Cancellation and the art of writing

On Meghan Daum's "The Problem with Everything" and the problem with everything

I recently wrote a short review of Meghan Daum’s new book, The Problem with Everything: My Journey Through the New Culture Wars for America magazine. Faithful readers of this newsletter know that Daum is not just one of my favorite writers. She is one of my chief inspirations — stylistically and intellectually, but more important than that, vocationally. I am a writer today because I read her 2001 collection, My Misspent Youth. My very first published essays, written for the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “First Person” series, were my attempts at writing a Meghan Daum essay. Eh, they’re OK. They seem obviously immature to me now. But I did my best, and people seemed to like them. (This was before Twitter, so I don’t really know how terrible they actually were.)

The Problem with Everything is Daum’s attempt to understand how she, a Gen Xer with impeccable feminist bona fides, came to feel so alienated from the feminist movement as it is today. The awkward position of Generation X is an abiding theme in Daum’s work. Her earliest work was as a sort of native informant about the life of then-young Gen Xers, explianing their (our) baffling proclivities and fears to their elders. A decade later, in her brilliant essay on nostalgia in the 2014 collection The Unspeakable, Daum asks, “How did I get to be middle-aged without actually growing up?” Five years after that, in The Problem with Everything, she writes, “my generation will be the last to have known the world in its analog form. As a result, we’ve grown old before actually getting old.”

I recently saw a chart that showed the number of members of each generation in the workforce over time. Baby Boomers made up the largest share of the workforce for decades. Millennials became the largest generation of working people a few years ago, and will likely remain so for quite a while. Gen X was the largest for just three years — indeed, the years right around when The Unspeakable was published. By that measure, at least, our generation, a deep valley between two massive ridges, had only a brief moment in the sun. It’s no wonder we feel both like we never grew up and like we somehow turned prematurely old. We were overshadowed by our elders, then by younger people immediately after that. (And while I’m on this point, I strongly endorse this conversation among Daum and the hosts of the Feminine Chaos podcast, Phoebe Maltz Bovy and Kat Rosenfield, concerning feminism, the generations, and more. It’s also here.)

Daum sees in the younger generation of feminists (and liberals more generally) a quite different approach to activism than the one she grew up with. To her eyes, they have less tolerance for ambiguity and less patience. They mistake online burns for political victories. They are “insufficiently awed by toughness” and “refuse to be shamed by vulnerability. In fact, in a brilliant move of jiujitsu, many have figured out how to use their thin skin as their most powerful weapon.” (I’ll come back to this point in a moment.) My favorite sentence in the book sums up a major part of its thesis: “I can’t for the life of me see why a GIF of Emma Stone rolling her eyes in disgust is considered a substitute for a counterargument.”

What’s great about The Problem with Everything is the way Daum engages intellectually with the new culture wars in terms of her lived experience. The generation gap in feminism reflects her own experience crossing the gap between youth and middle age by leaving and then returning to New York City. Her fascination with “heterodox” YouTube thinkers has something to do with the breakup of her marriage. She wrote in My Misspent Youth that the book was “about not knowing what things are about and trying to sort matters out by using one’s own personal experiences and observations as a tool.” That’s always been Daum at her best, and it still is.

I don’t love everything about The Problem with Everything. Daum relies on speculation more than I wish she did; that’s a problem in a book that argues for nuance and rigor. And in a chapter that includes an analysis of the Kavanaugh hearings, she makes a strained case for the existence of toxic femininity without acknowledging that toxic femininity, however defined, doesn’t have a seat on the Supreme Court, while toxic masculinity does.

But the book has been echoing around my head since I read it, alongside several essays and a video that are all approximately about the problem with our cultural discourse. The echoes haven’t yet resolved into a coherent — what, melody? — but I’m convinced that they are the components for making sense of why conversations about culture follow such frustrating and predictable paths, whether the topic is campus politics or Kenny G.

Broadly, the problem has to do with the intersection of discourse and power. How does one speak to and from different points on the power spectrum? Who has authority to speak about what subjects? The old magisterial stance — I have power and thus the authority to speak — is still very much with us, but it isn’t considered cool to speak that way. Doing so, almost regardless of what you’re saying, makes you a target for critique. (Though the critique probably won’t seriously damage your position in the hierarchy.) We believe that those who lack power, who are marginalized or underdogs, have a certain authority by virtue of their position. This is generally a good thing, though it gets used in bad faith pretty frequently. I say “we” not to signify just people on the left who are often accused of mobilizing victimhood for rhetorical advantage, but everyone. The right is every bit as invested in giving rhetorical authority to those on the margins as the left is. They just think different people (i.e., themselves) are marginal. If you don’t believe me, read any article in The American Conservative or First Things.

