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When police become an ‘occupuying force’ A new book examines the effects of overpolicing on one Philadelphia neighborhood. Review by Kara Bledsoe.

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CONTRIBUTORS Nyantee Asherman ‘15 is a studio art and sociology major who is unfortunately from New Jersey. Kara Bledsoe is a junior special major in Black studies with a prospective minor in chemistry. She enjoys playing Ultimate frisbee, reading books and magazines, and spending much too much time in Sharples. Jesse Bossingham is a junior studying political science, economics, and pre-medicine. He spends his spare time questioning his choices. Kimaya Diggs ’15 lives in Massachusetts, where she loves the sun and tolerates the snow. Amanda Epstein is a senior who lives in but is not from Miami. She likes cats, Crocs and social justice, preferably all at once. Liliana Frankel is a sophomore from Yardley, Pennsylvania whose work has sometimes garnered her comparisons to Jennifer Weiner. Sophia Frantz is a junior. Colette Gerstmann is a freshman from New York City who likes art and artichokes. Jena Gilbert-Merrill is a junior from New York City who is akin to a small woodland creature. Anna Gonzales is a junior from Denver, Colorado, majoring in English literature and gender and sexuality studies, who watches too much TV.

Letter policy Letters are welcome from all readers. We will not ever publish letters anonymously and we reserve the right to edit all letters for length and clarity without contacting the letter writer. Letters generally should run no longer than 1,000 words. They should be sent to ikornbl1 or agonzal4 or pqueen1, all @swarthmore.edu.

How to contribute We solicit pieces from writers, though we will also accept submissions of long-form reporting, personal, argumentative and photo essays, book and movie reviews, short stories, poems, and anything else that seems suitable. Submissions will be considered from Swarthmore students, alumni, faculty, and staff, and will be considered anonymously, though we will not, except in rare cases, publish anonymously. Submissions should generally not go longer than 10,000 words. Contact: ikornbl1 or agonzal4 or pqueen1, all @swarthmore. edu.

Ian Hoffman is a senior from Berkeley, California, studying English literature. He thinks cats are OK.

EDITORS IN CHIEF ANNA GONZALES IZZY KORNBLATT PHILIP QUEEN

Sarah Kaeppel ‘15 is a Spanish major and theater minor from Cleveland, Ohio. She is a Hufflepuff stage manager and can be found brushing her teeth in LPAC basement. Aaron Kroeber is a junior studying classics and linguistics whose love for hexameter knows no bounds. Mike Lumetta ‘15 is a computer science major from St. Louis, MO. He is also a lifelong Cardinals fan. Josh McLucas ’15 is an honors theater major from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and co-artistic director of [redacted] Theater Company in Philadelphia. Chris Moyer is a senior from Princeton, NJ studying art history and Asian studies. He is often likened to a wild squirrel. Ben Wolcott ‘14 studied economics and sociology at Swarthmore and worked as an intern at the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research before traveling to Xela, Guatemala. Zhengyang Wang ‘14, also known as Yang, is a 2014-2015 Watson fellow. He double-majored in philosophy and biology at Swarthmore. Joyce Wu is an unsettled senior who’s studying too much and creating too little.

PHOTOGRAPHY NOAH MORRISON BOOKS PHILIP HARRIS

ART NYANTEE ASHERMAN YENNY CHEUNG STEVE SEKULA

MOVIES & TV RACHEL YANG

FICTION PATRICK ROSS

POETRY MIKE LUMETTA VICTORIA STITT Z.L. ZHOU

PERSONAL ESSAYS LILIANA FRANKEL

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Founded 2012 | Vol. 3, No. 2

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Design © 2014 the Swarthmore Phoenix. All content © 2014 by its listed author unless otherwise noted. The “R” logo is based on the font Layer Cake by Luzia Prado. The “Review” logo is based on the font Soraya by Pactrice Scott. Printed at Bartash Printing, Philadelphia, PA. Please recycle this magazine.


“What sort of philosophers are we, who know absolutely nothing of the origin and destiny of cats?” Henry David Thoreau

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The Official Campus Newspaper of Swarthmore College Since 1881 VOL. 137, ISSUE 12

TODAY: Cloudy. Chance of rain: 20%. High 67, Low 60. TOMORROW: Cloudy with high winds. Chance of rain: 20%. High 74, Low 50.

THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2013

SWARTHMOREPHOENIX.COM

Burn This Preview

Chopp Meeting Draws hunDreDs as aDMinistration FaCes stuDent ire

December 2014

Arts THEATER & ART

ESSAYS

On stage violence 24

Travel notes from Guatemala and Indonesia

A unified exhibit? 27

Essays from recent alums Zhengyang Wang and Ben Wolcott

Why our imaginations are worse than anything the theater can show us by Josh McLucas David Lynch’s artwork, at PAFA, doesn’t measure up to his films by Jena Gilbert-Merrill

BOOKS

Overpoliced 29

By AXEL KODAT Living & Arts Writer

What really happened at Swarthmore in the spring of 2013?

NITHYA SWAMINATHAN / THE PHOENIX

President Chopp addressed students in the Eldridge Commons last night. Topics of conversation ranged from sexual assault to the climate of campus debate.

By AMANDA EPSTEIN News Editor Following weeks of heated debate, chalked messages, and controversial posters, President Rebecca Chopp sent out an e-mail last Thursday in an effort to remind the community “What Swarthmore Stands For.” In the “spring of our discontent,” as she termed it, administrators and students alike have been participants and spectators to polarizing confrontation over issues like Greek life, administrative handling of sexual assault policies and commencement speakers, leading many community members to question what it really is that Swarthmore stands for and how the college can move forward amidst differences so important and divisive. Last night, Chopp and Dean of Students Liz Braun held a meeting in Eldridge Commons to continue this “important conversation” about community, giving students an opportunity to voice their concerns about the various debates and the administration’s responses. The commons was filled to the brim — approximately 200 students, faculty and staff were in attendance. Chopp started with a minute of silence, in line with Quaker collection traditions. She then said that this meeting was more about listening, rather than speaking for the administration. The floor was opened to students. Joyce Tompkins, Interfaith Adviser, acted as moderator. Sexual assault and the college’s response to

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such incidents were at the forefront of issues raised. Survivors of assault on and off campus shared their experiences with those in attendance, presenting concerns over the culture Swarthmore is building and perpetuating. Camille Robertson ’13, in light of a conversation with a friend, expressed the need for the college community to first and foremost create a culture that teaches and demands people “not to rape, rather than to not get raped” on this campus. Mike Hill, director of Public Safety, has indeed led “Rape Aggression Defense classes several times during the year,” according to the college’s website, in order to help students defend themselves in dangerous situations. The Acquaintance Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) workshops, which freshmen are required to take part in during orientation, also focus “on issues concerning the nature of sexual assault, prevention of and safety from sexual assault, and related on-campus resources,” according to the college’s website. And while consent workshops, a series of which took place this past week, do address sexual assault and rape preven-

tion, students, StuCo co-President Gabby Cappone ’14 among them, agreed that there needs to be “increasing education” and that a one hour workshop once a year “won’t get the job done.” Concerns weren’t only raised about rape culture on campus, but also about the way in which administrators have dealt with sexual assault and the campus’s victims. One student, in fact, said that with the exception of Beth Kotarski, director of Worth Health Center and SMART Team advisor, she had heard horrifying stories about every single administrator in the room that had in some capacity or another dealt with victims, and that if they continued to put blame on victims, if they continued to make Swarthmore a hostile environment for its survivor community, allies, and the school at large, any change in policy would be meaningless. This meeting, however, was not the first time students revealed perturbation over administrators’ inadequate responses to stories of assault and rape. One student insisted that she had yet to hear the administration respond to victims who said their experiences had been invalidated time and time again.

One student insisted that she had yet to hear the administration respond to victims who said their experiences had been invalidated.

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INSIDE THIS ISSUE

NEWS

Meal Plan More Costly Than Paying in Cash Students who paid for 21 individual meals a week in cash at Sharples would spend less than students on the 20 meal plan.

LIVING

Impermanent Beauty: An Art Thesis Alex Anderson discusses the importance of externality and the ephemeral nature of beauty ahead of his senior art show next week.

W I T H T O D A Y ’ S PA P E R

OPINIONS

Softball Strikes Out the Competition

Led by strong pitching and solid defense, the Garnet improved their record to 1814 with wins against Widener and Arcadia.

Nat considers the age-gap in party politics, arguing that conservatism and youth need not be opposed forever. PAGE 15

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C O M M E N TA R Y L O N G - F O R M J O U R N A L I S M E S S AY S FIC TION POE TRY PHOTO GRAPHY AND MORE

SPORTS

Republicans: The Youth Party

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A history of the ‘spring of our discontent’ by Swat Vote Yes founder Amanda Epstien

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This weekend, “Burn This,” a 1987 play by Pulitzer Prize winner Lanford Wilson, will run in LPAC’s Frear Ensemble Theater. The production is senior Jeanette Leopold’s Honors Directing thesis. For Leopold, the performance is the culmination of a year’s work, which began last semester when she began looking over plays and casting. Even before that, she came to Swarthmore focused on this ultimate goal, transferring from Haverford her junior year in order to participate in the theater department’s Honors Thesis Program. The play is set in a loft apartment in New York City, and the action centers on four characters — Anna (Anita CastilloHalvorssen ’15), Burton (Daniel Cho ’15), Larry (Patrick Ross ’15), and Pale (Sasha Rojavin ’15) — coping with the death of their friend, Robbie, in a boating accident. While the death looms large, the play is sometimes most striking for its insistent forward momentum. Despite the fact that Robbie dies 3 days before the play begins, there are moments of sudden levity. Humor emerges as a counteracting agent to the permeating gloom. Mocking the tackiness of a funeral becomes an avenue for moving beyond the events that led to it. “It’s a play about grief and love, but it’s not about wallowing in grief,” Leopold said. “They’re trying to push past their grief, by finding humor and love in each other.” The play also explores themes of identity and narrative. Returning to Robbie’s hometown for his funeral, Anna realizes that his family is unaware both of his dancing career and his homosexuality. She is forced to play the role of grieving widow, to construct stories of a false life. Pale enters the stage a drugged mess, seemingly drifting aimlessly through life; the next morning his life as a restaurant manager becomes apparent. What it means to know someone, honestly and fully, is an open, recurring question. The set, designed by Marta Roncada ’14, resembles a cage, with black rafters jutting out diagonally over the stage and ending abruptly, suspended in air. The apartment is an isolated space but not impermeable: Robbie’s brother Pale bursts in uninvited, drunk, coked-out, a lurching, inertial force. An open window allows distant, almost imperceptible sounds of traffic to float in. Fragments of the quotidian — the harsh gurgle of a coffee pot, snatches of corny movie dialogue — break into even the oppressive silence of grief. Performances will take place Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 PM in the Lang Performing Arts Center’s Frear Ensemble Theater.

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BOOK, MOVIE, MUSIC REVI EWS Chains and Whips Them Excite Sometimes

ales leton Gonz nna a Car by A s by Juli o phot

FICTION

Place and anonymity

Snowbirds

by Kimaya Diggs 19

How Phila. police hurt a neighborhood by Kara Bledsoe

Steve on the SEPTA subway by Sarah Kaeppel 23

by Chris Moyer

Strange spirituality 32 On Michael Robbins’s new poetry collection, “The Second Sex” by Ian Hoffman

ENDNOTES

A failure of heart 34

A NEW SPORTS FEATURE

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Ben Lerner’s “10:04” is elitist and exclusive by Lily Frankel

MUSIC

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A volatile dialogue 36

“The Poetry Project” pushes against genre to create something fresh by Colette Gerstman

MOVIES & TV

On October baseball

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by Mike Lumetta

Cooked-up characters 37 On “Gone Girl” and “Serial” by Sophia Frantz

ILLUSTRATIONS

Shondaland 38

Nyantee Asherman 5 Steve Sekula 43

Looking for Colbert 40

Cover illustration by Nyantee Asherman

When bad TV gets good by Anna Gonzales

Who will give us the satire we need? by Jesse Bossingham

POETRY To Dionysos 21 by Aaron Kroeber

volta 35

by Joyce Wu

SWARTHMORE REVIEW

Editors’ picks Brief recommendations of movies, books, music, and more from our editors

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PERSONAL ESSAY

Travel notes from Indonesia by Zhengyang Wang An introduction: Spring break 2014 was very cold—I remember learning to ski for the first time in my life at a resort a few hours drive from campus, and the snow was abundant. It was the last semester of my senior year, and at that time nothing seemed to be working out for the honors philosophy major: romance gone bad, rejections from grad schools, and being too intimidated to find a proper job in the euphemistically termed “real world.” I’d been browsing course syllabus of a culinary school in Sichuan, and it seemed that “knife skills” (aka potato chopping) would be what I’d end up doing on my 23rd birthday. I was blindly, self-conceitedly optimistic though, thinking that with an elitist liberal arts education and a humanistic understanding of the world, I’ll soon rise from all potato choppers and become a chef rich and famous, and continue to pursuing my dream of studying butterflies around the world. On my way back from skiing I was informed of being awarded a Watson Fellowship, which, according to the official description, provides graduating seniors a year of free travel “to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership, and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community.” Setting aside all these incomprehensible qualities that I’m supposed to gain along the way, simply put I’ve been granted, for a whole year, the opportunity of independently conducting my project, titled “Children of Butterflies: Ranching Beauty Around the World”—a journey to explore how human interact with butterflies, in whatever country I desire. In this piece of writing I take a “snap shot” of the first few months of my journey and reflect on the influence of Swarthmore on my personal formation.

