the airless room

This is an interview with Kathryn Scanlan about her very peculiar new book, which is made up of selections from a person’s diary — read the interview to learn more, it’s really fascinating.

But I want to talk about a distraction from the real subject of the interview. Here’s a passage:

Etter: Now this is a question I have coming from a journalism background: what does it mean for fiction to take a real life and remix it, scramble it, and fine tune it into something that becomes non-real? What is it like to play with that?

Scanlan: A little bit weird. From the beginning, I felt like it was a weird thing I was doing. I don’t necessarily think it’s any particular genre, I think it has elements of all genres. I think it can be called fiction and I would call it that because of the way it’s been selected. If you are only showing part of something, it’s fiction. If you’re omitting lots of things, or if you’re focusing on only something particular, it’s fiction in my mind.

Etter: I think most journalists would probably agree with that definition — maybe not our president.

I read that and thought: Is there any chance of my getting through a recent essay, an article, a story, an interview, without a reference to That Man? Is it really necessary for every member of The Cultured to signal their disdain for him in every single conversation?

I want to say: He’s not sucking the air out of the room, you are.

Yes, I know, it’s just a passing comment. But when “passing comments” of that kind show up twenty times a day, it wears on a fella.

This is why I make my newsletter. It’s a place that I can guarantee will be free from that kind of thing, that will allow me and my readers to spend time in a broader world than that of posted and tweeted and retweeted political vaporing, posturing, and rancor.

Many of you will know this famous letter from John Adams to his wife Abigail: “The Science of Government it is my Duty to study, more than all other Sciences: the Art of Legislation and Administration and Negotiation, ought to take Place, indeed to exclude in a manner all other Arts. I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.” Let not Adams have studied in vain.