Devastating: Last Words of the Condemned: "Texas has executed 500 inmates since it resumed carrying out the death penalty in 1982. Selected excerpts of inmates’ last words reveal a glimpse of the humanity behind those anonymous numbers, with everything from apologies to claims of innocence and expressions of anger to prayers."
'Things Have Changed' - an op-ed by the amazing Natasha M. Korgaonkar, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which defended the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Why self-improvement makes you neurotic (h/t Amy!)
Image: by artist Torie Leigh
Love this...and relate! Sara Seinberg: How to Succeed at Failure. "I am a reluctant and deeply untalented runner. This beautiful fact is the main way I have found to practice being bad at something and just doing it anyhow. For five years I have remained stunned at the gifts I have limped away with, not matter how graceless my path becomes. I stumble, I quit, I trudge, I walk and I lapse altogether in this endeavor, but there is some kind of gem that brings me back again and again. And that gem is failure."
We Are All Subversives: Femme Strength and Queer Solidarity
I recently read two books - the much-lauded novel "The Middlesteins," which I was fairly "eh" about, and also a novel/not novel called "How Should A Person Be?" With the latter, I had the all-to-rare of late experience of reading a whole book in a day this past weekend. While it isn't a perfect book, it was a great reading experience, and I was anxious to see what others had written about Heti's "sort of" novel. Well, sometimes nothing cements your appreciation for a book more than a crappy review of the book. In this case, Katie Roiphe's "Not Quite How a Person Should Be: Grow up, Sheila Heti!" I'll give Roiphe the benefit of the doubt and assume she didn't pick the title, but it still does a pretty decent job of conveying Roiphe's condescending and dismissive attitude towards the book. Roiphe's critiques of the book echo critiques of "Girls" and both annoy me for the same reason - reviewers seem to underestimate Heti and Dunham's own self awareness, accusing them of being self absorbed and too concerned with the view of others, without understanding that this concern, this awareness, is a core subject of both Heti and Dunham's work. Neither "How Should..." or "Girls" is 100% autobiographical but neither are they 100% satire. This seems to baffle reviewers. Could it possibly be that both Heti and Dunham want to earnestly discuss something incredibly intimate and revealing - the way that we live our lives aware of the observation of others, and in the shadow of our own self-conscious critique - while at the same time mocking and doubting these same impulses? Gasp! It's almost like they are....artists!
Roiphe's review is so incredibly condescending (starting right off the bat with an opening line labeling Heti's book "fashionable") that its almost breathtaking. She really takes it over the edge with her conclusion:
"At one point Sheila and Margaux go swimming in a pool in Miami. Sheila says: 'I’m so happy with how we were making everyone jealous with how happy we were in the pool!' For me, this vignette captures what’s irritating and fundamentally false feeling about the book. The elaborate, perpetual performance in front of the imagined jealous audience is exhausting and ultimately drains this book of its potentially more interesting life force or examination. The reader can’t help thinking to herself at that point: Just swim, Sheila Heti! Just swim!"
UGH! Seriously, Roiphe? Heti doesn't offer this up as an, "Aw shucks, I just can't live in the moment, wish I could dance like no one is watching" or "Hey, everyone, look at me!" vignette. It's part of the entire book-long conversation about performance, art, piecing together a personality and life. In fact, the previously mentioned Margaux responds to Sheila's comment with a considerable amount of eye-rolling, but leave it to Roiphe to omit this for the purposes of her own lame conclusion.
One final note: critics of both Heti and Dunham always seem anxious to lapse into a "young women these days are so self absorbed" rant. And I will be the 1,000,000th person to point out what sexist bs this is. The questions Heti is examining in this book are questions that have been considered by many - even respectable grown men! - for centuries. Questions about art, self, relationships, and intelligence. I'm sorry for any reviewers who can't see past the fact they are being asked by a woman in her 30s, in 2013.