The internet is a big, big place, and it’s easy to get lost in the wilderness of spam, clickbait, trash and memes. But every now and then, you run into something really good. Something that makes you think for days, something that inspires you, something that makes you gasp in surprised recognition. I love those moments, and I collect them in a Chrome tab called ‘favourite online articles’. Today, I will share six of those with you.
#1 Standing on the Shoulders of Complex Female Characters by Rayne Fisher-Quann
I will literally never shut up about this piece of writing by up-and-coming cultural critic Rayne Fisher-Quann. She understands the young, female online experience like no other, and in her essay Standing on the Shoulders of Complex Female Characters she hits the nail right on the head. I think I’ve read it five times by now and every time I am more surprised how accurately Rayne describes how we make sense of our experiences through others that have come before us – a sensation that’s heightened by the fast-moving trends on apps like TikTok where everyone thinks their experience is unique but is ultimately part of one of the many, many microtrends. If you’d like to be personally attacked like I was, definitely give this one a read.
“i wonder what romantic love would feel like if i’d never seen a romantic comedy, if i’d been allowed to figure it out before a commodified version was fed to me. i wonder what my own illness would feel like. now, as i put on mascara before crying so i’ll look the right kind of sad when i see myself in the mirror, i think about how nothing feels real at all if it doesn’t look like the movies.”
#2 These Precious Days by Ann Pratchett
Be prepared: this is not a short read. In fact, this ‘essay’ (can it be called one?) by writer Ann Pratchett has been published as a short book as well, so if you prefer reading on paper, I definitely recommend getting that one! Because it is definitely worth the read. In These Precious Days, Ann recalls how she became acquainted with actor Tom Hanks and his assistent, Sooki. With the latter Ann develops an intimate friendship, and stands by her as Sooki develops pancreatic cancer. Even though the story itself is deeply moving, Anns inspiring insights about writing is what makes this a read I want to constantly turn back to.
“Putting together a novel is essentially putting together the lives of strangers I’m coming to know. In some ways it’s not unlike putting together my own life. I think I know what I’m doing when in truth I have no idea. I just keep moving forward.”
#3 The Start of Summer by Nina MacLaughlin
I am a sucker for poetic prose, dreamy metaphors and musings about life. This piece, in which Nina MacLaughlin wonders what summer is made of, has it all. I don’t want to say too much, just read this excerpt that will hopefully convince you to read the rest of this beautiful masterpiece:
“Summer strums the loose low chords of freedom. Feel it in the space between your shoulders. It’s the nostalgic season, arriving all warm-breezed and verdant, putting its heavy arm around you and whispering, Come on, come on, remember? Let’s return to the screen door slamming, bare feet on the porch floor, peach juice sticky on the chin, sun on the back of your neck. You can return to a time of more time. Summer brings the memory of summer, a gentle flight backward. It’s the season when a person can feel their wingspan again.”
#4 The Future of Heterosexuality by Shon Faye
It’s uncool to be heterosexual. As someone who is, as they say, ‘chronically online’, it’s a trend I’ve been noticing as well. Being heterosexual is undesirable in our current feminist society and if you happen to be one of those unfortunate souls, you sure as hell should not be happy about it, because who in their right mind would date men, if they had a choice? Women that are happy with their significant male other are constantly justifying this choice online, or apologizing for or joking about the fact that they are. Where did this trend come from? And what does it mean for the future of heterosexual relationships? Shon Faye lays it all out masterfully and puts into words the uncomfortable feelings I’ve been having about this topic.
“Admitting you might still find some men sexy in spite of or (worse!) because of their ‘toxicity’ – unless whispered self-punishingly with the intention to work on yourself – becomes really shameful in this dating culture of constant self-optimisation. Yet I, and almost every woman I know, have indulged such attractions and many of us probably would again. It’s also difficult to own up to the fact that the psychodrama of wanting men, who do not love us back in the ways we need, can feel important to women’s own sense of identity as women in the sight of other women.”
#5 Help, I’m the Loneliest Person in the World! by Heather Havrilesky
Okay, this is not exactly an essay, but it is something worth reading, especially if you’re in your twenties and are slowly giving up hope on ever finding love. This piece is part of a column called ‘Ask Polly’ in The Awl and contains the cry for help of someone who claims to be ‘The Loneliest Person in the World’. The interesting part is to be found in the reply by ‘Polly’ (actually Heather Havrilesky), who makes it plain and simple once and for all: we won’t find love if we don’t change our mindset about love.
“But you MUST break this fixation on love as the cure to all of your ills. If you found love right now, you would run it straight into the ground in seconds.”
“In the long run, you will find love. Right now, you need to commit to NOT looking for love. You need to sign up for art classes, dance classes, yoga, or cooking classes — or all of the above. You need to be active and be around people, all kinds of different people, young and old. You need to practice accepting yourself, with all of your quirks, in the company of other human beings. You need to be open to the world around you. You need to move through the world by listening to other people, without trying to prove that you’re good enough for them. Just exist and be your shy self. If friendships with men and women come about, so be it. Don’t get involved with anyone. Have lunch, have coffee, and continue to work hard on the things that won’t dry up and blow away: Your health, your career, your little art projects or poems or essays, your odd new half-interests, the complicated folds of your sensitivity and your darkness, and your belief in a world that wants you to be happy.”
#6 I’m Not Feeling Good at All by Jess Bergman
This year, I noticed a common theme in the books I liked to read: they all were told from the perspective of a detached female narrator that hinted at or was completely consumed by mental illness. These stories often deal with impactful traumatic events of which the pain is made completely abstract by the narrators dismissive attitude. A few examples: My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Boy Parts, Acts of Desperation… In this piece, Jess Bergman explores why there’s a sudden rise of these ‘unhinged’ female narrators, and how they compare to their predecessors in literature of the past.
“Adrift and chronically exhausted despite (or because of) the undemanding nature of her work, she feels that she is experiencing the world “as only someone who did not exist in it could.” Nonexistence is threaded throughout these novels, which are anchored by women who limply accept, if not actively seek, a sense of their own unreality.”
What Does it Mean to get Woman’d? by Rayne Fisher-Quann
What is Glitter? by Caity Weaver
In Conversation With Myself by Rayne Fisher-Quann (did I already say I love her?)