things of an almost preposterous nature

Hello, readers.

As often happens, it’s Friday. I haven’t done the math1, but almost every time you turn around. Bam. Friday. Put on your raincoats and dance. Or something. You know. Friday stuff.

Some things.

Thing one

I interviewed Carmen Maria Machado for Storyological.

Carmen is a wonder. And also a recent National Book Award finalist. I met her at Clarion. That thing I attended back in 2012, in San Diego, where also I met many other amazing people 2. The thing I remember about Carmen is that I love her. There are other things, I remember, but that’s the first thing that came to mind. Here are some of the other things I remember:

  1. We ate a lot of avodado and eggs. Or maybe we did that once.
  2. One morning, we drank coffee and talked about life in a way that made life seem like the scariest most awesome thing, but I don’t remember anything about what we said only the feeling of feeling connected to something that we were inventing or discovering about the way everything fit together.
  3. We collaborated on a story together about how to be a man. It was in the shape of a list. I remember at least two sex scenes, a single Twitter bio, and several hearts in peril. Part of our collaboration involved wandering off into the woods in search of a talking tree. I believe we settled for a mysterious assortment of furniture on which we sat and wrote about the aforementioned imperilled hearts.
  4. An LA Times reviewer described Carmen’s collection of stories, Her Body and Other Parties as an example of “almost preposterous talent.”
  5. Preposterous is probably one of my favorite words.
  6. But only when it is deployed in the spirit of love and wonder.
  7. In that spirit I would probably describe Carmen Maria Machado as an almost preposterously magical person.

Thing two

EG, partner in adventure and professional creative type, has gone and got herself long-listed in the Information is Beautiful Awards for this visualization of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

I have not read many of these books, but I will.

I am looking forward to spending time with Death most of all.

Oh. Also. Of note. EG did that illustration of Carmen in which BAM!.

Thing three

The seventh volume of Phantom Drift, in which one can find my story Maemi, has a cover and everything.

I wrote “Maemi” during the third week of Clarion in answer to Delia Sherman’s challenge that I do that thing people do sometimes which is to go and read a bunch of fairy tales and then select one with which to muck about.

I spent several days in the UCSD library, sitting at the window and reading many fairy tales. On the ledge outside my window, a crow would come, now and then, and sit and hop and look at me curiously. As much as I might have wished, the crow and I never said more than a few words to each other, and, most of the time, I was doing most of the talking.

The fairy tale I chose involved a little girl, and a lion, also a bird, and no small amount of magic or betrayal. It turned out this was “Beauty and the Beast.” It wasn’t called that in the book I read, and I didn’t recognize it, but when Delia told me that this was the true nature of the story I had chosen it made sense. At least, that is, the kind of sense one finds in fairy tales. Which is a sort of inscrutable sense that tricks you into understanding something altogether different and more important than whatever thing you set out to understand.

I combined this fairy tale with the story of a little girl in Korea who was sold by her father into sexual slavery during the second world war.

I lived in Seoul for two years and, while there, I taught English at an all-girls school. One weekend, during my second year, I went with a group of friends (some of whom were part of a group called Durebang), to the House of Sharing in Gyeonggi-do. We walked through a museum and an art gallery and, later, met several of the women who lived there and who are called, sometimes, “comfort women.” A large group of kids showed up, at one point. A school trip, I think. One of the old women, through some manner I never entirely understood, instigated a K-pop dance-off among the kids, the teachers, and some of the group that inclued me. Roly Poly3, I believe, was the song of choice. I’m pretty sure Roly Poly will always be, because of this, my favorite K-pop song. All of those kids and everyone dancing. And the old woman who danced for a bit and then sat, chuckling at the gorgeous mayhem she had created 4.

There are many books about that time in Korean history. I have read many of them. Two that I remember, in particular, both by Nora Okja Keller, are Comfort Woman and Fox Girl. Here are some others.

As it turned out, there were no lions in the story I ended up writing, but there is a bird, a heart in peril, and no small amount of magic or betrayal.

I added a bit of music, as well. It seemed the right thing to do at the time.