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t is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.” I was lying on a Hindu bamboo bed contemplating on this piece of Hemingway just jotted down on my notebook. It is one of those damn good sentences that no one quite understands. (Another of these peculiarities comes from Kerouac:

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you boys going to get somewhere, or just going?) I had certain conjectures about how “it is another thing” at night: could we easily think about all things at night, or is it easier to just fall asleep at night? I knew I was pretty tired and had decent reasons: early in the morning I left Bali and caught a shaky flight to the nearby Lombok island; while a passenger’s secretively smoking in the toilet made everyone wonder whether our cabin was on fire, I took liberty to gaze out of the window to see volcanic Agung Mountain emerging out of a layer of thick clouds; while crossing the Wallace Line I observed either jellyfish or garbage drifting in the sea current, forming a swarm of pliable whites. After arriving at a grandiose “Bandar Udara International Airport” located in central Lombok, I took a sepedamotor to the western side of the island, a village called Gunong Sari, where I was supposed to meet up with a local butterfly poacher. The traffic was clogged by a marriage procession with people dancing in dandut music on the road, as well as by thousands attending Friday prayers and even more preparing for an upcoming local election. When arriving at a tranquil family courtyard three hours later with a temporarily paralyzed buttock, to be polite I accepted the invitation to take a cold water shower (and to go through the same bucket challenge three times a day for the next few days). Then I enjoyed a feast: nasi goreng, ayam goreng, sayur and of course, good local coffee with lots of sugar. When I expressed my desire for kopi tanpa gula (coffee without sugar), the family stared at me as if I was ordering plastic. After we were all well fed we stayed crouching on the wooden pavilion; I chatted with Bapak (the father) in my frustratingly scattered Indonesian, as Ibu (the mother) occupied a corner preparing canung sari (Balinese daily offering). It was good conversation, and in Indonesia I have learnt that you can have good conversation with a stranger without alcohol, philosophy, pop culture, mutual grudge against some kind of school work, or even much intelligibility. Bapak had been poaching butterflies for ten years now. To grossly simplify the business, as a poacher Bapak spent weeks in one of the seventeen thousand islands (yes, that’s how many islands

you find in ONE country) of Indonesia catching butterflies, then brought the specimens to a dealer to exchange for cash, then headed out to another island for another few weeks–catching, selling, catching, selling, year after year. The dealer, hiring ten to twenty local poachers like Bapak, could have a flourishing business simply waiting for his poachers to mail samples to him and then pay them a minimum wage. The dealer has no worries about conservation laws and forest police patrols, since theoretically, he is not poaching himself. Bapak is the exploited one, in danger of being thrown to jail when caught, but he’s still doing it. Bapak used to be a motorbike driver, but this all changed when one day he drove some foreign dealers to the mountains–he has been catching for them ever since. With all his hard work he raised two daughters and a son, but four years ago his son died in a motorcycle accident, aged 21. Well, I told Bapak my (not tragic at all) story: only child of the family, always wanted to be a diplomat (so that I could save many lives and help many people) but failed to enter the appropriate college in my country, so I turned to the States and studied philosophy. Ibu stopped the intricate kelapa leaf she was working on. Ibu was a robust lady who looked as if she could wrestle a bear and when she spoke she was serious: “Mau menikah Eny?” she asked. So, do I want to marry, who? what? She was asking me if I’d like to marry her older daughter Eny. I told her that would be my pleasure, but unfortunately, at the moment I was terribly peripatetic. So it was quite a day. And looking back in the past few weeks, I’ve seen multiple pairs of Papilio ulysses flirting around the island of Ambon (at that time not knowing around ten years ago, in the aftermath of Suharto’s downfall a massacre annihilated 5,000 people on the same island); I’ve camped with poachers in the rain forest of Seram staring at the Milky Way at night, only minutes later realizing it was an aggregation of fireflies; I’ve lived in the house of the largest insect dealer in Sulawesi and managed to have a swell time among ten thousand Papilio brumei specimens. There were good stories to tell, but not much time to sleep, since anywhere you go at five o’clock in the morning loudspeakers in the


Illustration by Nyantee Asherman

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village summon you to morning prayers. While I reflected on the idiosyncratically Indonesian at midnight I heard Ibu shouting outside the house. Holy cannoli, what now? Banana trees outside the yard were on fire (and to this day, it seems to me nobody knew nor cared about the whodunit part of the story). When I ran out in my sarong, the whole neighborhood was already awake. It was the night before Bulan Purnama–the Hindu full moon festival–the moon was bright. Under cold moonlight, half naked Bapak, among other villagers, was standing on top of their Hindu temple, pouring water onto a burning banana tree. There weren’t street lamps you’d see in a Linklater trilogy, just the moonlight and the burning banana tree. Modern or postmodern I do not know, nor do I care, but I found this a bizarre image. Dear Swarthmoreans, I have meticulously described my day to you to make this bizarreness close to home, yet still, How many times in my life would I stand under a full moon and watch people pour water from a Hindu temple to save a burning banana tree? Maybe decades later, during one of those imaginable fireside chats after I sipped BlueMoon with a slice of orange, I’d not recall my coming and leaving, but I’d

remember vividly this image of Lombok night, or rather, a set of light conditions, floating soundbites, and the feeling of tender wind blowing across my sunburnt skin. Like la première gorgée de bière, the experience is as refreshing as an awakening baby just learning to pronounce the voiced bilabial nasal “mama”. I’d like to dedicate all this sentimentality, or rather, the chance and privilege of its exercise, to a solid Swarthmore education. It had done, according to the notorious Morrison quote, what a four year dose of liberal education was designed to do. For better or worth, sensibility, in me, was transformed from a biological capability into a sharp, voluntary, contemplative ability. There are many things, important stuff, that I have learnt at Swarthmore (such as friendship and the importance of clearing up your own mess after cooking),but nothing is as well-embedded in me as the faith in the fundamental humanity beyond mere sense stimuli: the ability to perceive, and be consequentially touched and moved to respond to the quagmire of another state of being, be that Opiliones or needy compatriots. (A good-tempered 18th century empiricist, Hume, argued that the key to this ability is compassion.) I have doubted whether this is a quintessential Swarthmor-

ean message (as opposed to, say, my own bedtime fairy tale in a dog-eat-dog-andsome-human-eat-dog-as-well-world). The Swarthmore campus I know of is filled with a determined confidence and liveliness beyond my own pace, but when battling with honors exam preparation on moral philosophy in a locked-up double-Macroom with goldfish snacks brought down to McCabe basement, at that time to me (and I guess to any caveman sensu stricto) a Paces party and a Kohlberg network skill workshop would seem similar: both involve producing something sensational, as well as learning to understand alternate minds that we could never otherwise have access to. I am confused about which side (and even if there is a good and bad line to be drawn) we are making the most of in these gatherings: the collective savoring of sensation that brought us overdosed consumerism, or the perseverance we demonstrate in attempting to know the unknown (and to some, the unknowable) and delighting in what seems like a progress. With a guilty conscience I realize that the experience of my Lombok night fits in both the context of the sensational and that of the sympathetic, but, be it sophistry or blinded doggedness, I insist to make sense of that bizarreness in the latter.

Travel notes from Guatemala by Ben Wolcott

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ver since quitting Spanish at Swarthmore after completing my language requirement, I promised myself that I would take some time after graduating to become fluent. This ended up meshing well with some personal goals, but I first want to tell you a little bit about where I am, and what I have been up to. I have spent the past five weeks studying Spanish as well as the culture, history, and politics of Guatemala at Proyecto Lingüístico Quetzalteco (PLQ) in Xela. In addition to its Spanish classes, PLQ regularly plans talks and trips that focus on historical struggles for justice in Guatemala. I have learned a tremendous amount by visiting a vibrant community radio station, attending talks on racism and capitalism in Guatemala, hiking around the mountains, and observing indigenous Guatemalans in the municipality of Santa María Chiquimula fighting against extractive mining practices

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through a community consultation. On a personal level, talking to activists here has made me think more about the risks I would consider taking in the struggle for social justice. It’s hard not to consider when I regularly listen to the school’s guide tell stories as we hike through mountains that he lived in and fought for as a guerrilla. A collective of teachers started the school in 1988 after the government captured, tortured, and killed two local student activists. To put that state violence in historical context, the U.S.-supported military killed hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans during the country’s 36-year internal armed conflict that lasted from 1960-1996. Although the government and the guerrillas signed peace accords in 1996, state-sanctioned violence continues, and the government has failed to make good on many of its promises to advance social programs. The roots of the conflict partially stem from a 1954 CIA-planned coup that overthrew a democratic government and replaced it with a series of dictatorships,

some of which committed genocide against their own people. I am enjoying my studies and am planning to spend the next five weeks at PLQ before finding a mix of paid and volunteer work, so I can continue to develop my Spanish until the spring. After working with the Swarthmore Labor Action Project for four years during college, it is hard to imagine living the life that I want to lead without knowing Spanish. It’s worth mentioning that the “I just graduated from college, decided to leave the U.S. for a while, and am reflecting on my past four years” genre poses some tough challenges. Primarily, it is difficult to resolve the tension between having reflections that I hope you find relevant and not wanting to come across as preachy. This is amplified by the fact that most recent college graduates do not have the privilege to travel and study a foreign language. That being said, I do not think that my reflections only relate to people with similar class privilege; I am writing about my struggles trying to lead a life that meets my desires and values, which


