Perchance to Please

Late Night Viewing

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Earlier today, I managed to scavenge a laser printer and small stand which is enough to turn my room into a makeshift office—which is great, because my school doesn’t give us [its students] unpaid printer access or office space. Nor does it afford us access or discounts to textbooks and required reads that cost a small fortune. Not that I can think of other schools that do, but I wager others would do well to think about this the next time someone harps about how “nice” it is to have hard copy books and how their mood shifts to productivity on campus. Especially, when that someone happens to be a professor or upper-middle class. It never ceases to amaze me how folks subscribe to these “nice” notions from wealthy optimists; and how the avowal of alternatives is always lost on those with acceptance and an abundance of resources.

Maybe this relates to the subscription to social media and artificial intelligence—as in, indulging intelligence premised and operant upon artifice. Technology might have advanced, but life has always been more built than lived. Concepts like religion, law, and norms have imposed ideologies long before we constructed and comprised online worlds. However, there is just something distinctly indulgent and individualistic when it comes to new media; something cultivated through consumption and crowds whom command through quips and clicks, as they steal behind masks of coy and ‘cool’ personalities. Perhaps, this could account for the nervous laughter and expectant esteems that predominate; and why precedents are unspoken as well as unquestioned.

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No one covers these prospects quite like David Stewart. I came across him years ago, late one sleepless night when I’d plugged into YouTube to stay awake during revisions of a manuscript, when “Silly Boy” emerged in my recommendations. I heard something not only insightful, but immediate; and I hear this in his entire discography, which is what partially drove my first novel. Stewart is a distinct resolute, but reflective voice amidst the crass cult of celebrity. He manages to make singularity soulful instead of surplus and superficial. Every subject is simultaneously dependent and defenseless to their desires. No one is betrothed to bravado and there is no marriage to ignorance and idealism, but rather a sheer divorce from reality. “Silly Boy” ponders the purpose of pleasure in the present, however pretentious, and the absence of prospect should it be prolonged, which is thematic from the track’s album aptly titled Dark Side of Paradise. “Mirrors on the Ceiling” fixes to thrill with familiar, finite convictions which foster albeit limit likeness; “Play Love with the Devil” mourns how performativity prevents sincerity despite connectivity; and “Power” muses upon the flushed, but fading merits of the moveable and material world.

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Unlike the drugged, dispirited decadence of Dark Side of Paradise, Stewart’s second album—Late Night Viewing—evokes an erotic and existential treatment. The eponymous track, “Late Night Viewing,” sets the tone as Stewart stakes the earnest and empty, but exhibitory urgency of lovers that are ultimately aromatic albeit aroused; keenly aware that they are not alone in the universe. “Lay on the Bonnet” intones that intimacy is operant upon ignorance— “Yeah, I get that you don’t know me; but you’ve got the time to show me”—that obliging the world (and ourselves) at large devalues it. “Scream More” and “Blood Rush” convey carnivalesque carnalities, gushed and gamed, that crave candour even as they are resigned to conventionality. “Incredible” [which features Yasmin] ruminates upon a rueful, but rousing romance whose lovers are ambushed by attraction.

For me, this track bled into “Red Light” as a song that articulate the lure of liaisons which reject reason and transverse temporality; how compatibility can contradictory in our compulsion to contrasts as Stewart prompts the listener to “forget about pride” and “Make sure the Barbies don’t bring Kens.” The Grease-reminiscent “Woman in Lust” [with Wretch 32] and “Run the World” [with Example] are charged, decisive power trips which dishearten dissenters and endow eavesdroppers as impartial. “Heaven” [with Ed Sheeran] rounds out the rest of the tracks as it culminates in curiosity accompanied by anxiety and accountability; reflecting upon the repetition of mistakes, each done under the same pretext of a promised payoff, as heaven “is going to haunt us until it takes us”; while “Breathe Slow” is an airy, ambient cue of conclusion: the “party’s over” and one must “breathe slow” to internalize. Only given the immoderation imparted within the crux of the content, you’d think there was no point.

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Late Night Viewing is curious because it bears a lesson learnt in the absence of catharsis. Stewart fleshes out fine, but frigid feelings of being fulfillment: being full of nothing. He knows things won’t last, but those things still define us. Therefore, by some token, those things—however fickle—are worth whatever we expend upon them. Stewart effects this knowing that agony precedes afterglow; that indulgence and intuition are impractical, but cultivate our consciousness. We value and venture to small, sometimes hollow victories from battles we bereave in lieu of a war.

 

Reclaiming Joy Through Trial and Triumph

 

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These days, I seldom admit that I write. I don’t even call myself a writer since I doubt I can dignify the title—even though, Christ knows that must seem mighty modest considering that title is assumed by many mediocre magnates. I have always written, but I have only recently began publishing [either by myself or through independent publishers]; and I have very rarely profited off of it. The term “starving artist” took on a literal meaning for me once I invested in the venture of self-publication after traditional publishers rejected me for my indistinct niche in the market(s) and because I lacked the social capital or substantive endorsements that would’ve made me an asset. At first, I took that rejection very personally—and in some ways, I still do—but a bit of digging into the ‘success stories’ and otherwise prosperous platforms amended the slump I found myself sinking into. Because, I found that particular privileges played a prominent part in one’s ‘marketability’ and that “capitalism” is operant upon even abstract levels since there’s something inherently exploitive and exclusionary when merit is monetized, when success is more quantifiable than qualifiable, and when certain insights are inopportune.

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Which is funny because whenever I tell people about my overall life, they tend to think it makes an interesting story. I was already “starving” so to speak as a university student whose scholarships, grants, and [small] savings ensured my academic attendance while a rustic diet and the odd [inexpensive] splurge ensured my survival. Then, I was isolated from most by the time I hit grad school which exacerbated my paranoia and anxiety. Solitude surely strengthened my scholarly output, but it amplified my suspicions and self-consciousness—which already peaked during my stint in modeling that culminated in aesthetic and agented admonishments, depression, as well as eating disorders. Somewhere between my revelations in being racialized and protesting alongside students with whom I shared rage over rising tuition fees, I critically considered how life itself was a catalyst for my creativity and lack thereof. This was around the mid 2000s, when reality TV had just struck gold with a select few franchises—of which there are countless clones now—and existentialism began to wane in popular culture. Self-publishing had begun to flourish which simultaneously created and destroyed cumbersome celebrities. This was the time when social media users with millions of hits and followers were starting to be afforded endorsements, even reality shows of their own; where the lifestyles of the rich became flaunted and famous; and where the internet and personable publishing fashioned a permanency in which gossip could snowball into an avalanche.

