When Game of Thrones Stopped Being Necessary

In the context of romantic high fantasy, the show’s sado-masochistic narrative engine had a moderately subversive purpose.
(believe it or not, no spoilers for yesterday's finale, which I haven't seen) I’ve been fascinated by the notion that a rape scene should be (or could be) necessary. “Episode six ending was brutal - but was it necessary?” is a common way of framing it; Vanity Fair declared that “Game of Thrones Absolutely Did Not Need to Go There with Sansa Stark,” while over at Slate, the argument is made that “this particular scene was necessary,” given the grim bargain Sansa Stark had struck. Most striking, to me, was Jill Pantozzi (the editor-in-chief of the The Mary Sue) explaining why The Mary Sue would no longer actively promote the show: “In this particular instance, rape is not necessary to Sansa’s character development (she’s already overcome abusive violence at the hands of men); it is not necessary to establish Ramsay… Read More...

Recrimination and Ruined Hope

Everyone seems to agree that this kind of conflict is new...
This is a guest post from Rei Terada, one of my favorite thinkers, and a piece which--in view of its timeliness and pertinence--I was delighted to be able to host.  Reading Laura Kipnis's "My Title IX Inquisition" prompts the need to consider student-faculty hostilities in a more historical and relational light. Kipnis's article details how she has become the target of student protest and Title IX retaliation complaints. She had published an essay, written in what she calls a "slightly mocking tone" arguing that new codes ruling out consensual erotic student-faculty relationships "infantilized students while vastly increasing the power of university administrators over all our lives." For Kipnis, complaints of retaliation against her appear misplaced because she had never been accused of harassment and therefore had nothing, in her view, to retaliate for; as she saw it, she had simply… Read More...

Summer Reading

Some newish and upcoming literary-type books that didn't make the NYT's silly summer reading list
Some newish and upcoming literary-type books that didn't make the NYT's silly summer reading list: Ladan Osman, The Kitchen-Dweller's Testimony April 1 Chigozie Obioma, The Fishermen April 15 Abdourahman Waberi, The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper April 15 Saraba, the Survival Issue April 18 Elizabeth Alexander, The Light of the World April 21 Eight New-Generation African Poets April 28 Julie Iromuanya, Mr. and Mrs. Doctor May 12 Alain Mabanckou, The Lights of Pointe-Noire May 14 KUT May 24 Kamel Daoud, The Meursault Investigation June 2 Ivan Vladislavi?, 101 Detectives June 16 Mia Couto, Confession of the Lioness July 14 Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Tram 83 September 15   Read More...

What Even Can You Even Say About The Princess-Man of North Sudan?

What is the emoji for vomit.
What is there to say about the “Princess of North Sudan” that isn’t already so incredibly soul-killingly obvious that it feels embarrassingly superfluous to say it? That it’s racist and stupid? Yes, obviously. I mean, are you kidding me? You cannot not be kidding me. You have to be kidding me. It’s like condemning blackface. If you even have to say it, if you have to articulate the actual words, then are we even having the same conversation? Are we even a “we”? What are we even talking about? It feels insane to even have the conversation. We should be better than this. “We” should recognize that massively encouraging and indulging a child’s childish desire to be a princess by trying to invent a country in Africa is not only terrible, weird parenting—and seriously, good luck to that kid in… Read More...

Witnessing Patriarchy

Men Witness, Women Gender.
The first PEN event I attended last weekend in NYC, was a gathering of the Elders, “the Witnesses,” a group of old men whose collective wisdom we were invited to witness: Boubacar Boris Diop, Yusef Komunyakaa, Achille Mbembe, and Ng?g? Wa Thiong’o. They were led onto stage, however, and introduced with so much ceremony and praise that there could be no vitality to the event. This was not exactly their fault, not exactly; if you’d already read their work before, you’d probably already heard everything before, a repetition which was what it was. And I’d have paid the price of admission to see any one of them speak, alone: they are each interesting and flawed and vital thinkers, with archives of work that haunt the present, and they aren’t dead yet. They have said so many interesting things, over the years;… Read More...

On the Variety of Ways to Not Praise Charlie Hebdo

There are so many excellent ways to not praise Charlie Hebdo.
There are so many excellent ways to not praise Charlie Hebdo, because there are so many aspects of what they do and have done that deserve something other than praise. But it’s very hard to not praise the dead. Especially the martyred dead, for whom praise is compulsory. It’s so hard to say anything about dead people that isn’t praise, in fact, that in order to say anything about Charlie Hebdo that isn’t praise, you need to open by declaring that you condemn their deaths. For example, Arthur Goldhammer’s piece from Monday begins with this extravagant and doomed attempt to inoculate himself against the counter-charge that he is secretly a fellow traveler with terrorists: “There is, of course, no justification for the murder of political cartoonists. Nothing I say should be construed as in any way mitigating the horror of… Read More...

Islamophobia as Narrative Device, in the Second Person

There is a lot to say.
There is a lot to say about Charlie Hebdo. There is a lot to say about the shooting last night in Garland, Texas. They are not the same things, but there is a narrative line connecting those events, and that’s a third thing to say, that it is a story. Precisely because they are not the same things, in fact, it’s important to tell the story as a story, as something other than yet another entry in the perpetual, inevitable, clash of civilizations of us and them and us and them. These events are distinct; there is a chronology and a narrative space that connects point A and point B. If we do not attend to that the story as story -- how it has developed, is developing, will develop -- we will expect the same thing to keep happening,… Read More...

