I wrote Literary Brooklyn. It's inexpensive and fun.

I've written for New York magazine, the New York Review of Books, Grantland, the London Review of Books, the New York Times, the New Republic, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Boston Globe, n+1, the B&N Review, and other publications.

I'm on Twitter.

 

There’s something fishy about Maddow’s theory about the Christie scandal

The problem with Rachel Maddow’s theory about the Christie scandal is that it’s too good.

Maddow’s theory, in brief: When the Christie camp decided to stick it to Fort Lee, they weren’t targeting the mayor of Fort Lee; they were targeting the state senate majority leader, who represents Fort Lee, because she had been blocking Christie’s nominees to the state supreme court. The timing makes sense, now that we know Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, wrote “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” weeks before the lane closures — and 12 hours after Christie lit into the state senator, Loretta Weinberg, in a press conference. 

I know next to nothing about New jersey politics, but what strikes me as implausible here is that this scandal has been going on for four months, and no one thought of this? That would represent a real lapse of imagination on the part of those who are knowledgeable about New Jersey politics. I realize we didn’t know the timing of Bridget Kelly’s email till Wednesday morning. But imagine you were just brainstorming, as a local reporter/politician/observer, “Why would Christie screw over Fort Lee?” Christie’s highly publicized battle with Fort Lee’s state senator does not occur to you?

The state senate majority leader is a powerful person. And she and the governor were in open warfare. The mayor of Fort Lee is… sort of not a powerful person, as Christie tried delicately to explain at the press conference.

This makes me think that someone local is going to explain why Maddow’s theory is flawed.

slaughterhouse90210:

My FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2013
2013 was a time of great binge-watching and great binge-reading. Here are some of the books I couldn’t put down this year. All are highly recommended.
THE ONE THAT DESTROYED ME (IN A GOOD WAY)
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
Meet Reno, the most intriguing heroine of the year: she’s a motorcycle thrill seeker, an interloper in the downtown New York art scene of the mid-1970s,  part-time model, a naive American who gets embroiled in radical Italian politics. She also has terrible taste in men. The Flamethrowers weaves together these interconnecting threads of Reno’s life, the excitement and glamour, but also Reno’s vulnerability, her abject unworldliness. Page by page, sentence by sentence, word by word, the best book of 2013.
TWO SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS YOU SHOULDN’T MISS
With all respect to George Saunders, Tenth of December doesn’t need a plug from me. Here are two collections from 2013 that didn’t get as much love as they should have. Let’s change that.
Spectacle by Susan Steinberg
I’m gonna use the word “experimental” now. Shhh. Don’t be scared. Trust that I’m using the word to describe a style of writing that feels exciting and new and different, not pretentious or unnecessarily complicated. The linked stories in Spectacle feel like they’re breaking new ground even as they zero in on universal emotions. 
Bobcat by Rebecca Lee
I would like to live inside the title story in this collection, in which a dinner party gets all kinds of awkward. All of the stories in Bobcat contain worlds that feel perfectly self-contained and satisfying, and yet each and every one could be expanded into a novel that I would hungrily read.
MOST ANTI-YOLO NOVEL
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Life After Life explores the biggest of Big Questions: What would you do if you could live your life over and over again until you get it right? What does “right” even mean? Does it mean avoiding heartache, defying death, meeting a soulmate, having a family? Maybe not! Probably not! It takes a writer of great vision and discipline to create a story that has so many disparate threads, but feels so compact and elegant. Get through the first 50 pages and you’ll be hooked—I promise.
MOST LITERARY TAKE ON DATING JERKS, BROOKLYN-STYLE
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
AKA The One That Hits Too Close To Home. Adelle Waldman’s title character is a nice, smart, sensitive writer-type who happens to have no emotional intelligence whatsoever. What happens when the kinda-nerdy guy your parents would positively adore turns out to be kinda a dick? The fact that Waldman can make Nate P.’s personal life both so relatable and so deplorable is a testament to her critical eye.
MOST IMMERSIVE
Necessary Errors by Caleb Crain
My resolution for 2013 was to savor more of what I read, rather than racing through in a panic to get to the next one. Necessary Errors was a novel that forced me to take it slow—to get caught up in all of the wonderfully imagined details of Caleb Crain’s debut about a recent college grad  who travels to Prague in 1990, just as Czechoslovakia bid adieu to socialism. Hard not to see parallels between the nation’s attempt to find itself and a young man’s attempt to find himself, but the novel is so much bigger—world-expanding—than that.
MOST SUSPENSEFUL
At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon
From the very first pages of At Night We Walk in Circles, we know that something terrible is going to happen. We learn about a young, ambitious actor who tours through a nameless Latin American country with an experimental theater group, and we know that he meets some sort of tragic end. Despite the outcome, it’s a joy to take the journey with him, to ponder what it means to be a performer and what kinds of roles we play even when we aren’t on stage.
THE LITERARY THRILLER YOU SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT
Cartwheel by Jennifer Dubois
I argued that Cartwheel should be the new Gone Girl (I even used GIFs!) and I stand by it—if you’re looking for a totally addictive and thought-provoking thriller that’s both masterfully written and fun to read, look no further. 
MOST CATHARTIC
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
Read the first few pages of The Woman Upstairs and revel in the anger of Claire Messud’s protagonist, an elementary school teacher in her late 30s who is still waiting for her life to begin. Love her or think she’s lacking in likability, the woman upstairs vents a level of frustration with daily life with which I couldn’t help but sympathize, even as she grapples with the distinction between how much of life is real, as opposed to the stories we tell ourselves. 
BEST ATMOSPHERE
The Facades by Eric Lundgren
Most of the time when I read a mystery, I don’t really care too much about descriptions of where it’s set—I just want a fast-paced plot to push the narrative along. The Facades is the exception, a novel in which a decrepit Midwestern city is as much a moody, complicated character as it is the setting. When a beloved opera singer goes missing, her hapless husband attempts to track her down through the crumbling streets of Trude, a city that feels bizarre and surreal and also more than a little familiar.
BOOK I WISH I’D READ WHEN I WAS 20
My Education by Susan Choi
OK, so the Literary Review’s Bad Sex Award of 2013 will be awarded within hours, and I happened to have fallen in love with one of the shortlist contestants. I am not ashamed. Don’t let the dubious nomination fool you—My Education is hot as hell 99% of the time. Susan Choi’s novel about the complicated love life of a graduate student details all the shit we have to learn about in life that doesn’t take place in a classroom or lecture hall. 
MOST EPIC 
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
AKA Harry Potter and the Priceless Work of Art
Note: If you haven’t yet read The Secret History, you should probably do that before you read The Goldfinch. But if you already have, then call in sick to work and prepare to get swept away in a narrative that more than one critic has called “Dickensian.” 
BEST ESSAYS
Meaty by Samantha Irby
Thanks to Meaty I was the deranged lady on the subway who couldn’t stop giggling. Samantha Irby, of Bitches Gotta Eat fame, just keeps on telling it like it is, essay by essay, rapid-fire blogger-style. A joyous mixture of bad language, bad behavior, and bad relationships.
MOST HORRIFYING (AND FUNNY!) NONFICTION
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
I had to stop underlining the sentences in Going Clear that made me gasp in horror because I would’ve ended up underlining the whole book. Lawrence Wright’s clear-eyed, phenomenally researched takedown of Scientology is straight-up terrifying. And also undeniably funny. I made a list of some of the most astounding/awful/hilarious quotes from the book, presented by Wright with very little editorializing. The bat-shitness of the whole enterprise speaks for itself.

Maris speaks, and she read more than you did this year.

slaughterhouse90210:

My FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2013

2013 was a time of great binge-watching and great binge-reading. Here are some of the books I couldn’t put down this year. All are highly recommended.

THE ONE THAT DESTROYED ME (IN A GOOD WAY)

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

Meet Reno, the most intriguing heroine of the year: she’s a motorcycle thrill seeker, an interloper in the downtown New York art scene of the mid-1970s,  part-time model, a naive American who gets embroiled in radical Italian politics. She also has terrible taste in men. The Flamethrowers weaves together these interconnecting threads of Reno’s life, the excitement and glamour, but also Reno’s vulnerability, her abject unworldliness. Page by page, sentence by sentence, word by word, the best book of 2013.