This time would’ve marked me as an anxious preteen not so much coming of age as going with the flow. For reasons I have yet to fully explore, I developed and maintained severe avoidance issues which prompted me to disengage and depersonalize by any means possible. And, “any means” was always—and still is—art. I wrote, painted, danced, and piled on playlists. It never once occurred to me that these means were something upon which I could capitalize. When it did occur to me, I honestly didn’t care. I did art as a hobbyist and saw the advent of interconnectivity—forums, sharing sites, galleries, etc.—as beneficial for pen-pals and free access; not ‘marketing’ to a worldwide audience for coin. I only started publishing after I felt like I had a viable idea to actually market; and I was also admittedly arrogant in thinking the content that was definitive of present bestsellers and trends was somewhat banal as well as easy to surpass conceptually. Who wants to read the same story—the same, tired and [perhaps unwittingly] toxic tropes—over and over, especially in a purportedly ‘progressive’ world?

Well, pretty much everybody. Those narratives wouldn’t continue to define weight or sell otherwise. Plus, I doubt that people quite frankly can be bothered to invest in imagination or innovation given how they tasked they are with trials and tribulations. There is little, if any esteem in vision within a world whose successes are defined by expenditure—which is why being an artist or creative entrepreneur is more than a little uninspired. And, also why I literally “starved” once I invested into my creative outlet: which detracted from my thin budget and meant I was periodically and unromantically (looking at you, hipsters) fasting. But, I was no stranger to food pantries before that; and I’d met a number of other creatives going there, campus centres, as well as shelters. These places sometimes had lengthy lines, wait times, or just generally provided a piece of paradise amidst terrible weather conditions; and I had connected with a number of people in these places, many of whom I admittedly never saw again. However, each and every one of them reaffirmed my value of being cognizant of those around me no matter how substantial or superficial. I eventually realized that, despite my affinity and coping mechanism of avoidance, that I simply couldn’t ignore any- and everyone; that despite the enormity of the white noise, I couldn’t tune everyone out because I then would be unable to hear my own calling.

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And, I hear something rattle in my soul whenever I listen to Joy Conaway. I stumbled upon her through an oddly fruitful social media suggestion—a recommended page on Facebook—and I haven’t been able to stop listening to her since. Her EP, A Tale of Joy & Sorrow, is off the wall amongst an assortment of her other tracks. For instance, “Alone” is a novel and optimistic perspective on support and sentiment. It bespeaks the priceless proclivities of genuine pleasure, yet discerns that there is can be umbrage in unity in a prevalent praxis of simultaneous insensitivity and indulgence. “The Lion’s Awakening” is an acoustically driven beat avowing pride, perseverance, and personality which affirm there is no expense too great to dignify your own truth; similar to “Forever Song” that imparts the importance of invaluable, interpersonal insight despite its hardships. “Monsters” is a placid, poignant ballad conveying how we are our own worst enemies whom can be amended and astounded by love; if not, overcome by objective. While “Pretend” and “Deepest Fear” are reminiscent of the plucked peace that marked many contemporary artists of the 90s, whose tracks backgrounded the pensive dialogues and epilogues of heartland dramas; thematic of nascent, but noticeable turmoil driven by disclosure.

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For me, Joy Conaway relates to my own reconciliation of art, aversion, and avoidance. Her songs infuse light into the beacons I had burnt out from my childhood. Rarely do I ever hear such songs that are hopeful and optimistic without being idealistic. Conaway doesn’t profess that dreamers are beneficiaries on the virtue of simply dreaming, nor does she propose glory or principle in obliging some obstinate. She simply serenades the significance of sincerity and self-discovery. No track is nautically naïve or nonchalant, instead avowing anchorage amidst the sea of life and longing.

Moreover, Conaway’s craft itself is worth noting as she is a modest treasure with a small, select discography and promising platform. She creates quality content in the absence of quantifiable artifice. Her songs have soul, which is something that cannot be sold. Not that she isn’t worth investing in. The distinction is that she is a rarity whom cannot be replicated or consumed without question. Her sound has nothing formulaic or processed, which inclines one to understand that connectivity and visibility cannot and do not supplant actual value—and I believe that is also a core theme underwritten in her songs. Listeners are not only empowered by truth or triumph, but also by appreciating meaning as a matter of intimacy and sensation rather than rate.

Partition Through Perspective

Spellbound

Amidst my current thesis, time seems to pass me by as it stands still. Most of the time, the people in my life are anomalies to my aspirations. They laugh, love, and live while I wonder if I’m actually living; if my life is on ice until graduation, as the only permanence in my life is publication. Each time I poke my head out or click around online reinforces the reality that feels and fashion are a matter of fiction. Truth has too hard. No one wants to be tasked by trial or tribulation.

Reggae has always tendered my truth. It sounds a faith not blind, but fruitful. In that way, the genre is distinct. It declares kinship and catharsis which lack the pretensions of glossy, gaudy glamour. The reggae vibes revere roots, which is why wherein Bob Marley is so iconized as humble and reflective; unlike comparably vain contemporaries whom serenade materialist, megalomaniac manifestos. For me, a prime principle of reggae is its distinction of the internal and the individual; how it proposes the possibility of looking within without looking against or looking away from others. It also acknowledged the need, the right to assert autonomy even if one chose to abide anti-violence.

Since my roots were cultivated in the Caribbean, I’m no stranger to reggae. Its fluid, formative medleys defined most of my childhood. Friends and family would play Bob Marley, Barrington Levy, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Glen Washington, Shabba Ranks, amongst many others: all of whom related principles of perseverance and peace despite the distinctions of their artistry. Notably, like other genres, reggae has been called out for mainstreamed anti-LGBTQA+ sentiments [that seem to have peaked and progressed from the early eighties following the influx of homophobic and traditionalist, eurocentric televangelism being broadcast]. I never really thought much about this when I was younger, but I began to hear this as I matured with a critical ear. If reggae artists truly believe in the infallibility of an almighty peace, whether that be through a Rastafarian concept of Zion or Jah, then there is a false logic in propagating bigotry given that people may be naturalized to embody an array of ambition, attraction, and love. That’s not to knock the genre altogether, however it must be addressed how colonialism has convoluted the popularized narratives enforced by particular figures. Addressing that will not only abolish ignorance, but additionally strengthen and harmonize the genre’s true intent. And, I think islanders may be able to speak to that intent of nautical nirvana adrift amidst tempestuous tides.