Happy Friday readers.
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  1. Actually, I have done the math. Approximately 14.2857% of the time, it’s Friday.
  2. Including my partner in adventure, E.G. Cosh, who was recently longlisted in the Information is Beautiful Awards for her visualization of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. You will read about this in a moment in thing two. 
  3. This is the video of Roly Poly. The long version. If you are only interested in the music, I would suggest skipping to the four minute mark or so. And then again to the eight minute mark. I have the whole thing on in the background right now. It later became a musical. Because that’s how things work in Korea.
  4. Some of all of this came back with me to Seoul. And I talked about it with my students, one day, in an after school class in which there were only maybe eight of us. I talked about what they knew about that part of Korean history. I talked with them about how it felt that week in school, seeing every classroom full of girls the same age as those taken during the war. It was a fairly advanced conversation class that day.

some things about interviewing sam j. miller for storyological

Hello, readers.

Here are some things about one thing.

The one thing being the latest episode of the Storyological podcast in which I interviewed Sam J. Miller about, among other things, growing up gay in upstate New York, struggling with body image and an eating disorder, transforming some of this experience into his first novel, The Art of Starving, transforming lies about the plot of Jaws into a career in fiction, loving Sense8 more than anything, loving love more than anything, loving justice more than anything, and exploring in fiction the ways in which love can be naive and ignorant and even the most evil motherfucker believes the evil shit they do is justified.

So. Yeah. Here are some things about that one thing.


Thing one.

Sam’s first novel, the aforementioned The Art of Starving, comes out this week. Here’s what people are saying.

A dark and lovely tale of supernatural vengeance and self-destruction.

…this book hurts in all the best ways…it takes on the tropes of speculative fiction and YA armed with fire and anger and hunger.

Shirley Jackson Award winner Sam J. Miller’s YA contemporary debut novel is unlike anything I have ever read before, and combines magical realism, dark humor, evocative imagery and prose, and a deep, huge heart to tell a story of loneliness, addiction, body image, first loves, coming out, and self-acceptance. Funny, haunting, beautiful, relentless, and powerful, The Art of Starving is a classic in the making…

All of these people are not wrong.


Thing two.

Sam is a very funny man. You will laugh a lot during this interview.

You will also probably feel inspired.

Sam is a very inspiring man.


Thing three.

I interviewed Sam in Madison, Wisconsin. Both of us were there for WisCon, the feminist SciFi convention.

I had this idea that we should do the interview outside. So, we met in the con hotel lobby and walked down the street to the state capitol building. We sat, leaning against a granite facade, literally in the shadow of state power.

Very early in our conversation, it began to rain. But we kept going. Because I am clearly a horrible person and wanted Sam to suffer 1.

You can’t hear the rain in the interview, though. Or see it, of course. It’s a podcast, not a video.

You’ll just have to imagine it, I guess.

Rain is like hope in that way.

It is kind of amazing.


Thing four.

I met Sam at the Clarion Writers’ Workshop in San Diego, back in 2012.

Here is a blog post Sam wrote about our experience called CLARION 2012: EVERY BRILLIANT PIECE OF WRITING ADVICE.

If I didn’t already love Sam with all of my heart, then doing this interview–and listening to him talk about grief and shame and art and hope with such care and conviction–would have done the trick.

It is possible that, after listening to this interview, you will also love Sam.

I imagine you might.

If you do, then share that love with other people in your life. Tell the world about Sam and his book.

If you don’t share that love, that’s also okay. Maybe don’t tell the world about it, though. 


Thing five.

For my part, having met Sam and gotten to know him over the years, I didn’t think it was possible to love Sam more.

But it turned out it was.

Love is nothing if not surprising.

So. Seriously.

Go read, or listen to, the interview.

Get inspired. Discover a new author you will love. Or discover more about the man you already love.

Now’s as good a time as any to start resisting the world’s tendency to fall apart.

Happy Tuesday, readers.

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p.s. That awesome illustration of Sam up there is by E.G. Cosh.

  1. This isn’t actually true. Well. The rain is true. How could rain not be true?

in the rain on a picnic table

Hello, readers.

Things, here are some.


Thing one.

