The Nameless Horror

Luke O'Neil is good on viral media's 'ouroboros of shit'

These all had one thing in common: They seemed too tidily packaged, too neat, “too good to check,” as they used to say, to actually be true. Any number of reporters or editors at any of the hundreds of sites that posted these Platonic ideals of shareability could’ve told you that they smelled, but in the ongoing decimation of the publishing industry, fact-checking has been outsourced to the readers. Not surprisingly—as we saw with the erroneous Reddit-spawned witch-hunt around the Boston Marathon bombing—readers are terrible at fact-checking. And this, as it happens, is good for business because it means more shares, more clicks.

This is not a glitch in the system. It is the system. Readers are gullible, the media is feckless, garbage is circulated around, and everyone goes to bed happy and fed. BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti admitted as much when explaining, that, when he’s hiring, he looks for “people who really understand how information is shared on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and other emerging platforms, because that is in some cases as important as, you know, having traditional reporting talent.” Upworthy editorial director Sara Critchfield seconded the notion. “We reject the idea that the media elite or people who have been trained in a certain way somehow have the monopoly on editorial judgment.”

Long, but very much worth reading, especially if you’ve ever been inclined to share any old piece of trash on Facebook.

Today's Links

  • Linkery: [A Nice Round-up Of Daily Mail Shock Stories from 2013 The Poke:]( / news, fail /

In the shadow of my mother’s suicide

My mom, Anne Sexton, killed herself at 45, and I swore I’d never do the same. Then, at 44, my world fell apart The following is excerpted and adapted from “Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide,” published by Counterpoint.

I can do a 2013 list too, damnit

Everyone else is doing their “top 5 of 2013” book lists right now, and since this year I may actually have read five new (to me) books then goddamnit, I’m doing one too and don’t you bastards try to stop me.

(I read less new material than I used to partly as a function of time available, partly because I’m a habitual rereader of books I like, and partly because I tend to drop books partway through and never get back into them for a variety of reasons not always relating to enjoyment/quality.)

So, in no particular order, here are Five Books I Have Read In 2013.

The Road, Cormac McCarthy. I know, crazy, but I’ve never read McCarthy before. I loved this, though, even if the mechanics of the nameless apocalypse don’t hold up to heavy scrutiny (I wouldn’t trust tinned meat and fish nearly 10 years old for food). Ever so good. Grim, most of the way, but surprised me by having something like a happy ending. Also short, a bonus given my previously mentioned tendencies to fail to finish reading matter.

Who Is Killing The Great Capes Of Heropa?, Andrez Bergen. I reviewed this back in August. It’s very good and you really, really should go and read it. The perils of PDF-on-phone reading mean I’m not as far into Andrez’s next one, the soon-to-be-released and excellently titled Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth, as I should be, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it appear on this list in 2014 if I once again manage to read 5 books in a year.

Gun Machine, Warren Ellis. An almost completely straight-up hardboiled police procedural that’s as much about New York as about the main character, John Tallow. I wasn’t totally sold on the ending, if I’m being pernickety, but that frankly doesn’t matter. Excellent book.

Tenth Of December, George Saunders. I’ve never read Saunders before, and while not every story in the collection’s as good as the best (probably Escape From Spiderhead, though like this reviewer I would’ve closed it before the afterlife) and he has the classical SF tendency to assume all future things will be named AdjectiveNoun, they’re a very good set on the whole.

The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway. This is an ever so slight cheat, but I’m dredging the depths of memory a little and getting lost, and I’m most of the way through this. I nabbed some of Hemingway’s books (having part-read The Old Man And The Sea a couple of years ago) after chasing up advice on an editing gig about description, and a Hemingway story where the only piece of description of the characters is that one of them took off a hat. That story is of course Hills Like White Elephants, which is brilliant. Even if most of the characters in The Sun Also Rises are jerks to some extent, and allowing for changes in sensibilities between now and 1926, the writing is very good.

And the ones that ended up abandoned, part-finished? Often for no obvious reason, I might add. A quick rundown of the ones I remember. Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse, Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse, Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker, Col Buchanan’s Farlander (which I just wasn’t that into) and Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother (which I found insufferably smug).

So there we go. 2013. That’s 10 new ones started, five finished.

Look, I reread a lot. Don’t judge me.