 

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Kelissa ponders paradise, not politics on her latest album: Spellbound. Although, I think that her overall message can be politicized as emancipatory and existentialist. She imparts insight into capitalism and the material world as recalcitrant, which is why it is fruitless to avow audiences or appearances. There is a personable, peaceful frame through which we can view Kelissa. “You are enchanting like the stars in the night,” she sings in the opening titular track. “And, my sky you’re lighting like a firefly” which affirms her as a smitten songstress from jump. ‘Best Kept Secret’ conveys a conscious rather than calculated intent of consumerism where love is prided, yet more impactful than intimate. Being jilted in life is hardly surprising, but artists like Kelissa evidence that it may be innovative. Her sadness is sublimated into strength and insight as she reflects, “You told me I was your treasure, but treasure just don’t last forever.” Accompanied with the ‘Give Your All’ interlude—“Take a leap, you fall, and get up again. Never try, never know you’re capable.”—affords listeners empowerment through enlightenment.

My favourite track, ‘Topsy Turvy,’ reinforces optimism through a brisk beat with an underlaid unhurried rhythm. Kelissa purports that paradise awaits those whom not only persevere, but individualize from mainstreamed monotony and malignance. Freedom can be clumsy and chaotic, but it cultivates confidence and catharsis—which isn’t a matter of immediacy as her ‘Slow Down’ interlude follows to articulate a natural, elemental ambiance. ‘Take Your Time’ goes on to prompt us to purge ourselves of pretensions wherein Kelissa insists to be interpersonal, one not need be impulsive. The concluding ‘How Many More’ builds upon this as she ruminates against the grain of romanticism and rationalism wherein truth and dissent are denied in the superficial scheme of social order. “Is it worth the price that we pay to live the life we do?” she wonders. “How many more will have to fall? How long will we ignore the ones who call?”

Spellbound reveres the spirit of reggae as not just a site of intent and intuition, but how humility in tandem with hubris is the harbinger of happiness. In divorcing herself from recidivism, revisionism, and romanticism, Kelissa marries trial and error with trials and tribulations. Her relative rhythms are forthright because she is unreliant upon dumbstruck, starstruck signifiers or collaged carnality which consequently shifts perspectives from pride and prowess.

Get Out, the Sunken Place, Slavery, and the History of J. Marion Sims

by Adiza Sanchez-Rahim ❦

 

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There’s plenty to be dissected within Jordan Peele’s social thriller, Get Out. I’ve personally read a handful of incredibly insightful pieces since watching the film—twice!

While each character had their own unique story, Georgina, played by brilliant fellow Juilliard alum, Betty Gabriel, is the most haunting character. With very few lines, Betty’s artistry conveys to the audience a deeper subtext—a tragic story of unspoken and untold Black pain, specifically that of Black women. Peele gives us a front row seat to Black horror in American history in a way that hasn’t really been done before, at least not within the film genre of a psychological thriller.

In more ways than one, Georgina is representative of the enslavement of Black women throughout history, but even more specifically, the Black women who were used as the human guinea pigs of  J. Marion Sims. As defined by Jordan Peele, “The Sunken Place means we’re marginalized. No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us.” In essence, both generations of women are trapped within the Sunken Place, shackled in either body or mind.

J. Marion Sims was a physician who was born in South Carolina in 1813. He is lauded as the father of modern gynecology. Aside from owning his own clinic in Montgomery, Alabama, he was also a plantation physician. From 1845-1849, Sims conducted a series of experimental surgeries on enslaved women sans anesthesia. He sought to perfect a technique to repair a condition called vesicovaginal fistula (abnormal fistulous tract). This basically means that there’s an opening between the vagina and the bladder, or rectum and usually occurs after traumatic childbirth. Having these fistulas meant one couldn’t bear children, nor could they continue working, which ultimately lowered these women’s value to their slave masters. During his experiments, Sims would use sutures in order to close up the opening.

One can’t quite imagine just how painful this operation must’ve been without anesthesia. There was a belief at the time that Black people didn’t feel pain in the same way that White people did, especially Black women. Sims did treat white women; although, he always treated them with anesthesia.

 

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Sims not only performed these experiments without anesthesia, he would invite other physicians to watch while he conducted surgeries on naked Black women. So, while we consider the physical pain these women experienced, we can’t forget about their loss of dignity and sexually exploited bodies.

Much like Georgina to the Armitage family, these women’s bodies were property to Sims. They could not consent to anything. I stress this point because we still have to remind white people that as a slave, you’re not afforded the privilege of self-determination. This means that you don’t do what you want; you do what you’re told.

People love to romanticize everything about slavery. So much so that enslaved women have now become “mistresses” to the white masters who raped them. Recently, the Washington Post published an article referring to Sally Hemings (an enslaved woman owned by Jefferson), as his mistress. In what reality can one engage in a consensual relationship when you’re the enslaved party? Hemings was born as Jefferson’s party and he started raping her when she was 14 and he just north of 40. Even by today’s standards, this is predatory grooming and statutory rape. For a person who legally could not say “No,” it is an even deeper level of violation. So, no: Hemings was not Jefferson’s mistress. She was a victim of rape.

Today, Sims is memorialized in statues in South Carolina, Alabama, and New York. When I think about these statues and the memorials to Sims, what I see is what’s not shown. Where does it say that this technique was perfected on the bodies of enslaved Black women? The medical advancements that all women are still benefiting from today, were obtained at great human cost. How many Georgina’s did it take for Sims to accomplish his great medical breakthrough?

Yet, our society refuses to even entertain the discussion. People would rather forget about Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsy. The character of Georgina acts as a staunch reminder of the generational trauma that we as Black women carry with us from the days of slavery. We carry it within our DNA. If we toss away these images, these women’s stories will be lost. I want to hear their stories. As Viola Davis said, “Exhume those bodies, exhume those stories.” It is our responsibility to make sure their names aren’t forgotten. We do not know what Georgina’s name was prior to her entering the Armitage house and becoming the slave of Grandma Armitage. Like Andre, later known as Logan, her name was most likely changed. Her body was stolen and her identity erased.