Julia Jacklin. Not a thing, really. So much as a person.

Yiyun Li, in her memoir, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, mentions how one of the great weapons against the void is absolutism.

From time to time I find myself absolutely obsessed with things which are sometimes not things at all so much as they are people. Though, really, people are just one type of thing.

I have been asked by some people not to refer either to them, or myself, as things. I still do. There is power in naming things. My plan is to save up this power until the last minute.

I am presently absolutely obsessed with Julia Jacklin. Particularly this video for her new single “Eastwick.” Which combines two of my favorite things.

  1. Televisions, across disparate scenes, displaying the same program–as if relaying a secret message from the universe.
  2. A young woman sitting in the rain on top of a picnic table drinking a drink that is, among other things, very blue. I didn’t realize this second thing was one of my favorite things until I saw it in this video.

I also love the subtitles in that one bit where there are subtitles. It is a short bit.

You should watch the video.

When Julia Jacklin looks at you, don’t be surprised if you melt a little bit.



Thing two.

Master of None. Not so much a thing as a television show. Which I guess is kind of a thing. But so, as previously discussed, are people. The thing here is that I’m really into parallelism and so I felt compelled here to copy the structure of the first thing’s introduction. Absolutism!

Speaking of which.

I am absolutely, along with Julia Jacklin, also obsessed with Master of None. Particularly this season. Which is the second season. And which, like Louie or some other show I can’t think of right now but imagine that I did, proves that these days the best Hollywood films are television shows. I haven’t seen such a classic it-hurts so-good-romance in a long while. Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang and Alessandra Mastronardi have made magic.

Plus, there was “Thanksgiving”, an episode not at all related to the season long romance but entirely related to the greater mission of Aziz’s show which is to put interesting people together and let them tell interesting stories about their lives. “Thanksgiving” is one of the best episodes of television in one of the best television shows on right now and it is probably what people mean when they say the best episodes of Master of None often have very little to do with Aziz’s characer, Dev.

I love it all.



Thing three.

Storyological, at long last, has returned for the remainder of our second season. If anyone is as obsessed with our little podcast as I am with Julia Jacklin or Master of None then I will consider our podcast a success. Joss Whedon once said he would rather make a show loved by 200 people than a show liked by 2 million people. I feel the same. I think Emma does, too, probably.

In our latest episode, POCK SMASH!, we discussed, as we generally do, two stories. Those stories were:

“Whatever Happened to Interracial Love” by Kathleen Colins, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love, Granta, 2017.

&

“The Embassy of Cambodia” by Zadie Smith, The New Yorker, 2013.

Zadie Smith has a blurb on the cover of Kathleen Collins’ collection of stories. We didn’t plan this. These things happen, is all.



Thing four.

Rita Hayworth.

More on this later.

For example. Right now.

I want to talk about Gilda. Namely how, among other things, there’s this brilliant use of the song, “Put the Blame on Mame.” It appears three times in the film. As the best things do. Appear three times, I mean. There’s a rule about that somewhere.

The first time the song appears, Gilda hums it to herself. She’s enjoying the song for her own sake. It belongs to her and her alone. Her humming ends when two men enter her room and elicit the iconic hairflip that is one of the greatest entrances in film. Right up there with the entrance of Rita’s one-time husband in The Third Man.

The second time the song appears, Gilda sings it to a dear friend and it is maybe my favorite scene in the whole film. Gilda’s sitting on a table, strumming a guitar, no longer so much happy as melancholy. But she’s not really unhappy about this state of affairs. She’s not sure why the world sucks so much but it does and everyone seems to blame her. But what are you gonna do? The world’s a funny place. This singing is interrupted by a man from her past. His name is Johnny. A fact that is repeated endlessly in the film. Oh, Johnny. Don’t you see, Johnny. I just can’t quit you, Johnny. So on. Gilda stops playing the song when Johnny enters. I don’t think he likes that Gilda sings songs for herself and for others but no longer sings for him.

