Stuff I like

January 7, 2010 at 7:29 am 2 comments

Thomas DoyleA quick break from my paper writing (about corporate personhood and vampires!!) to give a shout-out to things I like. I figure I spend enough time on here being negative… might as well point out some things that spark my interest/enjoyment. Today I chose two: one old, one new. The new: this wonderful little capsular world from artist Thomas Doyle. He constructs miniature, emotionally-weighted worlds inside glass jars! He says he was obsessed by dioramas as a kid! I was too: I used to cull grass and moss and flowers from the yard and create miniature “gardens” inside shoe boxes, only to be tragically distraught when they inevitably died. And, seeing as how I  have such problems with much of modern art, and how a trip to the MoMa for me is generally like Dante’s trip through purgatory (fascinating, but not exactly enjoyable), it was thrilling to find myself so captivated by Doyle’s work.

The old:, which is where I found the interview that introduced me to Doyle’s belljar worlds in the first place. But it’s done so much more than that: since starting early last year, The Rumpus has quickly and quietly grown to become one of my regular reads, in fact probably the only cultural magazine that I check on a daily basis. (And I’ve been reading them since they were in “beta” mode, meaning one day I can be that annoyingly pompous kid who “knew them before they were big.”)

It’s hard for me to find the words for what I like about The Rumpus. Part of it might be that they take art seriously without taking themselves seriously. As simple as that sounds, it’s a surprisingly difficult balance: on the one hand you have the arch elitism of many “mainstream” (such as they are) literary publications – magazines and journals which might as well come with a complimentary stick for you to shove up your ass; on the other, the “pop culture worship under a pseudo-intellectual veneer” blogs à la Jezebel. (Sorry, cheap shot. But seriously: jezebel is like popcorn (or pop-porn) for the guilt-ridden cultural consumer.)

And then most of the mags that try to walk the tightrope between the two end up falling hard into one corner or the other or (like Salon or N+1) somehow bouncing manically back and forth in a sort of giant identity crisis: publishing a serious (and occasionally self-serious) piece one minute and the next minute giving us a lengthy analysis of Britany Spears’ new hair. (That was sort of off the cuff, but actually I think it’s a pretty decent summary of both those sites.) Which is not to say that you can’t write a compelling piece about Britney (maybe), or that you can’t intermix earnestness and levity, but simply that it’s a damned hard line to walk.

And (to totally mix my metaphors) The Rumpus usually hits it on the nail. They’re witty and thought-provoking and manage to introduce me to all kinds of crazy new stuff; the tone is laid-back and conversational without seeming to be trying too hard, and they really like Roberto Bolaño. Oh, and they also published a piece by my friend Michelle Threadgould on Aaron Cometbus, which you should totally check out here. In fact the only negative I can find, after searching, is that I sometimes question the choices for their “Sunday politics” round-up.

Anyhow, you can read their interview with Thomas Doyle here and you can find more of Doyle’s work/worlds here and now I really need to get back to those fucking papers.


Entry filed under: Me About Stuff. Tags: , , , .

Obama and the Age of Iconicity Paroxysm of pleasure interspersed with the usual liberal guilt

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Michelle  |  January 15, 2010 at 12:37 am


    Thanks for the shout out for my Cometbus article! In an act of total narcissism, I googled my name today, and your blog (which I didn’t even know existed PS) popped up. I am happy both to read your words of praise and to be able to have a way to check in on you and your thoughts. When we were together in New York, your snark, disdain for faux-irony, witticisms, feelings on the state of literature, and intelligence gave me the strength that I needed to write, move on, and not take the icy, self-important, New York attitude too seriously.

    All of this is to say: I miss you pookie. San Francisco awaits you with open arms.


    PPS You should check out Duncan Roy’s blog. He is snarky, irreverent, funny, intelligent, and comments on everything from politics to gay culture.

  • 2. bennettabroad  |  January 15, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Hey Michelle!

    The longstanding joke about my blog is that while purporting to be “about” my life/doings in Holland I update it pretty much only when I’m back in the States. That said, I just posted an entry from Leiden today, so perhaps I’m getting better. Things are gonna change, I can feel it.

    I spent a few days in New York on my trip, and everywhere I went reminded me of you. It’s not just that my life there wouldn’t have been the same without you… it would have been unimaginable, and perhaps impossible. Your verve, energy and enthusiasm kept me going in a time/place where everything seemed conspiring to get me down; your passion for life was (awe)inspiring; and your thoughts on cinema have forever altered my way of looking at film(s).

    And I would love to be welcomed into the arms of San Francisco– I imagine them as warm, possessive, sheltering, yet somehow soft and gentle. Perhaps this summer. And, as always, you are more than welcome to come investigate Leiden’s various appendages.


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Bennett Carpenter
Leiden, Netherlands

Random musings about literature, art, politics and (occasionally) my life as a graduate student in sunny Holland. Click on the pic for more about me.


January 2010
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