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There’s plenty to be said for how Black bodies have been conceptualized by the medical profession throughout history. Jordan Peele makes direct reference to this dynamic, along with the lack of agency Black people have had over our own bodies for millennia. It shines a light on the longtime legacy of Black female bodies repeatedly violated, and how we’ve been forced to carry the burdens of others.

While many would find it easy to say, “That’s all in the past,” I invoke the words of William Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Accursed Arithmetic and Caustic Caucasoids

Love, Math, and Sex

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Roughly four days after I saw Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed Get Out and combed through the many think pieces—mostly on interracial [POC + yt] relationships and white supremacy—that it yielded, I found my newfound attraction to Turkish star, George Corraface, led me to Charlotte Silvera’s drama, C’est la tangente que je préfère (also known as Love, Sex, and Math for its English title). The film centers the timeless trope of fresh innocence crowning, concealing, and catalyzing naïve predatory proclivities. The film not only centers the trope, but transmutes it as a motif and narrative device rather than a mere element of character.

However, to read the film as a simple story about masks, musings, and manipulate is to ignore its contemptuous commentary on the eroticism of erraticism, capitalism, and critical race relations. Silvera showcases the hubris of happenstance, subverts its, and illustrates the ignorance of uncritical, unevidenced idealism.

Julie Delarme plays Sabine, a 15-year-old math whiz from France, whose catharsis is defined by her relationship to Jiri, a Praguian (and Turkish) national and director, played by George Corraface. When Sabine isn’t charging her classmates for tutoring, lifting tips from waiters, or irking her impoverished parents, she esteems existentialism through incorrigible ideations of arithmetic.

Initially, Silvera invites us to observe Sabine’s daily life in scenes that are signifiers of youth: classes, courtyards, and clusters of companions. The amicable ambiance changes on a crowded [street] car ride when she firsts spots Jiri seated in the back. It is through her contrast of him and her friends that we see she internalizes in isolation. She dispirits her youth while her friends and elders respective celebrate or envy it.

The sight of Jiri as well as the revelation of her inarticulate intrigue and aloof attraction to him incline her to adopt reductionist, reactionary attitude onward. She rationalizes chance encounters with him afterward as a mathematical likeness of probability and resolves that a third chance encounter evidences some connection, that serves as grounds for her to pursue him erotically albeit aromantically. Through her musings on his adulthood, his “finished” development—as opposed to the ongoing, unsteady growth of her peers and stubborn stagnance the fickle elders that prod her—she associates him with strength and sensuality.

But, her parents’ indigence and iniquity compels her capitalism and materialism despite any romanticism. Any tenderness is overturned by transactional thinking wherein there is only significance in a sale or monetary value. Her first date and sexual encounter with Jiri (with anyone) concludes with her snatching banknotes from his dresser, saying that nothing is for free; and subsequently insists he solicit her sexually in which money will mark a mutually beneficial arrangement.

The carnality of coincidence, of love being likened to luck, sex, and sentimentality, is desensitized as Sabine commands cold, hard capital. She uses math as a device to distance herself intellectually and impersonally from everyone around her, including those her own age. Math is a means of protection and mobility, sparing her from interacting interpersonally with her own peers and affording her a path to academic sponsorship above her current [status] class. Likewise, her interest in math wanes as her love for Jiri flourishes.

And, so does her perception of positionality start to bloom. A misread altercation with Jiri leads her to believe he’s cheated on her, which sets her on a dark downward spiral. She gravitates to her parents pessimistically through self-harm and self-deprecation. This side of her is representative of basic hostility since she alienates and aggresses everyone around her, including her parents, with visibly unfounded anger or annoyance.

This Sabine illustrates how a propensity for profit does not translate to prowess or principle. She cultivates cash, not consciousness or a capacity to discern complexities. Her aversion arises from not only her understanding of Jiri’s betrayal, but also of a betrayal of math because she discovers that hard sciences are not solutions to hard problems. Her ingenious insights of math and intermittent outbursts reflect the absence of reasoning and thus reckoning in capitalism.

To spite Jiri, Sabine reports him to the authorities, alleging that he sexually abused her (i.e. corruption of a minor) although we know she concealed her age from him from an earlier exchange [and there’s no justification for him indulging her after finding out]. It is not only this falsehood that unnerves me, but her sense of entitlement. Reflective glances coupled with this venture of vengeance evidence that she understands her position as well as the weight of her report.

Distinctions of race and realization are shown through sharp contrasts in skin tone and temperament; distinctions that parallel my own positionality as a Black woman and film scholar whose lens is perpetually as well as personally darkened (no pun intended) by: critical race theory, blood memory, and knowledge as well as lineage connected to a not so distant colonial past.

For me, Sabine’s spiteful, fabricated report of Jiri reminds me of the infamous tragic case of Emmett Tillan African American boy who was murdered on the accusation that he’d whistled at a white womanan accusation that came from a white woman. An accusation that was admittedly false decades after his death and the acquittal of his murderers.

Along with Sabine, we later find out that Jiri never cheated on her, but was merely having dinner with a [female] colleague; and even then, she neither feels or admits to any wrongdoing regarding that report. The absorbent fee for withdrawing the charge is her only concern upon their reconciliation. It is through this we see that more than she ‘loves’ him, she dehumanizes him as a trinket that will tether her own catharsis. This is much like how white supremacy and eurocentrism demote the needs of Others as inferior or inconsequential in addition to completely devaluing them, only to regulate our existences if we dare want to exist.

C’est la tangente que je préfère disillusions its audience of any notion that romance is manifest in materialism and asserts the reality of race and rationalism surpassing rapport. It cautions us to think through behaviours and motifs as intent rather than innocent or instinctive. Silvera puts forth that not only are romance and rationalism no match for the crude caveat of capitalism, but are made moot against the ire of whiteness and antagonisms that augment worldviews. For, the ignorance of youth is not exception to the knowledge of whiteness.

Fury and Future

Fierce for the Night

The first time I heard disco, I was in early grade school. Even then, at that age, it was defined as a thing of the past: a relic, yet a reverberant realm of endless possibilities. With ambition afloat and airy affections, the genre still rings more supple than succinct. It was only until recently that I understood why I found it infectious and why its composition is a timeless treasure.

Disco deigns delight and desire where there is none; or rather, where it is dormant. It invokes insight and instinct that is not only repressed, but also agonizingly absent in the meticulous monotony maintained in daily life. Disco simultaneously drives and disorients us with our own emptiness, because it single-handedly encapsulates and articulates the esteem of every energy and emotion.

