Review: Why We Read (2022)

cover255507-mediumOn Reddit there is a phenomenon known as the circlejerk subreddit: an offshoot of a main subreddit that exists to make jokes about the excesses of the sub’s culture. On r/scacirclejerk, women laugh about r/skincareaddiction’s tendency to post flawless selfies and then complain about their wrinkles and blemishes, or how 15-year-olds are deathly afraid of aging. My favourite circlejerk subreddit is r/bookscirclejerk, which pokes fun at the members of r/books (known on the sub as ‘arrrbooks’), who seem to have exclusively read 1984 and the Harry Potter series and insist on comparing every real-life situation to one of the two. The best post on r/bookscirclejerk is a link to a real post on BookRiot entitled ‘Keeping Up a Bookish Lifestyle without Actually Reading’, an idea which would beggar belief if reading in this particular internet circle hadn’t been co-opted into a personal brand rather than a hobby.

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Writing, Depression, and Situational Worth

A few days ago I read a Rayne Fisher-Quann essay and fell into a kind of depression. Not because the content was depressing (though it was), but because it expressed something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I felt scooped, and frustrated that I had let thoughts sit in my brain without writing them out, without actualising them into something reflective of a goal I have, to be a writer.

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Flying Home for Christmas

Hello and apologies for a long absence! I am writing this from the United States of America where I have finally been able to return for a very extended Christmas break. I have let writing for the blog slide a bit recently in order to wrap up some PhD odds and ends, but I wanted to share a piece about coming home to the US that I wrote for Durham’s Palatinate:

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the Durham baths: director’s cut

Recently I had the privilege of having an essay of mine published in the Palatinate, the Durham student newspaper. I think it’s some of my best work so far, and I wanted to share it here, along with a bit of the piece I had to cut for length.

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So you want to read H.D.?

H.D., born Hilda Doolittle, was a profoundly talented writer, a pioneer of modernism, and a literary visionary whose work is unlike any other I have ever read. You’ve also, possibly, never heard of her, or read anything she’s ever written. Despite the best efforts of her literary executor, Norman Holmes Pearson, after her death in the 1960s, H.D. slipped into obscurity, to be recovered in the 80s and 90s by a dedicated group of feminist scholars, but never quite make it to the mainstream. Until relatively recently, she was largely remembered as the muse of the more famous Ezra Pound. Those of us who study 20th century literature are lucky enough to encounter her, but you’d be hard pressed to find her work in your average book shop.

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Notes on the One Year Anniversary of Anne Stevenson’s Death

I don’t remember how I found Anne; I don’t know if I came across her in one of my poetry anthologies or if I found her through my obsessive googling about Oxford, fetishising some far-off life of academia that could only take place under the light reflecting off the windows of the Radcliffe Camera. I remember very specifically reading ‘Temporarily in Oxford’ for the first time and feeling like finally someone understood me, had gone spelunking in my mind and turned up how I was feeling.

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600 Words on a British Summer

In Texas, the air in August is hot-hot. There is no distinguishable difference between walking outside and walking into an enormous oven. The air over the pavement turns the environment into an ambient wiggle. Even the dogs don’t want to go out—they put their noses through the flap in the door and then decide to flop down on the tile floor of the air-conditioned patio my father built in order to create the illusion of being outside in the summer months.

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Audience in the Internet Age

Lately I have been noticing more and more the way we are motivated by the internet to turn our lives into content. To some extent, this is a pretty obvious side effect: a low barrier to access means it’s easy to have a platform to share your work, and that impulse is baked into how we see and use the internet. What I’m talking about here goes slightly beyond using the internet to share content; it’s that we are the content.

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A Backwards Look at Durham

In August of last year, I was at home in San Antonio, digging through the various books accumulated by my mother over the course of her life. I found one on keeping a nature journal, and was immediately absorbed—the prospect of tracing the world around you as it happened seemed like a good way to live, and the book promised my lack of drawing ability wouldn’t be an impediment.

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