TWO SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS YOU SHOULDN’T MISS

With all respect to George Saunders, Tenth of December doesn’t need a plug from me. Here are two collections from 2013 that didn’t get as much love as they should have. Let’s change that.

Spectacle by Susan Steinberg

I’m gonna use the word “experimental” now. Shhh. Don’t be scared. Trust that I’m using the word to describe a style of writing that feels exciting and new and different, not pretentious or unnecessarily complicated. The linked stories in Spectacle feel like they’re breaking new ground even as they zero in on universal emotions.

Bobcat by Rebecca Lee

I would like to live inside the title story in this collection, in which a dinner party gets all kinds of awkward. All of the stories in Bobcat contain worlds that feel perfectly self-contained and satisfying, and yet each and every one could be expanded into a novel that I would hungrily read.

MOST ANTI-YOLO NOVEL

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life explores the biggest of Big Questions: What would you do if you could live your life over and over again until you get it right? What does “right” even mean? Does it mean avoiding heartache, defying death, meeting a soulmate, having a family? Maybe not! Probably not! It takes a writer of great vision and discipline to create a story that has so many disparate threads, but feels so compact and elegant. Get through the first 50 pages and you’ll be hooked—I promise.

MOST LITERARY TAKE ON DATING JERKS, BROOKLYN-STYLE

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

AKA The One That Hits Too Close To Home. Adelle Waldman’s title character is a nice, smart, sensitive writer-type who happens to have no emotional intelligence whatsoever. What happens when the kinda-nerdy guy your parents would positively adore turns out to be kinda a dick? The fact that Waldman can make Nate P.’s personal life both so relatable and so deplorable is a testament to her critical eye.

MOST IMMERSIVE

Necessary Errors by Caleb Crain

My resolution for 2013 was to savor more of what I read, rather than racing through in a panic to get to the next one. Necessary Errors was a novel that forced me to take it slow—to get caught up in all of the wonderfully imagined details of Caleb Crain’s debut about a recent college grad  who travels to Prague in 1990, just as Czechoslovakia bid adieu to socialism. Hard not to see parallels between the nation’s attempt to find itself and a young man’s attempt to find himself, but the novel is so much bigger—world-expanding—than that.

MOST SUSPENSEFUL

At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon

From the very first pages of At Night We Walk in Circles, we know that something terrible is going to happen. We learn about a young, ambitious actor who tours through a nameless Latin American country with an experimental theater group, and we know that he meets some sort of tragic end. Despite the outcome, it’s a joy to take the journey with him, to ponder what it means to be a performer and what kinds of roles we play even when we aren’t on stage.

THE LITERARY THRILLER YOU SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT

Cartwheel by Jennifer Dubois

I argued that Cartwheel should be the new Gone Girl (I even used GIFs!) and I stand by it—if you’re looking for a totally addictive and thought-provoking thriller that’s both masterfully written and fun to read, look no further.

MOST CATHARTIC

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

Read the first few pages of The Woman Upstairs and revel in the anger of Claire Messud’s protagonist, an elementary school teacher in her late 30s who is still waiting for her life to begin. Love her or think she’s lacking in likability, the woman upstairs vents a level of frustration with daily life with which I couldn’t help but sympathize, even as she grapples with the distinction between how much of life is real, as opposed to the stories we tell ourselves.

BEST ATMOSPHERE

The Facades by Eric Lundgren

Most of the time when I read a mystery, I don’t really care too much about descriptions of where it’s set—I just want a fast-paced plot to push the narrative along. The Facades is the exception, a novel in which a decrepit Midwestern city is as much a moody, complicated character as it is the setting. When a beloved opera singer goes missing, her hapless husband attempts to track her down through the crumbling streets of Trude, a city that feels bizarre and surreal and also more than a little familiar.