This is why one of its core, collective ideals was unity. It esteemed expression and androgyny, but it inclined coming together. Even though it could convey contrarianism, I think that it emboldened a more passive form of resistance. More or less, disco songs pride us as playmates in paradise; as opposed to casting us as militant or heated comrades as in genres that build more upon rock and stricter soul.

Which is perhaps why its popularity declined towards the eighties, a decade that roused a revival and nostalgia of the social justice activism and free love of the sixties. Rock was anglicized to articulate the anger and annoyance of the West, whereas more intellectualized and weaponized in the East.

A discursive dystopia emerged artistically as people somehow started to grasp that their futures were being not only driven, but dictated by woeful world events and paltry politicians. The sixties’ strides had elapsed with modern, morbid developments dedicated to the destruction of marginalized communities lest they mobilize again.

And, the advent of neoliberalism was the dissolution of unity. It corrupted the concord and sense of community disco had striven to invoke. People could no longer be appeased by a buoyant, boogie beat, nor could they honestly or wistfully aspire to the prospect of an airbrushed utopia.

After the pounding preclude of rock, brass ballads and new jack swing began to voice a sense of urgency and agency. The nineties then built upon that and culminated with loud, lurid resistance bespoken in the rage of rap and grunge; while carnalities and consorts were serenaded in smoother evolutions of new jack swing, R&B, and soul. Symphonic pop briefly endeared and empowered throngs, until existentialism emerged as audible apathy in later anthems of the decade while techno and house hailed the millennium with acclaimed avarice and excess.

But, disco was there through it all. You could hear it in the sequencers and synthesizers. You could hear it in the pensive lyrics that pined after paradise despite the droll of the daily grind and colourless corporates amidst the concrete jungle. You could hear it in the ironic inflections of craven, crestfallen hopefuls whom dared to dream despite their trials and tribulations. You could hear it, because you could know it; knowing that wanderlust led to wonderland. And, you could hear it in a like heartbeat that throbbed against yours.

Now, you can hear it in nu-disco: a generic derivative from the classic.

 

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Which is how I came to hear Virginia, a songstress from Europe whose latest album, Fierce for the Night, is currently the only reason I visit SoundCloud. Fierce for the Night is a comprehensive contemporary coveted by and within the classics. Virginia gives voice to an objective, optimistic confidante whose acumen comes not from academia or accomplishments, but from adversities.

The eponymous track, “Fierce for the Night,” is a blithe beaten track whose refrain—fierce for the night, fierce for your love—accentuates its powerful pulse. “Bally Linny” is a brooding, barred arrangement grounded by its gradual progression; “Funkert” is a raw, regretful rhythm reflective of the reality that love is not a game, but a powerful emotion whose trivialization yields intense consequences; “Follow Me” evokes the esteem of early electronica underlain with rave and breakbeat; and “Han” balances plausive percussion and a light, layered hymn to dreams.

“Believe in Time” is a tempered, trancelike tune musing into the mediocrity, monotony, and malignancy of the moment that transcends temporal space. Its verses are ventures that discern the ‘nu’ of ‘nu-disco.’ Because, unlike the classic’s confidence and camaraderie, the contemporary is rather disillusioned and dispirited, but not disconsolate.

“Subdued Colors” also enunciates a dearth of deliverance that afflicts hopefuls, the classic believers, who fare against a fiscal future. “Lies” uncovers the umbrage faced when one abides the ascriptions of artifice through a conventionality and gentility that are as functional as disingenuous; and “Raverd” declares a genuine connection that couples buoyant beats with echoed avowal, while “Obstacle” parries the principle and proficiency of perseverance against unlikely odds.

Fierce for the Night nods to the ascendant cadence of disco, yet parlays the pessimistic parameters of the present. It doesn’t discourage tact or tenacity, but it recognizes the reality and triviality of tropes and trends that are paced as well as practiced to procure capital. Virginia cautions us against living on the increasingly strained hope that we will someday be good enough instead of treasuring today, because poised pretension and performativity assures dark days ahead. She compels us to take a hard look at ourselves and the world around us; and to take an even harder look upon whom, what, and where we draw happiness.

And, she sounds funky doing it.

Of Chants and Chasms

Chained to the Rhythm

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Earlier this year, Katy Perry released new a single—“Chained to the Rhythm”—true to her signature sound of upbeat, nascent beats coupled with blithe lyrics reminiscent of the 80s. However, the single is surprisingly existential as it raises a handful of questions about not only the quality of life, but the meaning of it. Perry marries a buoyant beat to a myriad of uncomfortable universal truths reflective of how humanity is less subverted than supplanted by its increased reliance upon advanced technologies. Rather than abject anthem or content chorale, it rings like a Black Mirror episode. It dramatizes a dystopian narrative wherein rhythm allegorizes routines and repressors in respect to social norms that stilt imagination and alienate alternatives.

The song opens to invite us to critically consider our positionality in a spiritual scheme. The beat itself foregrounds any accusatory undertones, sparing listeners any guilt or conceptions of complacency, which makes for an interesting ideation. Perry isn’t the first (and won’t be the last) to liken the coveted picket fence as a prison, but her conveyance of interpersonality being transmuted by insatiability tickles my sociological prowess. This is a concept that occupies many character dialogues in my novels.

Perry’s perspective elicits a subtler, sinister sense however; which again, thanks to the beat, is moderated. The prospect of being depersonalized from your own identity due to its imperfections in order to ornament your dream life is unnerving, and something I admittedly find myself thinking about. The older I grow, the more established I stand to become, the more I realize that I condemn and censure certain pieces of myself; inconvenient pieces that don’t fit into the puzzle I can assemble.

Moreover, this compulsion to conceal the inopportune aspects of one’s identity is exactly what prevents honesty. The pretense outdoes the purpose, because relationships founded upon fictions ultimately prevent and dissuade genuine connections. It’s why the elites can have the world at their feet, in their pockets, and abide (and define) aesthetic hegemonies, yet maintain miserable lives. It’s why social media celebrities and platformers can have huge followings, but feel utterly disconnected. It’s why those whom we live vicariously through—whom appear to be living out our wildest dreams of fashion, fame, and fortune—are themselves disenchanted from the very thrall in which onlookers are spellbound. The pre-chorus quip that references rose-coloured glasses describes this vacuous visuality, wherein centerpieces and audiences alike are misled to idolize insincere tropes of beauty and happiness. It’s clear that parties are likewise accountable, as consumers and creators make a conscious choice to be ignorant through indulgent idealism.

