A little over half of this book is worth reading.
It feels white and dull, dusty, old.
Encased in tombs like the Oxford Book of the Essay. They lack, what, pizzazz? Say what you want about the spectacle of memoir, but it at least seems timely.
It has the veneer of reality or reality show. It as much as anything else appears to be about the stuff of our lives, or the wished stuff of our lives: You know a memoir might be trashy but it will entertain us.
They are easy chairs. The nice sensitive older guy driving a 92 Volvo. The smell of aged pine. Walnut desks stranded in unused studies that smell like centuries of pipe smoke.
You have to admit it does not feel like a youthful form. Distributed via blog and amazon reviews by Top Reviewers to you, the consumer.
Maybe the lyric essay is an exception. A sparkler, a firecracker on a summer evening. It alone is saucy, upper lip curled. Flirty in its assignations with poetry. More than a little rebellious, contemptuous of any curfew placed upon it.
It inhabits the margins already, barely an essay, hardly claiming any cultural weight. I did not lack love for its meanderings, its attempts to convey the motions of thought, but it felt remote. Writ in stone and handed down.
The production of years of pristine thinking and immersion journalism. As an enthusiast of literary forms, I faced the wall. I looked up it, looked around it. Saw only wall and wall and wall. No crinkle in its face. This is one trajectory. It is first, simply, an exploration, an opening up, of a system.
A kind of problem solving.
Most hackers who illegally access computer or other systems do it not to break the law but because we want access. Because we see a system and we are not allowed inside it. Because we see that apparently impenetrable tower and we want to know what rests within its walls. More loosely, a hack is an ingenious use of technology to accomplish something that is otherwise impossible to accomplish.
It is a bridge from one land mass to another over deep water. It appears, like any sufficiently advanced technology, as a kind of magic. It comes out of the insoluble. For instance, a famous hardware hack, the red box, repurposes a Radio Shack autodialer a portable, pre-cell-phone device that could store and automatically dial numbers via some soldering to mimic the tone technically a series of four tones that indicates to a pay phone that a quarter has been deposited, allowing me to call anywhere for free.
The blue box the even more famous hardware hack generated the Hz tone and allowed a hacker well, technically the term is phone phreak to take control of the trunk line and go wherever he wanted to go in the phone system.
These hardware hacks commanded knowledge of a system often discovered accidentally, or through long evenings of trial and error to accomplish control. For some users of the red box, the device is about free calls. For others it is about the act of accessing the network, of bypassing a lock quite ingeniously, it allows further exploration, node by node, of a network.
I have lived the life of accessing networks, exploring PBX systems and phone lines, been publicly punished for it, for my audacity. Illegal access to credit cards, to databases of hundreds of thousands of credit cards.
I simply wanted access to them, to the growing, private world of information stored on thousands of servers lined up, hidden away in banks of modems. Because I could, I tell myself, I wanted in.Neck Deep and Other Predicaments: Essays, Graywolf Press, Ander Monson grew up in remote, grim northern Michigan and (if we trust the poems) lost at least two of his closest friends before they had finished high school.
Or, if you prefer: Ander Monson has breathed life into a fictive northern Michigan townscape where two teenagers.
Ander Monson is the author of six books: three of nonfiction (Neck Deep and Other Predicaments, Vanishing Point, and Letter to a Future Lover), two poetry collections (Vacationland and The Available World), and a novel, Other Electricities.
Essays edited by Ander Monson and Craig Reinbold March 14, • 6 x 9 • Pages • The best of Essay Daily—each a writer in conversation with and about an essay, whatever its variety, contemporary and classic. How We Speak to One Another is some of the most engaging evidence we’ve got that the essay is going strong.
The oldest post on the Essay Daily blog is from Monday, January 18th, , by Ander Monson, who taught at the University of Arizona and teaches there now. It’s a list of essays included in the Indiana Review About Ander Monson Ander Monson is the author of five books, including Safety Features, Our Aperture, Vacationland, Other Electricities, and the nonfiction work Neck Deep and Other Predicaments, which received the second annual Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize.
Essay as Simulated Mind. The essay tries hard to solidify the motions of thought. It—more than most other forms of writing—is not as beholden to tradition, restriction. Sure, it's, like, old. Totally AARP. We can date it back to Montaigne, or, trying harder, Seneca.
I have to admit that Montaigne bores me.