B.D. McClay analyzes a common type of bad-faith use of self-marginalization in her recent essay, “A Decade of Sore Winners.” She starts with the example of Taylor Swift, who had a very good decade in the 2010s, yet whose songs are thematically about how she’s constantly being wronged. Swift “is always rising,” McClay writes, “above the haters, up from the dead, in fame — even when she doesn’t seem to have any space left to rise to.” The greatest sore winner, of course, is President Trump, who seems to believe he is the most-wronged American in history, an underdog who nevertheless reminds us daily that he has the power to order death from above upon any person, anywhere. McClay doesn’t mention the New England Patriots, perpetually set-upon despite their utter dominance of the NFL for two decades. Of course they love Trump; of course he loves them.

McClay takes the argument in a far more interesting direction beyond Trump and toward how we should look at the cultural and political facts of the world: “There is something to be said for developing a critical sensibility, in which passion and detachment can coexist and enforce each other, in which things are serious (sometimes deadly serious) without being about you.”

I read McClay’s essay around the same time I viewed Natalie Wynn’s latest Contrapoints video, a 100-minute investigation into cancel culture, spurred largely by Wynn’s own cancellation by a segment of the online transgender community, over her collaboration with a trans actor whom many other trans people see as “problematic,” in the parlance of our times. Wynn’s critics justified abusing her on Twitter and elsewhere on the grounds that they were “punching up” at a prominent figure who could afford to be taken down a few pegs. But as Wynn shows, a hundred or a thousand angry people are pretty powerful, when their anger is directed at you.

The video is a typically sharp and funny analysis of how cancellers reason. In short, they do it in extremely bad faith, willfully committing a series of thinking errors. Like McClay, Wynn calls for better, more honest interpretation as a way to rein in the excesses of online cancel culture. Together, they contend that there are intellectual and moral virtues associated with having a voice in the public sphere.

This is what people get wrong when they view the problem with our culture in terms only of free speech. They look only at discourse and ignore power. They think it’s enough to say that you should be able to say whatever you want, to whomever you want (so long as you’re willing to bear the consequences). But in fact, what you say ought to be shaped by intellectual virtues of careful reading and reasoning. That means adopting something like the critical sensibility McClay is talking about.

The good critic’s virtues aren’t just incumbent upon large-platform commentators like Daum or Wynn. They’re incumbent on anyone contributing to the cultural conversation — as even the people trashing Natalie Wynn on Twitter are. They may not have a lot of followers, but some people are looking to them for commentary. You may not be online at all, but you talk about the world with your family and friends. You owe it to them to read the world fairly.

The virtues also explain why most cognitive psychologists and venture capitalists and college debate champions are such shitty cultural commentators; they haven’t practiced the virtues of reading and interpreting cultural objects with the tricky combination of passion and distance that McClay and Wynn and Daum advocate (and practice). They claim authority in areas where they lack expertise, and they don’t even see that there are virtues associated with speaking in the venues they claim for themselves. Then they get upset when they aren’t taken seriously.

Am I just calling for more snobby elitism? The kind we spent the 2010s getting over? Aren’t I saying that only rich and well-educated people ought to receive a hearing in the conversation of culture? No, not really. It doesn’t cost anything to be less of a jerk. You don’t have to be born into privilege to tell the truth or to realize that the person you’re criticizing is, however wrong they may be, a person. Good faith is accessible to all.

I have said a lot already without mentioning two essays from last year that are also shaping my thinking about the tricky intersection of discourse and power: Two editorials in The Point by Jon Baskin and Anastasia Berg, one on the term, “cultural Marxism,” and one on “Left Straussianism.” Also Wesley Morris on “The Morality Wars” and, always, the classic n+1 editorial, “Revolt of the Elites.” So I’ll just mention them and leave it at that.

Oh, yeah: This all started with my review of Daum’s book. Here it is again.

Some news:

The past year was a good one for my writing, and I learned at the end of it that an essay from 2018, “When Work and Meaning Part Ways,” which was published in Hedgehog Review, received a special mention in the latest Pushcart Prize anthology. That means it was not among the 20 or so essays reprinted in the anthology (the Pushcart Prize winners), but was rather among the 50 or so listed in the back (runners-up, I suppose). Writers I greatly admire like Leslie Jamison and Kiese Laymon also received special mention. I don’t think I’m really in their company, but I’m thrilled by the association. And I’m beyond thrilled to have received a Pushcart special mention and a Best American Essays notable (“A Burnt-Out Case,” for Commonweal) in the same year. I would keep writing regardless of this validation, but I’m grateful to receive it.

I plan to post the newsletter monthly, rather than semi-monthly, for a little while. I need to focus on my book manuscript through May, and besides, I won’t have much new writing to share with you between now and then. (There will be something March-ish, but nothing else that I know of.) But as always, you can keep in touch by replying to this message, and you can read the full archive and share your favorite (or least-favorite!) posts here.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year.

Jon

https://jonmalesic.com/

New Xmas essay: Snowballs at Midnight Mass

And a summary of my writing this year

I have a short Christmas-themed essay online at Notre Dame Magazine this morning. “The Christmas Gift Unwrapped” is a memoir of going to midnight Mass one Christmas Eve in Buffalo about 18 years ago, during a storm that dumped seven feet of snow on the region. It’s the only Mass I have ever been to that resulted in a snowball fight. There’s a theological point in there about the Incarnation — the doctrine that God became fully human. If you don’t join in the snowball fight, are you fully human?

The essay is thematically similar to my NYT Magazine essay on cheap sushi that came out last week. Both pieces are about the mistake we make in thinking that transcendence is something aspirational, like owning a Lexus, rather than something you already have access to with the humble material reality right in front of your face. In Christian theology, the transcendent became humble material right in front of our faces. That truth can be very hard to accept.

The difficulty of seeing the highest good right before our eyes is evidently an abiding concern of mine, because even though the two pieces came out at the same time, they were written years apart. I wrote a version of the Christmas essay 15 years ago, then revised it this past spring. I only got the idea for the sushi essay late this past summer.

Hardcore fans of Annie Dillard — what shall we call ourselves? Dillheads? — will notice how much of the snowball essay I ripped off from “An Expedition to the Pole.” And while I’ve got you thinking of Dillard, you might read the brief and lovely “God in the Doorway” for Christmas, too.

The sushi essay got a positive response over the past week. It was nice to receive so many appreciative notes from you all. The few negative responses I saw on Twitter all had to do with overfishing and sustainability. If only those critics subscribed to this newsletter, they would know that I at least recognize this problem.

The year at its end

I took the measure of last year with my rejections. I measure this year by one big acceptance: my book proposal, by University of California Press. (My article pitches and subsmissions still got about 40 rejections.) I seem to have published about 22,000 words this year, wrote about that many in these newsletters, and then wrote several times that amount in getting one and a half drafts of the manuscript for my book on burnout. I pledged last year that I would just keep going, despite frequent rejection. I did. And I make the same pledge again.

Here's the full list of my publications in 2019. I’m proud of each of these, but the pieces marked with an asterisk are my favorites:

The really decisive essay was the one on burnout, the first thing I wrote in the new year. It got me interviewed on CBC's Tapestry, and it got me the book contract to write about burnout, which I have been doing since June. Compared to last year’s publications, this year’s are much more personal. I’m grateful to my critique partners for convincing me I could write personally without losing the analytical edge that’s more typical of the academic writing I did for most of my career before now.

I gave talks on work and burnout this year at Ohio University, University of Texas — Arlington, and Abilene Christian University (twice). And I spoke to church groups and high school teachers. I already have several talks booked for Spring 2020. (Please get in touch if you would like me to speak to your group!)

We are also the end of a decade. Ten years ago, I definitely did not think I would have quit a tenured academic job (I didn’t even have tenure yet a decade go), moved to Texas, and begun calling myself a writer without too much imposter syndrome. I could not have imagined myself happy outside of academia in 2009. But by the middle of the decade, I could no longer imagine myself happy in it. What can we say? Things change.

I am grateful for your faithful readership and support all year long. It’s always nice to get responses to these posts, and I try to reply to as many as I can. Please encourage others to subscribe if you think they’ll enjoy receiving this newsletter. The full archive is here: https://jonmalesic.substack.com/ (click “Let me read it first”). Each post has its own page, which you can share just as you would anything else. You can get in touch with me by replying to this email.