The third time the song appears, Gilda’s in full burn the world mode. She’s done with this shit. And she sings the song this time for an audience of men. And, perhaps, for us, the viewers. For everyone but Johnny. The song this time is ribald and, for a time, she seems to be having fun. And maybe she is. Maybe it’s fun to watch the world burn. What makes the scene spectacular is that, in fact, the performance this time is entirely for Johnny and it is a giant fuck you.

I wish the whole movie was as good as these three scenes.

These three scenes are, though, better than many whole movies.


Happy Tuesday, readers.

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the world on glass

Hello, readers.

Things are happening in the world. Important things. The things below are not that important, really. But they are things. And they were, at one time or another, happening.


Thing one.

Soy sauce. Totally still a thing. Apparently, it began happening in the Japanese town of Yuasa during the 13th century. Here’s a video about that by Mile Nagoka. (via kottke.org).


Thing two.

A lot of people take pictures with their phone. I am one of those people. Though I try not to call my phone a phone. I try to call it an astrolabe. I am mildly successful at this. If you ever wondered how to take better pictures with your phone (and by phone I mean astrolabe, and by astrolabe I mean an iPhone) then Apple’s made several small videos, in the shape of a phone screen, to help you understand how to better capture the world on glass.


Thing three.

Storyological. This week. An episode entitled:

DARING DARRINGTONS

In which we discuss:

The Debutante by surrealist adventurer hero person Leonora Carrington, anthologized in What Did Miss Darrington See, (originally published in 1936).

&

An Unborn Visitant by the real-life inspiration of Orlando and also the real-life person Vita Sackville-West, anthologized in What Did Miss Darrington See, (originally published in 1932).

We did a thing where we picked two stories from the same book. We do that sometimes.


Thing four.

Next week we will be in the United States of America. I will take a look under the hood while I’m there and see if I can spy what the trouble is.

Happy Friday, readers. And good luck.

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basically, johnny cash

Hello, readers.

Things happen from time to time. Here are a few of said happening things.


Thing one.

I watched the first episode of American Gods. It struck me that they are aiming for a violently weird sort of Americana. Everything either looking flat and staged and nightmarish or deep and rambling and golden. Somewhere between goth and Johnny Cash. So, basically, Johnny Cash.


Thing two.

It’s short story month. Which is weird. Because I read stories every month. But that’s not how these things work. It’s not about saying this is the only month. It’s about saying let’s take a moment and celebrate the existence of this particular thing. Like a birthday, really. You exist all year. But people only notice, really, for this one day. Well. I mean. If your life is sad. I hope your life isn’t sad. Or if it is, you make some good art out of your sadness. Or like really feel it for a little while and then put it aside and go out and make room for happiness in the world. Making room for happiness in the world often helps make room for happiness in your heart. There’s a mirror in everything.


Thing three.

This week, on Storyological, we discuss these two stories.

He—y Come On Out! by Shinichi Hoshi, The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories, 1989. (orig. F&SF, 1978).

&

Bring Your Own Spoon by Saad Hossain, The Djinn Falls in Love, and Other Stories, 2017.

Along with, among other things–emotional baggage, Grayson Perry, Ted Chiang, logic, nonsense, and that old song hope.


Thing four.

There’s this new bag of Doritos that will play the soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.

Also, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is great1.


Happy Wednesday.

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  1. For some values of great. Such as incredibly violent, ridiculous, and sincere. There’s no such thing as nostalgia. That’s just life in the 21st century. The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. We might as well put its music in movies so it has something familiar to listen to.

a violent and tender rain

Hello, readers.

How are you?

That’s wonderful.

Or not.

Or not so much not as that’s life and things often exist in a place of wonderful-notness, or not-wonderfulness, that most people compress quite neatly into the word ‘fine.’

Which is, as words go, a fine one.

Anyway.

Here are things.


Thing one.

I’ve just finished Another Country by James Baldwin and the world smells, and sounds, like a violent and tender rain falling between two men on an apartment bed, drinking, smoking, and wondering about how any damn body manages the trick of loving and being loved in a world that denies so much of itself.


Thing two.

