Best Of The Web
“LAURA EVE ENGEL’S DEBUT POETRY COLLECTION Things that Go (Octopus Books, 2018) takes as a point of departure a moment from the Book of Genesis, in which Lot’s wife turns back to see the destruction of Sodom and is turned into a pillar of salt. Through the prism of this ancient and formative story, Engel contemplates the act of looking and its ethics in compact and combustible language, while also addressing our present moment of media oversaturation and the startling nearness of livestreamed, clickable tragedy.
We live in a time—Engel explains in “I Can Watch a Man in a Cage Get Burned Alive,” about Muath Safi Yousef al-Kasasbeh’s 2015 murder by ISIS—where at the press of a button, “I can watch the orange of his jumpsuit go up. / His face, I can make comparisons. I can turn the sound up or off.” The act of watching is fleeting, momentary, but nevertheless indelible: “If I can watch an orange prayer go up in a man’s body / I can never unwatch it.” Engel returns to this video in “Spectator,” demonstrating how “the invasion of a man’s / dying face in my home” is both a startling imposition and an ethical obligation, which one may choose not to take up or one may live with, and through. Informed by the image of Lot’s wife, punished for her attention to devastation, Engel speaks from within the pillar of salt that is a woman horrified, numbed, present for and broken by catastrophe. In Engel’s retelling, Lot’s Wife has become a calcified tear, “a cataract of ideas” that stares at unspeakable destruction and tries to find words for it.
Engel reconstructs our world, abstracting and instrumentalizing elements of natural and built American environments to address moral concerns. Throughout, she introduces other kinds of pillars—skyscrapers, museums and monuments, each cold and static yet teeming with life, each evidence of human ingenuity and folly. At times, her descriptions are almost cubist in their abstraction, as everyday objects become spare geometrical shapes, opening a space for new meanings: “the new billboard / divides the sky from itself.” The buildings in this work do not simply stand firm—they ripple as reflections in water, they split the sky into parts. In this splitting, they resist the phallological urge to read them only as monuments to power or progress.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"THE CAPTURE of the last territory controlled by the Islamic State on Saturday was far from a final victory over the movement, as U.S. commanders and diplomats were careful to emphasize."
"How a Gay Teen, an Internet Nazi, and a Late-Night Rendezvous Turned to Tragedy. When self-loathing meets the new age of online extremism."
"Benjamin Netanyahu ignored the intelligence operations of Beijing and Moscow for too long. Now, the Israeli government is finally paying attention, but it could be too late."
"Former Nick Jr. kids are now reckoning with this all-grown-up intrepid explorer, whose obstacles are a lot bigger than Swiper the Fox. And that is a hard pill to swallow."
"At the end of last week, the three-month Treasury bills' yield rose above the yield for 10-year Treasuries for the first time since 2007, prompting warnings that the U.S. is headed for recession later this year or in early 2020."
"A team of researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology attempted to answer some questions about voting with the help of artificial intelligence (AI)."
"The experts I spoke with all said that the internet had changed the way conspiracies spread, but conspiracies, both dangerous and petty, have always been with us."
"Pop culture today is obsessed with the battle between good and evil. Traditional folktales never were. What changed?"
"Trustful parents allow their children as much freedom as reasonably possible to make their own decisions. They trust their children’s instincts, judgments, and ability to learn from mistakes."
"Arugulagate. In 2007, Barack Obama was in Iowa, speaking as a presidential hopeful to a group of farmers who were worried about the stagnation of their crop prices while America’s grocery bills continued to rise."
"To say that information exists in and of itself is akin to speaking of spin without the top, of ripples without water, of a dance without the dancer, or of the Cheshire Cat’s grin without the cat."
"Ted Cruz replaces the Democrats’ muddled manifesto with a clear and unequivocal exploration of the hatred of Jews and its particular evils."