I imagine I share with many readers. As a basic personal guideline, I try to surround myself by people and institutions that I respect, so I can internalize their ways of understanding and moving through the world. That’s a big reason why I chose Swarthmore. It’s also a big reason why I chose to avoid starting a professional track as I prepared to graduate last fall. As much as I have deep appreciation for the ways that I grew in college, I am not convinced that I want to continue down many of the paths that I used to walk. For example, I realized at some point in my senior year that if I continued to relate to work like I did at Swarthmore, I would quickly become what most people call a workaholic. After four years of getting better at prioritizing school and activist work while losing touch with the ways that I found meaning through relationships, conversations, novels, and the outdoors, I decided to find a new social setting to help me better figure out that whole balance thing. PLQ has been a good place for me to ask questions about how I want to mesh paid and activist work with the other ways that I find meaning in my life. Particularly, my experience in Santa María Chiquimula pushed me to reflect on issues I saw at Swarthmore. In Santa María Chiquimula, I watched voters throughout the day and had the honor to listen to many generous people share the rationales behind their votes. All this was possible because a friend at PLQ used a professor’s connections to contact two of the activists who helped organize the consultation. These two women excitedly led us around for the day, introducing us to many of the other people central to the organizing efforts in Santa María Chiquimula. The highlight of the day for me came during a press conference where community leaders discussed their reasons for holding the consultation in a packed room whose floor was covered in pine needles, a Maya K’iche’ tradition. Everyone I heard emphatically voted no and wanted to talk about it. Their reasons were obvious: other communities with similar projects have faced terrible health and environmental consequences while receiving no sustainable economic benefits. For example, there were reports of birth defects, hair loss, and paralyzation after a Canadian-owned mine started operating in San Marcos. I’ve also heard that while some of the profits from mining projects line the pockets of corrupt politicians, almost all of the rest simply leaves the country. As large foreign companies profit from extracting Guatemala’s rich natural resources, the

communities and their ancestral lands surrounding those projects languish. Organizing against economic exploitation is nothing new to indigenous communities in Guatemala; many have been fighting since the Spanish invaded in 1524. While much of Guatemala’s history centers on land grabs and the oppression of these communities, the survival of over 20 indigenous languages in contemporary Guatemala speaks to Mayan resiliency. Throughout the day, I was struck by the bravery of Guatemalan activists who continue to organize in the face of violent repression from the state and companies who act with impunity. Considering the risks associated with organizing, the day demonstrated to me the possibilities for vibrant resistance in what can appear to be impossible circumstances. Observing these inspiring activists helped put some contradictions I felt at Swarthmore in sharper focus. Simply put: upon reflection, the balance between political critique and political action at Swarthmore seems out of wack. In Santa María Chiquimula, I listened to those two activists describe the people surrounding us, one of whom had survived three assassination attempts in the past year, and their courage overwhelmed me. How can I relate to the excuses I have sometimes made to avoid taking action after observing people organizing in the face of such violence? I often remember myself and some of my peers at Swarthmore being more concerned about having the “right” analysis than working together to affect change. In contrast, Paulo Freire argues in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed for the necessity of both existing in dialogue with one another. He derides both action without reflection and reflection without action. There’s a certain comedy in the hypocrisy of caring passionately about developing powerful critiques without ever taking risks and trying to work with others to affect political change. At Swarthmore, I remember how necessary it felt to never criticize myself or the people I cared about for prioritizing school work because of the serious demands from our classes. In retrospect, I wish I had stopped holding myself to such an unhealthy academic standard so that I could have prioritized both my activist work and my relationships more. Listening to stories from my friends as well as my professors at PLQ is showing me different ways that I can relate to my priorities. Reflecting on how various people I have met balance work and relationships has also helped me realize that while there

were many students that I looked up to at Swarthmore, almost all of them had masochistic relationships to work. Before matriculating, I remember hearing, “At Swarthmore, most people care about three things: work, friends, and sleep. Pick two.” I am tired of being sleep-deprived. To be clear, I am still searching for a better balance, and I’m not trying to tell all y’all with a self-important relationship to academia, a passion for social justice, and little experience with political action that you need to reevaluate your priorities. That’s a you conversation. Instead, I am arguing that if you are someone who wants to do social justice work, but are not interested in getting your feet wet, it’s worth asking yourself if your intuition about how to create structural change is so good that you do not need personal experience to supplement it. Because our passions and our peers shape the people that we become, I’m realizing that mainly prioritizing academics for four years makes it difficult to work with or support groups organizing for social change after graduation. Similarly, having a martyr-like relationship to your academic or activist work, where you feel obligated to prioritize it far above other things that matter to you, is bold. Bold because of how difficult it is in most contexts to resolve the contradiction of working doggedly to improve other people’s ability to enjoy experiences for their own sake while only living your own life through work. To be clear, I’m not opposed to finding meaning through work but am against making and justifying most decisions as means to other ends. Sometimes, it’s important to do the things you love not because you need a break but because you deserve to have experiences that you love. At this point, I realize that it’s hard for me to be satisfied in the moment if I spend too much time worrying about how each of my actions supports other goals. As a final note, it’s worth pointing out that I have not been arguing that you might burn out or be hard to relate to if you only value working. While this is probably true, the intrinsic arguments I am making can stand on their own. I am saying all this as someone who certainly got my feet wet in activist groups but did not create enough time to prioritize sources of meaning outside of my school work. On a basic level, my balance in college wasn’t letting me lead a life that sufficiently met my desires and values. I’m just starting to find a good enough mix for myself, and I wish the best for people with similar struggles. Or as I always used to say in McCage around 10:20, “Good luck.” u SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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ESSAY

Discontent: a history of spring 2013 by Amanda Epstein

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ontrary to popular belief, it could have all began in the fall of 2012, the lesser-known predecessor to the spring of our discontent. There had been some incident or another between the Phoenix and the budding chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, and I proposed (as the assistant news editor) that we write an editorial asking to get rid of Greek life. If the referendum against the sorority was against Title IX regulations, then the whole system needed to be brought down. Someone wrote it, another edited it, and a third person laid it out, awkwardly, as the Phoenix used to do. But the managing editor convinced the editor-in-chief not to run it in the 11th hour. We had left the office for the night, expecting to wake up and find an excited or enraged campus. Instead, we opened the newspaper to find an even clumsier layout job, quickly executed to fill up space where the editorial had been just a few hours before.

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t was a new editorial board the following semester. It was just a matter of time before we’d attempt to take the stance again. Many of us still believed, after all, that Greek life holds no place at a quirky Quaker institution like Swarthmore. The infamous editorial was written and published on February 14, 2013 — a nice valentine to the frats. ​Joyce Wu ’15 made a petition the following day. Though it was always our intention to initiate discussion, the referendum was not well received by many of our peers, who said the petition had come without warning or much debate. We quickly announced that we would hold a series of campus-wide discussions first. The participants intended to come up with tangible objectives and solutions, but conversation turned to more conversation and in the end, we were left with no choice but to follow through with the referendum. ​Though they did little to change people’s minds about Greek life, or even to really change the character of fraternities and sororities on campus, the discussions were fruitful in one regard. It was during these discussions that allegations of sexual mis-

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conduct and abuse started to surface. Many were noting that neither administrators nor fraternity members themselves were acting appropriately when these were brought to their attention. In one particularly entertaining instance, a fraternity brother made the case that if they kicked a brother out of the fraternity for raping someone, they wouldn’t be able to “help him get better.” The administration’s silence indicated they didn’t object to these foolproof methods. ​Their silence was one of many transgressions, though. At one of the college-wide meetings organized by ex-President Rebecca Chopp, a student stood up to say that she had been raped by a fraternity brother as others looked on. She developed severe eating and anxiety disorders after the incident and was asked to leave the college to get better. Her assailant continued his studies on campus.

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oon after, Mia Ferguson ’15 and Hope Brinn ’15 sued the school for violating Title IX and the Clery Act. According to Know Your IX, a national survivor-run campaign to end sexual violence on college campuses, Title IX is a “powerful tool for combating campus violence.” The law “requires colleges and universities receiving federal funding to combat gender-based violence and harassment, and respond to survivors’ needs in order to ensure that all students have equal access to education.” The Clery Act, on the other hand, “requires colleges and universities, both public and private, participating in federal student aid programs to disclose campus safety information, and imposes certain basic requirements for handling incidents of sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and dating violence.” ​Ferguson and Brinn decided to file complaints for violations of both these laws on the second night of chalking for the Swat Vote Yes referendum campaign. ​I was there the first night, a few days before the day of voting. We chalked the entire campus — why should the Greek system be abolished? I remember one of my many chalkings read: “I’ve been mistreated by every fraternity brother I’ve been with. Think it’s a coincidence? It’s a culture.” Brinn recounted, in so many words, having been raped by a fraternity member as oth-

ers knowingly let it happen. For a kid who thought Swarthmore was a sort of heavenly bubble — like I had just a few weeks before — there were a surprising number of allegations of assault and rape. ​Victor Brady ’13, then-StuCo Co-President, was washing away some of the more “upsetting” messages early the following morning. Most of them were related to sexual assault. Ferguson remembers that moment as a turning point. She told me that Myrt Westphal, then-associate dean of student life, even defended Brady in a private meeting. Ferguson felt as though it wasn’t just chalkings that were being washed away, but experiences, validation. She and Brinn went out for a second night of chalkings — the first of many times they’d refuse to be silenced. According to Ferguson, a Public Safety officer asked them what they were doing just a few minutes into their chalking efforts that evening. Ferguson started explaining that she wanted to make her experiences known, that the college was trying to cover up information and she wasn’t going to stand for it. Before she could explain further, the officer blurted out, “So the students know about the cover-ups too?” ​It was his understanding that the college had destroyed evidence of sexual assault. Whether files were actually shredded is still a mystery. I have a feeling that if the college went that far, it took good care of covering their tracks. Still, the allegation was impactful and revealed one absolute truth for them. The mishandling of assault had nothing to do with one or two incompetent individuals. It was, in fact, and still is, a systemic problem. ​Brinn got in contact with Andrea Pino and Annie Clark. Only a month before, these women were the first to publicly file a complaint through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for mishandling their assaults. With the help of Pino and pro-bono lawyers, Ferguson and Brinn began the complaint-filing process for violations of the Clery Act that night. ​In the next few days, the two women held a meeting for survivors on campus.


They invited students to add their names to the complaint. Ferguson recalls that while there was a survivor community on campus, it wasn’t particularly accessible. In pursuing this group of students, asking them to come forward, and seeking them out, Brinn and Ferguson unintentionally created a lot of hurt. After some time, though, students started sharing their experiences with them. Slowly but surely, the list of names and chilling stories added to the complaint grew. ​It turned out that students weren’t being assaulted exclusively at fraternities and the administration was not just protecting the brothers. Students who had reported their assaults were constantly met with silence and inaction. When investigations were actually initiated, victims were often intimidated by Public Safety officers, coerced into talking about specific incidents, and encouraged not to pursue adjudication. In other cases, administrators denied that students’ claims constituted assault, laughed at victims’ stories, asked survivors to be generous to their assailants. One student was asked to hypothesize for 20 minutes about how her behavior might have provoked the harassment. Another was explicitly told that her assailant’s behavior was a direct result of her actions. The college has continuously denied these allegations, though many of the administrators in question were fired or relocated. ​Sexual assault, it seemed, was not uncommon. The administration’s mishandling of cases (if it handled them at all) wasn’t either. In fact, only two cases of sexual misconduct had gone through the CJC as far as records (which only go back to 2003) showed. One assailant had been acquitted, and the other had transferred after appealing, effectively avoiding any sanctions or marks on his record. ​The college was new at this. It wasn’t until the Department of Education’s Dear Colleague letters in 2001 and 2011 that Title IX, a law passed into effect in 1972, was re-articulated to protect students from mismanagement of sexual assault. Still, the number of reports of assaults during 2013 was 89, compared to 12 and 9 the two previous years, respectively. I’ve been told that many survivors reported their assaults last year, well after they happened, because they felt they couldn’t do so safely before.

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erguson met with Chopp before the complaint was officially filed, wanting to give the college an opportunity to work hand-in-hand with activists to better the system. She had written a list of sugges-

tions to get the college back in compliance; it included firing four administrators that had allegedly mishandled cases and implementing several policies, like providing mandatory education around Clery and Title IX and creating a sexual assault management office to represent and support both victims and defendants through CJC processes. If the school considered these, Ferguson would hold a press event and openly say that they’d be working together from that point on. Ferguson does admit it was a threat of sorts, but she thought the college would want to collaborate anyway. ​“Swat has all these resources, this supposedly progressive culture,” she said. “It could’ve teamed up with activists, gotten things done and set an amazing precedent.” ​But the school’s lawyers advised the board not to talk, and Chopp did not take Ferguson’s demands too seriously. She said she would share the suggestions with the independent reviewer the college would hire. ​Ferguson and Brinn finally filed the Clery complaint on April 18, 2013. A week later, seven other survivors added their names and experiences into the document. On April 26, the Title IX complaint was filed as well. These led to an investigation by the Department of Education into the school’s practices, which has not yet concluded.

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oon after Swarthmore’s name began to appear in dozens of newspapers across the country, the college launched its own investigation into its policies and practices. This automatically limited the responses the DOE would have at its disposal, since the college had made its interest in becoming compliant clear. On May 2, Chopp announced that Margolis Healy & Associates would be studying the college’s policies and practices and making recommendations accordingly. A task force on sexual misconduct, composed of two board members, two professors, two administrators and three students, was also created to work with the external reviewers. By mid-summer, the firm had come up with an interim report. By September, the policy changes were numerous. ​The report recommended that the college create an independent Title IX coordinator position. It included recommendations to revise the Notice of Sexual Misconduct Policy and the Sexual Misconduct Policy itself for consistency and explicitness. Improvements to achieve Clery compliance and addressing grievance procedures to remove reporting barriers would be necessary.

