Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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Before it moved to The New Yorker:
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Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


Emily Gordon writes to recommend:

An affectionate, persuasive, sensible defense of the memoir by Deb Olin Unferth. (Guernica magazine)

Another inventive chronicler of our time: an interview with Jesse Thorn, impresario of the radio show and podcast “The Sound of Young America.” (Nieman Journalism Lab)

Two pieces about the meaning of bed bugs, which erode both sanity and civilization: in Guernica again and in the Utne Reader, which excerpted the piece from California magazine. As we know from Atul Gawande, these pieces will probably make you feel itchy, and hearing that the problem is getting you worse will probably make you anxious. But believe me, an uncontrollable but temporary phantom itch and a fleeting bout of anxiety (and the useful knowledge that you should put your suitcase in your hotel bathtub) is a thousand times better than having actual bed bugs. So long, Brooklyn! (continued)


Jonathan Taylor writes:

In a de facto way, I don't post links to great Awl posts, because how would I choose, where would I stop? But I must pay tribute to this monument of literary parody: Selections From V.S. Naipaul's Yelp Account, by Mike Barthel.

Jonathan Taylor writes:

A tidbit of something to look forward to, in the Guardian's article on the death of Patrick Leigh Fermor at age 96. Fermor in 1977 and 1986 published two volumes recounting a 1933-34 journey from Holland to Constantinople on foot: A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, which ended at the Iron Gates of the Danube, between Serbia and Romania.

Readers are still awaiting the promised third leg of Leigh Fermor's trip, despite the author's repeated promises to "pull my socks up and get on with it" and his 2007 declaration that he was learning to type so that he could complete it more quickly.

Cooper, who visited him at his Greek home earlier this year, said that the writer had been working on corrections to a finished text. "A early draft of the third volume has existed for some time, and will be published in due course," she said.


Emily Gordon writes:

“So intense is the need to connect, say the authors, that isolated individuals sometimes form parasocial relations with pets or TV characters.”

—From a Publishers Weekly review (continued)

Jonathan Taylor writes:

[Update: Back Issues locates an even earlier use of the word "asshole" in The New Yorker, in 1975, among other corrections to Green's list.]

Bookforum corrects the assertion by Elon Green in The Awl that the word "asshole" was first used in The New Yorker in 1994 (as you would gather from the mag's own site search). In fact, the word "assholes" is believed to have debuted in a quote in an October 20-27, 1986, two-part Profile by everyone's favorite antijournalist, Janet Malcolm, "A Girl of the Zeitgeist."

The "Girl" in question was Ingrid Sischy, editor of Artforum. This portrait of the "art world" through Sischy--herself a curiously fleeting presence in her own profile--drew a response (also two-part) by the Village Voice's art critic at the time, Gary Indiana, subtitled "Breaking the Asshole Barrier." He wrote, "The maiden appearance of (continued)

Emily Gordon writes:

Lately I’ve been waging an inner war against millennial modifiers. Is it Gen Y’s fault (let’s blame them!), or the fault of us ad-sandblasted, dichotomy-spurning, latchkey-clutching Xers, that everything is “kinda” and “basically” now? I often used these qualifiers myself before I started noticing how hollow and cynical they sound. I’m objecting to this: “pretty awesome” and “kinda genius” and “sort of hilarious” and “basically the best thing ever.”

It takes character, and sometimes bravery—a Franzen-style commitment to loving rather then insta-liking—to declare a person or a thing actually good or smart or funny. What’s the point of declaring your devotion to something, or admiration for someone, if you can pre-take it back just in case someone else thinks your choice is lame? It’s simultaneously hyperbolic (which, as an enthusiast, I’m fine with), disingenuous (danger!), negating (hipster disaffection masking vague woundedness), and oxymoronic (and how is that a held belief?).

Although it’s already been replaced by Dicking Around, I’m still a proud adherent of the New Sincerity. Will you join me in putting on the sweet high lonesome sound of The Secret Sisters and wearing your heart on your (corduroy) sleeve instead of hiding it in an equivocating, halfhearted irony bucket?

Related: More banned words and phrases. (continued)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree