Why is this interesting? - The Monday Media Diet with Sasha Frere-Jones
On Lisbon, Adam Curtis, and Radio Garden
We’ve been reading the work of Sasha Frere-Jones (SFJ) since he had a blog hosted on Abstract Dynamics (where WITI contributor Abe hosted an incredible range of talent back in the day, including Philip Sherburne and other esteemed names). Sasha’s music writing for the New Yorker was always amazing, and his thoughtful piece on Arthur Russell stands as one of my all-time favorites. Here, we peer into what he’s working on and importantly, who he’s reading right now. Hope you have an awesome week. -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
I write, play music, and live in the East Village with my partner, Heidi. This podcast covers the recent past (if you jump to minute thirteen). I would be pleased if you subscribed to my Substack and bought the Body Meπa album and then threw in the Calvinist EP for good measure.
Describe your media diet.
I wish I had a diet! There’s no method—I just flail around and click. I get mad once a day at the New York Times; either they’re caping for an elected criminal or both-sidesing me to death. I get all spicy and say I’m gonna cancel my subscription and then I don’t. (Real fight the power stuff.) Then I watch a bunch of TikToks and forget about the computer. Then I come back and take a stab at finishing something. I am always happy when it is lunchtime, which is available here from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
What’s the last great book you read?
Nobody Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood, which I’m reviewing. It made me levitate above my grief rather than get lost in the middle of it. She’s remarkable in every sense.
What are you reading now?
An Introduction to Dialectics by Adorno. The book I am writing about music (Hammered Into Clouds) hit a snag a few years ago and I only recently got out of the ditch, mostly by reading this Adorno and the Jung/Wilhelm/Baynes edition of the I Ching. I finished my memoir (Earlier) before the music book, which I didn’t expect. But then I didn’t expect Deborah to die. Life is like that. Hopefully, the memoir will come out next year but I don’t know.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
The only strategic thing I do with magazines is pull out all the blow-in cards. I would like to be as strategic about reading them.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
I don’t know who you are reading or not reading, so I’ll just list some publications and some people who are always worth reading. Nikhil Pal Singh, Wayne Koestenbaum, Sarah Schulman, Hannah Black, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, Tone Glow, Parul Seghal, Molly Young, Adam Shatz, The Drift, Etel Adnan, Jasper Bernes, Ian Penman, Katrina Forrester, Tobi Haslett, Mina Tavakoli, Merve Emre, Burkhard Bilger, Lauren Oyler, Perry Anderson, Hunter Harris, Fanny Howe, Vittles, Frederic Jameson, Angela Davis, Silvia Federici, Vivian Gornick, Mike Davis, Garnette Cadogan, Endnotes, Salvage, Rest of World, Ill Will, Crimethinc.
I like to start the day by reading pages, not screens. This happens during a messy two-hour period where I go to a meeting, pray, and read. I get fussy and cut it short sometimes but it sets me up if I behave myself. I taught a few years ago at The Artists Institute, which is described here. (You can download the syllabus here.) I didn’t do a great job as an instructor, but the syllabus is pretty hot and will give you an idea of what I like to read in the morning.
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
Once again, I am asking you to forgive me for not knowing what other people think of things. What’s a famous app? Tinder? Anyway, I like Radio Garden, NTS Radio, The Lot Radio, Ten Percent Happier, MOTIV Audio, Pocket, Books, Measure. I’m always trying to put a shim under something. OCD matchy matchy shit. Unbearable!
Plane or train?
Both. I stan travel and always have. A day trip to Poughkeepsie? Count me in.
What is one place everyone should visit?
Go back to where you grew up. Other than that, Lisbon. The city just radiates.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
I had an exchange with Adam Curtis a few years ago. Testy, it was. I am trying to bolster an argument I will be making about his new series, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head. I can’t stop thinking about the many places in his work where he shifts from accurate reporting to semi-accurate generalization to entirely baseless characterization. It’s like a hallway coated in olive oil, but boring. This rabbit hole will hopefully lead me to a bit of film that was part of his Massive Attack piece. That film never showed outside that live performance, but I think some of it might be in Hypernormalization. I am re-reading the James Glanz and Eric Lipton book on the World Trade Center, as one of my contentions with Curtis concerns his commentary about the WTC. I will probably abandon the whole thing. (SFJ)
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Sasha (SFJ)
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