BOOK I WISH I’D READ WHEN I WAS 20

My Education by Susan Choi

OK, so the Literary Review’s Bad Sex Award of 2013 will be awarded within hours, and I happened to have fallen in love with one of the shortlist contestants. I am not ashamed. Don’t let the dubious nomination fool you—My Education is hot as hell 99% of the time. Susan Choi’s novel about the complicated love life of a graduate student details all the shit we have to learn about in life that doesn’t take place in a classroom or lecture hall.

MOST EPIC

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

AKA Harry Potter and the Priceless Work of Art

Note: If you haven’t yet read The Secret History, you should probably do that before you read The Goldfinch. But if you already have, then call in sick to work and prepare to get swept away in a narrative that more than one critic has called “Dickensian.”

BEST ESSAYS

Meaty by Samantha Irby

Thanks to Meaty I was the deranged lady on the subway who couldn’t stop giggling. Samantha Irby, of Bitches Gotta Eat fame, just keeps on telling it like it is, essay by essay, rapid-fire blogger-style. A joyous mixture of bad language, bad behavior, and bad relationships.

MOST HORRIFYING (AND FUNNY!) NONFICTION

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

I had to stop underlining the sentences in Going Clear that made me gasp in horror because I would’ve ended up underlining the whole book. Lawrence Wright’s clear-eyed, phenomenally researched takedown of Scientology is straight-up terrifying. And also undeniably funny. I made a list of some of the most astounding/awful/hilarious quotes from the book, presented by Wright with very little editorializing. The bat-shitness of the whole enterprise speaks for itself.

Maris speaks, and she read more than you did this year.

My Obamacare experience

If you live in New York State and are thinking of getting “Obamacare,” you might be interested: healthcare.gov is actually irrelevant for you because all that site does for NY residents is redirect them to the state’s own online exchange, which works really, really well (though it too had hiccups, but only at the very beginning). I’ve gotten far enough through the application process that I can see my options and their prices. This did not take long at all and the site saves whatever data you enter so that you can exit and return with no trouble.

There are 61 plans available to me, from nine providers. Most of those plans are cheaper than my current plan, which is an Oxford plan I obtained through Mediabistro. (My current one was not the cheapest available plan, but instead a middle-grade combo that had halfway decent benefits.) Every single one of the new plans is a dramatically better value than my Oxford plan because the benefits are far better. That’s the big takeaway.

However, one thing I wanted to point out is that precisely zero of the 61 plans has ANY coverage for out-of-network care. This is kind of a big deal, because some better doctors do not go through the arduous process of joining insurance networks because the rates the insurers pay to doctors are pretty low for patients on the network, especially when compared to the price of these doctors’ education.

I would say that I followed the Obamacare debate very closely, relative to the average news consumer, and I never knew that out-of-network (OON) care would not be covered (whether in NY State or anywhere else—I’m not sure what it’s like in other states). It makes sense that OON care would not be anyone’s #1 policy priority because the point of Obamacare is to cover people so they can get care, no matter their pre-existing health conditions, and not go broke. AGAIN, THIS IS THE BIGGER DEAL HERE. The fact that I can’t get coverage for any doctor I want is, relatively speaking, a first-world problem.

But the lack of OON coverage suggests to me that we could be headed toward a system similar—but arguably worse—to the one that I gather is taking shape in Canada. There they have single-payer health care like the rest of the developed world and no visible costs to the consumer (obviously they do pay for care, through taxation), which is great. But rich people who don’t like waiting for appointments and who want the top doctors, I have heard, are paying to opt out of free health care into what you might call boutique doctors’ offices. It’s like taking the taxi when the subway will do. (I have limited info on this, but this is my understanding, and I believe something similar is happening in England.) That two-tier system is roughly 8 million times better, in my view, than the current arrangement in the U.S., where on the bottom tier are some 30 million not-rich people who are walking around on the precipice of going bankrupt or slowly dying because they have no insurance.

