The Week of the Writing Retreat

All week long, I looked forward to Saturday—partially for the opportunity to sleep in, but also because I signed up to attend my friend Lisa Munro’s online writing retreat. I really wanted to use the time to get started on the next Brisket essay, and the retreat provided protected, structured time to spend considering my argument, the scope of the essay, and the stories I plan to tell. I spent a lot of time staring out the window, especially when my across-the-street neighbors walked their new puppy over to pee in our yard, but it was necessary. Those moments of round-and-round, ouroborian thinking eventually resolve into relatively clarified ideas, a rough but usable piece of marble that you can carve until it resembles an actual argument. 

Today I took the day off. With the exception of two hours spent on the phone with Verizon trying to resolve an internet connectivity issue, I spent the day baking, reading, laying in the park, drinking beer on the stoop, and eating all the delicious food that Kevin put in front of me. I have a busy week ahead, so I wanted to make resting and recharging a priority.

Here's what captured my attention this week...

I'm reading: an essay per week from Adrienne Rich's On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Proselast night I finished “Toward a Woman-Centered University." I’ve put down I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita for now because I got sucked into Thomas Mullen's Lightning Men, which I’m actually enjoying even more than Darktown. I’m realizing just how unlikeable the antagonist was in that book, and so far this book has spent more time focused on the complicated and compelling stories of Officers Boggs and Smith.

I also read two non-fiction pieces this week. I found “An Apology from the Internet—From the People Who Built It,” published in the most recent issue of New York Magazine, to be enlightening and infuriating. Enlightening, because more than one of the “architects” interviewed argued that the founding contradiction of Silicon Valley was its developers’ desire to be both socialists and libertarians. This resulted in the founding flaws of the internet. First, they made it free to use, but funded it by selling advertisements and users' data. And second, they elevated users’ freedom of speech above the experience of the collective, enabling bullies and making vast swaths of the web inhospitable to anyone who is not a straight white man. Infuriating, because even now, having realized what they’ve created, most of these men (Ellen Pao and Kate Losse are the only women quoted) sound naïve. I’d be curious to hear your reactions, should you also read the piece.

The other longform non-fiction I read was Erica Berry’s essay for True Story, “Beasts Among Us.” I’m obsessed with this mini-magazine from Creative Nonfiction. I’ve read eight of the 16 issues that have been published so far and have found them all to be that elusive combination of a page-turning story that offers smart insights into a topic you’d never before considered. Plus, they are small enough to fit into the pocket of your bag or backpack—I always have one on me. “Beasts Among Us” follows the author on a reporting trip to small-town Wisconsin, specifically an area with a high number of werewolf sightings, and asks what we gain when we open ourselves up to the possibility that mythical creatures are real. I cannot recommend True Story more highly—subscribe!

I'm listening to: The Dirty Projectors. I think I might be the last person in the world to discover this band. 

I'm watching: the second season of HBO's Westworld premieres tonight! We loved the first season for the emotional (and emotionally manipulative) performances and the plot twists, and it has been a long wait for these new episodes. Matt Zoller Seitz has a review up on Vulture that gives very little away, but seems positive! 

Enjoy posts like this one? Check out Brisket to read more about what's on my mind--just bring some bread to go with the meal!