Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


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)

Emily Gordon writes:

Anyone who’s surprised by reports about Donald Trump’s wiggly business sense—and anyone who’ll enjoy a little extra schadenfreude and outrage in this crazy-making political season—need only read Marc Singer’s classic 1997 Profile of the three-card-monte king. A sample:
Months earlier, I’d asked Trump whom he customarily confided in during moments of tribulation. “Nobody,” he said. “It’s just not my thing”—a reply that didn’t surprise me a bit. Salesmen, and Trump is nothing if not a brilliant salesman, specialize in simulated intimacy rather than the real thing. His modus operandi had a sharp focus: fly the flag, never budge from the premise that the universe revolves around you, and, above all, stay in character. The Trump tour de force—his evolution from rough-edged rich kid with Brooklyn and Queens political-clubhouse connections to an international name-brand commodity—remains, unmistakably, the most rewarding accomplishment of his ingenious career. The patented Trump palaver, a gaseous blather of “fantastic”s and “amazing”s and “terrific”s and “incredible”s and various synonyms for “biggest,” is an indispensable ingredient of the name brand. In addition to connoting a certain quality of construction, service, and security—perhaps only Trump can explicate the meaningful distinctions between “super luxury” and “super super luxury”—his eponym subliminally suggests that a building belongs to him even after it’s been sold off as condominiums.
Here’s the rest. Enjoy.

And related, in Salon today: “The biggest political lesson of the Trump ‘campaign.’” As Alex Pareene writes, “Trump realized that even though his ego was pushing him further and further into politics, he is much better at cashing checks from NBC for playing a billionaire than actually being a billionaire real estate mogul.” (continued)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree