Next week, Martin Amis will publish Zone of Interest, a dark new novel that takes place, like his earlier Time’s Arrow, in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. In this week’s New Yorker, Joyce Carol Oates reviews the book, suggesting that Amis is most compelling when he writes as a “satiric vivisectionist.” You could also read our own Mark O’Connell on Lionel Asbo: State of England.
The book’s central problem is that Dyer does not appear interested in the people he meets on the ship as people, but as corporeal representations of work ethic and purpose. I lost track of the references to ‘the fourteen-hour days’ that the crewmates work, but I’m pretty sure there were somewhere around fourteen. These men and women have something important to do, and Dyer doesn’t want to let you to forget it, even though you don’t get to know any of the men or women very well at all. Are any of them annoyed by the captain’s enforced cheeriness? We don’t know. Is the chef, who dreamt of becoming the chef at the White House but found her application thwarted by bureaucracy, bitter? Dyer wonders for a moment, but quickly gets distracted. The closest we come to differentiation among these people is when one man is referred as ‘more in love — if such a thing were possible — than the other people I’d met who were seriously in love with what they did.’
On the New Yorker’s Elements blog, our own Mark O’Connell writes about Cloak, a new app which lets you avoid people you don’t want to bump into by accident. Despite the fact that Mark can see himself using the app, he finds it “ultimately troubling,” in large part because it strikes him as “such a lonely thing to have achieved through technological control of our social environments.” (Speaking of apps, have you read Mark’s epic e-book?)
When did Twitter turn into a place of public shame, outrage, and apology? Alexander Chee examines the changing culture in an essay for Dame Magazine. “Oh, Internet, place of the ultimate writerly paradox, where things you write quickly for little or no money last forever.” Our own Mark O’Connell explored something similar in his New Yorker essay on the public humiliation of regrettable tweets.
When did Samuel Beckett’s “fail better” become the motto of Silicon Valley? At Slate, our own Mark O’Connell traces the history of the phrase. “Fail Better, with its TEDishly counterintuitive feel, is the literary takeaway par excellence; it’s usefully suggestive, too, of the corporate propaganda of productivity, with its appeals to ‘think different’ or ‘work smarter’ or ‘just do it.’”
"The Hatchet Job Award appeals, in its depressingly calculated way, to the basest and most self-serving of journalistic instincts, and seems to arise out of, and perpetuate, a misunderstanding of what criticism actually is." At Slate, our own Mark O’Connell criticizes the award for promoting the same bad criticism it claims to detest.