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Erika Anderson on Cheryl Strayed



The first time I read Cheryl Strayed I was sitting at a plastic table for four in a studio in Geneva. It was August. I had left my husband in July. Living alone for the first time in my life, I found a lot of time on my hands. I would spend mornings before work reading the Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction, a thick book I kept on the plastic table, which stood before a sliding door, which stood before a balcony wide enough for one small, dead potted plant.

I found Strayed on page 500. She begins, “The Love of My Life” by describing the intensity of her attraction to a dangerous man in a coffee shop. She could tell that he would destroy her the way she wanted to be destroyed, the way the intensity of her grief over her mother’s death was destroying her. I recognized this desire. Not because my mother had died, but because she was barely there. She’d divorced my dad when I was ten; she had been largely absent before, almost entirely absent after. I hated needing her. It made me feel powerless and small. So in my teens and early twenties I learned how to toy with people, or let them toy with me. I wanted to be a doll in their arms because it was safer to be a doll than a person. Sometimes I wanted to destroy them, sometimes I wanted them to destroy me, to break off my porcelain nose.  

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On the occasion of two our of three members of Pussy Riot being freed

There’s a drone in my thread I’m learning to ignore.

I thought about writing a poem and then I Tweeted this.

All the best lines have been written by Topless Jihadis.

Feminism can fit between any two syllables.

Everyone thinks the Hudson Bay is cold but it’s not it’s la Baie Hudson and it’s freezing.

Anyhow, it’s still December and I have some socks to warm.

I lost two pounds thinking of that Tweet.

Shit. There they are again.

Don’t make it new make it lighter.

Jake Kennedy: Notes to Myself


“You’re an asshole” —Henry James

You talk on the phone while driving. I think you are just a fucking asshole.

So you two are finding it hard to balance full-time jobs with the demands of raising two kids? You guys are fucking assholes. You are both just fucking assholes.

I heard that you are feeling significant social pressure to create a Facebook account. I want to tell you something. Holding out on registering for this decade’s most popular social utility network doesn’t make you a hero. What would make you a hero is if you stabbed yourself in the fucking neck, fucking asshole.

Because everything has already been done you think it’s okay to retreat into a life of shameless consumerism. This may be true, I don’t know. What hasn’t been done, though, is someone wrapping your house in canvas that says: a real fucking asshole lives here. I’d like to do this to your house.

Your letter says that you have a broken heart. I don’t think you have a broken heart. When a person really has a broken heart she actually just lays on the street and people walk around her, you fucking asshole.

You ask me for a definition of right livelihood. I’ve got one right here: someone who isn’t a fucking asshole.

I’m not sure, to use your phrase, if “in the cosmic sense education is worth it.” What I am sure of is that when you talk to people they are always thinking “this fucking asshole should get a fucking education.”

You want to lose a few pounds and get ripped for summer, fucking asshole.

I shouldn’t even do you this favour but please stop the Walken, the Nicholson, and the Slater bits. You evidently do not know this but every one of your impersonations only sounds like one character: the real fucking asshole.

When you phone for pizza and pretend to be Irish or Scottish (or whatever that accent is supposed to resemble) you don’t sound Irish or Scottish—and you don’t even sound like a fucking asshole—you just sound like a fucking fuckface.

You self-identify as “over-socialized” and purport to understand (with some acuity) everyone’s feelings. Yet everyone’s feelings are simply “let’s beat the shit out of this fucking asshole.”

You’re quite wrong: I have no ill-will towards you. That is, I think I understand and even respect your plight. Indeed, my feelings are identical to your mother’s: “some people are just born fucking assholes.”

You say “I am the John Lennon of real estate” or “the Emma Goldman of online shopping.” You are a fucking asshole.

You have written several film scripts. You have an impressive West German techno record collection. Of course you have! You are a total fucking asshole.

Only a fucking asshole says “when I created the internet…” Stop.

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