August Reviews

Briefly discussed in this post: 18 books (Object-Oriented Ontology; Winnicott; Children of the Self-Absorbed; A Minor Chorus; The Tangled Tree; World of Wonders; The Face of War; A Visit from the Goon Squad; Speedboat; Homesickness; Scarborough; I’m Glad My Mom Died; Ducks; Trickster Feminism; The Translator of Desire; Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbùmba Nzila; Queen of the Seven Crossroads; and Maria de Padilla); 7 movies (White Noise; The Nanny; The Wrath of Becky; Sorry We Missed You; The House; Medusa; and Sobibor); and 2 documentaries (Bama Rush; and Running with Speed).

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July Reviews

Briefly discussed in this post: 19 books (The Last Man Takes LSD; Deconstructing Postmodern Nietzscheanism; The Emancipated Spectator; The Agony of Eros; Matter and Memory; Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy; Sounds Wild and Broken; Mistaken Identity; Free to Obey; Liberalism; The Analytic Encounter; Playing and Reality; Spadework for a Palace; How is a Person to Be?; Pure Colour; Second Place; Aftermath; Afterparties; and The Original Face); 5 movies (Asteroid City; The Blackening; Alone at Night; Belladonna of Sadness; and The Kindergarten Teacher); and 2 documentaries (Unknown; and Curse of the Chippendales).

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June Reviews

Briefly discussed in this post: 8 books (Catch Them Before They Fall; Attachment and Loss, Vol. 3; We Are Electric; Methodology of the Oppressed; Indigenous Men and Masculinities; Old Growth; Sludge Utopia; and Things My Son Needs to Know About the World); 3 movies (Renfield; Beau is Afraid; and Donbass); and 5 documentaries (Sunless Shadows; Owned; Anna Nicole Smith; Money Machine; and Shiny Happy People).

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May Reviews

Briefly discussed in this post: 14 books (Legacy; Planta Sapiens; The Language of Landscape; Rain; Disgust; On Kindness; The Shadow of the Object; Capitalism and Freedom; The Road to Serfdom; Offshore; You Are Your Best Thing; London Ontario’s Unrepentant Confederates; The Marquise of O—; and Hell-Bent); 5 movies (The Tale of King Crab; Bardo; Gwledd/The Feast; The Pope’s Exorcist and Blue Valentine); and 2 documentaries (Fighting Indians!; and I Will Be Murdered).

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April Reviews

Briefly discussed in this post: 11 books (God, Justice, Love, Beauty; Status Anxiety; Capital Hates Everyone; The State in Capitalist Society; Had It Coming; Attachment and Loss Vol. 1; The White Birch; Pedro Paramo; Liquidation; The Great Longing; and The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil); 7 movies (Ma; Sick; Hell or High Water; Eden Lake; The Proposition; The Stranger; and Scream VI); and 4 documentaries (Money Shot; Orgasm Inc.; Descendant; and Hazing).

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March Reviews

Briefly discussed in this post: 13 books (Helgoland; Black Sun; A Brief History of Neoliberalism; On Necrocapitalism; The Old is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born; The Precariat; On The Take; Dismantling a Nation; The Normal and the Pathological; Enchanted Hunters; Lost Time; Case Study; and Inward); 5 movies (Possessor; Infinity Pool; Knock at the Cabin; Emily the Criminal; and Bones and All); and 7 documentaries (Pamela; The Cleaners; The Order of Myths; The Troubles We’ve Seen; MH370; Love in the Time of Fentanyl; and I Got a Monster).

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February Reviews

Discussed in this post: 6 books (Acts of Resistance; Rent; State of Insecurity; Rentier Capitalism; On the Golden Porch; and American Innovations); 4 movies (Crimes of the Future; The Banshees of Inisherin; Speak No Evil; and First Cow); and 2 documentaries (Phoenix Rising; and Harvard Beats Yale 29-29).

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January Reviews

Discussed in this post: 17 books (Tales of Love; Three Characters; Attachment and Loss, Vol. II; Lustmord; Health Communism; Homo Juridicus; A World of Becoming; Call Them By Their True Names; The Lying Lives of Adults; A General Theory of Oblivion; The Dinner; The President; After Midnight; The Flame; To Urania; Powers of Congress; and Josephine Baker); 8 movies (Triangle of Sadness; Pearl; Don’t Worry Darling; Moloch; Pleasure; The Menu; M3GAN; and Aftersun); and 4 documentary (FIFA Uncovered; Brainwashed; What Happened in Vegas; and Pepsi: Where’s My Jet?).