Importantly, the report also emphasized the need for a survivor advocate and a new investigator. Further training and education for Public Safety investigators and students was strongly recommended too. ​Lastly, and critical to recent changes in alcohol policy, Margolis Healy advised Swarthmore to “conduct a comprehensive examination of the social environment on campus and in particular, the events identified or perceived as high risk for sexual misconduct and consider whether additional prevention and mitigation efforts are merited beyond the current risk reduction programs,” noting that “campuses with higher levels of alcohol abuse experience more crime and violence generally.” ​In her email announcing the report, Chopp delineated the college’s response to the recommendations. CAPS counselor Patricia Flaherty Fischette would serve as the Interim Title IX coordinator while a search committee was formed to fill the position permanently. A group of Title IX deputy coordinators was created to support Fischette’s “oversight of all Title IX complaints and identify and address any patterns or systemic problems that arise during the review of Title IX complaints.” The drug and alcohol counselor would no longer advise the fraternities. ​Tom Elverson, who had previously filled that position, was fired. Sharmaine Lamar, the college’s assistant vice president for risk management and legal affairs and director of equal opportunity, was replaced as Title IX coordinator. Joanna Gallagher, the associate director of Public Safety, was stripped of her duties as deputy Title IX coordinator. ​While many administrators left, many more were hired to replace them and fill the institutional gaps Margolis Healy had brought to light. At the end of the spring semester, Nathan Miller, who had previously served as the director of undergraduate judicial affairs at Dartmouth College, was named dean of the senior class and judicial affairs coordinator, effectively overseeing all adjudications of sexual assault. Miller had figured prominently on the Title IX and Clery complaints Dartmouth students had filed just a few months before, though. In his capacity as the director of undergraduate judicial affairs, he had disciplined the Title IX complainants for entering a building that was supposedly over capacity to protest the college’s policies and mishandling of sexual assault cases in a room full of prospective students. Two of these students left Dartmouth, noting the college’s refusal to address students’ death threats against them and willingness to punish SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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The Phoenix

VOL. 137, ISSUE 12

THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2013

SWARTHMOREPHOENIX.COM

Burn This Preview

Chopp Meeting Draws hunDreDs as aDMinistration FaCes stuDent ire

By AXEL KODAT Living & Arts Writer This weekend, “Burn This,” a 1987 play by Pulitzer Prize winner Lanford Wilson, will run in LPAC’s Frear Ensemble Theater. The production is senior Jeanette Leopold’s Honors Directing thesis. For Leopold, the performance is the culmination of a year’s work, which began last semester when she began looking over plays and casting. Even before that, she came to Swarthmore focused on this ultimate goal, transferring from Haverford her junior year in order to participate in the theater department’s Honors Thesis Program. The play is set in a loft apartment in New York City, and the action centers on four characters — Anna (Anita CastilloHalvorssen ’15), Burton (Daniel Cho ’15), Larry (Patrick Ross ’15), and Pale (Sasha Rojavin ’15) — coping with the death of their friend, Robbie, in a boating accident. While the death looms large, the play is sometimes most striking for its insistent forward momentum. Despite the fact that Robbie dies 3 days before the play begins, there are moments of sudden levity. Humor emerges as a counteracting agent to the permeating gloom. Mocking the tackiness of a funeral becomes an avenue for moving beyond the events that led to it. “It’s a play about grief and love, but it’s not about wallowing in grief,” Leopold said. “They’re trying to push past their grief, by finding humor and love in each other.” The play also explores themes of identity and narrative. Returning to Robbie’s hometown for his funeral, Anna realizes that his family is unaware both of his dancing career and his homosexuality. She is forced to play the role of grieving widow, to construct stories of a false life. Pale enters the stage a drugged mess, seemingly drifting aimlessly through life; the next morning his life as a restaurant manager becomes apparent. What it means to know someone, honestly and fully, is an open, recurring question. The set, designed by Marta Roncada ’14, resembles a cage, with black rafters jutting out diagonally over the stage and ending abruptly, suspended in air. The apartment is an isolated space but not impermeable: Robbie’s brother Pale bursts in uninvited, drunk, coked-out, a lurching, inertial force. An open window allows distant, almost imperceptible sounds of traffic to float in. Fragments of the quotidian — the harsh gurgle of a coffee pot, snatches of corny movie dialogue — break into even the oppressive silence of grief. Performances will take place Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 PM in the Lang Performing Arts Center’s Frear Ensemble Theater.

What happened to the administrators of spring 2013 NITHYA SWAMINATHAN / THE PHOENIX

President Chopp addressed students in the Eldridge Commons last night. Topics of conversation ranged from sexual assault to the climate of campus debate.

By AMANDA EPSTEIN News Editor Following weeks of heated debate, chalked messages, and controversial posters, President Rebecca Chopp sent out an e-mail last Thursday in an effort to remind the community “What Swarthmore Stands For.” In the “spring of our discontent,” as she termed it, administrators and students alike have been participants and spectators to polarizing confrontation over issues like Greek life, administrative handling of sexual assault policies and commencement speakers, leading many community members to question what it really is that Swarthmore stands for and how the college can move forward amidst differences so important and divisive. Last night, Chopp and Dean of Students Liz Braun held a meeting in Eldridge Commons to continue this “important conversation” about community, giving students an opportunity to voice their concerns about the various debates and the administration’s responses. The commons was filled to the brim — approximately 200 students, faculty and staff were in attendance. Chopp started with a minute of silence, in line with Quaker collection traditions. She then said that this meeting was more about listening, rather than speaking for the administration. The floor was opened to students. Joyce Tompkins, Interfaith Adviser, acted as moderator. Sexual assault and the college’s response to

such incidents were at the forefront of issues raised. Survivors of assault on and off campus shared their experiences with those in attendance, presenting concerns over the culture Swarthmore is building and perpetuating. Camille Robertson ’13, in light of a conversation with a friend, expressed the need for the college community to first and foremost create a culture that teaches and demands people “not to rape, rather than to not get raped” on this campus. Mike Hill, director of Public Safety, has indeed led “Rape Aggression Defense classes several times during the year,” according to the college’s website, in order to help students defend themselves in dangerous situations. The Acquaintance Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) workshops, which freshmen are required to take part in during orientation, also focus “on issues concerning the nature of sexual assault, prevention of and safety from sexual assault, and related on-campus resources,” according to the college’s website. And while consent workshops, a series of which took place this past week, do address sexual assault and rape preven-

tion, students, StuCo co-President Gabby Cappone ’14 among them, agreed that there needs to be “increasing education” and that a one hour workshop once a year “won’t get the job done.” Concerns weren’t only raised about rape culture on campus, but also about the way in which administrators have dealt with sexual assault and the campus’s victims. One student, in fact, said that with the exception of Beth Kotarski, director of Worth Health Center and SMART Team advisor, she had heard horrifying stories about every single administrator in the room that had in some capacity or another dealt with victims, and that if they continued to put blame on victims, if they continued to make Swarthmore a hostile environment for its survivor community, allies, and the school at large, any change in policy would be meaningless. This meeting, however, was not the first time students revealed perturbation over administrators’ inadequate responses to stories of assault and rape. One student insisted that she had yet to hear the administration respond to victims who said their experiences had been invalidated time and time again.

Rebecca Chopp THEN: college president One student insisted NOW: left summer 2014 to serve as University of that she had yet to hear the administration Denver president respond to victims who said their experiences had been invalidated.

Tom Elverson THEN: alcohol education and intervention specialist NOW: fired summer 2013; current position unknown

Patricia Fischette THEN: CAPS counselor Impermanent Beauty: Republicans: The Softball Strikes Out IX coordinator; has NOW: served as interim Title An Art Thesis the Competition Youth Party now returned to CAPS duties Continued on Page 3

INSIDE THIS ISSUE

NEWS

LIVING

OPINIONS

SPORTS

Students who paid for 21 individual meals a week in cash at Sharples would spend less than students on the 20 meal plan.

Alex Anderson discusses the importance of externality and the ephemeral nature of beauty ahead of his senior art show next week.

Nat considers the age-gap in party politics, arguing that conservatism and youth need not be opposed forever.

Led by strong pitching and solid defense, the Garnet improved their record to 1814 with wins against Widener and Arcadia.

Meal Plan More Costly Than Paying in Cash

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Joanna Gallagher THEN: associate director of Public Safety, deputy Title IX coordinator NOW: stripped of Title IX duties, then left college in early January of 2014 to serve as director of Public Safety at Arcadia University

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Sharmaine Lamar THEN: Title IX coordinator with other administrative duties NOW: stripped of Title IX duties, now assistant vice president for risk management and legal affairs and director of equal opportunity Karlene Burrell McRae THEN: junior class dean, director of the Black Cultural Center NOW: left summer 2014 to serve as associate dean of students and director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs at the University of Chicago Myrt Westphal THEN: associate dean for student life, managed much of the disciplinary system NOW: retired summer 2013

W I T H T O D A Y ’ S PA P E R

Alina Wong THEN: sophomore class dean and director of the Intercultural Center NOW: left September 2013, now associate dean for student life at Barnard INSI

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C O M M E N TA R Y L O N G - F O R M J O U R N A L I S M E S S AY S FIC TION POE TRY PHOTO GRAPHY AND MORE

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Chains ps and Whi Them Excite es Sometim

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Remained in former positions: dean of students Liz Braun, director of Public Safety Mike Hill, freshman class dean Karen Henry

them for protesting a hostile environment. ​In October, the college hired Nina Harris, as promised, as the Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate and Educator. Many survivors have said that her presence on campus has been one of the best changes yet. They told me she has always been responsive to their concerns, even about administrators, and helped them through their CJC cases in both emotional and practical terms. ​The new fall semester also brought a new, 10

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albeit interim, sexual assault policy. Clearer definitions of sexual assault and harassment, stalking, intimate partner violence, consent, coercion and incapacitation were outlined. Explicit time frames for investigations and their resolutions were established. Resources and accommodations for victims of assault were clearly explained, including those with regard to reporting. Most invaluable was the college’s decision to instate a policy whereby cases of sexual

misconduct would be heard and resolved by an external adjudicator, as opposed to the panel of students, faculty and staff now exclusively reserved for cases of academic misconduct and other offenses. ​Though the policies constituted enormous improvements for Swarthmore, questions, uncertainties and oversight by administrators continued to play a role in policy developments, investigations and adjudications. The Phoenix covered


several cases during which administrators were unresponsive, conveyed confusing or erroneous information or took the policies so far as to actually harm—not help—survivors of assault. In several cases, students found guilty of rape were suspended until their victims graduated. In others, investigations took so long that students had graduated or transferred out of Swarthmore before the case could go through. ​Margolis Healy continued its investigation into the college’s policies and practices through that fall and last spring, releasing their final report in February of 2014. This report eventually led to the current Sexual Assault and Harassment and Alcohol policies. ​The Sexual Assault and Harassment Policy clarified a lot of the vagueness that characterized the interim one. Resources were updated to include new positions, and “intimate partner violence” was added to the section of prohibited behaviors. Nina Harris was officially identified as a confidential resource. Freshman orientation programming was dramatically altered — ASAP workshops were replaced by a lecture followed and RA-led discussions. The new alcohol policies, on the other hand, instituted a ban on hard liquor at registered parties and alcohol paraphernalia. Though the policy was not dramatically altered beyond these changes, the college’s enforcement of the policies has. These changes have created a much stronger network of support for survivors. Guidelines for reporting are clear, and victims have a range of options — from reporting online (anonymously or not) to making a report to Karen Williamsen, the new Title IX coordinator. The college has made the list of mandatory reporters and confidential resources explicit, where previously there had been confusion (Elverson, for instance, erroneously presented himself as confidential). Whether the college is privy to the victim’s name, they are required to and will conduct an investigation. Though this has always been a requirement, Swarthmore hasn’t always been compliant. If, alternatively, a student wishes to pursue a criminal investigation through the local police department, the college can still provide support. The modicum of flexibility in the policy — the various reporting options, range of sanctions for a case going through the CJC, possibility for anonymity — gives choice and empowers victims. Choice which the college was intent on denying just a few semesters ago. Brinn is especially pleased with the