So in other words, my first read on my Obamacare experience is: We can all get health insurance, for a semi-reasonable price. This is the biggest blow against inequality in decades and I believe Obama will go down in history as an incredibly important president for this reason alone. But I would note that if enough good doctors opt out of networks, it remains to be seen exactly what level of care we’re going to get.

atavist:


Friday, August 14, 2009
5:38 p.m.
Day 1
wired announces the disappearance of one Evan Ratliff, with a $5,000 bounty on his head.

During the month-long manhunt for our CEO, thousands of people combed through dozens of clues to try to find Evan’s location. During his journey, Evan recorded video diaries and collected ephemera that no one has seen. Until now. 
Using the Creatavist tool, Evan reimagines life on the lam, and for the first time is able to share some of the digital scraps he collected along the way.
See Evan’s story here: http://atav.st/1choVYP
And build your own with Creatavist: http://creatavist.com

Such a classic, this story. Who hasn’t thought about disappearing into the crowd?

atavist:

Friday, August 14, 2009

5:38 p.m.

Day 1

wired announces the disappearance of one Evan Ratliff, with a $5,000 bounty on his head.

During the month-long manhunt for our CEO, thousands of people combed through dozens of clues to try to find Evan’s location. During his journey, Evan recorded video diaries and collected ephemera that no one has seen. Until now

Using the Creatavist tool, Evan reimagines life on the lam, and for the first time is able to share some of the digital scraps he collected along the way.

See Evan’s story here: http://atav.st/1choVYP

And build your own with Creatavist: http://creatavist.com

Such a classic, this story. Who hasn’t thought about disappearing into the crowd?

whiskyjack asked
Sorry to put this on you but I have an honest question about depression an suicide. Isn't it completely possible for it to be a alternative for someone. Can't there be someone out there who genuinely is tired and doesn't want to continue. I know there is beauty and wonderful things in this world. There are things to look forward to. There will be more pain but also more laughter. But what if I'm not interested?

mattfractionblog:

well… well first off, i’d say, seek professional help immediately. because i am wildly unqualified to answer your question with anything but experience. and first off, my experience says, if you are in such a deep and dark place where you say things like this to total strangers on the internet, you need to be in contact with someone that can help you start to heal.

second, i’d say… you’re wrong. i’d say the things any of us don’t know, especially about tomorrow, could blanket every grain of sand on every beach of the world with bullshit. And to simply assume you are done tomorrow because you are done today is a mistake. a factual mistake, an error, a critical miscalculation.

i’d say, read Tad Friend’s piece JUMPERS in which he seeks and finds and talks to people that jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge — and lived. And they all say the same variations this: “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.” 

And know that this piece has kept me in my seat on more than a couple dark nights.

And i’d say — i’d say i felt that way before too, and i was wrong.

And then i’d tell you something i don’t even think my wife knows. this happend years before we met — shit, more than a decade — and it’s not   the first time i came close to suicide was on a thanksgiving night. i’d eaten well and then as the house shut down i went into the bathroom, drew a bath as hot as i could manage to stand, and climbed into the tub with a razor  blade.

As i started to cut, as the corner touched my skin and that jolt of pain fired into my head, i stopped and thought — y’know, last chance. Are you SURE?

And i was tired. I sounded like you, that i knew there’d be ups again and downs but i was just so fucking TIRED i couldn’t stand the thought of having to get there. I felt this… this never-ending crush of days that were grey and tepid but for some reason i was supposed to greet each one with a smile. the constant pressure of having to keep my shit in all the time was just exhausting.

I wondered, then — well, is there anything you’re curious about. Anything you want to see play out. And i thought of a comic i was reading and i’d not figured out the end of the current storyline. And i realized I had curiosity. And that was the hook i’d hang my hat on. that by wanting to see how something played out I wasn’t really ready. That little sprout of a thing poking up through all that black earth kept me around a little longer.

I realized then that it had been so long since i’d laughed. I was numbed out and shut down and just… i missed laughing. maybe if i laughed a little i could get moving again. so i’d wait for my comic to conclude, try to find a few laughs, and then reevaluate.

So I’m in the bathtub and i got this real sharp-ass razor, right? And i look down and there’s all my bits floating in the water like they do and i thought okay, let’s get funny and i got to work.