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Thought Experiment

At their root, all of our addictions, self-harming behaviors, neuroses, and mental illnesses, arise and then come to dominate us, when we feel as though we are completely alone in the experience of something unbearable, something devastating, something terrifying, or something incomprehensibly bad. 

We associate loneliness with being abandoned by others, but there is more to the harm caused by loneliness than simply feeling unloved by others. An essential component of loneliness is the repudiation of one’s efforts or ability to love and, more specifically, to still be capable of loving in the midst or aftermath of the unbearable, devastating, terrifying, or incomprehensibly bad. Loneliness cuts us to the core precisely because when we reach to others to try and love them, we discover that our best efforts to love are treated as undesirable, inappropriate, grotesque, or repulsive. 

Freud comments on this: “The realization of impotence, of one’s own inability to love… has an extremely debilitating effect on self-feeling.” 

We witness the outcome of this in the lives of people who are deprived of housing whom the City classifies as non-compliant, as those who are deviant because they, in the words of City bureaucrats, “choose homelessness” and refuse the help offered to them (a hotel room, a cot at the Salvation Army, and so on). Apart from a good deal of practical reasons people have to refuse that help—such places might be unsafe for the person, the person may have been treated in a violent and dehumanizing manner last time they stayed at one of those places, the person may not want to be separated from their life partner or animal companion, or whatever else—refusal to accept help at the level of basic needs (in terms of Maslowe’s Eurocentric, post-Enlightenment hierarchy of needs), can be a way of asserting one’s basic human dignity and that, first and foremost, a person must be treated in a way that demonstrates they are considered a person worthy of being loved by others and capable of loving others.

I was prompted to think about this when I encountered the following quotation from Lacan’s lectures on the psychoanalytical concept of transference. Lacan says that “it is so desire which goes beyond demand not be extinguished that the subject who is hungry does not let himself be fed… libido refuses the satisfaction of need to preserve the function of desire.” 

In other words, our core desires, the central demands we make of others, are not strictly about food and shelter and socks and gloves. They are about how we are or are not treated as members of a beloved community. And if someone thinks they can be over and done with me and my needs simply by offering me some granola bars and a cot in a church basement, I might very well refuse that offer so that people recognize, hey, there’s a lot more to me than my hunger and my exposure to the cold. Or, in Lacan’s language, I refuse the satisfaction of basic needs to prevent the other person from thinking they have satisfied my core desires. I refuse to accept your provision for my basic needs unless you first recognize not just that I am a person who deserves to be well loved but equally a person who is capable of loving well. If that does not occur, then I am just being offered charity by a cruel people in a comfortless world—a world I will then refuse to join.

And comfort, it should be added, is an essential part of love. Russ Leander, an art therapist working in the AIDS ward of a Chicago hospital during the AIDS epidemic, has this to say on the subject: “For me, the ultimate message, meaning gift, whatever of this epidemic is that there are many different ways to heal. If you can’t heal or cure, then comfort. Truly care for people.”

So, also, in our current epidemic of COVID, housing deprivation, austerity, and greed. There are many different ways to heal. Are there are many avenues people pursue for comfort in a comfortless world. Substance use, self-harm, and going mad are all ways to pursue that when you feel all alone. As Christopher Bollas says in Three Characters, “At the root of all character disorders there is mental pain… each disorder is an intelligent attempt to solve an existential problem.” And if we, in the limited companionship we offer to others, cannot heal or cure, then at least, in the midst of their addictions, their self-harming behaviours, their neuroses, and their madness, let us offer people comfort and the opportunity to comfort us and others in return.

On Love: Grief, Loss, & the Un/making of Selves

Introduction: Or, Just Me and My Unconscious

At the beginning of the last year that Jess and I spent together, I wrote the following poem:

I have spent seven years

Trying to memorize the contours of your body

Your textures, shapes, and spaces

With my lips and fingers

And the palms of my hand

But no matter how hard I try

I cannot hold you

Cannot kiss you

Cannot recreate you

When you are not here

I have spent seven years

Trying to memorize the sound of your voice

Pitch and timbre, intonation

Seven years spent

With the smell of your hair

And the space at the back of your neck

Seven years

Trying to memorize

The way you look when you are astride me

And the taste of your sweat

Seven years

To recall the way you fit within my arms

When I first get home

And the burst of your laughter when you are delighted

And I am ridiculous

But when you are gone

You’re gone

And I cannot bring you back

Not one part of you

My darling

I am impossible

Without you

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