12 November 2009

"It's a full-time job, ethics." "And then you die."

Tom Scocca: David Foster Wallace thought pretty hard about it.
Choire Sicha
: Well he ended up fine.
Tom Scocca
: From a prescriptive-ethics standpoint, he did. No more chickens are dying for him.
Choire Sicha
: I would like to be an absolutist. But here I am in my clothes made by slaves and whatnot, heading out to look for something that isn't made of animals that were tortured before they became food product. So I think I'm not going to become a vegan!
Tom Scocca
: Because why pretend your work is done?
-The Shadow Editors: Meat and Real Estate are both Murder

This post from The Awl - which I will call an essay because if there's one thing I learned in college it's that brilliant essays don't always look like essays (what what, John D'Agata) - is a fucking triumph. I am noticing a tendency in myself to believe what The Awl says about things I have not read/seen/known because their reviews confirm and jump off from my hunches and predictions, and because, in general, they are so goddamn smart. Like, yes, Where the Wild Things Are had a great music video of a trailer, but I was very leery, expecting all sorts of hipster nostalgia porn and poor adaptation. Then The Awl comes along and tells me, yup, pretty much right! and gives me more reasons to believe what I was foundlessly believing. (I did eventually see the movie, and found it pretty bleh, and full of very odd choices that never really worked. Wtf's with those raccoons?)

And maybe it's especially effective, this Awl-as-my-surrogate-brain thing, for these bastions of twee sentimentality, the clever, self-conscious sincerity that's too concerned with being sincere to be sincere (as Dave Eggers' Wild Things screenplay spent too much time talking wistfully about sadness to actually create anything wistfully sad) , because it's come up again, with Jonathan Safran-Foer's new book on vegetarianism.

Or at least, that's where it starts. Our IM-style conversation (essay!) between Choire Sicha and Tom Scocca, transcending form if anything ever has, starts off discussing Safran-Foer's approach of the topic, where they feel his logic or tactics fall apart, but the writers beautifully and seamlessly transition/meander to other, broader topics - real estate, Natalie Portman, food choices in NYC/elsewhere, clothing - and it's a breathtaking, engrossing read.

I like their ideas and the way they think because I am the sort of person who loves The Awl - it's a bit self-selecting - but this is a gorgeous feat of writing, structured sort of like a Margaret Drabble novel where each seeming digression is actually a step in a necessary succession of ideas that spiral away from the starting place with a beautiful, subtle logic. I only hope to ever write anything half as elegant.

The Shadow Editors: Meat and Real Estate are both Murder [The Awl]

1 comment:

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Joan Stepsen
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