You probably knew I loved Norman Rush’s Mating a lot, but did you know I loved it enough to book a solo weekend trip up to Niagara Falls earlier this month in an effort to EXPERIENCE FLOW AND ABUNDANCE in person? (Such are the thoughts one rattles off after eating two special chocolate squares and embarking on an eight-hour bus tour, driven by a retired pipe-fitter who also apparently does these amazing Jackson Pollockian paintings in his garage in Buffalo…Jeff, I’d give you 20 stars on Google Reviews if I could).
The trip(s) was easily a highlight of the summer, though after I came home, I felt like my vision was super weird for a week after; it turns out I probably gave myself a version of snow blindness from, um, gazing into all the UV-reflective waters for far too long. Kind of biblical, if you think about it: I have gazed into the forbidden mist, and it was good.
So that’s the status report from my end: this summer has involved great stretches of yearning (particularly over the seductive allure of other people’s weirdly close friend groups: how do people have them? Do you actually like being in them? Do I want them?), punctuated by moments of what I’m calling “Touching It”: walking to dinner on a velvet-breezy night, writhing in the heap at Soul Summit, looking at a hot-pink cloud outside on my way to the laundromat, sitting in my parents’ backyard with my brother and an ice cream cake, peeling fresh lychee at home in front of the TV, watching four grandmotherly besties gossipping from the next pool over at a Canadian Marriott spa. Sometimes it feels like a cheap writing trick to trot out these kinds of scenic details in an effort to, I don’t know, come up with some prevailing thesis on How Life Is Going, but I think it makes sense that as our lives flatten into increasingly leaf-thin occurrences of a screen, those tactile ridges are what we have left to hold onto.
Links from me:
We’ve Reached Peak Girl - I wish I had like, a few semesters’ worth of time to unpack the ideas I came across trying to process the Barbiefication/pinkification of our recent culture, but this is my stab at trying to explain why, we long so much for imagined girlhood lately. (I also loved Rebecca Jennings’ supply-side take on this in “Girl” trends and the repackaging of womanhood for Vox.
“We Have Built a Giant Treadmill That We Can’t Get Off”: Sci-Fi Prophet Ted Chiang on How to Best Think About AI - I got to do a Q&A with Ted Chiang about AI, and it was easily a top 10 conversation I’ve probably had in my life? If you’re not on the Chiang bandwagon, go out and read both short story collections immediately.
Esther Perel Thinks All This Amateur Therapy-Speak Is Just Making Us Lonelier - And I talked to Esther Perel, too! Deez Interviews has really come so far. It’s so fascinating that we’re in this moment trying to confront the place therapy plays in society now — see: NY Mag’s Bessel van der Kolk cover story, NYT Magazine’s therapy issue, even the New Yorker’s therapy issue. I’m not a huge student of Perel’s podcast myself, but every time I listen, I do find it interesting how specific she is sure to make each situation. It’s so American that we try to package and scale up and parcel out what is effectively care in all these new ways, when the nature of real relationships is in their resistance to all of that. You have to go in with a microscope.
Also, I did a guest stint as Slate’s Dear Prudie! As someone whose role as “oldest sister” is a matter of personal identity, you cannot imagine my delight in the chance to GIVE ADVICE and then reap NO CONSEQUENCE WHATSOEVER. Should we turn Deez Links into an advice column on the side???
Links for you:
That’s No Counselor. She’s the Head of the Camp (NYT) - A totally perfect story about Diane von Furstenberg’s 23-year-old grand-daughter running a teen arts camp (that I suspect Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings must be based on) in Connecticut. My favorite detail is the camp’s phone policy? Apparently, for week 1, you don’t get your phone at all; for the rest of the 7 weeks, you get it for an hour a day. And that’s it! I would ABSOLUTELY pay $14K for someone to do that to my teenager, easily. The actual camp part would be bonus. (TBH, I would probably pay that much for someone to do that to me, actually…)
Long covid has derailed my life. Make no mistake: It could yours, too. (WaPo) - A harrowing account of long covid, three years in, from Madeline Miller, the author of Circe and Song of Achilles
Boy Problems: The manosphere promises to fix young men’s lives. Instead, it’s making them miserable (Mother Jones) - One of those succinct overviews that saved me many hours of trying to differentiate between the gradations of Jordan Peterson / Andrew Tate schools of thought floating around the internet…also makes a fascinating point about how the crisis of masculinity traditionally finds its villain in women, and not “the boss”! It’s almost amusing how close these manosphere influencers get in figuring out there’s a coherent “System” out to get them….boys…you’re so close….just think a little bit harder…..u got this…..
The Real Meaning of Gatekeeping (The Cut) - a classic Ann Friedman production: “Telling everyone you’re not gatekeeping is a quick and easy way to signal authenticity and transparency — two traits that are at a premium now.”
They Review Movies on TikTok, but Don’t Call Them Critics (NYT) - The other day, I finally got on Letterboxd (I’m @deeelia lol) in service of a particularly movie-based relationship, and it made me think about how the entire culture of gatekeeping/recommendations—much of which revolves around personable TikTok heads and relatable internet personas whose taste we’ve learned to trust more than a brand or corporation—operates as a form of parasocial bonding. Like, nowadays, you want to see X movie that Y influencer recommended because you like/trust/”know” Y influencer, and taking their recommendation is a way of bonding with them (or at least, their persona). It gives you something in common. (That’s why the fuss around Barbie and Oppenheimer, right? We’re all doing it to have something in common.)
The alternate theory is that we’re just trying to piggyback off each others’ taste in the most efficient way possible: watching X is a way to break off a piece of Y’s developed taste for yourself, thus saving you time and energy about making the movie choice with the highest payoff in cultural/social capital. Hmm!
Speaking of recs….here’s a ULTRA RARE podcast rec for you: “The Later Dater Today” pod, from Lakshmi Rengarajan, who I interviewed a couple of years ago about her romantic set-up podcast, “Paired By the People.” Honestly, I still think about the convo I had then with Lakshmi and in the years since about this urgent need to return dating to the realm of the greater community (not TikTok therapists, not optimizable apps, and CERTAINLY NOT apps with AI!); this time, she’s delving into the world of dating in middle age and beyond, which is so much more complicated and transcendent than what Carrie Bradshaw makes it seem on And Just Like That… I truly believe there’s no one exploring the nuanced gorgeosity of modern love than Lakshmi, and this pod is her most heartening project yet.