Recommendations

Epoch Times, Dianne Arbus, Ever Dream This Man?

Last week I mentioned I was writing an article about The Epoch Times, a newspaper that blurs the line between news and propaganda. After a year of reporting and writing, it was published by The Atavist Magazine on Friday. It is a story told through the eyes of Steven Klett, a one-time aspiring poet who was employed at the paper in the lead up to the 2016 election, and witnessed, first hand, the rise of a ring-wing media eco-system that has triggered our current epistemic crisis. It is also a story about the ongoing information war between the Falun Gong and the Chinese Communist Party, a conflict that is creating new political fault lines across the globe. Reporting this story made me question how I approach “truth” as a writer: is it something to discovered, like a fossil? Or is it a contest to be observed?

One of Dianne Arbus' photos, 'A Jewish Giant at Home with his Parents in the Bronx, New York, 1970’, recently popped up on my Instagram. In a a life saturated with images, her photos can still hold my attention like no other. I can’t imagine what it must have been like in the 1960s to encounter her portraits. I’m reading her biography, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, published a few years ago by Arthur Lubow. One scene in the book sticks with me: a friend asks her why she chose such idiosyncratic subjects to photograph—tattooed men, twins, angry children, strippers, a woman with a monkey swaddled like an infant on her lap. “They don’t have to go through life dreading what may happen, it’s already happened,” she explained to her friend. “They’ve passed their test. They’re aristocrats.”

While laying in bed trying to fall asleep the other night I started thinking about people who appear in my dreams. Mostly, it’s people from early childhood and people who I am spending the most time with right now. But then there are sometimes characters in my dreams who I’ve never met, composite characters collaged directly out of my subconscious. I started thinking about whether there were certain recurring composite characters in my dreams, and then, whether certain composite characters in my dreams appear in other people’s dreams, too. The next morning I started googling about it and found this website. “Ever Dream This Man? Every Night Throughout the World Hundreds of People Dream About This Face.” 

I love websites that do just a few things really well. 4Columns, a website of cultural criticism, is one of them. Each week there are four new columns by four different writes covering movies, books, music, visual art. The writing is generally excellent and I’ve found so much great stuff through their recommendations. This week, I enjoyed Lauren Michele Jackson’s review of Time, a documentary about a woman pursuing the release of her imprisoned husband. 

Ephraim Moses Lilien made really strange and beautiful prints and illustrations in the early 20th century. As always, if you’re enjoying this newsletter, subscribe, like, share, etc. Thanks!