Georgia Cloepfil is only in her mid-twenties, but she is already contemplating the end of her soccer career. The opportunities — and pay — just aren’t there for most women, and the body can only take so much. In her essay at n+1, “Beat the Clock,” she contemplates a life dedicated to a sport that can’t reciprocate.
At times I really am overwhelmed with unmitigated gratitude. Ambition, negotiation, tough-minded feminism—these give way to moments of childish joy. Professional soccer had never been more than a private dream, a subconscious curiosity. Now I get paid to do something I have loved since I was 4 years old. Other than my family, is there anything else I have loved so unconditionally, for so long?
I hobble around the kitchen, searching for a remedy for my constant foot pain and my sore knee. I am home over the holidays for a three-month offseason. “Life is long, Georgia,” says my 60-year-old mother. She is coaxing me to retire, to move on to a pursuit that won’t disintegrate my body with such persistent logic. I want to cry. My soccer life feels so short. Because it is so short.
It’s tricky to write about gentrification. Beyond the genre’s clichés (can you avoid the well-meaning, clueless pour-over barista?), there’s often a tension lurking between the stories of real people (whether the displaced or the invaders) and the broader, structural conditions that produce their respective urban migration in the first place. At n+1, an excerpt from Brandon Harris’ new book on Bedford-Stuyvesant draws a nuanced picture of one of the current epicenters of gentrification in the U.S. He shows how complex this phenomenon is on the ground (with various configurations of race, class, and personal history coming into play), and how inextricable it is from processes that started decades ago, including the discriminatory urban-planning policies put into place by 20th-century “Master Builder” Robert Moses.
In late August, Highline Residential, a realty company that was spending significant amounts of money developing Bedford-Stuyvesant properties, released a promotional video called This Is Bed-Stuy, in which smiling blond twentysomethings give a “neighborhood tour.” Many longtime residents found the video—in which the pair of pale hosts sip expensive coffee and brunch cocktails at recently opened establishments while offering testimony to the neighborhood’s amenities and vibrancy—deeply offensive, seeing no mention of the institutions with which they associated Bed-Stuy. Highline Residential didn’t give a shit about them, the general sentiment went, other than wondering when they’d get the fuck out. Suddenly New York magazine and the Daily News were falling over themselves profiling entire blocks of Bedford Stuyvesant real estate, interviewing generations of owners and tenants, publishing op-eds by black journalism professors who had long lived in the district, and interviewing women who had been pushed out to East New York, or all the way to the Rockaways. [Robert] Moses, and the forces of history that animated his mindset, would drive the dispossessed right out of this city if the market allowed.
“Sports! They are absurd and superfluous—and hockey is the most absurdly superfluous of them all.” Kent Russell loves hockey, a lot. I don’t and I have no idea who Eddie Olczyk or Doc Emrick are, but Russell’s writing about the game and its players (“two to six men fighting for the puck in a corner like two to six pigs wrestling over a Milk Dud”) is utterly engrossing, including a section on how television and play-by-play commentary change our experience of sports.
Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that watching a game on television as opposed to IRL at the arena is roughly analogous to watching a drama on a screen as opposed to a stage. In the arena or theater, I am responding to a total scene unfolding. My eye can wander while I take in everything at once. But onscreen, the play gets filtered through a camera lens, gets dislocated temporally so that the network can edit out a fourth-liner screaming FUCK! Onscreen, the play has its point-of-view shifted regularly—wide shot, now a behind-the-net shot, now the overhead shot, here’s the crowd shot. So that I apprehend the game not as drama but as mediated narrative. And I suppose I need all manner of commentary to help me thread together the disparate strands of that narrative.
I don’t know. Am I alone here? Does no one else think that Eddie Olczyk’s enthusiasm relates to the play only insofar as the play relates to whom Eddie Olczyk bet on that day? Does no one else hate that Doc Emrick calls games like a hen that wears a bonnet?
I read Alana Massey’s essay collection, All The Lives I Want: Essays About My Friends Who Happen to be Famous Strangers, with a pencil in hand. I read it behind the counter at work when it was quiet and customer-free. I read it in bed, long after my partner and cat had fallen asleep. I read it in Starbucks when I should’ve been writing but needed inspiration. Massey is a writer I’ve followed since I became interested in journalism. I admired her incisive blend of pop culture and literary criticism. I especially loved when she wrote about religion—Massey spent time at Yale Divinity School—because I went to a conservative Christian college and I was yearning to see how I could translate my weird, vaguely traumatic religious background into beautiful sentences. I bought her book as a reward for myself for meeting a writing deadline.