This week on Storyological, we chatted with Adam Ehrlich Sachs about his book, Inherited Disorders, and about many other things. Such as, for example:

  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • Cats
  • The Simpsons
  • Monty Python
  • Gertrude Stein
  • Fathers
  • Shadows
  • Flying contraptions
  • Thomas Bernhard
  • Derek Parfit
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • & the poignancy of precision.

The Rumpus described his book as “endlessly sharp and engaging.”

I describe it as a hilarious and heartbreaking and cut through with the best sort of nonsense.

Which is to say the logical sort.

You can listen to the interview here.

Or you can read an illustrated, and footnoted, version here.


Thing three.

Another thing is that after visiting the Tate Modern Exhibition, The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection, I am thinking a lot about photographs. In the gift shop, there were books by Susan Sontag, John Berger, and Geoff Dyer about the nature of photography and I have been devouring them with great intellectual zeal.

I’m not sure I would have ever thought of myself as the sort of person who said things like ‘intellectual zeal.’

But, there you go.

These things happen.

We surprise ourselves if we’re lucky.


Thing four.

On Being is one of my favorite podcasts.

This interview with John O’Donohue, in an episode titled, “The Inner Landscape of Beauty,” is one of my favorite episodes.

If you find yourself facing the end of the world, this is a good one for to listen.

I mean. So long as it’s not the actual end of the world. In which case. I don’t know. Maybe talk to someone. Talking helps.


Happy Thursday, readers.

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the invention of clouds

Hello, readers.

Here are some things of a thing-like nature.


Thing one.
Gary Kasparov, chess player and expert on the humbling nature of mechanical intelligence, has this to say about “Learning to Love Intelligent Machines.”


Thing two.

A recipe for gluten-free muffins.

Flour.

  • 40g coconut
  • 80g sorghum
  • 30g almond
  • 25g all-purpose white dove

Some salt.

Mix that together.

Watery bits.

  • 1 egg
  • 50g oil
  • 11g vinegar
  • 140g milk1.

Mix that together with two bananas2.

Cook at 150° C for 35 minutes in a greased pan.


Thing three

This season’s hot new clouds.

This headline reminds me of that one chaptor in Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh called, “The Cloud Factory,” which itself always reminded me of “The Invention of Clouds,” which, so far as I know, doesn’t exist.


Thing four

Storyological, that one podcast, is off this week. We’re back next week with something new. In the meantime, here’s that one episode where we talked about rabbits:

HUNGER. SAINTS. BIRDS.

Happy baking, readers.

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  1. Generally, I use some sort of rice/almond milk.
  2. I sautéed the bananas in a bit of coconut oil, first, until mushy.

it’s only

Hello, readers.

It’s today. Probably the most important day ever to someone out there. I hope it goes well for you, whoever you are.

Here are some things, more or less.


 

Thing one

Louis C.K. (philosopher comedian, playwright, man most likely to not believe in the honesty of your walking) appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert this week. Two of my favorite people talking about several of my favorite things including, but not limited to, the aforementioned dishonesty of walking.

 


 

Thing two

I don’t really understand the weather in London, and I’m okay with that. My understanding is that one isn’t supposed to understand such things.

 


 

Thing three

The Art Assignment is an amazing YouTube channel full of fantastic, and fantastically fast, rundowns of various movements, persons, and modes of art. It’s like that one bit in that one movie where they attempted to run through the Louvre in record time. Except, less with the black and white.

Here’s an example of one of their ‘The Case For…” videos.

The Case for Yoko Ono.

 


 

Thing four

I’m editing this one thing for Storyological, and it is reminding me how I want everything to tell a story. I’m narratively selfish.

 


 

Thing five

This thing in The Wall Street Journal called “Twilight of the Rock Gods” (paywall).

The oldest of America’s 75 million baby boomers started turning 70 in 2016. (According to the U.S. Census Bureau, boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964). In about 20 years, all the boomers will have reached 70. So, the number of celebrity deaths last year wasn’t exceptional, according to a study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, though the number of “mega famous” celebrity deaths was. Because of their penchant for hard living, rocker deaths are likely to stay consistently high. “The musicians are ahead of their audience, if you will, on the death curve,” says demographer Kenneth Johnson at the University of New Hampshire.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland is already scrambling to keep up. “We play their music all day long, lower our flag, and hang their image in a place of honor for a year. And we have a special exhibition,” President Greg Harris says. “But the exhibitions are getting kind of crowded.” Almost 60% of the Rock Hall’s more than 800 inductees are still living, meaning the biggest wave of the boomer musician deaths has yet to come.