This articulates the advent of modernism and capitalism being escapism driven by an illusion of individualism. Rather than connect through social media and technological advances, people are inclined to overstate their own personalities—which cease to be unique because collective representations and viral trends define the ways in which they exemplify their esteems. The populace is neither inimitable or happenstance, because it is operant upon uniform constants of memes, avatars, and other cultural staples.

The indulgence of the imagined individual scorns goodwill and prompts people to think wholly in transactional terms where the value of someone is determinant on their followers, likes, shares, or finances; and where ‘friendships’ are founded not upon understandings of reciprocity and affection, but upon tangible assets and abjection. This is why utopia is lonely: because it is ingenuine and impersonal, not sincere or sentimental. The perfect body, the perfect family, the perfection peeking through the picket fence: none of it is inhabited or indisposed, because it must be immaculate. Think of that display case in the museum full of costly collectibles that are pretty, priceless—perfect—also untouchable and unable to feel.

In our case, we are unable to show we feel. Perry peruses this in her second verse: “Are we tone deaf? Keep sweeping it under the mat. Thought we could do better than that. I hope we can.” To pine for perfection, to preserve pretenses, to fight against reality for the fantasy is to abdicate authenticity. Skip Marley’s verse explicates this quite plainly in the context of crafty corporates and Machiavellian elites, “the empire,” albeit closes on a somewhat optimistic note on the assertion of an inevitable uprising—which I think affords the masses too much credit. My own misadventures in grassroots activism and contending policymakers—in addition to, again, sociology—inclines me to be more pessimistic. There have been countless provocative speeches, essays that particularize pain, amidst many other incentives that illustrate inequality and abysmal artifice. Yet, here we are: still fattening the wallets of the rich, still forsaking our humanity in favour of painstaking performativity, and still priding profit over principle or people.

Although the song ends as it began, on a bouncy beat, the music video zooms in on Perry’s face. The character she plays is one who is exceptional to the rigid, repressive rhythm she describes and consequently concludes with an expression of agonizing realization. I’m not sure if this marks the beginning of a thematic arc where this character either overcomes or buckles beneath the luminous dystopia, but the sight alone conveys the crisis of one who is repulsed yet dependent upon their world.

Erotic Esteems

How Emancipation Became Exclusion

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The first thing that struck me about erotica was its narrative. Not first person perspectives—although, I do love those—but its overall outlook. It’s vivid. It’s vibrant. Intimate as well as invocative. Sex simultaneously subdues and liberation. It supplants or staves off reality.

Unlike in romance, sex doesn’t abide affection as affirmation. I remember what a revelation that was, that pleasure didn’t need to “make sense”; that the endgame of an encounter didn’t have to be engagement; that lust didn’t lead to love or lifetime partners. In a world where woman’s worth is likened to her productivity being akin to passivity and Prince Charming: the reality of [her] pleasure being valid in itself, by itself, is novel; and knowing that eroticism could be emancipatory.

After reading Anaïs Nin and the abundant, anonymous authors of the Victorian era, I spent most of my time enveloped in a library of erotic epics. I was alone in that reading considering I came from a pretty conservative upbringing; and the adults in my life were largely unable (or just unwilling) to acknowledge the spectrum of sexualities and gender roles, which included inhibitions that were institutionalized and state sanctioned. Erotica was a wondrous reprieve whose prose and art not only uplifted me, but vindicated my voice. At least, my inner voice. There were many things I couldn’t say out loud. There still are. But, erotica gave me some validation. I found closure in its carnalities.

Which is ironic, because I have an aversion to physicality. Most people would pen me as ace, but I’m actually demi—which essentially eliminates any prospects that should arise in our current climate of hookup culture or noncommittal nonchalance. Many swear intimacy is about initiative more than consideration, but I suspect there’s some narcissism involved. The Self is our primary point of reference and likeness so, why wouldn’t your attraction be some reflection?

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But, it’s hard to piece things together if you peer beyond the looking glass. I think a part of why I wanted to look beyond was because I’d internalized some insecurities and wasn’t inclined to really look at myself. I was isolated and inadequate who saw myself as exemplar of everything beauty wasn’t; and I wasn’t the only one who saw myself that way.

When your every experience revolves around rejection, you don’t know how to put yourself out there. You find that the people who push you to drive past your doubts don’t know how that feels; how you feel. They don’t (maybe can’t) know what being undesirable is like; that just like all politics, even the politics of desirability are rigged out of your favour—and those politics can pervade even pleasure or prerogative.

If you’re like me, people don’t expect you to be happy; they expect you to be grateful. Not “Count your blessings” grateful, but “You should be thankful someone would ever tolerate the likes of you” grateful. And, that has never sat right with me. I have never been one to settle for scraps whilst others feast. Somehow, being inadequate and insecure (and isolated) didn’t equate to being undeserving. I still had dreams and desires that I wanted to dignify, even if I couldn’t; and I refused to compromise.

Erotica enforced that conviction. The pulsing, prominent pleasures throbbed much like my heart. The characters weren’t just uninhibited, but unvarnished. They compelled me to widen my worldview. From carnal kitsche to sublime sensuality, to excruciating and exhaustive excerpts, I could see how identity and indulgence were fluid. The emotion was within sheer sensation, not convention. It didn’t change me either. It just showed me. I could finally come to terms with who I was, what I was, and what I wanted. The body positivity and sex positivity contained in each volume has a place within many positionalities, including my own.

That’s why the quality of the writing is so important. To me, it was never a gimmick. Writers looked beyond the looking glass to indulge their idylls. They got to an itch we couldn’t scratch and tore into us well past satisfaction. They shovelled into our sex; knowing that if they dug deep enough, they could unearth our most delicious desires and carve out a piece of us to call their own. They asserted sex was a weapon of choice or last resort, not a sport where players always lose by virtue of fouls or kyriarchal cues. There was tact, tantalization, and tenderness.

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There was meaning.