Best holiday wishes,

Jon

My essay in NY Times Mag: On Mediocre Sushi

What I learned as an accidental sushi chef

You may notice I’m emailing you from a different service, Substack instead of Tinyletter. Please drag this message to your main inbox, or add this address to your address book, so you’ll be sure to see every message you receive. Beyond that, nothing will change for you with my using the new service. The newsletter is still free. You can still expect to receive this twice a month, on the first and third Mondays (occasionally Tuesdays), but I’m thinking of reducing frequency for a bit. More on that next time.

The big news:

I have an essay in the New York Times Magazine in praise of one of my favorite things: cheap, mediocre sushi. The piece, which is this week’s Letter of Recommendation column, is online now and will be in the Dec. 22 issue. I make the case that mediocre sushi is not just delicious, is not just a marvel of human invention, but is in fact spiritually significant. Contrary to the view of “purists” who shell out hundreds of dollars for sushi as they believe it was meant to be, an ordinary California roll from Kroger is testimony to the fact that the highest good is always right here before us. I hope you enjoy the essay.

(And yes, I am thrilled to have an essay in the magazine! It’s one of those things I never imagined could happen until it happened. Thanks are due to my friend J. for help with some of the ideas in the essay and to A. and W., who encouraged this idea and read early versions of the piece.)

My interest in mediocre sushi goes back to 1999, when I started working at Tokyo Rose in Charlottesville, Virginia. As I recount in the essay, I ended up as a very accidental sushi chef after the owner, Atsushi Miura, who has been a major influence on my life and the lives of many who worked for him, called me from the kitchen to the sushi bar. I had no idea what I was doing. As it turned out, it didn’t matter.

I worked at Tokyo Rose until Atsushi sold the place in December 2004. The restaurant was much more than a workplace for me and my friends. It was our social hub; it was, I don’t know, what Facebook and Twitter wish they were: a place where you knew everyone would be, where you told stories and jokes and had arguments and shared the new book or album you were into and fell in love and broke hearts and had yours broken.

It was also a place to hear music. The list of A-list indie rock bands who played in the basement of the Rose in the 1990s is staggering: Cibo Matto, Cat Power, Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel (those three all played in one week in 1996), Spoon, the Mountain Goats, Sleater-Kinney. I didn’t see any of those shows, because I didn’t live in Charlottesville at the time, and I wasn’t cool anyway.

I did, however, get to hear Atsushi perform often. On Tuesday nights, once the kitchen closed, he took up his guitar (onto which he had decoupaged the faces of the Beatles), donned a harmonica holder, and stood in a corner of the dining room singing a mix of Orbison covers, Japanese folk songs he translated into English, and his own compositions. I know of no other songwriter who can match Atsushi’s ability to express such deep emotion through such bone-dry humor.

For instance, there’s his song, “Pancake,” which is about eating pancakes (and having a dirty mind) in the face of ecological disaster:

Someday our grandchildren / May stand on the hill / And have no comment on / The end of the human race.

Thinking of such a thing / While biting sweet pancakes: / Am I just an opportunist / Who doesn’t change anything?

Listen, my little girl: / Yes, we should try to change this world, / Where my love for you lingers on / And where you make me pancakes.

Pancake, pancake, pancake, / As sweet as you. / Pancake, pancake, pancake, / As hot as you. / I just want to get something / I just want to get something / Sweet and hot from you.

Listen for yourself:

I want to share with you a paragraph I wrote for the first draft of the sushi essay that didn’t make it into the final version. I wonder what Atsushi, who was so worried about the environment, would say about sushi and sustainability:

We may not be able to enjoy abundant mediocre sushi forever. Tuna populations are dwindling. Yellowtail farming is unsustainable. In the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” the renowned sushi chef Jiro Ono complains that overfishing has diminished quality. Like driving, sushi-eating is something we ought to do less of yet can’t seem to stop. Fish prices will surely rise, putting sushi again beyond the reach of the masses. The Buddha also taught about impermanence. Like all things, we are here only for a moment. For this moment, we have the best.

For the record, I do like actually-good sushi, too. And if you’re in Portland, Oregon or Seattle or San Francisco or Denver or Phoenix and want outstanding, sustainable sushi, pay a visit to Bamboo Sushi. It may not be mediocre, but it’s still the best.