I shaved off exactly half my pubic hair vertically. The end result was a ‘fro of pubes that looked like a Chia Pet that only half-worked. I started to laugh as I did it. And every time i’d piss, looking down made me laugh. 

Because JESUS what a nightmare.

Shortly thereafter I got very heavily into Chuck Jones and Tex Avery. Way less chafing and way more funny.

jesus. i was still in high school at the time. dig if you will a picture of the chubby weirdo that was always giggling at his dick in the bathroom. that was me.

And then I guess I’d tell you about Dave, who did the same thing as me a few years later, only DIDN’T have my hilarious Chia Dick strategy in mind and got the razor in and up. And as he started to bleed out “Brown Eyed Girl” came on the radio and he realized he’d never get to hear that again so, in a bloody comedy of errors — I swear to god this is true — he got out of the tub, tried to get dressed the best he could, went downstairs calling for help only to find his family gone, went out to his car, and drove to doug’s house only to find doug not home and so, then, finally, he blacked out from blood loss sitting there in his car, playing a van morrison CD on repeat, until, by luck, Doug’s mom came home and found him. 

Fucking Van Morrison, y’know?

A song, a comic, something dumb, something small. From that seed can come everything else, I swear to god.

I guess last I’d say… I’d say that, look — if you reached out to me for an answer, than I have to reach back out to you and insist you hear it.  Because it means, what, you know me? My work? You read my stuff and thought, well, fuck, if anyone would know why I shouldn’t end my life, if anyone alive is QUALIFIED TO SAVE ME it’s the guy that had britney spears punch a bear? okay — okay, then, so as THAT GUY I’m saying: Get help. Now, today, tonight, whenever — get to a phone and find a doctor that can try to help you heal, that can try to recolorize your world again, that can help you start caring again. All you need is that one tiny thing, that speck, that little grain of sand. the World Series, AVENGERS 2, Tina Fey’s new show, the first issue of PRETTY DEADLY, some slice of the world you’ve never seen, some drink you love, who the fuck will love your dog like you do if you’re gone, what if jabrams KILLS it on the new STAR WARS, the hell are you doing for Halloween, you ever feed a dolphin with your bare hand? because i have and I am fucking telling you IT IS A THING TO EXPERIENCE and oh god WHAT FUCKING FONT WILL STARBUCKS USE ON THE CHRISTMAS DRINK SLEEVES THIS YEAR — i don’t care what or how dumb but i promise you somewhere in your life is that one fleck of dust that can help start you on the road back. That’s all it takes. One fucking mote, drifting through your head. 

And because you asked me I am answering you because i know, motherfucker, i know, i know, i know the hole you are fucking in because I was there myself and if you look hard you can still see my writing on those walls and if you stare long enough i swear to god it’s pointing to up

Dating is probably the most fraught human interaction there is. You’re sizing people up to see if they’re worth your time and attention, and they’re doing the same to you. It’s meritocracy applied to personal life, but there’s no accountability. We submit ourselves to these intimate inspections and simultaneously inflict them on others and try to keep our psyches intact—to keep from becoming cold and callous—and we hope that at the end of it we wind up happier than our grandparents, who didn’t spend this vast period of their lives, their prime years, so thoroughly alone, coldly and explicitly anatomized again and again.

The character Aurit in Adelle Waldman’s début, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. This is only one of the many thought-provoking, quote-worthy lines this fantastic novel contains. (via niconovito)

slaughterhouse90210:

"I feel like you want to think that what you’re feeling is really deep, like some seriously profound existential shit. But to me, it looks like the most tired, average thing in the world, the guy who is all interested in a woman until the very moment when it dawns on him that he has her. Wanting only what you can’t have. The affliction of shallow morons everywhere." —Adelle Waldman, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

Ya burnt.

slaughterhouse90210:

"I feel like you want to think that what you’re feeling is really deep, like some seriously profound existential shit. But to me, it looks like the most tired, average thing in the world, the guy who is all interested in a woman until the very moment when it dawns on him that he has her. Wanting only what you can’t have. The affliction of shallow morons everywhere."
—Adelle Waldman, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

Ya burnt.