efforts to continue building a supportive survivor community independent of activism. She attended a survivor dinner led by Harris on November 23, which was entirely confidential, and which she said, “felt safe.” A second one will be held on December 7. ​To anyone who has been paying attention, the changes have been many and far-reaching. But there are several issues the college has yet to resolve. The Task Force on Sexual Misconduct that Chopp created a year and a half ago in fact submitted a report presenting findings on campus attitudes and policies regarding sexual assault in August. Its main proposal is comprehensive education on consent, bystander intervention and interpersonal violence — one which was arguably addressed unsuitably during orientation. It recommends collections for reflection on these issues, and a strong call for men on campus to start conversations. The report also points out that fraternities’ control of “the two largest party spaces that allow alcohol on campus” are “an impediment both to challenging the privilege of fraternities and addressing underage and excessive drinking.” We have, it seems, come full circle. ​Williamsen knows that there is still work to be done. That’s why she’s here. She hopes to focus on four areas. The sexual assault policy will need to be continuously altered, constantly reflecting changing values and federal mandates. The reporting and adjudication processes must be clearer—“nothing should be a surprise,” as she says. But the college must also work towards becoming a survivor-supportive community. We must learn basic skills to be the best possible friends, classmates, professors and administrators to survivors. Finally, and importantly, we must have sexual violence prevention education by modeling healthy relationships. We must learn how to have conversations about sex and relationships that don’t strike fear in our hearts. ​Conversation and education are necessary but not enough, though. Ferguson tells me that prevention has to be about being intentional in selecting the student body. “The best way of following the [college’s] mission is to make sure that the members of the community are interested in the mission,” she said. Brinn is quite adamant that Harris should not only be given a full-time position, but a substantial budget. The fact that this is not yet the case is “an injustice,” according to Brinn, “and a signal to the community what Swarthmore does and does not value.” There are also many day-to-day practices

that must be changed. Academic accommodations for survivors have not been fully instituted; there is no way, for instance, for survivors to know whether they will be enrolled in classes with their perpetrators if they remain on campus or if adjudication is never pursued unless they talk to Williamsen. Swarthmore does not mark students’ transcripts when they are found guilty of assault. Though some practices are limited by national guidelines for registrars, the onus is placed on the transfer school to ask for disciplinary records. And while hearings are adjudicated by a former judge, Miller decides sanctions and Dean of Students Liz Braun settles appeals. There continues to be little oversight of students that have been suspended or even expelled and return to campus. Because SwatTeam members are not told which students are on social probation while their cases are being heard, possible perpetrators could in theory enter party spaces. The burden is placed on victims and their close friends to be alert and call Public Safety. We have also created an alcohol policy that has reduced the number of wet venues students can frequent, forcing much of the drinking on campus to happen in male-dominated or non-supervised spaces, like frats and dorms. Students are now drinking in more private settings, with fewer bystanders and no sober SwatTeam members. The shift to dorm drinking has also put a strain on RAs, who already have immense responsibility. ​The list goes on.

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he truth of the matter is that this is not a change that can be made overnight. These issues on campus are not new. Swarthmore was making headlines for mishandling assault in 1994. More than that, we have thousands of years of gender inequality behind us that we must constantly work to reverse. Still, as one of the best academic institutions in the country, where there are so many beautifully intellectual, caring human beings, Swarthmore should be ahead of the curve, not behind it. ​We must work not just to create a place where we will respond with utmost urgency and care to assault, but a place in which we will not rape. A place in which consent is a concept we all understand and can get behind. A place in which we intervene when another person is doing or even saying something that is out of line with our culture, values and traditions. A place in which we we care for one another in the quirky Quaker fashion our institution demands. u SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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Place and anonymity photo essay by Chris Moyer Ever since moving to the U.S. at age three, I felt strangely disconnected with Japan, my birthplace. Afraid that this gap would grow wider, I attempted to confront it by living in Tokyo last semester. I spent my time riding trains and walking the city, watching strangers move around and through a sea of buildings. Perhaps a product of my detachment, I became connected not through individuals, but through the shared experience of place and space. These photographs represent my fascination with Tokyo as a cityscape where anonymity roams free.


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FICTION

Snowbirds by Kimaya Diggs 1.

J

ordan thought of himself as a friendly and relatable version of the comfortably rugged, bespectacled, and interesting artist. He understood poetry and adored spontaneity. He was a writer. He was constantly coming up with phrases that overwhelmed him with their genius, like ‘she shone with a simple and elegant grace, such that upon her sudden entry into a room, her hair disheveled from running and her forehead damp with womanly perspiration, the collective heartstrings of humanity momentarily paused and yearned towards her gentle presence’. As for Mindy, she shone with a simple and elegant grace, such that upon her sudden entry into a room, her hair disheveled from running and her forehead damp with womanly perspiration, no one paid her any mind, because she was always leaving things behind and coming back to get them. They were lying in bed on a Saturday morning. They had woken early because one of them had forgotten to lower the blinds the night before, and while no one had mentioned it, the tension of mutual blame hung heavy in the air. Jordan could hear the hall clock ticking through the bedroom door, and he fancied it ominous. Mindy had peeled off her tank top immediately upon waking, and was pushing her breasts up to let the sweaty part dry. Jordan was propped against a pillow, sitting half-up and lazily skimming the newspaper. “Rebecca’s showing tonight,” he said. “Hitchcock?” “Mhm.” Mindy rolled onto her belly, her face buried in her pillow. “Pullman or Wagner?” Jordan checked the listing. “Wagner,” he said, anticipating her response. “But it’s a really good film.” “Stop saying ‘film’, you sound like an asshole. It’s a movie.” “It’s a film. It’s a work of art. And it’s good.” “No,” she said, her voice muffled by the pillow. “Elaine won’t even be there,” he said stiffly. It wasn’t that he particularly loved Rebecca. It was a good movie, but the fact of the matter was that he hadn’t been to The Wagner for almost a year, and they had better popcorn and cushier seats. The seats at Pullman’s Independent Film House were mostly wood or wicker, all salvaged from flea markets and estate sales. They put nutritional yeast on their popcorn. They didn’t even ask if you wanted any (Mindy always did, Jordan always didn’t), they just dumped

the vague brown powder all over what was once a fine, if plain, box of popcorn. Jordan likened it to eating cremains. “It’s not really a matter of her being there, Jordan, it’s a matter of principle. You of all people should understand.” She was referring to the only piece of writing that he’d gotten published in the last year and a half, a manifesto-style poem entitled “On Moral Thought”. It irritated Jordan that of all of his recent work, only a poem had been published. He was a novelist, not a poet, and it really didn’t reflect well on him that his novels had failed while his poem had been archived for all eternity (and in a journal that tended to publish particularly arduous reads). “That poem about morals was just a study,” he said, trying to keep the edge off his voice. He wished Mindy would engage. Why wouldn’t she ever engage? Her face was still stuffed in her pillow. How could she even breathe? “We’re not going, Jordan. I’m not seeing Elaine.” They were silent. Jordan tried to read a little more. A minute later, she added “but you can go by yourself if you want to.” He looked at her. She was still facedown in the pillow, and he couldn’t tell from her distorted voice if it was a genuine offer or a jab. Everything felt like a jab these days. He pushed down his glasses and rubbed his eyelids, sighing heavily. Mindy turned her head to look at him. “Okay, sigh then, that’s great.” “I just think—” Jordan began. “Think what?” “I think the thing with Elaine is a waste. You’re really going to lose your best friend over an art show? You’re doing so well now—” “But I wasn’t doing well last year. A show at The Wagner would’ve given me a lot of exposure.” “But she gave you so many reasons, and you’re still like this.” “Like this?” Mindy narrowed her eyes. Even so upset, Jordan wanted to kiss her. Her lips were distracting. “You’re working and you’re doing really well. Just appreciate that and forgive Elaine.” “Appreciate it? I work hard, Jordan. What I do isn’t easy.” When he would look back on it, he would realize that this was the moment when he should’ve backed down. “You work five days a month. That’s not a luxury? I have to work all the time, Mindy. And when I’m not sitting down and writing, my brain is constantly on, trying to figure out just what this book needs. Do you have any idea what that feels like, to be one tiny step from perfecting something you’ve worked on for years? No, because you bust out a painting SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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whenever it’s convenient.” The paintings she made, if he were to be completely honest, made little to no sense. They were all just a lot of oil paint on strangely-shaped canvases that she spent days constructing. She slapped the paint on with all sorts of weird tools, like grout spatulas, lunch meat, and uncooked potatoes. And then she sold them, usually for upwards of ten thousand dollars apiece. Part of her “work week” involved lying on the couch watching Netflix while the paintings dried. ‘It can take up to a month for a painting to dry, you know, depending on how much linseed oil I add—depending on how much flow I want,’ she always said. It was literally impossible to tell which paintings “flowed” and which were “static and concrete”. Regardless of the fact that her art was unintelligible and conveyed no universal themes whatsoever, the price that it went for was simply unfair. Jordan couldn’t understand why people would pay good money to be alienated in their own homes by misshapen wall décor. In college, he’d loved to sit beside her, watching her paint. It had seemed romantic being with a girl who left painty fingerprints on every aspect of his life. He’d find them on the collar of his shirt, on the wall by the trashcan where she threw condom wrappers, on his bed sheets, his bottle of mouthwash, and little smears of paint on the door of his dorm room where he had pressed her so many times, kissing her with such eagerness that he couldn’t pause to put the key in the lock. But now, when he actually worked twelve-hour days, the sight of her pajama-clad or often naked body on the couch was a cruel and tantalizing reminder of what success afforded. They had struggled together for a long time, almost ten years, and her success next to his stagnant career felt unbearable. “Let’s keep work life and home life separate,” he said when he finally couldn’t take it anymore. He had just quit his retail job to focus on his novel. The way she laid around the house was oppressive to his creative process. “We both work from home, so that’s hard, but I think it’s important to have boundaries.” Mindy had just finished a particularly incomprehensible painting—a nine-by-seven foot starburst of sorts, slathered primarily in blue and grey. It was completely hideous and vaguely horrifying, resembling a predatory sea star. She wanted it in the bedroom, on the huge empty wall between the door and the bathroom. “I think compartmentalizing is healthy,” Jordan said earnestly, crossing his fingers behind his back. Mindy had agreed, and had loaned the painting indefinitely to a local college’s art gallery. He’d gone to the opening primarily to confirm that the painting was there and not hidden in the eaves of the house. Keeping home life and work life separate also meant that Jordan no longer had a go-to editor for his work. Mindy had always been his first reader. There was something gratifying about watching her read something he had written; she would frown 20

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The conversation took its excitement from our difference. (‘He doesn’t even know what Swarthmore is! How exciting!,’ and so went my internal dialogue for the entirety of the night.) and hand it back with some terse comment—it was this display of jealousy that made Jordan feel like all was fair. “It just seems like some of your ideas are somewhat too…vast,” she would say distastefully. She would never admit it, but at one point he had been a very good writer, back when he was getting published more often. His prose had been simple, funny, and poignant. The last few manuscripts had become belabored and overcomplicated. They had little grace, and she missed that. It was unromantic, a successful painter having a failure of a novelist as a partner. They had struggled side-by-side, but at some point their paths had diverged. She could never remember where, but then again she had never considered the question very seriously. Without Mindy to assess his writing, Jordan was forced to venture out into the world of writer’s workshop co-ops, where, he feared, his work simply would not be understood. There was no need to worry. The workshop co-op he joined was a group of slight, trendily-bearded men who met at a coffee shop once a week to critique each other’s work. “This is about the stagnancy of our generation,” one of them would intone, gazing out the window to the street. The others would nod, leaning back in their chairs, limp hands placed artistically on their copies of the manuscript, their beards (to indicate deep thought), their pens, or their coffee cups (caffeine being a known stimulator of creative and critical thought, essential to the co-operative workshop process). “Mmm.” “Mhm.” “Yes,” someone would say simply and authoritatively. “Yes.” There would be another round of nodding and humming. Someone else would narrow his eyes and underline something furiously while everyone looked at him expectantly. “Avant-garde,” he’d murmur to himself in a tone of wonderment. After a moment, he would look up. “Who, me?”A beat. “Well, I just discovered some-


thing. It really makes me see this in a whole new light…” Jordan felt at home. 2.