I’ll have a year-end newsletter — and a Christmas-themed essay — for you next week. Please encourage others to subscribe if you think they’ll enjoy receiving these posts. The full archive is here: https://jonmalesic.substack.com/ (click “Let me read it first”). Each post has its own page, which you can share just as you would anything else. You can get in touch with me by replying to this email. As always, thank you for reading.

Jon

The appeal of imaginary friends (and enemies)

This newsletter and the next one are going out on Tuesday rather than Monday (for secret reasons). I hope that doesn't throw you off too much.

My article, "Meet the Twitter Account Promoting the Gospel, One Tweet at a Time," was recently published on America magazine's website. It's a profile of Jesus Christ, tweeting under the handle @JesusOfNaz316. What makes this account noteworthy is not simply that it's impersonating Jesus, but that its interpretation of Jesus is so appealing and well-executed. The user behind the account (whose true identity I'm sworn not to reveal) has put together a persona of Jesus as a voice of tremendous compassion, humor, and political outrage. As a result, other Twitter users flock to him, seeking spiritual comfort and challenge. I'm one of them, as I share in the piece. When I interact with the account, I do think of myself as talking to Jesus. And I find the comfort and challenge that I need.

Some of you might be thinking that this is idolatry, or that the account is blasphemous for pretending to be the Son of God. But I'd argue that few Christians worship a version of Christ that is completely free of their own projections. The gods we worship are always at least somewhat our own creations, if for no other reason than we have to engage our imagination in order to worship. It is a great spiritual challenge to strip away your own image and wishful thinking from your image of God. And a sure sign of idolatry is when you discover that God hates all the same people and things you do.

I realize that JesusOfNaz316 is, to a large degree, Jesus as I want him to be. His politics line up with mine. So does his taste in music. So, yes, you could say that there's something idolatrous in my -- and others' -- devotion to the account. (And I do realize it's still just a Twitter account.) Even so, the account pushes me to be more compassionate and to consider that the image of God is not only found in theology. It's in every person, particularly the marginal and forgotten. That, at least, is not idolatrous. That's the real deal.

Here again is the article. I hope you enjoy it.

* * *

I will have more to say about Meghan Daum's new book, The Problem with Everything: My Journey through the New Culture Wars, soon. But if you want to hear a really intelligent and often funny conversation with Daum, give a listen to the latest episode of the Feminine Chaos podcast (and video), hosted as always by Kat Rosenfield and Phoebe Maltz Bovy. The book is an often-critical engagement with contemporary feminism and other forms of progressive activism, in the form of, as Daum puts it in the interview, a "self-interrogation." It's about how Daum, a middle-aged feminist, came to feel alienated from younger feminists with a different and, to her, questionable, approach to activism and politics. (Though I don't read it as a "get off my lawn" rant, as some critics do.)

Daum's book and the podcast conversation helped me think further through my hypothesis that our political and cultural crises are in fact rooted in a much deeper epistemological crisis (i.e., a crisis of knowledge). In my last newsletter I wrote about the problem with making moral judgments based on who has more power in a given situation. The idea is, crudely, that those with power should get the brunt of your criticism ("always punch up"), and those without power should never get it ("don't punch down").

The trouble is, it's often unclear which way is up, and which way is down, and self-delusion or wishful thinking (there they are again) can lead us to imagine that people we want to criticize have more power than they really do, just so we can turn them into objects of criticism. But imagining them as powerful actually gives them power they wouldn't have otherwise. If you say it's scary to speak truth to power, but the thing you want to speak to isn't really that powerful, but you imagine that it is, and your fear keeps you from speaking, then, well, you've given something power it didn't previously have. (Daum is especially skeptical about claims that men always have more power than women; the conversation around this on the podcast is an interesting one.)

* * *

By the time you receive the next newsletter, I will have at least one more short essay out (in a very exciting new venue for me). I could have up to three. I can't wait to tell you about them. In the meantime, I have a semester to wrap up and a book manuscript to keep working on. My deadline is just six months away! Yikes.

Please share this newsletter with anyone you think would appreciate it. Thanksgiving is behind us now, but it's not too late to say I am deeply grateful to you for continuing to read what I write. Thanks.

