“Can we ever pinpoint a person’s true identity? … How can we point to something in the world with complete accuracy, without also being meaninglessly redundant? Harpo’s answer to ‘who are you?’ is a visual-gag version of the Buddha’s infuriatingly honest answer to the same question. When asked who he was, he would say, gesturing to himself: I am thathagatha (the one who is like this).” On Groucho Marx, nihilism, and the destruction of comedy over at Slate.
Not-so-breaking news: Books are the best way to store information. CDs, flash memory, hard drives, and other digital storage devices aren’t nearly as durable as good old fashioned paper. So the next time someone says you have too many books, just say it’s your attempt at immortality.
“When people are young adults, they have these packs, or tribes, that they form. Those connections are very real, and yet another, more powerful social narrative is that you’re supposed to pair off and have children—and never see your friends again. In the case of the gay world, there’s an additional element, in which you’re supposed to spin away from your straight friends and be part of a gay world. Both ideas of adulthood are sad to me, and I was attracted to a group of friends as a lost paradise, and one that there’s no way to keep.” At The Paris Review Daily, Anna Altman talks with Caleb Crain about his new book, Necessary Errors.
“The day is spent for the most part in a glorious solitude. Like the hunter who moves silently through the woods to check his traps, she moves through the library, cautiously avoiding those whom she knows. A single conversation would ruin the beauty and vastness of her silence. Today no such conversation occurs and she is happy.” Good luck not reading this narration of a graduate student’s life in the voice of director Werner Herzog, now. Here’s a great Herzog Millions piece, as well.
Yesterday, I wrote that I “[had] yet to read a comprehensive debunking” of B.R. Myers. For those still interested, I’ve been directed to some candidates: Meghan O’Rourke (2001), Daniel Green (2007), the Washington City Paper (2010, concerning neocon ideology and the shadowy RAND corporation), and part I of Steven Moore‘s The Novel: An Alternative History.
James Baldwin was more famous for being an essayist and novelist, but he was also a film critic. At The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky argues that Baldwin should be considered one of the best film critics for The Devil Finds Work. “Baldwin shows that criticism is art, which means that it doesn’t need a purpose or a rationale other than truth, or beauty, or keeping faith, or doing whatever it is we think art is trying to do.” For more on Baldwin, read our essay on his epiphanies.