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our years ago, Jordan wouldn’t have thought that he’d be living in Massachusetts. He hadn’t ever intended to end up there, but Mindy had had an art show there and fallen in love with some small town that was easily characterized as “quaint” or “farmy”. He called her the night of the opening. “I’m staying!” She sang into the phone, her voice as light as champagne bubbles. “And?” Jordan had been through enough breakups to know what was next, but his mind was moving slowly. He squinted, trying to delay her answer, to make her remember him, but of course she couldn’t see him. “And? Oh, well I’ve found a studio. Someone here has an extra room over their barn. It’s perfect!” “That’s good,” it surprised him to feel a knot forming in his throat. The first time he kissed her, he knew it was only a matter of time before he lost her. He hated how clichéd the thought was. It had surprised everyone when they hit their first, then their second, and now their seventh anniversary. Jordan had forgotten that he could lose her. But now: “It’s really beautiful here. There’s no way I can come back. I’m done with cities, you know? There’s just something about all the space…” Jordan felt like lying down for several hours. He couldn’t fold laundry without company. Without her, he’d go back to the way he did it in college, almost eight years ago: dump clean clothes on the floor, wear, dump in hamper, wash, repeat. He realized she was still talking. “And the opening was amazing. There were so many people, I felt like a celebrity! Six of my pieces sold.” ###

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welve days later, Jordan was pulling up in a rented car in front of Mindy’s rented house. He knocked on the door. “Coming,” her voice rang out from somewhere inside. Finally, the door swung open. They stared at one another for what seemed like ages. “Mindy,” he said finally. She looked over her shoulder. “It’s my—Jordan,” she called, her voice stopping in her throat. “My boyfriend Jordan.” A man about ten years older than Jordan ambled in from another room. He looked like the kind of man who didn’t tip waiters when he was eating alone. His shirt was untucked and he held a drink loosely between two pale fingers. “This is my curator, Martin,” she said, moving aside so they could shake hands. Jordan’s heart sank as he instantly lost the battle of manly strength that handshakes often become. “We’ve been talking about the next show.” Jordan looked at her, question-

To Dionysos by Aaron Kroeber

εἰς Διόνυσον κύριε τῶν δαιτῶν νῦν εὐνόε’ ἄμμι χορευταῖς· πῦρ ἡμῖν αὐξῆσαι ὅ ὑμῖν νῦν ἱεροῦμεν. Διμήτωρ ὁ Διὸς δὴ ἱλάσθητι Ξενίου παῖς· ἄκρατον μέθυ ὄζε, ἄκουε βοὰς ἐπιθύμας, μαινομένων, τίμην οἰσόντων οὐνόματι σῷ. ἄκρῳ Ὀλύμπῳ ἐῶν, θυόντων τ’ εὐχομένων τέ, λοιβὰς μὴν ἀποδεξάμενος χάριν εἴθε δὲ δοίης· ὑμῖν σπόνδας σπένδομεν ὦ Διόνυσέ γε Λαμπτήρ.

To Dionysos O lord of the feast, smile on we who dance: Let our fire grow — which now we name to you. Twice-born of Zeus, be pleased, his child, Smell our pure wine, hear our wild cries, For in our frenzy, how we honor your name! On high Olympos, while we sacrifice and pray, Taking libations, grant us your favor; To you we pour, O Dionysos of the flame! Translated with help from Z.L. Zhou

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ing. She looked back with wide and reflective eyes. That night, Mindy told him to stay. She never asked these things, she told them. “I don’t like it here,” he said. “Too many cornfields. Too many cows.” “I need you.” She was smiling wryly, and he couldn’t tell if she meant it. Why would she say it if she didn’t mean it? He narrowed his eyes at her. “Don’t look at me like that.” She ran a finger down the bridge of his nose and laid it against his lips. He kissed it out of reflex. “You do?” “Need you? Yes. You have all the stories.” “None of them good,” he said, bitter. She didn’t humor him with flattery. “You have nothing else to do,” “I’m working,” he said defensively. “Another novel? It’s not portable?” she taunted. It stung, this reminder that his work wasn’t legitimate enough to require two weeks’ notice. There were no benefits either, and he needed a checkup. There was a mole on his thigh that had always grown just one hair, but recently, a second one had made an appearance. He was living in Massachusetts by the fall. He didn’t mind the cold winters, he liked them in fact, because it meant that Mindy would slip up behind him as he worked at the kitchen table and slide her chilly hands down the front of his shirt for warmth. He’d pretend to push her away, then pull her close as she laughed. It was those moments when he was happy to push back his chair, close the laptop, and be warmed in some singular way by her radiant smile and the feeling of her hand over his heart. 1.

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our novel’s not getting published,” Mindy said, sitting up and leaning against the headboard. “You don’t know that,” Jordan hissed. The newspaper was crumpled in his lap, the listing for Rebecca forgotten. “I do.” Mindy coolly raised an eyebrow, her face impassive. “I sent it in.” “What?” “I printed twelve copies and sent them to publishers, even little indie ones. Twelve rejections.” “What?” “What,” Mindy said, her voice flat. “You quit your job. I’m doing okay, but we have a mortgage, Jordan. I needed to show you that you’re wasting your time.” “Wasting my—” Jordan’s voice was faint. He suddenly noticed that his hands were freezing. He was tired, and wanted the bed to himself. Mindy grabbed the newspaper from him and peered at the weekend event listings. He wondered when he had stopped finding her crassness charming. It was probably when she started selling paintings for a massive profit. It had been nice, starving alongside her. Even when they had lived in her uninsulated studio for a winter, at least they’d both been trying and failing.

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Failing was hard, but trying to summon up some pride for her while failing himself was a much greater feat. Resentment tinged everything, from making dinner with groceries that she’d bought to filling up the car using her debit card. When she was on top, he felt like he was being ridden by a debt collector instead of a goddess. She looked up from the newspaper. Jordan’s eyes prickled. At least she had the decency to blush. “What can I say?” She smoothed the newspaper out on her lap. “What can you say?” His face felt cold too. Maybe he was dying. He hated that he kept repeating her, but his mind was stuck in a loop. This was not supposed to happen. He couldn’t turn his head. He felt something coiling in his chest. “The novel just wasn’t going to work. I read it too. And you trust me. The entire premise—it didn’t work. You needed to know.” Jordan’s chest was tightening more and more. He could hardly breathe. Mindy softened for a moment, finger-combing her hair. “I’m sorry. I know it was important to you,” she said gently, reaching for his hand. The sudden realization that he needed to leave her was overwhelming. The coiling in his chest exploded like a spring. He sat still for a moment, feeling himself vibrating like a plucked string, and then he jerked his hand away from hers, kicking off the blankets and pulling on his boxer shorts. Jeans, shirt, sweater, socks. His shoes were by the front door. Mindy was watching him with a sad half-smile from the bed, but she didn’t know then that she wouldn’t see him again. Three days later, he came to take his things when she was delivering her latest painting. That set of commissions would make the value of her paintings shoot up, would make her career. Four years later, Jordan would read about her selling pieces for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then about her wedding. Mindy wouldn’t read about Jordan, or anything he had written, although she would wonder about him when the university gallery closed and they returned the giant starburst painting, and again when she found the stack of twelve terse rejection letters mixed in with her old tax forms. By that time, though, after several miscarriages, she was pregnant, and had other things on her mind. One night, a few days after his thirty-seventh birthday, Jordan would skid on black ice, driving alone on the highway, and roll five times. He would die, and the only part of him that would briefly remain would be a recently-finished manuscript sitting on his bedside table, a manuscript that, if submitted, would garner not a single letter of rejection. It would be recycled by his landlord along with a thousand pages of truly vapid poetry. His parents would pick up the rest of his things and decide that at last, the universe had given them a sign that it was finally time to retire to Florida. u


FICTION

Steve on the SEPTA subway by Sarah Kaeppel

“H

ey, I’m Steve.” Steve is blond and thin. His eyes are jumping and he looks like a vampire. First time in months I swallow the panic to brave public transportation and of course I’m standing next to the crazy guy. And of course he wants to be my friend. “…I’m Mary.” It’s my go-to fake name. “How long have you lived here?” “Two years.” I try to give him nothing to work with, but he doesn’t need anything from me, he’s off and running: “I’ve lived here two years, too. It’s kind of a funny story, how I got to Philly. I’m from New York. Well I’m from Russia, really, but I’m from New York and you know the Occupy Movement, you’ve heard of it? Well I was there in New York and it was really official, we had college professors and everything, and then the guys I was with, they were like, let’s go to Philly. To be honest, I was hooked on Percocet. It took us like three days to get to Philly. Still have no idea why it took us three days to get from New York to Philly. We had seven guys and the car, nothing else, just the car, no money, and we were with the Occupy Movement so they set up camp and within an hour they had sixty dollars. I was so impressed. I was like woah man, 60 dollars. But the Philly Occupy Movement was just shit, it was a mess. How old are you?” “19.” It’s like me in a funhouse mirror, him so skinny and wired, out of control. Thank God he wants to talk. I can’t talk right now. But I can listen. I’m a good listener. Good job, Steve, talk. “19? Really? I would’ve guessed 15, 16. You’re, you seem bleak and, and timid. I don’t mean anything bad by it, I just—you look nice and like you can’t say no to people, people gonna take advantage of that. You get asked for money a lot, don’t you? No, this guy, years ago, he told me you gotta walk around like you just paid rent and you own the place. Otherwise the police they see that weakness in me and they catch onto it and I’m in trouble. You gotta seem tough. Can I use your phone?” Fuck you, bleak and timid. Here, have my life as a 19-year-old girl, let’s see if you don’t turn out bleak and timid. You look pretty fucking bleak and timid yourself. “Sorry?” “I need to call my phone, I lent this guy my phone. I just got out of the hospital yesterday and I need to call this guy, he has my phone. I wrote down the number somewhere. Shit. It’s here somewhere. Shit, shit, shit. Okay here, okay yeah, thanks… Hi? Hey where are you? This is Steve, the guy from the Amtrak station? At 30th Street. We met at 30th Street a couple of days ago. Steve. I gave you my phone. This is my phone you’re holding. Where are you?” Just got out of the hospital yesterday. It’s me in a mirror. I know, I know it’s my kind of hospital. I just got out Wednesday and my wrist still feels naked without the plastic bracelet, I’m afraid of the sun and the grass, I miss the trapped whiteness, I can’t breathe with all this air, how are we going to live like this? “Steve—” Steve’s gone. My phone is in my hands.

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THEATER On (stage) violence by Josh McLucas

The fall 2014 semester is an exciting time for honors theater majors, as we pick or finish our thesis projects. I spent the first half of the semester reading upwards of 10 plays a week to nail down what projects would be best for my acting thesis (a decision made by consensus with the director and three other students) and my directing thesis. This opportunity was the sole factor keeping me from transferring to NYU early in my freshman year when I realized I wanted to study theater. The play selection process has been long and grueling but ultimately fruitful, as I will direct one of my favorite plays of all time: “Mercury Fur” by Philip Ridley. “Mercury Fur” was one of about a half-dozen plays which made my heart go wild on every page. They were very stylistically diverse, but l noticed a trend: in many of these plays, something horrific occurs. It wasn’t a surprising discovery, as I directed “Titus Andronicus” on the LPAC mainstage in Spring 2014; a great number of horrific acts occur over the course of the Shakespeare classic, and the body count is very high. Using violence as a tool in my artistic canvas is clearly something I’m interested in. But why? I immediately dismissed the notion that I might be a closet psychopath or sadist. The “Saw” franchise made nearly $900 million worldwide and spanned four different directors, and surely not all of those creators and audience members were in it just to see people get hurt. Sarah Kane’s “Blasted” was at once called a “disgust24

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ing feast of filth” by the Daily Mail and “wonderful…controlled, meticulous, and brave” by the Independent as it played to full houses. What is it about violence and horror onstage that makes me and so many others run toward it like iron filings to a magnet?

