phrase on absurdity from Camus, “a donkey eating roses,” some of us are donkeys feasting on garbage. Both, it seems, could lead, if unchecked, to a spiritual and intellectual death. Neither is the right way, or sustainable.
Morning Bites: Porochista Khakpour Interviewed, Adam Wilson, Kristen Arnett Nonfiction, Jeff VanderMeer, and More
In our morning reading: an interview with Porochista Khakpour, an excerpt from Adam Wilson’s new novel, and more.
Afternoon Bites: Nicole Dennis-Benn on Art, Revisiting Hervé Guibert, Alex DiFrancesco Interviewed, and More
In our afternoon reading: interviews with Nicole Dennis-Benn and Alex DiFrancesco, thoughts on the work of Hervé Guibert, and more.
Afternoon Bites: Juan Pablo Villalobos Interviewed, Alex DiFrancesco, Adapting Edith Wharton, George Saunders, and More
In our afternoon reading: a conversation with Juan Pablo Villalobos, exploring the fiction of George Saunders, and more.
Afternoon Bites: C Pam Zhang Interviewed, Kristen Radtke, Inside Unnamed Press, Lexie Bean, and More
In our afternoon reading: interviews with C Pam Zhang and Lexie Bean, thoughts on the new Mountain Goats album, and more.
I Was There, Too
by Alex DiFrancesco
Broom into the corners, mop into the corners. Over and over, my job. I’ve made some bad decisions, I know. I guess not as bad as the guys who end up in the hole.
Matthew Miner. I first saw him when I went to clean out his cell. I’d heard about him, yeah. That guy. The one who had killed all those people. Put here, in the hole, for his own protection. From the guys like he’d been, outside, before the killings, and from the guys he’d hated outside. Nobody wanted a guy like him around.
Afternoon Bites: Melissa Duclos, Juan Villoro Interviewed, Todd Dills, Alex DiFrancesco Fiction, and More
In our afternoon reading: a review of Melissa Duclos’s novel, new fiction by Alex DiFrancesco, and more.