Defacing Bush Colleges

Throwing poo.
"is it doomed to become Cape Town's 'bush college'?" The University of Cape Town is a beautiful campus, with a great reputation for academic excellence, and it has good pillars and statues as well. Statues and reputations go together. At the center of that amazing picture is a statue of Cecil Rhodes, who is seen above, dreaming of a white empire over Africa. In 2009, protesters annotated his dream: At the University of Texas, the official slogan is "What Starts Here Changes the World," but the one I like better is "The eyes of Texas are upon you." When I walk out my office, if I turn to my left, I can see "The Tower" where the administrators of this university survey the campus; if I turn to my right, I can see the Texas state capitol building. Right: Left: These towers… Read More...

Chinua Achebe, No Longer At Ease

The Strange Second Death of Chinua Achebe
If you didn’t see it on twitter on facebook a few days ago, you may have seen it somewhere like Buzzfeed: Chinua Achebe has died again. First in 2013, and then again in 2015. First as tragedy and then as farce. These sorts of things happen, a bit like forest fires. You can track down the place where it started if you want—as the novelist Porochista Khakpour did here—but to understand and predict a forest fire, you need to pay attention to why there was so much dry flammable material waiting for a spark. That spark is eventually going to come, but the fire only goes “viral” if there’s something there to burn. With Achebe, there was something there to burn. While Facebook and Twitter are excellent vectors for this kind of misinformation, Chinua Achebe is the sort of writer who would die… Read More...

Contexts and Perspective

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently did a two-part interview with Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, in which she re-visited the “boy-gate” clusterstupidity for which I was, inadvertently, the…
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently did a two-part interview with Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, in which she re-visited the “boy-gate” clusterstupidity for which I was, inadvertently, the proximate cause. In the second part of the interview, she suggested that I was partly to blame for what happened, because of the way I edited the interview. As she said: “I think the journalist [ZZ: That's me!] could have done more. The interview was long and so he edited it. The reason I said the Caine Prize was over-privileged was because he had talked for quite a bit about how he and his academic friends followed it and read each story and discussed it and what not, and my response was to challenge that kind of over-privileging of the prize. Which is a position I completely stand by. Because he edited out the part where he… Read More...

It’s so hard to know what role, if any.

what role, if any
Journalism is not objective, because nothing is objective. We know that. Objectivity is a myth, an impossible standard: you are not objective, and I am not objective. No one is objective, because objectivity does not exist. The closest we could ever come to “objectivity” is careful adherence to a social norm: instead of thinking weird, dissident thoughts (which would be just your individual opinion), you can spew the conventional wisdom, the truth we know to be true because we all know it to be true. That latter will seem objective. It will seem unbiased. It will seem reliable. On some level, I think, we know this, all of us, and we don’t really expect objectivity from the news media. We’ve learned not to expect that. Yet we complain about how a reporter constructs their account (or how they don’t) because… Read More...

You are totally unreliable Twitter

Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room.
Your brain is good at making you overconfident about what you see and hear, and it works hard to hide your own unreliability from you. You think you hear “words” when someone talks to you, for example, but what you actually “hear” is an over-superabundance of noise—waves and waves of messy sensory data splashing through your ears—which parts of your brain that you have no conscious awareness of quietly and efficiently process and transform all that noise into something that your conscious mind can understand. That quiet intermediation is incredibly important, and quite thorough. Your brain eliminates sounds that it decides are not relevant and where there are gaps in what you hear, it deduces what should fill them, and adds them in. It’s startling to realize and take seriously, but much of what you “hear” has already been heavily… Read More...

The Souls of Drone Folk

You might even describe him as "un-manned."
Chris Kyle lived by the sword and died by it. If I were religious, I might pray for his soul. I imagine that his soul could use the prayers. He was a serial killer, seemed quite viciously racist, and he said a great many things about himself that appear not to be true, but which would be really horrifying if they were true. He once bragged about killing thirty “looters” in New Orleans after Katrina, to pick just one example, and it’s a good thing he was making that up. Imagine if, in the middle of one of the worst disasters in recent American memory, Chris Kyle set out to execute people who took much-needed food and supplies from the shelves where they had been left. Imagine if he went to New Orleans not to bring supplies and relief, but… Read More...

A Note To My Readers

  I’m probably gonna keep blogging, as long as it works for me. Whenever I feel like doing it, I probably will, you know?  …
  I'm probably gonna keep blogging, as long as it works for me. Whenever I feel like doing it, I probably will, you know?                     Read More...

The Things We Do

A short excerpt from Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's, Nnambi, a work in progress
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is one of my favorite new novelists--see my profile of her "Let’s Tell This Story," and my interview with her, "Postcoloniality Sells"--and she's allowed me to post a short excerpt from her second novel, Nnambi, a work in progress. The novel is about a ten year old girl, Kirabo, growing  up under the shadow of an absent mother. May 1975 “Once a day came?” Kirabo’s ten years old voice cut shrilly through the chatter of the teenagers. Their heads turned. The silence that fell could have brought down trees. Two dozen eyes bore into Kirabo. For some time, because of the silence, Kirabo’s call resonated in the air. Gradually, the teenagers’ ‘how dare’ turned to sullen anger. Another child might have been intimidated by the umbrage. Not Kirabo. She stared straight, her mouth in a defiant pout. She was the kabejja… Read More...

American Snipper

American Snipper is so good but holy shit im tired
American Snipper is so good but holy shit im tired American Snipper is a must watch film Going to see American Snipper with dad tonight. I could really regret this as I hate violent films American snipper was an amazing movie. Chills all throughout. Thank you Chief Kyle for your service. I've never been in a theatre that was so quiet after a movie like it just was after American Snipper American Snipper was hands down da best movie I've seen in a minute. Leaving American Snipper in tears. Such an amazing movie. Deffs wanna see American Snipper American Snipper is awesome. 1 of the best movies I've ever seen. How do we silence the liberals. God Bless Our Soldiers. Saw American Snipper and I am speechless. God Bless our armed forces and all the sacrifices they make. American snipper… Read More...