Commentary — October 5, 2011, 10:46 am

October Issue Web Roundup

Dear Readers,

The October issue is upon us: subscribers should have their copies, and newsstands should be displaying the white, black, and blue (the last courtesy of a particularly fetching newsstand wrap backdrop). The issue is well worth the cover price, of course, but we encourage you to subscribe, which is much the better deal.

For those who have the issue or want a preview, we’ve assembled some links to web material related to this month’s pieces:

Amid Jonathan Lethem’s rundown of ’90s tech culture in “Radisson Confidential” (p. 17) lies a reference to Donna “Cyborg Manifesto” Haraway. If you haven’t read said manifesto, prepare to have your inadequate organic brain blown:

Of course, you may not have time to decode passages like “Cyborg ‘sex’ restores some of the lovely replicative baroque of ferns and invertebrates (such nice organic prophylactics against heterosexism),” so here are a few sentences to give you a better idea of where Haraway is coming from: “From one perspective, a cyborg world is about the final imposition of a grid of control on the planet, about the final abstraction embodied in a Star Wars apocalypse waged in the name of defence, about the final appropriation of women’s bodies in a masculinist orgy of war. . . . From another perspective, a cyborg world might be about lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines, not afraid of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints.”

If that last sentence sounds appealing, consider picking up a few tips from University of Toronto engineering professor/human cyborg Steve Mann on your journey toward hot, non-heterosexist, human-machine kinship:

Also worth checking out from Readings: this Al Arabiya news report on Al-Sayed al-Essawy, the Egyptian lion-fighter whose interview was excerpted in “Cat Match Fever” (p. 21), and this trailer for the Afghan TV show The Ministry, whose characters were described in “Family Ties.”

The Quotable Justin Torres

From the short story “Starve A Rat” (p. 69):

  • “I could have punched his face with kisses.”

  • “We had to say what we had to say, stories about how lost and hopeless and mean we felt, and you could trace every story back to our families, and if you poked around a little in those families you’d find our fathers, men gone half crazy with the spirit, or the spirits, or made mean from shit work and a broken body, and sex.”

  • “As far as I could make out there was one way to get a person to fall in love with you — thrashing. In and out of bed, all the time, thrashing.”

In “Among the Banana Eaters” (p. 43), Patrick Graham writes about his accidental translator, Abdullah al-Fasi, who aspired to join the Libyan rebel forces fighting to remove Muammar Qaddafi from power. At press time, al-Fasi had yet to leave his home city of Benghazi, but he later hopped aboard a boat bound for Tripoli. Graham composed a yarn for harpers.org about al-Fasi’s experience.

Harper’s associate editor Christopher R. Beha wrote about Phoenix University in “Leveling the Field” (p. 51). He has since penned for harpers.org a critique of the notion that university education will improve America’s economic lot.

Richard Ross’s photo essay “Juvenile Injustice” (p. 59) features images from youth prisons around the country. For harpers.org, we asked Ross to reveal more about one of his subjects. He sent us an image of Ronald Franklin, who was thirteen at the time of his incarceration in 2008, as well as an edited transcript from two interviews he conducted with the young man.

When Tom Engelhardt isn’t writing memoirs like “Movies Saved My Life” (p. 64), he’s maintaining the website TomDispatch, a project of the Nation Institute.

??In Zadie Smith’s final New Books column (p. 75)—at least for a while, she hastened to specify—she refers to Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Staying Awake While We Read,” which was published in Harper’s as “Staying Awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading” in February 2008. The original essay is available for free here.

And fear not, readers; the also-brilliant Larry McMurtry will be taking over the column.

Last, you can find the October Findings section here.

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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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