February 27, 2017
Welcome to the working week
by Melville House
Oh, hi. How was your weekend? Well you look terrific. Rested. Ready for another run of holding up and getting by, seven more days living under a president who’s basically a chewed-up wad of cheerios left to fester in a yard until it attained sentience.
Here’s some Monday morning caffeine for you:
- First, a confession. We call this This Is Just to Let You Know:
We have broken
that the president
he is probably
hoping to turn
into a golf course
it was delicious
because Sean Spicer is
a tiny li’l baby
- Also last week, we wrote about Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak on the occasion of her seventy-fifth birthday. Because of her close association with legendary deconstructivist philosopher (and Last Interview series participant) Jacques Derrida, we wrote about him a lot, too. But there was one crucial piece of Derridana that didn’t quite make into that piece, and we’re happy to share it with you here. It also concerns writer and MobyLives contributor JW McCormack, whom Derrida visited after his own death, in most unusual form. JW can take it from here:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.
- We’ve also posted lately about the revolutionary darlings of the Merriam-Webster Twitter account, who keep tweeting out the plain definitions of whatever words are being presently tortured by the administration. A few days ago, they got up to it again, when Kellyanne Conway, who serves double duty as both the death mask of human rationality and Counselor to President Trump, attempted to describe herself as a feminist. To which Merriam-Webster replied (paraphrasing here), the fuck you are. It’s something we’ve been thinking a lot about lately too. You guys, we should totally hang out.
- First the Mall of America, and now we learn that Grindr, too, has a writer in residence. Oh tempura, oh morays.
- In news of things that are a lot older than Grindr, Writings from Ancient Egypt, the first collection of Ancient Egyptian writing to be published in English translation as literature, is out now in England, and forthcoming in the US. As we’ve previously written, Ancient Egypt rules, and its literature has suffered generations of bad translation. Here’s hopin’ those bones can live.
- Marley Dias, one of the two coolest pre-teens ever to walk to earth, has a book deal! This is fantastic news.
- Last week, we wrote about Quote, a new video game that riffs on Umberto Eco’s writing. We also talked about video games that have taken cues from Ayn Rand and Vladimir Bartol. We could have gone on — not just about video games inspired by writing, but about some writing that’s inspired by video games. Poet Caolan Madden, for example, has extensively commented on and experimented with the possibilities of interplay between literature and video games. Video games also become a subject in this amazing conversation between poets Rae Armantrout and Jon Woodward, and Woodward’s work has been in conversation with the methods and worlds of video games for years. Also last week, a video game based on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden began making big news. While, yeah, Thoreau appears to have been a dillweed, and, nah, this doesn’t really sound like the kind of wailing-guitar video game exhilaration that can turn a corporate executive into bad-ass pixel-racer… I mean, yyyeah. I’d play that.
And hey, a lot of big birthdays today!
For starters, the astounding Marion Anderson was born 120 years ago today (and died in 1993 at the age of ninety-six). Some advice: definitely listen to this. Maybe take a second so you’re not distracted:
It’d also be the 115th birthday of John Steinbeck, who died in 1968 at the age of sixty-six. A fine time to watch his Nobel Prize acceptance speech from a few years earlier. Not all of this has aged well—surely what American literature must combat is not its “emasculation”—but there’s much wisdom, too, and you don’t hear phrases like “tinhorn mendicants of low-calorie despair” every day. For that matter, Steinbeck’s articulation of his civilization’s dilemma—“Having taken god-like power, we must seek in ourselves for the responsibility and the wisdom we once prayed some deity might have”—sounds ripped from today’s headlines. The speech is worth watching:
Today would also be the ninety-second birthday of poet Kenneth Koch, had he not died at seventy-seven in 2002. Here he is, talking about William Carlos Williams, reading poems, taking questions, and utterly slaying an audience at the New York Studio School in 1974 (audio only):