In the dying gasps of 2017, let’s focus on the positives. North Korea hasn’t — yet! — nuked anyone in response to some dumb tweets. Britain might permit EU nationals to stay on Harry Potter Island instead of turfing them off, Europe might extend the same luxury to Brits. Azuki the hedgehog is a thing that exists, both in life and on Instagram and he is probably too good for this rotten world. Also, there were some wonderful essays. I’m aware that talking about writing right now is a bit like asking you to focus on how pretty the roses on the wallpaper are as your house burns down, but here we are. Let’s explore the best of the non-DADDY internet.
by Brandon Taylor (them)
This is dizzyingly good! Kind of like the anti-cat person (not to disparage the viral short story sensation, because, spoiler: it drops later in the list). It’s about being single and wanting something but probably not sex? But maybe it IS in fact cat person-esque despite being non-fiction about not dating in being relatable. Taylor does that skilful thing of translating his very specific circumstances into the universal.
Because, there’s this bit: “But he gripped my arm and asked if he could kiss me, and I felt at that moment the way I always feel when people offer me alcohol. That to say no — to resist in any way — would be to alter some fundamental quality that held the evening together.”
Also this: “Sometimes when I’m talking about my work with friends, they ask me: “Yes, that’s great, but how are you?” What they mean is, “But why aren’t you dating? Why are you alone?” As if there’s only one way to be lonely, as if sex and romantic love were the only thing a person could long for.”
All of this said, it only seems fair to warn you that reading this essay may undo you as a person.
by Lauren Oyler (The Baffler)
I’m unqualified to rate any reviews of Lady Bird, simply ‘cause the film doesn’t come out in Germany until April. But this felt refreshing after all the breathlessness surrounding the movie, something which felt vaguely related to director Greta Gerwig being, if not a millennial herself, someone who millennials can fuck with (the covert narcissism, the what-am-i-doing-with-my-life vibes that inform her best roles).
Oyler is generous about the movie, which she admits functions as a feel-good outing to the cinema, but is enjoyably steely about the sentiment-soaked responses to the film – from the standing ovation it received at the New York Film Festival to adults weeping during what sounds like a good, but fairly unremarkable movie — and the way social media has turned something as uncontroversial as rating a film into a form of virtue signalling.
by Marissa Higgins (Catapult)
Higgins is smart about food and class — the way people invest in “a wood-fired pizza that costs four times as much as the one in my freezer” for the status. It’s a hard read because it’s all a bit too on the money, with Higgins exposing all the weird tensions that surround eating in public, from people shaming you for eating cheap carbohydrates because it’s unhealthy to assumptions about income based on your packed lunch.
by Kristen Roupenian (The New Yorker)
Despite everyone throwing that word around about this, not actually an essay, but fuck it. This cautionary tale about dating male heterosexuals who are bad at fingering and force you to watch depressing documentaries is a good one (though…god, could any short story live up to the hype this has met with?). Possibly every bit as enjoyable as the short story is this Twitter account it inspired: Men react to Cat Person which in an Instagram reveal, turns out to be the handiwork of Twitter funny person/writer Anna Fitzgerald. Sometimes the internet is almost OK.
by Evette Dionne (Bitch Media)
Good overview of the weaknesses of the Spike Lee Netflix adaptation. Which are mainly focused on having a pansexual, polyamorous protagonist and then not really following through (though, also, personally, could have done with less hashtags being shoehorned into scenes where they don’t…necessarily need to be?). Like: “her decision-making seems primarily rooted in her own insecurities, narcissism, and inability to communicate—all of which must be sidelined to negotiate successful polyamorous relationships.”
by Merve Emre (The Boston Review)
God, this is nice. I’d say “Best essay I read all year,” but my Spidey senses tell me that Emre would bristle at such a Buzzfeed listicle of a statement. It is:
(a) A level-headed comparison of Durga Chew-Bose’s essay collection with Mary Gaitskill’s latest collection
(b) An annihilation of the current trend for personal essays celebrating stylish incoherence and shrugging at the idea of communicating anything concrete so that the essay writer comes off as an impossibly complicated being (relevant: I do this, too)
(c) A history of the personal essay and the pushback that has always existed about the form
Read it, tattoo it on your heart, vow to yourself to become a conscientious student of the artform and to stop being someone who’s roughly one bad day away from pouring out their emotions in A Sloppy Personal Essay.
by Jia Tolentino (The New Yorker)
Thoughtful prose on why millennials get called entitled when they’re the first generation ever to have just a 50% chance of making more money than their parents. While the arguments here aren’t especially revolutionary, Tolentino is skilled at threading together the disparate threads that make up the history of the m-word.
by Sam Kahn (The Awl)
On writing with very little plot. Perfect.
Til 2018, link list lovers.