Archive

Hipsters

selfieIn early October, The Takeaway explored the possibility of doing a story about The National #Selfie Portrait Gallery.  Suspecting that our host would be more than a bit skeptical about the premise of the segment, I spent some time reading up.

We ultimately scrapped the segment but on Tuesday when Oxford Dictionaries named “selfie” 2013’s Word of the Year, it was time to return to the topic.   Writer Casey Cep gave Takeaway guest host Anna Sale a lot to chew on in her radio interview. To round things out I blogged about the selfie think-piece and my own relationship with the selfie for On the Media’s TLDR:

I fall into the selfie-averse crowd.  I’ve tried, but I can’t figure out the right angle at which to position my camera or the best way to purse my lips.  At selfie-range, I don’t recognize—or particularly like—my own features.  I’d like to think my selfie-allergy is a symptom of humility but writer Brian Droitcour might interpret it differently.  “The real narcissists are the ones who never take selfies,” Droitcour argues. “They imagine their self as autonomous, hermetic—too precious to be shared.”

Writing the post was fun; seeing the reaction to the piece on social media has been even more fun. Turns out people have strong feelings about selfies– and about my big cat shirt.

(This photo, by the way, was taken a few hours before my bachelorette party in response to inquiries about my level of excitement.  I was very excited.)

Advertisements

To get a little perspective on Greg Smith’s “I quit” letter to Goldman Sachs while brainstorming at work today, I decided to call up Evan Harris.  Back in 1995 she was pretty much the poster-child for quitting.  She quit her job, boyfriend, and city, and started a zine called Quitters Quarterly.  She was featured in an episode of This American Life, and she wrote a book called The Quit.  Seventeen years later? She’s married with kids, back in her hometown. Here’s what she told me.

As promised, more reflections on this year’s eventful Jaipur Literature Festival:

Up until the day before JLF began, there were rumors that Rushdie — who reportedly had been dropped from the official program due to “a very real threat of violence at the venue” — planned to make a surprise appearance. Then, on the first day of the festival, Rushdie issued a statement: “I have now been informed by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to ‘eliminate’ me,” he wrote. “While I have some doubts about the accuracy of this intelligence, it would be irresponsible of me to come to the Festival in such circumstances.”

To voice their disapproval of the circumstances of Rushdie’s absence, four writers, Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil, and Ruchir Joshi, read from The Satanic Verses — a book that has been banned in India — in their sessions later that day. They were subsequently advised to leave the festival, and the local police opened an investigation into their activities. There were still four days of panels left.

What was left to discuss? Anything but Rushdie. On guidance from the event organizers, everyone from Shashi Tharoor to David Remnick was talking around the debacle, momentarily alluding to it — knowingly, coyly — but never quite addressing it or the full array of issues it raised on India’s thorny history with censorship, religious fundamentalism, democratic and bureaucratic processes (and Salman Rushdie himself). It was a strange predicament for a symposium of ideas to find itself in. “So many awkward Rushdie references,” I scribbled in my notebook after day three. That’s all they were, though — fleeting references, fleetingly observed.

The show must go on! the organizers seemed to be saying. And, with 200-some authors still lined up to speak, it did. Lively on-stage conversations abounded. High-profile ones did too. Amy Chua debated economic policy. Teju Cole riffed on why it wasn’t necessarily only African writers who inspired him to become a writer. Oprah advocated for women’s rights. Fatima Bhutto discussed the future of Pakistan. Akash Kapur meditated on India’s changing rural landscape. Yet the topic of Rushdie continued to remain largely untouched, and a nagging question lingered in my mind: What kind of real intellectual discussion could go on in a setting that had proved itself so hospitable to self-censorship? When you gathered a hundred-thousand writers and book-lovers and then stripped away the opportunity for a truly free public exchange of ideas, what was left?

Head over to The Millions to read my full essay,  “Inscrutable India: Jaipur Literature Festival’s Baffling Bazaar of Culture and Commotion.”

photo by me: creepy art on display at Diggi Palace during JLF

I’m at the Jaipur Literature Festival in India this week.  It’s a riot.  Between the panels, the parties and after-parties, the crowds, the chaos and the competing theories about just what really went down with Salman Rushdie (and what happened to the writers who read The Satanic Verses in protest), the last several days have been action-packed.  Not much time to write more just yet — still running around and taking it all in.