Jonathan Franzen contemplates suicide

Book report
Farther Away” by Jonathan Franzen (New Yorker)

In 2010, Jonathan Franzen travelled to the remote island that the novel Robinson Crusoe was set on, to read the book (and see some birds). The essay drifts between his travelogue, bird watching, thinking about the origin of the novel, and reflecting on the suicide of his friend David Foster Wallace. It is a complex and moving contemplation on suicide. Suicide, he believes, is the final word in an argument, formulated to have the maximum impact. Franzen is also painfully aware of how painfully aware Wallace was about the potential fame-cementing impact a writer’s suicide has. Something of a bitter pill, but seems accurate. Could you imagine Kanye committing suicide for the everlasting fame? I some ways, if his mania went untreated long enough, you can.


The Whole Shabang: Chips So Good You’ll Have To Go To Jail To Get Them (NBC)

Everyone loves cooking shows. Especially when ex-cons are behind the grill.


Cheapest DIY: Custom Nasal Strip (Breathe Right) That Fits You,& Find Your Z-Spot [sic] (Genius Asian)

Dr. Zhang suggests making your own Breathe Right strips with thin strips of credit cards.  Don’t have any inactive cards? He explains exactly how to cut up a card that you are still using and have it still work.


The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

Wonderful non-fiction book about the confrontation of the Hmong people and the American medical system. Fadiman finds a confrontation between the hyper-rational Western medical establishment and the Hmong. The clash grow hot because for the Hmong medicine is religion. Their mysticism is bound to their healing practices. Maybe one of the greatest non-fiction books ever. Fascinating, moving, unsettled, and complicated.


Man in Profile by Thomas Kunkel

Book-length profile of New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell. Mitchell was depressed and felt trapped between two worlds. Because he was not going to be buried in New York City he felt alienated. His last project was a potentially sprawling autobiography but he let things distract him. Then he lost his wife. The autobiography goes unfinished. It makes me wonder: Is writer’s block just depression? Is perfectionism depression? What about the projects that grow so large in our minds that we have never done, that feel so real to us. Are they the fertilizer of a mind gone to seed?


D. J.s, Swim Briefs, $25 Coladas: In Vegas, the Party’s at the Pool” By Courtney Bond (NYTimes)

Fun fun FUN! We love FUN! Great reported essay on Vegas pool parties.


Economic Inequality with Mark Greif (RSA)

Should the wealthy be relieved from the burden of unending wealth accumulation?


Message to my haters: You are correct, I’m a Neanderthal” by Alex Nichols (The Outline)

A nice article about 23andMe. My biggest problem with 23andMe is that it can’t really tell you much about yourself, unless you are adopted. It uses correlative metrics, meaning that it compiles (and relies completely on) data that has already been collected (ie other people’s DNA tests). So for the time being, while much of the population hasn’t had their DNA encoded, DNA tests can’t really tell you that much.


I Don’t Want It At All” by Kim Petras

My pop song of the moment.

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