The advent of social media and platformed publishing marks our time as one of serious supply and demand, where success is symbolized by likes and shares. We’ve been given the tools to socialize and monetize, but we have yet to harmonize or critically consider the selective spotlight. These days, “erotica” has become a pastiche of poignant pandering and profit margins, not so much illicit as immeasurably incessant. It appears to be a risqué rite of passage amongst hobbyists erring to be edgy and thus writing to rouse away from the romance domain; and it’s recognized as a (re)definitive standard given its uncritical reverence. This new age [social] media works as a double-edged sword: giving people opportunities and tools to build their brands, but also imparting and implementing the ideology that actual value is a matter of branding. Because, free access isn’t the same as free reign.

Privileges still serve as selective determinants of just whom and what flourishes as an enterprise. Diversity is dispossessed or disdained. There is little freedom involved in the ‘free market’ since its profiteering principles are founded upon the rejection of a reflective welfare state. Intimacy isn’t intensified when it comes to oversharing; inequality is. Occupational and sectoral segregation are more pronounced through tenuous tropes and trends. I can speak to this a lucrative ghostwriter whose life gets harder, whose quality of life ties me to ghostwriting because it serves as my only viable source of income as a writer. People want me as a labourer or sharer, not an equal. The very existence of ghostwriters as an open secret sourced by many bestsellers in comparison to the condemnation of plagiarism is a testament to how traditional publishers as well as contracts provide service and security to demographics and distributors, not individual authors.

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The erotica I knew (and still struggle to find in this time) alchemized certainty and sensation. It assured readers and writers alike that flesh was life’s only guarantee: that you could only feel, even if you were not felt by another; and that your skin may not perfect, but it was yours to live in. Erotica enthralled through the power of pleasure. It stirred for its own sake, knowing anything less would disservice the desire it deifiers.

I’m sure many people still like this, but it has a special place in the hearts of those like me: those displaced by their desires than driven by them.

Art by Tadija Savic (Tadija)

Off With Her Head!

The Reviled Royals of Versailles

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Life is a curious construct. Regardless of the colorblind Pollyanna people like to preach, we are discerned by positionality and praxis. Nothing conveys that better than media. Social media compounds this curiosity as it inclines individualism in its technologies. People pander through performative portals with not a sense of purpose, but profit as they negotiate using consumptive and innately corrupt currencies. The user objective is to platform more than resonate, and one’s capacity to succeed is determinant on their power.

Success isn’t about passion, pride, or principle. It’s about privilege. You create [sometimes, coercive] connections and exploit their esteems, even if it’s disingenuous. This is definitive of celebrities, elites, as well as the one percent. They attain acclaim through a friend of a friend. Their lives change thanks to a key contact. They’re plucked out of poverty and obscurity by idols or execs. The rest is history.

 

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Of course, the reality of superficial stardom makes for a stale narrative. Tales of luck or hard work downplay privilege in favour of selling passion and perseverance. The rhetoric is not simply remarkably romanticized, but also earnestly accepted because people strive to sympathize. Rather than argue against adversities and fight for a feast of fortune, people instead settle for scraps and uncritically revere hyper visible personalities. The knowledge that all the world’s a stage means that personage is a matter of patronage. Surveillance and surveying our social capital creates a compulsion for complacency. It becomes easier to idle insights, trivialize time, and force laughter as we fare against humorless hubris. Learning to lie is simpler than dignifying or tempering our truths.

After I did my first thesis, I started to see how conformity was connected to comfort. I read into Max Weber’s theories of rationality and authority, and hadn’t understood his focus on religion until then. Because, he wasn’t exactly interested in religion per se as he was religiosity. Most of his famous contributions revolve around the rationales and ways in which people worship. What struck me about Weber was that he noted that nothing was above conformity or more specifically, social engineering—which is why religions, theologies, and divinities can be sold to further man-made values. Anything can be sold. Nothing is sacred.

But, people like the think they’re special. Few can admit, let alone face their flaws. Everything has to be extraordinary or outstanding otherwise, hardly anyone avails the average. People are eager to glamorize excess and the salaried sloths whom lead lives of leisure, more than they are to thank everyday heroes. This is why people happily conform to a hive mind: because, obliging orthodoxy makes easier to reconcile the reality of life as an insect.

This was all I could think of as I watched The Queen of Versailles, a documentary chronicling the dissolution of a corporate empire and its blissfully ignorant home. The film follows the Siegels, the family whom own Westgate Resorts, a once booming business that the economic decline now renders a not so lucrative conglomerate of timeshares. I found the family like a caricature and the more I watched, the more I wondered if I was watching a documentary or a classist comedy sketch. Between David Siegel fulfilling the typecast elder patriarch with a penchant for cleavage and profit; and his wife, Jackie, whose divorce from reality overshadows their marriage; along with their bratty camp of kids: we’re afforded glimpses into the poignant perspectives of their hired help whom are simply resigned to the reality of the Siegel’s overindulgence.

The documentary was originally intended to cover the construction of Versailles, a palace property the Siegels were in the process of building and planned to move into, but the film ended up covering the family’s—and their business’—debility as the economic decline plummets their profits. David copes by closing himself off in his study, rummaging through stacks of papers, perhaps hoping to find something salvageable in the figure’s margins. The decline doesn’t deter Jackie although her smile cracks in accordance to the fissures in her family, notably when their shrinking budget forces them to halve their housekeeping staff. The younger children prance about as usual with the odd tantrum for toys, while the two oldest appear acutely albeit apathetically aware of the altered dynamic.

The documentary was originally intended to cover the construction of Versailles, a palace property the Siegels were in the process of building and planned to move into, but the film ended up covering the family’s—and their business’—debility as the economic decline plummets their profits. David copes by closing himself off in his study, rummaging through stacks of papers, perhaps hoping to find something salvageable in the figure’s margins. The decline doesn’t deter Jackie although her smile cracks in accordance to the fissures in her family, notably when their shrinking budget forces them to halve their housekeeping staff. The younger children prance about as usual with the odd tantrum for toys, while the two oldest appear acutely albeit apathetically aware of the altered dynamic.

Despite the avaricious abstracts, the characters in The Queen of Versailles have no catharsis. Jackie merely pines to perfect her plastered smile as faraway friends, acquaintances, and associates seldom call; while the more David’s tasked, the testier he grows. The children don’t make do, but continue to gorge themselves with gourmandise. And, most of the staff has either left to pursue their own professional ventures or manage their already modest livings in resignation to the Siegels’ surfeit. The dismal economy only prompts them to anchor themselves downward amidst an opulent ocean rather than rafting together, counting their blessings, or pragmatizing what’s left of their assets. Financial strains not only afflict, but define them.

