Submissions for The Anonymous Issue are due Sunday May 19th.
Latest issue! Stories and art about not being able to walk, slowing down and noticing things from trains, dancing your ass off, performers who play with fire, a new digital art project that won a McKnight grant, and more. Take a look…
I’m just going to admit it: That video of astronaut Chris Hadfield singing “Space Oddity” made me tear up but it also made me think of this scene.
He thought he lost everything when he could no longer play the piano.
Words by Gabe Rodreick
One of my favorite pieces from the latest MPLSzine.
Read more issues at mplszine.com.
New double issue of MPLSzine!
I just finished Where’d You Go, Bernadette and I want to spend all summer reading breezy novels by women while my friends read them, too. Preferably while lying by a lake. My list starts with Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings and J. Courtney Sullivan’s The Engagements. Who’s in?
(Edited to add: And Curtis Sittenfeld has a new book out in June!)
Also, does anyone want to talk about Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
There was a scene in the Beyoncé HBO documentary that made me cringe to watch because it’s the only point in the film that registers as just a tiny bit unflattering to Beyoncé. (Also maybe the most interesting part?) It’s when she’s preparing for a show, going through the lights and costumes and everything she needs to be perfect, and she gets visibly annoyed that her requests have not been met. She rolls her eyes; she’s clipped and impatient with the technicians she’s working with. For a second, I thought, “Eeeeek, this is awkward! She’s being rude!”
And that reaction is so much a part of me! And I’m not saying anything about feminism or how women are raised, just me as a person—I don’t confront people often. I don’t like to tell people what to do. I don’t like having to call people out for making mistakes or being late or falling short of a standard. My kneejerk response to any moment of difficulty or confusion is a hasty “Sorry.”
This is a problem primarily because I’ve volunteered to be at the head of a project that requires me to say, “This is what I want. This is what needs to get done. This is how this is supposed to be, and we’re going to get it right.” And I haven’t been doing that. I haven’t been demanding perfection from the people I work with or, in particular, from myself. The one time I raised my voice in a meeting, I squeaked out a few minutes later, “Sorry, was that mean?” I’ve been letting things slide, and maybe I need to take a cue from Beyoncé Knowles.
I realize that it’s at least somewhat ridiculous to look up to a public figure I really don’t know that much about as a person—despite having watched a documentary made by her about her—but that sense of “She asks for what she fucking wants and she fucking gets it” is central to why I admire Beyoncé. (That, and that fall/crouch she does near the beginning of the “Crazy in Love” video.) I feel a little childish and unworthy looking up to a pop diva. I feel a little childish and unworthy writing this post. But I think that scene of Beyoncé saying, “No. This is not right. Get this fucking right.” has to be a reference I can call back to when I need to stop mincing around. Think of Bey. Make demands.
EL-P & KIller Mike are Run The Jewels
E.L. Konigsburg died the other day. She wrote two of my favorite books growing up: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which makes everyone who reads it want to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and The View From Saturday.
Something I never talk about is that I spent my high school years deeply invested in the world of quiz bowl. I mean, of course I don’t talk about it—when would it ever come up? But for those four years, it was one of the most important parts of my life. I got up when it was still dark out most Saturdays between October and March, waited in parking lots with my teammates to take vinyl-and-gasoline-scented school buses to suburban Chicago high schools, sat in classrooms and answered questions about history and science and classic literature.
And The View From Saturday, which is about a team of students and their coach competing in an academic tournament, made me want to do that. Maybe I liked the book so much because I already had the appetite for knowledge and the eagerness to show it off that would make me a successful quiz bowler.
The View From Saturday is one of those books that reassures you about being a kid who loves to sit inside and read. It doesn’t make learning seem cool. The heroes of the book are not the cool kids. They endure teasing and ostracism. They’re outsiders: The coach is confined to a wheelchair; one of the players is a recent immigrant.
But the book does make learning seem powerful. Each of four sections involves one of the players answering a tournament question based on their interests and experience. When you know something, the book says, you don’t have to cradle that fact to yourself—you get to wield it to your advantage, whether that’s winning a quiz bowl match or outwitting a bully.
I graduated from a high school honors program unmodestly named The Academy, where grades and being better than non-Academy students were key. Since then, I’ve reminded myself that smart people are not necessarily good people, that not knowing facts is not a judge-able offense, and that being able to spell and punctuate has little to no effect, actually, on whether someone is worth loving.
I still find myself hoarding knowledge, waiting for the right time to wield it. Sometimes when I jump into a conversation to drop a name or a fact, it’s as close to being back in high school quiz bowl as I can get without actually holding an electronic buzzer. But I try to admit when I don’t know something. I try not to frown when someone else doesn’t know something.
The View From Saturday teaches that knowledge is powerful because it can be applied and used, and that it’s joyful because it can be personal. Back in those quiz bowl days, I knew a moderator (question-reader) who would always announce the second-to-last question of a match with, “The penultimate tossup!” I think as I get further away from my high school years, what will stay with me is this: know facts, know skills, but know when and how to use them—even if it’s just to share an interesting story. Knowledge may be the penultimate goal, but it’s not the ultimate.
Saturday morning confession:
When I was a freshman in high school, I had a friend named Keith who I’d met at piano camp the summer before. We would talk on AIM every day after school, and so he was on the receiving end of raves like, “I just discovered Avril Lavigne and I love her! I can’t stop listening to ‘Complicated’!”
I asked him once what his favorite song was and he said, “‘Get Ur Freak On’ by Missy Elliott.” Asked for a sample of the lyrics, he IMed, “Go! Get ur freak on! Go! Get ur freak on!” I rolled my eyes, thinking it sounded dumb.
I’m sorry it took me a while, Keith, but I caught up eventually.