Michael Robbins has a great piece in this months Harper’s, “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives: A Poet’s Guide to Metal,” which, in the space of six pages, is able to reference John Milton, Rainer Maria Rilke, Black Sabbath, and Converge. I did not know that could be done. (Even R., who tends to abhor whenever anything loud and screamy even gets near our home’s turntable, enjoyed this piece.) Highlights of the short essay include: quoting a number of lines from William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell” and commenting, “sounds pretty metal to me”; describing a Converge show where they “took over that space like a bellowing wooly rhino crashing into a Pleistocene clearing. . . . It’s war music” (a pretty accurate description); and some reflections on metal and capital: “Sometimes I wonder what metal would sound like after capitalism, or whether we would even need metal then. I wonder the same about poetry.”
More DFW stuff. Peter Finocchiaro, “What David Foster Wallace Got Wrong About Irony: Our Culture Doesn’t Have Nearly Enough of It,” which, strangely enough, is actually an interview with Jonathan Lear about irony (rather than an article specifically about DFW’s sense of irony). In my revised version of an essay that will appear in David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing” (forthcoming July 2014), I make some similar points about the need for irony at the present time. That said, Lear seems to have a better handle on Wallace’s specific take on irony from the television essay than Finocchiaro, emphasizing that DFW was both a gifted ironist himself and that, in “E Unibus Pluram,” he is critiquing institutionalized irony, which I think all us post-ironists or new sincerity people would do well to heed, along with Lear’s acknowledgment that irony can actually be a from of earnestness: “There’s a very famous quote from Kierkegaard — or, I don’t know how famous it is, but it’s one of my favorites — where he said, it’s ‘only assistant professors’ who think irony can’t be a form of earnestness. Basically his claim is that irony when properly understood is a very high form of sincerity and earnestness, not its opposite. As he put it, it’s a real misunderstanding of what irony is to think it’s the opposite of earnestness toward commitment.” I feel the earnestness or “sincerity” of irony as it plays out in DFW’s work and thinking has been something that has been overlooked to the detriment of both our understanding of DFW and irony more generally.
Alex C. Madrigal and Adrienne LaFrance, “Net Neutrality: A Guide to (and History of) a Contested Idea.”
Dexter Filkins writes a letter from Iraq in The New Yorker, “What We Left Behind.”
And from the University of Pittsburgh’s great graduate student film blog, Kevin Flanagan on “Introduction to Applied Airport Studies.”
This winter’s special issue of differences, “In the Shadows of the Digital Humanities,” is looking like a must read for anyone interested in the subject. A number of important essays appear in the journal by a group of notable scholars, including an introduction by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Lisa Marie Rhody, and articles by Matthew Kirschenbaum, Richard Grusin, Adeline Koh, Alexander R. Galloway, David Golumbia, Patrick Jagoda, and many others.
And more on “relatable”: a very interesting piece by Lucy Ferriss, “I’m Relatable, You’re Relatable,” and an older one by Kit Nicholls, “The ‘Relatable’ Fallacy.”
The 2014 Hugo Awards have been announced, and Robert Jordan’s (and Brandon Sanderson’s) Wheel of Time got the nod. (I have a few brief words on the end of the series.) Note the exception to the Hugo rules that allow The Wheel of Time‘s nomination. . . .
Chay Close on Jazzpunk (Necrophone Games, 2014), “All Videogames Are a Joke.” Looks like I have something else to add to my summer indie game program.
More from the DFW-industry: Thorin Klosowski, “David Foster Wallace’s Best Productivity Tips.” Really?
Paul Barnwell, “My Students Don’t Know How to Have a Conversation.”
Tim Wu, “Goodbye, Net Neutrality; Hello, Net Discrimination,” and Kevin Drum, “Net Neutrality Finally Dies at Ripe Old Age of 45.”
Rebecca Schuman on student evaluations.