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ruth is of my biggest interests in theater. I’m fascinated by the suspension of disbelief that occurs when you enter a theater and what happens when you introduce epistemological truth - undeniable facts about reality, like an actor’s name - into the mix. What happens when you message someone on Facebook live in front of an audience? How is that experience different from watching an actor portray Willy Loman? These questions set my blood afire, but they only concern truth-as-knowable-fact. There’s another dimension of truth that I call visceral truth. Visceral truth is pre-psychological, truer than fact. Facts are interpretable whereas visceral truth is not. Visceral truth is a feeling that occurs before you can think about it, or perhaps a bodily reaction that you are unaware of. It’s the bottom dropping out of you at the end of Frank Darabont’s “The Mist.” It’s the increased pitter patter of your heart when you realize you are, in fact, lost in an unfamiliar area. It’s the tingly body sensations when you watch a medical procedure that leaves little to the imagination. It’s the heightened awareness when you’re caught walking around Swarthmore’s campus holding someone’s hand for the first time. There are many other examples, but what’s striking about them is that visceral truth can be achieved through media we know is fiction as well as through real-life experiences, and it seems that the majority of the actions which reveal visceral truth are unpleasant in some way. So, I’m drawn to some pretty nasty art because it fulfills this need for truth. Each form reaches for visceral truth via dif-

ferent means. Performance art keeps the violence real and often places it too close to us for comfort. Film violence’s special effects disgust us with the nearest approximation of reality money can buy. Greek stage violence remains out-of-sight offstage where our imaginations fill in the horror of the act and the revelation and reaction is more powerful than the act itself. Modern stage violence (at least in the in-your-face theater tradition) confronts the viewer with the act - unquestionably fake or they couldn’t perform six times a week, yet the power and energy of live bodies reaches past the footlights and enters our pores. Of course, I’m presuming that the violence onstage is performed in a semi-realistic manner. Maybe there’s no blood, maybe there’s heaps of it, maybe the movements are a little too choreographed, but the actors are humans carrying out actions as we can imagine they would look in life for the most part. One way to deal with violence in a script is to stylize its presentation. By taking the action out of the realm of our reality, it becomes easier to digest (though perhaps harder to parse). Stylization can often lead to the Brechtian estrangement effect, giving audiences sufficient distance to analyze the play/event cognitively. However, that distance denies the onstage violence its power: shaking the audience out of its everyday cloud of middling emotion and hitting it with visceral truth. Each approach is valid, but they produce dramatically different audience states.

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here is a great deal of psychological literature surrounding the notion that violence begets violence. Though no causal links have ever been made (a study of that sort would undoubtedly raise ethics questions), there is near-universal agreement: exposure to media violence is correlated with the likelihood of committing acts of actual violence in both the short and long term. According to me-


The cover photo from an edition of Philip Ridley’s “Mercury Fur.”

ta-analyses, the correlation between violent acts and violent television is moderate at .31, and violent acts and violent video game playing is slightly lower at .25 (for perspective, number of cigarettes smoked vs. deaths from lung cancer is .69). In longitudinal studies of children, directionality showed that consuming violent media led Photo courtesy of Metheun Publishing Ltd.

to increased violent behavior but violent behavior did not lead to consuming more violent media. All things equal, since consuming violent media is clearly related to committing violent acts, how can anyone justify putting more staged violence into the world? The studies analyzed in this discussion

have some limitations with regards to onstage violence. To my knowledge, theater has never been included in any study on violence, likely because the average citizen does not see enough theater for it to be coded as strongly in memory as television or video games. Whereas these studies focus overwhelmingly on children, as the SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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effect is most strong for young people, theater audiences are much much older. In the 2010-2011 Broadway season, the average age of a theatergoer was 44, with plays specifically bringing in an average age of 53. The likelihood of committing violence decreases sharply with age, with violent crime rates approaching zero around age 65. Of course, social learning through media consumption can still have an effect, but after the teenage years, the damage has been done so-to-speak, and these individuals do not make up the theatrical audience. Of course, violence is not presented in a vacuum. The framing of violent acts can radically influence interpretability. Research is needed to determine whether it’s the framing of violence as neutral or positive that leads to violent behavior or if the mere presence has the main effect, but we can experience the effect with contemporary media. An extreme example might be that of “Wanted” vs. “Fruitvale Station.” In both, people are shot. Many more bullets are expended in “Wanted,” but the more significant difference is that “Wanted” makes guns and casual killing look cool. One might say it glorifies violence. In “Fruitvale Station,” the gunshot is an instant trigger for tears - if you’ve been paying attention and you have a semblance of a heart it leaps into your mouth. In “Wanted,” we want to see the curved bullet trick again and again - killing anyone who stands in its way. We know the gunshot is coming in “Fruitvale Station,” but we wish it wouldn’t. The artistic center of these movies is at least one act of violence, but the treatment of violence in each context colors the audience’s reaction to it considerably.

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nlike television, where one can simply flip to a channel where a simulated beating is occurring, theater activates the opting-in process for violent acts. Buying a ticket, standing in line, traveling to the play’s location, and picking a seat all require a potential audience member to say, “Yes, I would like to see this.” Plot synopses, reviews, and content/trigger warnings ensure that audience members know what they’re getting into, and allowing them to opt-out if they foresee any problem arising from the content. I would argue that this opt-in process makes theater, as a whole, one of the best forms of media/art for protecting its audience members from harm. This being said, trigger warnings have the danger of rendering onstage violence completely useless. An audience member

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walking into a theater with a sign that says “This performance contains depictions of sexual assault” has that phrase lingering in their head for the whole performance. The level of dramatic tension rises, and they wonder whether the assault will happen there. It’s Chekhov’s gun - we wait for it to go off. Once the act begins, though, we can simply turn off and ignore it. We catalog it as fulfilling our expectations - no shock, no surprise. All dramatic power is lost. The presence of the act onstage is superfluous and excessive; it could be replaced with a card saying “the rape happens here”. I am not advocating for the abolition of trigger warnings; theaters should protect their patrons. And theater makers should not sacrifice their vision for a potentially diminished dramatic effect. Trigger warnings could force theater makers to work harder and put more effort into crafting their work such that the audience forgets the warning and the act of violence has the desired effect. The violence ceases to be the centerpiece, and the pathways into and out of it become critical. Taking surprise and shock out of the equation focuses the dramaturgical spotlight onto why the act needs to be depicted onstage in the first place, with answers weaving a more complex web of meaning. By protecting the audience from triggering experiences, we also protect them from hastily-thought-out theater.

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ith recent productions of “Cleansed,” “Jessica,” and “Titus Andronicus” featuring graphic and disturbing violence, Swarthmore theater audiences might expect a certain level of filth and nastiness when attending an on-campus play. “Mercury Fur,” which features a party in which the guest desires to torture, sexually abuse, and kill a child with a meathook, definitely fits in with the aforementioned in-yer-face production.The violence, however, is not the point. The play is about class conflict and the extremes one must go to in order to protect the people one loves the most. It’s about amazingly intricate familial relationships and what it really means to say that blood is thicker than water. It’s about the construction of memory. It’s about all the forms that love can take. There’s something about the power of the government over the people in there too (but I haven’t been able to make that theme sound eloquent yet). The play is incredibly complex, and the violence-centric plot is merely the backdrop that enables the exploration of these themes and drives the action

forward. In my “Mercury Fur,” the only violence we see is a protracted fistfight - in both my version and in Ridley’s. In Greek fashion, the extreme violence is kept ob skene

Our imaginations are a million times more horrible than anything actors can create. In a world of horrors, closing our eyes is searching for an escape where there is none. (offstage). We hear a lot - probably too much - but ultimately, it’s our imagination that completes the act. The depiction of violence comes directly from ourselves - guided by the auditory landscape and entrances/exits of the production. Our imaginations are a million times more horrible than anything actors can create onstage. Of course, we don’t want to see it. But, in a world of horrors, closing our eyes is searching for an escape where there is none. “Mercury Fur” is loaded with opportunities to reveal visceral truth. I continue to search for what can be done with visceral truth once it’s experienced. Is it enough to simply recognize it? Should it be commented on? Does it open the door for didacticism? These questions loom large for “Mercury Fur.” Neither violence nor visceral truth is necessary or sufficient for a play to be good. But, violent plays and violent stagings of plays need to be given a chance. They can be more than filth. They can be more than shock value. They can do more than glorify and promote horrible actions. In the right hands, they have the potential to create an impactful theatrical experience. Look for “Mercury Fur” in April to prove it. And be sure to have someone to talk to afterward. u


ART ‘The Unified Field’: David Lynch at PAFA In paintings, as in films, Lynch explores sick, dark reality beneath the surface of the commonplace

REVIEW

David Lynch, “Boy Lights Fire” (2010), mixed media on cardboard, at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

by Jena Gilbert-Merrill

T

he museum at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), which is nestled in on a street a few blocks from Suburban Station, is a wellkept secret. Until January, it is featuring an exhibit of David Lynch’s paintings and drawings, ranging from the two years that Lynch spent as a student at PAFA in the mid-1960s up through his more recent work. In addition, the exhibit is particularly interesting to consider in Photo courtesy of Hyperallergic.com

light of how Philadelphia has changed since the 60s, when it was the dark, gothic, and seedy city that profoundly influenced the trajectory of Lynch’s work and gave him fodder for the Lynchian aesthetic that we know today. When we hear the name David Lynch, we probably think of Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, perhaps Lost Highway or The Elephant Man. We think of him primarily as a filmmaker with a mysterious and twisted aesthetic that is visually stimulating and often beautiful, even when it borders on disturbing or

frightening. What many people do not know is that this aesthetic arose from his work in painting and the influential time he spent in Philadelphia. “The Unified Field” opened at PAFA in mid-September, and it is the first major US exhibit of Lynch’s paintings, drawings, lithographs, as well as some of his inaugural forays into the moving image. The film component of the exhibit includes a multimedia video piece called Six Men Getting Sick: a 3-dimensional screen with three casts of a young Lynch’s face protruding from it, onto SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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which is projected a 60-second, handdrawn loop of a stomach and intestines turning into several people vomiting while a siren blares. Lynch’s visual art is as strange and disconcerting as anyone who has seen Eraserhead would expect. Throughout his career, Lynch has explored the sick and dark reality that lies beneath the surface of the commonplace. In his paintings, like his films, he takes

Lynch’s painting feels heavy-handed in a way that most of his films do not. They seem to lack the self-awareness that would allow the viewer to understand as ordinary the sickness that he works to portray. It’s hard to engage with Lynch’s visual art and get lost in its world the way you can when viewing his films. familiar themes, scenes, tropes, and images and distorts them by reducing, stretching, enlarging, and disconnecting pieces of them to a point that they are still, for the most part, recognizable but are unnerving, sinister, sometimes otherworldly. All the mystery, weirdness, and abstruseness that are present in Lynch’s films are present in his painting and drawing, but in these media he plays with a completely an aesthetic that is more heavy-handed and objectively less visually arresting. In his more recent work, he cakes paint on in thick globs 28

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that seem to ooze from the canvas or cardboard onto which they are applied. Cigarette filters, matches, what look like bits of insulation, clumps of horse hair, and bright red lightbulbs are incorporated into various pieces; while this dates back to works such as “Gardenback” (1969/70), Lynch has delved further here more recently in pieces such as “Redman” (2000), in which he uses found objects to abbreviate works that are already off-putting. In the disgusting execution of many of his paintings, Lynch seems to be drawing attention to a façade that we take to be safe, normal, and wholesome, and does so in a manner that often feels immature, clumsy and, as a result, unsuccessful. In particular, in works such as “Boy Lights Fire” (2010) and “I Am Running From Your House” (2013), he explores the innocence and creativity of childhood that does not yet fully understand the more frightening aspects of life. Within “The Unified Field,” the typically idyllic themes of home, childhood, love, and the body and its form and functions are inverted and imbued with danger, violence, and distortion. Lynch’s painting feels heavy-handed in a way that most of his films do not. They seem to lack the self-awareness that would allow the viewer to understand as ordinary the sickness that he works to portray. While his subject matter is quotidian, he depicts his themes in ways that have no pretenses of reading as normal, and are too obviously distorted to prevent the viewer from seeing them as anything but grotesque. It’s hard to engage with Lynch’s visual art and get lost in its world in the way you can when viewing his films, in which the visuals -- particularly his dramatic use of color and imagery -- alone are enough to catch and hold the viewer. It’s also tempting to explain this disparity between the affect his various media have on the viewer by appealing to the broader question of narrative and its use in film versus painting. Lynch has stated that, “Real cinema does not rely on dialogue at all” – essentially, within the context of film dialogue is not necessary for narrative clarity and coherence. He clearly toys with this idea in his films, whose characteristically Lynchian plots are strange and troubling, and whose dialogue sometimes seem to operate separately from their visual context. This is part of what makes his films so interesting, and what allows the viewer to revel in the aesthetic qualities of a given

image. Lynch’s paintings, on the other hand, certainly possess narrative – sometimes, even while the image is contorted, the narrative is blatantly obvious. As in “Two Figures By Car” (2012) and “Bob Loves Sally Until She’s Blue In The Face” (2000), Lynch scrawls in a childish hand brief phrases that elucidate the content of the image or reveal the story behind it. But the image is too tied up with the content of the narrative for the viewer to be able to appreciate one as separate from the other. Where the images are harsh, confusing, and distorted, the text serves more as clarification than anything else. While this may be the point -- the title of the exhibit certainly draws attention to the idea of unification, and perhaps Lynch is trying to unify the narrative and graphic realms of a work of visual art -- Lynch’s paintings are lacking in the subtlety and consciousness of their materiality that would effectively convey his artistic project. “The Unified Field” is certainly something, and while it’s hard for me to imagine that Lynch’s visual art would truly appeal to anyone other than avid fans of his films, I think the exhibit deserves a trip into the city on an afternoon off. Anyone looking for exposure to his work should watch his films or television shows (I highly recommend Twin Peaks) before exploring his less successful and more off-putting paintings. If you decide to visit PAFA and can’t find something that intrigues you in one of the rooms featuring Lynch’s own work, you can always visit “Something Clicked in Philly,” a room within the exhibit that features work created by some fellow students and friends of Lynch’s with whom he attended PAFA. Perhaps many people don’t know about this museum because it’s slightly removed from the nicer, glossier parts of Philadelphia that people tend to visit. Maybe it doesn’t get the attention that other museums in the city get because people don’t feel comfortable venturing from well-known areas around Rittenhouse Square or 30th Street Station. However, “The Unified Field” offers an interesting glimpse into the Philadelphia of the 1960s by way of the creative inspiration that it supplied for Lynch, and PAFA is a nice, quiet museum with a lovely permanent collection and free admission for Swarthmore students. It’s worth the trip, even if you don’t go for the Lynch. u