Jon

Threats and neighbors

I have been thinking about two things -- one a matter of life and death, the other not -- that seem, at first, unrelated. The less serious one is a lengthy public complaint that a group of college students made against their professors. (This has been marginally in the news.) In the complaint, the students remarked on how difficult it is to "speak truth to power to a powerful institution like" the academic department where these professors teach. An academic department, powerful? University of Chicago economics, maybe, but that's not the department we're talking about. Why did the students feel the need to call the department a "powerful institution"? What are they afraid will happen to them as a result of speaking up?

The more serious thing is the recent killing of Atatiana Jefferson, a black woman who was just at home playing video games with her nephew one night last month, by a white Fort Worth police officer who saw her inside the house through a window and shot her. Jefferson's killing was depressingly similar to that of Botham Jean, whose murderer had just been sentenced a few days before. Jean, who was black, had also been at home when a white Dallas police officer, who claimed that she thought she was at her own door, entered his apartment, decided he was a threat, and then shot him dead before she figured out that she was wrong.

What unites these very different events is that in each encounter (the students complaining about their professors and the police approaching strangers), one party inflated the other into a powerful threat. In the college, not much is at stake in the inflation. The students seem to have legitimate grievances, but they probably don't have much to fear in speaking up. Sure, maybe this department is so toxic that professors do retaliate against students who raise concerns. But that's definitely not how most academic departments work.

On that night in Fort Worth, though, the cop turned the stranger (who surely could not see him outside her window) into a threat and immediately shot her to death.

I keep thinking that our political and moral and cultural crises are all manifestations of a much deeper epistemological crisis -- that is, a crisis of knowledge. We encounter the world without knowing much about it. I don't think there's any way around that fact. The problem is that we have somehow convinced ourselves that we ought to know everything about the world and the people we encounter in it. So we fill in our knowledge gap with assumptions, ideology, wishful thinking, and fear. We pre-know. We pre-decide. (In some cases, like the police shootings, racial pre-judice plays a role.) And in our pre-decision, we exaggerate threats. We imagine ourselves as innocent and other people as monsters. And then we act. Sometimes the results are merely farcical, but often, they're tragic.

I am not going to solve the epistemological crisis in this newsletter. But I've begun thinking that if we're going to stop turning the people we encounter into powerful threats, we're going to have to start seeing them as neighbors first. Some of what I'm thinking has to do with the command to love your neighbor as yourself, but I'm also thinking about how we deal with annoying next-door neighbors -- people we need to coexist with, and who need to coexist with us. How do we approach them? How much do we try to find out before we raise our concerns with them? How do we keep from turning them into our enemies? And how do we make it possible to coexist after our encounter?

Holiday Gift Guide (why not?)
Christmas and Hanukkah are a mere five weeks away, and I have a couple of gift ideas for you!

These electronic holiday ornaments from South Berkeley Electronics (which is really just my friend David Jacobowitz) are both super cool and super nerdy printed circuit boards that do important holiday-time work. Both the menorah and the snowflake have multiple lighting settings, so you can turn the LED Hanukkah candles into KITT's scanner or set the snowflake to blink in time to your favorite Christmas song. (Perhaps you're a fan of "Marshmallow World," and if so, then you're a psychopath.) The ornaments are programmable, making them extra good gifts for the tinkerer in the family.

For the kid in your life, consider my friend Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail's picture book, Alis the Aviator, which rhymes its way through the ABC's of aviation, with a particular focus on the history of flight in Canada, which is Danielle's home and native land. There are really cool cut-paper illustrations in the book, and there are details on all the featured aircraft in the back of the book for kids who want to take a deeper dive. (I was just such a kid.) The book also tells the story, in words and pictures, of Alis Kennedy, the first Canadian indigenous woman to get a commercial pilot's license.

For everyone else, please consider a gift subscription to a small magazine. Whether the recipient's interests are literary, political, religious, or whatever else, there are great magazines out there that will surprise them with every issue. Big magazines like The New Yorker and The Atlantic are great, but reading them just gets you what everyone else knows. When you read The Hedgehog Review or The Point or America or Commonweal or the literary magazine published by your local university, you get the pleasure of knowing what everyone else doesn't already know. Also, subscribing (or giving someone a subscription) is one of the best ways you can support writers like me who get published in those magazines.

I expect to have three or four short essays coming out by the end of the year. I'm eager to write to you about them, but we'll both have to wait until they're published. In the meantime, please spread the word about this newsletter. The full archive is here: https://tinyletter.com/jonmalesic/archive. Thank you for reading!

Jon

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