Stripped of their security and surplus, they continue to treasure tenets instead of one another. All the more reliant upon the illusion of inimitability, Jackie remains airy and artless as her kids float around. She refuses to be grounded, localized or normalized. She lives to peddle and pacify her pedestal, musing on how seemingly callous her ‘friends’ are whom remain distanced or otherwise disengaged as her castle crumbles. Meanwhile, David begrudges his family as their overindulgence translates into overdependence; as they heedlessly spend instead of save. He stews in isolation to the chagrin of his wife and curious cohorts, and chastises his children for prodding into his private time. The only company he can tolerate is that of Jackie’s small show dogs, whose feces litters and moulds into miscellaneous points of the mansion since the lessened housekeepers cannot tidy up after them and the Siegels are apparently unable to clean for themselves.

However vacuous the Siegels seem, their umbrage and updates prevent viewers from gleaning any sincere satisfaction. They manage to retain and revalue their riches instead of dwelling on their depletionand the suicide (?) of their eldest daughter casts them in a sympathetic light as adrift advocates against bullying and for suicide prevention. The Siegel empire is salvageable enough to afford each child a sizeable inheritance and indefinite income, while the help still scurry behind the scenes, unappreciated as usual. Their immoderation remains idolized instead of critically considered. The Siegels’ story makes us coldly cognizant of just the inequalities in the capital world, where a sustainable and fair redistribution of wealth remains to be seen because we are blinded by the decadent bourgeoisie. One can’t help pondering the poverties of our world as the camera pans over the ruins of their still, far from unfinished Versailles palace.

The Queen of Versailles illustrates how waning wealth enrages the elites whom are already entitled, but parses how they are nonetheless upheld by meandering masses and paying personnel. The stuffiness is cyclical as craven consumers vie to live vicariously through fettering figures like Jackie or David, or even one of their bored and bratty children whom need only ask to receive. People figuratively and literally buy into the furnished façades of those like the Siegels despite the hollow, haughty and hawkish, personalities that lurk behind the mask.

Narratives like this are why I feel ambivalent about viral callouts, drags, etc. They’re often resultant of people getting fired and otherwise forced into being accountable, but they’re also relatively one dimensional. People guilted don’t become enlightened, just embarrassed and further vindicated in their hate as the wrath it yields from the masses or bandwagons that dug them down. Odds are their employers and the like will drop them to disassociate, but they’ll get a good reference nonetheless—and on to the next one.

Given the religiosity with which we hail personalities, I don’t think people really get how easy it is to recover from a social media demise; how not seriously these things are taken in the long run as nothing seldom changes. It’s never truly “one less racist,” “one less classist,” or “one less sexist,” etc. because these people lead lucrative lives beyond their profiles, and are upheld by a wide selection of peers (who likely share their views) as well general institutions.

This is why that biracial Black woman can go viral after taping, then sharing her ex’s rant full of n-bombs; and nonetheless, engage in antiblackness herself as she reaps social capitalThis is why tons of Black men espousing violent misogynoir can maintain a platform of followers and bounce back after deactivation. And, this is why businesses/corporations/companies manage to thrive and retain idealistic clientele despite low ratings. Because, it’s one thing to cancel someone or something, but it’s another to make sure they stay canceled.

Moreover, I always find myself wondering just whom and what gets to go viral. There are countless instances of discrimination that are shared online each day, countless trash cans, but only a select few are widely shared or acknowledged. I wonder what it takes to get that visibility or community wherein I can actually count on people to either share or shut down in solidarity, instead of just my being a nobody whose qualms or ventures go unnoticed.

Y’all are out here trending celebs and quirky catchphrases, and making it rain for hucksters or suits, while your disinterest or distraction is figuratively and literally starving those about that life; albeit you don’t think twice to reference or reap the benefits of their sacrifice.

While leadership matters, it ultimately doesn’t take a mayorIt takes a village. And, all these mansions and bridges being built for “the cool kids” and Spiegels of the world while those of us live in shanties makes for a crap village.

Which is why nothing can or will ever come of this “community.”

The Onus of Original

Pride & Plagiarists

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When plagiarists are exposed, I always pay attention to their readers. Besides the pursuant anger and disbelief, they are utterly bewildered. Contrary to popular belief, most of my money in writing doesn’t come from my published work. The good chunk of my paycheck comes from ghostwriting various oDesk assignments and defecting any rights to those. That was actually how I got into writing. Amidst looking for literary agents and traditional publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts, these ghostwriting jobs were the only ones payable. Everything else was a matter of marketing and investing a pretty piece of change.

So, when I see cases like Laura Harner, it strikes me as both bold and ironic—because it’s no secret that a number of bestsellers employ ghostwriters. The only difference is that whoever’s written it has sold them the rights to their composition. Which is why it sounds stupendously sanctimonious when plagiarism incites an outcry of what counts as ‘original’ content. The thing about Harner (and recently, Lynn Hagen) is that they ripped off published authors who held their rights. That’s what it makes it so deplorable. By no means is it original. In fact, it’s literally copied, pasted, and adjusted with a few name or setting replacements. But against the grain of ghostwriting, you could draw some obvious parallels.

And nobody seems to have drawn them—like, at all. This is one of those “You reap what you sow” moments where readers have to wonder just how much they’ve been swindled. Harner herself is a bestselling author (or was? Not sure if that badge gets revoked; I doubt it because its broken the bank as it stands). Anyone who knows what terms like ‘bestselling author’ or ‘bestseller’ mean knows that those distinctions don’t easy. Think of how many readers paid into that prestige—and payment isn’t just out of pocket. Payment is also paid in lip service, time, fangirl flights of fancy… You get the idea.

Kinda makes you think, doesn’t it? Not just for this question of authenticity, but for the little guys—or gals. Namely, gals like me who ghostwrite so we can buy bread to break; and just how much of our work is reworked by other, typically wider known authors who can afford to hire us. It also makes you think of just how and where you play into this.

As a writer, I respect my readers and am grateful for every purchase. I always say I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it weren’t for them, and that’s true. Which is why I find what these current authors did to be that much more deplorable. Nothing is ever really ‘original’ in the sense that everything’s been done (seriously, there’s no new ground to break; find another tagline!) but to deliberately deceive and rip off someone else’s hard work so you can put a pin in your own…? I see red from both sides: as a reader and a writer.

Nobody likes to be duped. Nobody likes to see their work copied and peddled for someone else’s profit either.