Blessed be the weekend before it all goes down. And also, F Anthony’s wiener.
Self-help books: important works of self-care or indulgent acts of narcissism? Whatever you think, the broader narrative of modern-day vanity—the idea that technology has turned us into selfie-obsessed isolates—is only half true. The curse of Narcissus is for the most part, as reviewer Laura Tanenbaum reminds us, a myth:
“For a long time I prided myself on having never read a self-help book. I could have given you a run-down of what was wrong with the genre: it was simplistic, in love with cliches and hollow affirmations. It denied tragedy, denied that there could be unsolvable problems, and therefore blamed the victims of these situations for not thinking more positively. It took us away from understanding political conflict, prompting us to see our problems as individual ones rather than as a result of the world around us, a world that could and should be changed. And yet, late at night, in low moments, reaching for someone to talk to, I would wonder if my problem was too much self-esteem or not enough, if I was afraid of intimacy, craved it too much, or both. Whether I read self-help or not, I spoke it, and, more importantly, I imagined that it might be reading me.”
Nobody looks at the world, or teaches us how to live in it, quite like John Berger. On the occasion of his 90th birthday (and the publication of several new works and collections of his that we really want to be reading right now), Kate Kellaway presents this warm, soul-affirming ramble with him for The Guardian. (YouTube diversion bonus - the entire 1972 series of Ways of Seeing).
As thinkpieces about the golden age of television go, you really don’t need any more, do you? But this William Deresiewicz piece for Harper’s, is really, really good, critiquing many recent critiques to get to the point they all collectively miss, which is how a medium really matures and grows on an industrial and creative level as both audiences and creators grow up and learn, steeped in the innovations of those who came before. “Great audiences create great artists,” he writes, “by giving people the freedom to take chances.”
Anna here: Went to California Sunday’s Pop Up Magazine show in downtown LA last night—"a live magazine production created for a stage, a screen, and a live audience." I’d heard the New York Times call it “a sensation” and that Ira Glass and Joshua Bearman had a hand. But I couldn’t have prepared myself for what happened: I laughed and cried for 90 minutes alone. In public. And then I cried in my Uber home, opened the door to the house, crumpled to the floor, cried more (for boyfriend’s benefit) and decided not to go ahead renting an apartment we can’t afford (which was today’s plan). This show shook me to the core. It was magnificent. Please go.
If you too find Marina Abramovic to be the godmother of pomposity, then please take five to LOL your way through Dwight Garner’s New York Times review of her memoir “Walk Through Walls.”
Over at Fusion, our good friend Elmo Keep investigates an abandoned pyramid in North Dakota, left over and gathering conspiracy theories since the tail end of the nuclear age.