This reading list is partially inspired by Massey’s excellent writing about the way our society honors and rejects celebrated women—and also about society’s inclination, if not blatant desire, to know every little detail about our favorite celebrities and judge them according to our own arbitrary moral standards. (I’m not immune to this: I spent ten minutes in bed Googling potential paramours of one of my favorite YouTube stars, even though I know it’s none of my damn business.) Why do we feel like we own celebrities—not just their art or their products, but their images and their personal lives? What do celebrities owe us, if anything?
No Icelandic ponies were harmed in the writing of this post, or Zink's essay. (Photo by john.purvis, CC BY-ND 2.0)
Novelist Nell Zink, in n+1, takes readers on a rambling but sharp journey through writers and novels of the 20th century in the name of exploring realism, compassion, and justice in fiction. Midway through the piece she introduces writer Halldor Laxness; if Icelandic fiction is low on your to-be-read list, get ready to fall into a Google abyss thanks to Zink’s description.
Take Halldor Laxness’s stupendous magnum opus Independent People, surely a gem among novels. It will make you want to strangle your landlord and the Icelandic pony he rode in on, and that’s a fine thing; a shift of power to a larger class of people can transform society in positive ways. But it’s just a story. The 20th-century intellectual project mentioned above doesn’t happen to Laxness. He’s all about injustice. His is not an exhaustive analysis of life, just a political one, and it seems accurate mostly because (face it) you know nothing about Iceland in 1900. I mean, by age 15 you could dismiss Gone with the Wind as bullshit, but Independent People will remain plausible to you forever because it’s about farmers in Iceland, the fishing and banking nation that put “ice” in its name as a warning to would-be farmers. There’s not going to be a meta moment when Laxness asks why you bought a long novel about starving children just so you could watch them starve.
These days the museum has no ticket office, schedule, or employees. An elderly Georgian man named Soso, who introduced himself as a former KGB colonel, guides the tours. Soso said that when he returned to Tbilisi from Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was unable to obtain a pension or an apartment, so he moved into the museum. He survives on donations from tourists.
“There are sometimes no tourists for two weeks,” he complained.
While we were talking, kids from the neighboring houses dashed into the museum. They said it was the first time they had seen the museum’s gates open, and they wanted to see what was inside. They looked at the numerous portraits and busts of Stalin and Lenin.
“Do you know who that is?” I asked, pointing to a bust of Lenin.
They said they didn’t know.
n+1 publishes an excerpt, with illustrations, from Victoria Lomasko’s 2015 book, A Trip to Tbilisi. Journalist and illustrator Lomasko was first noticed in the West for her graphic reportage from the Pussy Riot trial. In Tbilisi, Georgia, she spoke with historians, artists, journalists, activists, squatters, and local clergy about the political and cultural climate in a former Soviet republic that continues to have a tense relationship with Russia.
In the past two weeks, Cleveland, Ohio hosted the Republican National Convention and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania hosted the Democratic National Convention. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton earned the nominations from their respective parties; they will face off in November. Not everyone is thrilled with this outcome. Ted Cruz urged delegates to vote with their conscience and didn’t endorse Trump, and Bernie Sanders supporters walked out of the DNC or protested outside the convention. I’m equally intrigued and exhausted by the political realm right now, so I’m relying on the thoughtful analyses and on-the ground reporting by talented writers.
The dangerous choices of the postergirl for the Family Trump, who, you know, probably isn’t actually a Republican. If you haven’t read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short story about Melania Trump, read that, too. Read more…
In 2011, I had hair down my back. It was thick, wavy, and supposedly enviable. I hated it. I wanted it off my face, but my sensitive scalp made me prone to headaches and “sore spots,” as I’d called them since childhood. I didn’t have a knack for hot styling tools, which meant I was at the mercy of luck. When a bad hair day struck, I had to wait it out. I spent middle school trying to emulate the hyper-straightened hair of the popular girls and high school begrudgingly accepting my texture and reading a thousand WikiHow articles on living a shampoo-free life. I never could give up washing my hair completely. I’ve even made the mistake of getting bangs.
My first short haircut was a revelation. Two of my college friends accompanied me to a salon in Pittsburgh I chose via Yelp (I did not trust the hair-cutting joints in my small rural college town). My stylist was nervous, but my fellow clients and her colleagues encouraged us both. I wish I remembered her name. I felt as though I were a block of marble and my pixie cut, a sculpting. I could finally be who I was. I debuted my new “lifestyle” (the stylist’s words!) that night at the faculty talent show, striding up and down the aisles of the auditorium.
How strange that the fuzzy stuff on top of our heads is fraught with social and political implications, that it can destroy our self-esteem or make us feel like new creations. Read more…