Five Great Things to Read

With the passing of another month, another countless load of words have been committed to writing. Here are five great examples of such writing, because sorting through (near) infinity is unrealistic.

Memory is the mysterious fuel of memoir. Both ostensibly hold claims to truth, but as Robert Atwan writes for Creative Nonfiction, attempting to educate ourselves on the mechanism (and slipperiness) of both will go towards a new understanding of critically engaging with life-writing.

Fiona Wright reviews Dodie Bellamy’s recent essay collection, When the Sick Rule the World, for The Lifted Brow. Bellamy’s essay artfully deals with ideas of sickness, its role, and its function, Wright says, “I’m thrilled by this, I am, but my illness is not your fucking metaphor.” Her complex response to a Ballamy’s work reflects on pain, society, technology, and gentrification.

For Overland, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas reflects on witchcraft, what it stands for, what it means to be one, alongside cinematic examples of the practice.

A new exhibition at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art shows a striking collection of mug shots, as reviewed in the New York Review of Books. The pictures compellingly conflate art, life, (in)justice and (non)control over individual representation. The review opens:

Consider the lowly mug shot, artless, indifferent, striving for nothing more than accuracy of likeness for the purpose of criminal identification. Mug shots are the cruelest of posed pictures; punitive, shameful, they make even the young and beautiful look plain. Yet a mug shot is also a kind of formal portrait: you sit (or stand) for it and project whatever the setting and the photographer draw out of you. Flip through the pages of a police booking file and you will see a taxonomy of human expressions, from fear to impotence, haughtiness, fury, grief, and stress. In my own mug shot, taken several years ago after a wrongful arrest, I obligingly present the image my capturers want: puffy and defeated, the pictorial equivalent of a confession of guilt.

Finally, an anthology following on from the enormous success of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Prey, Love was recently released, titled Eat, Prey, Love Made Me Do It. The anthology records the adventures of writers who changed their life as a result of Gilbert’s story. The existence of the anthology itself demonstrates the power narratives have on the lives of readers, but Roxanne Roberts’s review in The Washington Post calls the anthologised essays “cultish”. It’s all a bit too simple, perhaps, and mired in the kind of privilege that makes travelling abroad for extended periods of time reasonably straightforward.

The feature image for this post is by angus mcdiarmid, via Flickr Creative Commons.


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