Surviving Success: A Review of Britney Spears’ The Woman in Me

You can hardly blame people for misunderstanding Britney and misconstruing her circumstances, but after the memoir it is all the harder to ignore their casual commentarial cruelty. Reports about Britney getting snapped partying panty-less with and without Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, marrying a childhood friend for a day, having a public meltdown and shaving her head for no clear reason made it really easy to conclude she was troubled if not severely mentally ill. Like a hit song taking on a life all its own, its words no longer restricted to the original text, scenes from her life constructed out of page three news and celebrity gossip columns took on the complexion of something very like but also much more narratively persuasive—simpler—than the life itself. For those used to construing everything Britney has said and done before, during, and after the thirteen years she spent under an exploitative conservatorship overseen by her ghoulish father Jamie Spears as being conditioned by her mental instability or personality flaws her memoir comes like a thief in the night.

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Read more about the article Sporting Lint: A Review of Pockets by Hannah Carlson
Sporting Lint: A Review of Pockets by Hannah Carlson

Sporting Lint: A Review of Pockets by Hannah Carlson

The beginning of wisdom about body language is the universal validity of the nostrum: keep your hands out of your pockets. The perdurable infamy associated with enjoying the mere power of containment besom pockets offer and the contradictory attitudes attributed to anyone consummating the mute repose of putting their hands in them shows we don’t always know why someone offends us—even if we think it has to do with what they do with their hands in our company. Hannah Carlson’s Pockets: An Intimate History of How we Keeps Things Close digs deeply, and eagerly probes for clues to the enigma of the pocket among the miscellany of fob watches, wallets, mobile phones, cosmetics, guns, and keys only—I think—to come up empty.

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Review: Amy Bruni’s Life With the Afterlife

Many people who believe in ghosts tend to outright disbelieve in the existence of cryptids, and aliens (Ch. 10). From a scientific point of view the existence of alien life seems vastly more probably than that of ghosts. If you believe in ghosts you can do worse than believing in Bigfoot. Not even Bruni wants you to believe everything you read, but reading about improbable things that just might be true is just plain good sense. 

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Read more about the article Review: Mircea Cartarescu (2022) Solenoid.
Mircea Cartarescu

Review: Mircea Cartarescu (2022) Solenoid.

Whether literature will save us or not is a poetic question, and the narrator’s prosaic denunciation of its false promises cannot settle the matter one way or another. Towards the end the narrator throws his manuscript into a burning abyss, choosing to save his child with Irina. How then are we left with this lexical arabesque delineating the contours of the possibility space occupied by human consciousness in an indifferent world? Solenoid answers the riddle by positioning itself qua literary work as a noble lie. In successfully reporting the narrator’s choice of the human satisfactions of love and commitment the literary work overcomes its chimerical destiny.

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Review: Ed Conway (2023) Material World. Knopf.

What do Donald Trump and Chairman Mao have in common? The belief that “IF YOU DON’T HAVE STEEL YOU DON’T HAVE A COUNTRY.” Frank Zappa thought you also need a beer—but that’s neither here nor there. Conway’s 2023 narrative science doorstopper is here to deliver a slightly different, less zingy but more important, message: no country has nearly enough sand, salt, iron, copper, oil, and lithium to operate as an autarky. As the natural endowments of these substances vary across countries the economic, social, and political fates of all nations are intertwined.

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Review: Anya von Bremzen (2023) National Dish

"Focusing on iconic dishes from Paris, Naples, Tokyo, Seville, Oaxaca, and Istanbul von Bremzen attempts to bring light rather than the usual heat to the concept of a national dish in a globalized world where surprisingly nationalism is resurgent. She doesn’t to her credit pretend that stories about a few dishes from six countries provide a comprehensive account of the productive tension between national and world cuisine, although a sequel covering other national cuisines is acknowledged as a live possibility. A first principles approach to the question of theorising the national dish shows even a book covering every existing national cuisine is not up to the task. This is because—as von Bremzen acknowledges—the constitutive concepts of nation and national culinary identity are themselves of recent vintage and subject to ongoing negotiation; they are open to influence from actors at home and abroad."

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