Let me just start by saying that this is a truly phenomenal piece of writing. Anna Wiener, who has written for The Atlantic, New Republic, The Paris Review and Vice, is a beautiful voice in the current prose landscape. Her n+1 week that has been doing the rounds since it was published online has earned comparisons to Bret Easton Ellis. 'Uncanny Valley' is ostensibly a memoir piece about working in the man-child-on-steroids universe of a Silicon Valley startup but it ends up saying a lot about where we are as a society. If you read one thing this week, make it this.
The Common, published out of Amherst College, has just put out its eleventh issue is and it features a lot of great writing by Arab authors in translation. I picked out a piece by Kuwait's Estabraq Ahmad who is a graduate of the University of Iowa International Writing Program. Her short story collections include The Darkness of the Light, for which she won the Laila al-Othman Prize; Throwing Winter High, for which she was won a state encouragement award; The Things Standing in Room 9; and Give Me 9 Words. She is the producer of the radio show The Cultural Café.
Yes, fitness clubs can be dehumanizing orgies of exhibitionism and self-regard. But intellectual scorn for exercise misunderstands why we work out.
"If the thinking classes were once skeptical of these wellness pursuits as woo-woo and anti-intellectual, their marginal status during the 1960s and ’70s at least bestowed a measure of countercultural legitimacy. Then, in the 1980s and ’90s, the language of well-being was commercialized by a booming fascination with fitness and an array of products and experiences to satisfy it. Cue Christopher Lasch’s persuasive admonition that affluent America was devolving into a sinkhole of narcissistic navel-gazing (sculpt those abs!).
Now that luxury mind-body spas and juice bars are familiar totems of gentrification, and Fortune 500 corporations roll out "McMindfulness" seminars and on-site wellness centers, engaging in such practices can feel like an endorsement of a superficial, bourgeois mainstream — a mainstream against which many intellectuals define themselves."
From New York to London to Tokyo, anyone who has lived in a large metropolis can attest to the eerie and inexplicable feeling of experiencing utter loneliness in the midst of some of the most populated and vibrant urban centers in the world. Rachel Syme's great review of Olivia Laing's 'The Lonely City' is an interesting place to start thinking about what is at the origin of this odd feeling.
Tip for Reading Longform Articles: If you've got a Kindle, get an Instapaper account, put a "Send to Kindle" bookmark in your bookmark bar and every time you're on something that's a bit long-ish to read on a phone or desktop click the bookmark. You'll automatically get the article in your Kindle library in the right format. You'll find yourself reading more stuff in no time.