Best Pair of Essays on Loneliness
Emily Cooke, “The Lonely Ones” – The New Inquiry
Susan Sontag is a force that continues to be reckoned with, and the publication of her second volume of journals this year occasioned this incredible piece. I think I’ve re-read this essay three or four times now, and I just keep coming back for more.
Sonya Chung, “On Loneliness” – The Millions
Tacking a different walk down the same path, Chung looks to DFW’s adage about being a fucking human being and unpacks it until all that’s left is that intense feeling of being alone, but together. The problems of how to be alone and how to be with others are not new, but at the same time both Chung and Cooke cast reassuring lights onto this well worn and sort of depressing path.
Would’ve been a contender in this category, but for it being six years too early: Sheila Heti’s 2006 Trampoline Hall talk, “Why Go Out.”
Best Essay on the Museum of Innocence
Elif Batuman, “Pamuk’s Museum” – London Review of Books
Batuman has a bit of a magic touch in her ability to put you right on the scene, and she generously seems to fill your head with her knowledge and enthusiasm beforehand. For a diary entry, it’s surprising how quickly Batuman comes to seem just slightly out of frame, revealing instead the mysterious world of Orhan Pamuk’s strange, physically embodied and built literature.
Best Pair of Bookish Essays on Pornography
Josh Lambert, “James Deen vs. the Nebbishes” – Los Angeles Review of Books
It seems as though 2012 could’ve been called the year of James Deen. The charming porn star received so much media attention, and was the cause of so much hand-wringing this year, that for a time it seemed like he and his widely beloved penis were all anyone could talk about. Or maybe that was just my particular Twitter feed. Anyhow, this LARB piece was my favorite of the ones I read about Deen.
Avi Steinberg, “Checking Out” – The Paris Review Daily
Steinberg is a perpetual favorite of mine, in part because of the offbeat and unexamined subjects he chooses to write about, but mostly because of his thoughtful and good humored sensibility. On the topic of the relationships between librarians and pornography, he is simply without parallel. Who else could trace pretty much everything great in this world back to pornos? From who else would I be able to take a question like “What was the relationship between these library fuckers and what I had been reading?” completely on its face?
Best Profile of Jay-Z
Zadie Smith, “The House that Hova Built” – New York Times T Magazine
Duh. One of Smith’s many gifts is her ear, and it was thrilling to see one of my favorite language manipulators enraptured fannishly before another dextrous word slinger.
Most Likely To Lead You Down a Penn and Teller YouTube Rabbit Hole
Chris Jones, “The Honor System” – Esquire
Seriously, this Chris Jones story radically altered the texture of my life; for weeks afterward I became obsessed by magic. I watched at least one episode of Penn and Teller’s Fool Us per night, but usually more than one. I sacrificed a thing I tend to hold pretty sacred (my sleep) in order to feed a hunger I haven’t felt since I was child. This story made me ravenous for real magic, for showmanship, for being told the right kind of lies. The key to the joy of this story is, I think, in how Jones refuses to give away any of his or Teller’s tricks and instead zeroes in on the delight that the magician imparts on his audience—how pleasurable it is to revel in our own foolishness, for a change, to feel that ticklish sense of wonder.