As with anything in this world, excess is excess, but inadequate is inadequate. A writer must know when the weight of the words used to describe a scene is bearing down on the scene itself. A writer should develop the measuring tape to know when to describe characters' thoughts in long sentences and when not to. But a writer, above all, should aim to achieve artistry with language which, like the painter, is the only canvas we have. Writers should realize that the novels that are remembered, that become monuments, would in fact be those which err on the side of audacious prose, that occasionally allow excess rather than those which package a story — no matter how affecting — in inadequate prose.Chigozie Obioma for The Millions: The Audacity of Prose.
[E]ven though the restaurant's cartoonish decor bordered on offensive, it was still a temple to a people and a cuisine that America couldn't ignore. Taco Bells were everywhere. In every strip mall. Off every highway exit. Even the racists, the immigrant-haters, the people who'd laugh at my elementary-school stand-up comedy routine would run for the border.John DeVore writes about finding the "unexpected, self-affirming solace" of home... at Taco Bell. [more inside]
You can laugh or sneer at Taco Bell. Shake your head at its high fat and salt content. Go ahead and lecture on what true Mexican food is. My mom would probably just roll her eyes at you, and take a broken yellow shard of crispy taco shell and use it to scoop up the pintos, cheese, and salsa.
Friends often try to assure me that people mean well, urging me to go easy on them, to be gracious, to give people the benefit of the doubt. "People don't mean to be offensive," they tell me. "They just don't know how to say it without coming across that way."Nishta Mehra writes about her family's experience with learning how to navigate the landscape of interracial adoption in a "post-racial" America: Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair.
What these friends don't understand is that when the act of defining your family structure becomes an expected part of every day of your entire life, you grow tired of being gracious. It's exhausting to have strangers view your life as an up-for-grabs educational experience. For my kid, it's to constantly hear the underlying message: "Your life, your family, doesn't make sense to me. Someone needs to explain it to me. You owe me an explanation."
It's the people who live comfortably inside majorities who tend to discount any sort of commentary from minorities as being "overly sensitive." And I imagine that it's hard to step back and grasp the fact that when the world you occupy is built to accommodate you, you fit inside the boxes. You make sense. You are expected.
The Best American Essays of 2014 Many of the essays are behind paywalls, or subject to monthly article limits. I've linked to those as well because some of you have access through work, school, or subscription. [more inside]
annotating Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah's profile of Dave Chappelle, "If He Hollers Let Him Go" [more inside]
2014 might well be "the year of Roxane Gay," but even as Ms. Gay experiences unprecedented personal success, the price of black ambition is never far from her mind.
I am thinking about success, ambition, and blackness and how breaking through while black is tempered by so much burden. Nothing exemplifies black success and ambition like Black History Month, a celebratory month I've come to dread as a time when people take an uncanny interest in sharing black-history facts with me to show how they are not racist. It's the month where we segregate some of history's most significant contributors into black history instead of fully integrating them into American history. Each February, we hold up civil-rights heroes and the black innovators and writers and artists who have made so much possible for this generation. We say, look at what the best of us have achieved. We conjure W. E. B. Du Bois, who once wrote, "The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men." We ask much of our exceptional men and women. We must be exceptional if we are to be anything at all.[more inside]
I don't know what it is about fecundity that so appalls. I suppose it is the teeming evidence that birth and growth, which we value, are ubiquitous and blind, that life itself is so astonishingly cheap, that nature is as careless as it is bountiful, and that with extravagance goes a crushing waste that will one day include our own cheap lives. Every glistening egg is a memento mori.Annie Dillard ponders the disquieting thrall of the circle of life in her November 1973 essay for The Atlantic: The Force That Drives the Flower. [more inside]
2013 had a lot of great longform writing. Longreads and Longform lead the way with their best of lists. Lots of sites provided year end lists: The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Business Week Buzzfeed, The Daily Beast, Dazed Digital, Deadspin, Esquire UK, Flavorwire, Gawker, Inc., Impose Magazine, Indiewire, i09, Lifehacker, Maclean's, Mashable, Mother Jones, National Geographic, National Journal, The New Yorker, On Earth, Out, Pocket, ReadWrite, Slate, Spin, Sports on Earth, The Electric Typewriter, The Verge, The Voice Media Group, and The Washington Post. [more inside]
Conceived as sort of a companion to Longreads, Longform, Pocket, Byliner, etc., Nieman Storyboard's Why's This So Good? series looks at why some great long-form journalism and narrative nonfiction pieces are so great. There are over 60 installments of writers talking shop about writing. [more inside]
"Yelp Reviews As Poetry". "A guide to the queer teen stars of YouTube." "Can a video game company save capitalism?" "In Defense of Ke$ha." "Playing golf inside Louisiana's largest prison." "What getting an abortion is like in a Red State." "We may have reached peak infographic." Here ye Here ye! The first (& only?) issue of Tomorrow Magazine [founded by fired Good Magazine editors] is out! [more inside]
The Browser has been mentioned before on Metafilter as a website that collects the best writing around the web. Over the past 3 days they've been posting their year end list of the best essays from 2011. The full annotated list is after the jump. [more inside]
Before Robert Jordan passed away, he dictated the ending of his Wheel of Time" series. This was just another bump in the rocky saga of the series. [more inside]
Fans of George RR Martin's "The Song of Ice and Fire" series are eagerly awaiting "A Dance With Dragons", the next book. This anticipation has led to hostility from some fans as to Martin's work ethic and the manner in which he spends his personal time.