I know it’s only rock’n’roll. But. There you go. Proof positive. Yesterday’s gone. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.

Because death.

 

Happy Thursday, readers.

 

 

 

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p.s. I apologize for the lack of footnotes.

there’s no single more interesting time to be alive 

Hello, readers.

Here are some things for Tuesday.


 

Thing one.

A few days ago I watched The End of the Tour, a film based on a book1 written by the journalist from Rolling Stone 2 who joined David Foster Wallace for that writer’s final days on tour for Infinite Jest. The film contains some deliciously uncomfortable expressions, and accurate definitions, of shyness, brilliance, and at least one perfect shot of the snow-covered plains of Indiana. There is also a surprising amount of Alana’s Morrissette and slow-motion dancing in a slantly lit midwestern Baptist Church.

There is, at its heart, a depiction of David Foster Wallace as kind and difficult and confused and alone with everyone, even himself. It’s happiest moments were its saddest and best.

Jason Segel did a wonderful job.

I almost loved it.

This is what David Foster Wallace said in 1996.

There’s no single more interesting time to be alive on the planet Earth than in the next 20 years.

I should probably get on with reading Lipsky’s book.


 

Thing two.

Jason Segel on Making Sci-Fi and Growing Oranges (Really).

When did you decide it was time to move out of Hollywood?

I went to a small town to get ready for “End of the Tour” and read “Infinite Jest.” I didn’t feel I could do that with the distraction of the big city. In L.A., there’s a real quiet “what’s next?” being whispered into your ear, constantly. All of a sudden, with that voice gone, I realized that I felt significantly better.


 

Thing three.

There’s a new episode of Storyological:

BULLETPROOF EELS

We discuss, as we generally do, two stories. In this case, “Starver” by Daisy Johnson and “Trauma Plate” by Adam Johnson3.

Also, as we also generally do, we discussed other things. Such as universalities, privileges, and Bob’s Burgers.


 

Thing four.

Aimee Mann has a new album out called Mental Illness. I like it.
 

Happy Tuesday, readers.

 
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  1. Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself
  2. David Lipsky
  3. Almost certainly no relation. Though, I didn’t check.

this moment in which I hang my laundry in a timeless and universal manner

Hello, readers.

Here are some things upon which to ponder on this hopefully not terribly too ponderous Wednesday.

 

Thing one.

Someone illustrated the Terms and Conditions of iTunes. I bet you didn’t know you wanted someone to do that. That’s the best thing, really. When people do something unexpectedly wonderful.

Terms and Conditions by R. Sikoryak, Drawn & Quarterly.

 


Thing two.

The washing’s done. I should go take care of that. I can see how this might not seem entirely relevant to you. But, for me, though, it seems relatively relevant. Plus, maybe by sharing this moment of my actual right now really real life with you it will create a sense like we’re all in this together. Like this moment belongs to all of us. This moment in which I hang my laundry in a timeless and universal manner.

 


Thing three.

From The Washington Post: Lockheed Martin says it is ready to hand over laser weapon to U.S. Army for testing

Laser weapons. Just what the world needed.

 


Thing four.

This book, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, which Michiko Kakutani reviewed in the New York Times:

By mixing the real and the surreal, and using old fairy-tale magic, Hamid has created a fictional universe that captures the global perils percolating beneath today’s headlines, while at the same time painting an unnervingly dystopian portrait of what might lie down the road. The world in “Exit West” is, in many respects, an extrapolation of the world we live in now, with wars like the one in Syria turning cities into war zones; with political crises, warp-speed technological changes, and growing tensions between nativists and migrants threatening to upend millions of lives.

 


Thing five.

No new Storyological episode this week. But we’ve already made some three dozen episodes, so now’s a good time to listen to one of those if you haven’t already.

 

Happy Wednesday, readers.

 

 

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