BOOKS When police become an ‘occupying force’

REVIEW

A sociologist examines the toll overpolicing has taken on one Philadelphia neighborhood

P O L I C E

Philadelphia’s Police Administration Building, better known as the “Roundhouse,” in the Franklin Square section of Center City

by Kara Bledsoe

“R

oughly three percent of adults in the nation are now under correctional supervision: 2.2 million people in prisons and jails, and an additional 4.8 million on probation or parole. In modern history, only the forced labor camps of the former USSR under Stalin approached these levels of penal confinement.” Sociologist and

Photo courtesy of Hidden City Philadelphia

ethnographer Alice Goffman begins her new book “On The Run: Fugitive Life in an American City” with some disturbing facts. Is she going for shock value to entice readers with a haunting title and disparaging statistics, or is she simply telling harsh truths? I think both are fair assessments. In the last 30 years, the over-policing of low-income communities of color has become standard policy for law-enforcement agencies all over the country. 6th Street, Goffman’s pseud-

On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City by Alice Goffman U. OF CHICAGO PRESS 288 pages | $25

onym for the Philadelphia neighborhood in which she conducted the majority of her research, is no exception. This community is a subsection of society where in some cases for young Black men “a SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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few years of prison [seem] like a better option” than remaining unincarcerated. Setting the stage for the bulk of the text, Goffman prefaces her findings with a definition of mass imprisonment via fellow sociologist David Garland: mass imprisonment: a level of incarceration markedly above the historical and comparative norm, and concentrated among certain segments of the population such that it ‘ceases to be the incarceration of individual offenders and becomes the systematic imprisonment of whole groups.’

The world of 6th Street is one of seeming chaos and despair. Police officers lurk around the perimeter of funeral homes, a “great place,” in the words of one Warrant Unit officer, “to round up people for arrest.” In this situation the police try to stay a respectful distance away not out of consideration for the grieving process or in recognition of loss of life, but to ensure that “we don’t get our picture in the paper.” 6th Street is home to a mother that prefers to have only one of her three sons out of jail at at time because she fears for the safety of all three if they are all out on the streets; this way she only has to worry for one. Still, the “forcible and unexpected removal” of Black men from their homes is a devastating reality for the majority of the women in 6th Street, and one woman lays plain the premise of Goffman’s assertions: “the police are ‘an occupying force’.” The unceasing intensity of police involvement in 6th Street has manifested itself in troubling ways that Goffman goes on to detail and attempts to decipher. A prime example is the language employed by the residents, and sobering explanations of terminology are regularly dispersed throughout the book. Violence also plays a significant role in 6th Street, from direct or misdirected aggressions to self-defense and self-preservation; I was incredulous to learn that men sometimes scrape off the skin off their fingers to avoid having their prints taken, preventing the addition of whatever charge for which they have been arrested to a never ending rap sheet meticulously kept in national digital databases. These records haunt offenders past state lines and across national borders, barring the accused from any form of relief or regeneration that could be afforded from relocation. In spite of pointed and pervasive resentment, the criminal justice system 30

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“has come to occupy a central place in [residents’] lives… it has become a principal base around which they construct a meaningful social world.” “On The Run” is concerned with these constructions. Goffman “stumbled onto” this study while she was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, a campus not without its share of blame in the formation and perpetuation of the existence of communities like 6th Street. In the pursuit of research for a course, Goffman attempted to infiltrate several spaces; her break came in the form of one of the eateries on campus, where she acquainted herself with the director of the kitchen. The undergrad was soon tutoring the director’s grandchildren in their nearby neighborhood, and the familial and community networks that opened to her allowed for the gradual assimilation of Goffman into the fabric of a new and confusing world. 6th Street is “a wide commercial avenue,” a combination of residential areas and businesses attempting to survive the onset deterioration from white flight. According to Goffman, “in the last third of the twentieth century, the Civil Rights Movement helped forge a new Black middle class with considerable political and economic power.” I am not familiar with the exposure to Black history that Goffman may have had, but from my own studies, the establishment of a Black middle class came long before the conventional time period assigned to the Civil Rights movement. The policies of the 20th century to which Goffman could be referring (including Social Security, among others) when she makes this statement were most certainly aimed at the creation and stabilization of a White middle class, with the simultaneity of a sporadic uplifting of Blacks being a convenient side product with which to proclaim the objective of racial equality of said policies. Additionally, the Civil Rights Era could be said to start decades before “the last third” of the 1900s, where the frameworks and precedents for later actions were first conceived and executed. (See Robin Kelley’s “Right to Ride” for more on that subject.) That said, the Black middle class is indeed a significant player in the general perception of 6th Street and comparable communities. The neighborhood of 6th Street was home to an entirely White population, and as Blacks in the area generated wealth on a scale allowing them to participate in homeownership, a sacred sector of the American dream, the

White residents predating this economic shift sought refuge from an undesired integrated living space. With the White folk went the majority of the funding for maintaining civil resources that characterize thriving localities and unfortunately also the credibility and worth of homes and businesses. The decrease in property value gave easier access to lower income Blacks, and the resulting decrease in civic and commercial revenue continued until 6th Street was written off as a ghetto. A lack of access to the government sanctioned economy generated the creation of an alternative system, based on the drug trade and other illicit activities. The Philadelphia police “turned a fairly blind eye” to crime “in poor Black communities. But in the late 1980s,... urban police forces began to refuse bribes and payoffs.” Anyone familiar with “The Wire” and similar dramas can guess the next stages of 6th Street’s development. “Tough on Crime” policies criminalized the previously unchecked underground, which operated very much in opposition to what the term implies, and transformed citizens caught in its network of offenses into enemies of the state. Goffman goes on to address the troubling effects of the withdrawal of Black male youth from their communities: low wages, unemployment, educational deficits (within the race, by both gender and class), and a decrease in family planning capabilities. Goffman planned to move through this space with “the method of participant observation,” which required her “cutting [herself] off from [her] former life and subjecting [herself] as much as possible to the crap that people [she wants] to know about are being subjected to.” By focusing on minimizing her presence in an attempt to observe and not disturb the delicate balance of the community, Goffman was required to continuously revisit the circumstances around her participation in 6th Street life; much of the lives of her subjects was therefore inaccessible. Goffman’s status as an affluent, educated white woman required her to adopt the behaviors and mindsets of those surrounding her, and as complete assimilation into this community evaded Goffman, she admits, “I missed a lot by not moving through the criminal justice system alongside [the ‘6th Street Boys.’]” What Goffman was able to capture is a telling perspective on a familiar image to which most Americans are desensitized. The better part of “On The Run” is


full of the narratives of 6th Street and Goffman’s analysis; overwhelmingly she finds that her subjects are not the passive victims that they are often essentialized to be. These young people and their families “reappropriate” their circumstances to carve out an existence inconceivable to most outside of their community, and the entire text could be written as a single sentence: “a young man concerned that the police will take him into custody comes to see danger and risk in the mundane doings of life.” Like a sixth sense, the males of this community possess an uncanny knack for picking out police; it’s “a heightened awareness” that lies secure in the back of the minds of the older youths and that must be taught early to the younger ones. That the police are not present to serve and protect is a lesson learned from birth, and “a man intent on staying out of jail cannot call the police when harmed, or make use of the courts to settle disputes.” With the external pressure of the police and the courts, 6th Street residents often turn to each other, but the mark of a wanted man is a heavy burden to bear and share. Young men with warrants for arrest are often “the target of those looking for someone to exploit or rob” because they have no outlet for redress, barring self-incrimination. This certainty of imprisonment and the pervasive belief in masculinity being tied to dominating aggression cause many to “resort to violence..for protection or revenge,” and yet a softer, more tragic thread winds its way through the worn fabric of the 6th Street neighborhood: “Just as a man worried the police will pick him up avoids the hospital when his child is born and refuses to seek formal medical care when he is badly beaten, so he won’t visit his friends and relatives in prison or jail.” For most men caught in the impossible paradox of the necessitated unpredictability of evasion and the daunting inevitability of capture, arrest is only a matter of time, and life on the outside is reduced to a numbers game; the truth of this statement is in the nature of the relationships between residents. Male friends that go back to childhood may not know the other’s last name; the less your loved ones know the better, and personal identities are protected fervently. The need for anonymity can sometimes work in their favor. Says Goffman, “being wanted… can work as an excuse for a wide variety of unfulfilled obli-

gations and expectations,” and even “confinement begins to look more attractive to them during times of sustained violent conflict.” Nevertheless, these relative benefits oblige a lonely existence. The people closest to a young man could turn into his mortal enemies given the right conditions. Regardless, “people create a meaningful social world and moral life from whatever cards they have been dealt, and young people growing up in poor and segregated Black neighborhoods are no exception.” The often unspoken rules governing life in 6th Street are informed greatly by hyper-policing. Overall, the root of community unity is in the opposing of the police. The people in this neighborhood have built a culture out of their being systematically criminalized. For example, instead of going to a bank, residents might use the bail office to hold funds, most likely returns from court proceedings. Furthermore, running from the police is a collective accomplishment; it takes a village to raise a child, and, it seems, to hide him from law enforcement when he comes of age. In support of the alternative economy previously mentioned, people in positions to do so allow their community members to avoid legal hoops and provide pathways for receiving medical care, obtaining housing, and accessing car repairs. The list extends to the delicate business of selling one’s own “clean” pee and looking the other way on government-mandated credit checks. In the area of gender relations, the fugitive society of 6th Street overwhelmingly “[regards] imprisonment as more of an indictment of a woman’s character and lifestyle than a man’s, partly on the grounds that police randomly stop and search men, while women must do something more extreme to get the police’s attention.” A secondary support for the gendering of this conversation lies in the access to and acquisition of education. Goffman attributes this significantly lower level of Black female incarceration and policing to the fact that “women in the Black community are significantly better educated and better employed than their male counterparts…,” and, helpfully, “...a good share of them [in 6th Street] work in criminal justice.” These women are certainly not left out of police antagonism. “Threats of arrest, eviction, and loss of child custody” coupled with physical force are the techniques by which women are encouraged to cooperate with the police when raids and

stops take place. When the police are not direct threats, “many women around 6th Street find that their son’s legal proceedings structure their days.” Taking sons to court becomes as mundane an activity as grocery shopping is for some women in other demographics; however, stopping by Whole Foods does not require several hours in waiting room and hundreds of dollars in court fees. Out of desperation and an idealistic insistence for a stable family structure, some women use “men’s bad behavior” as an excuse for blackmail, thereby finding their own advantages to hyper-policing. Along these lines, my first critique was in the very strict gender lines drawn in Goffman’s discussion. After completing the book, however, I recognize her conclusion as appropriate given her data. Additionally, I had to keep in mind that, although Goffman makes claims about all the Black people of America or at least all poor Black Americans from time to time, her primary focus is this one particular community and the surrounding areas, meaning frustration with blanket statements in her analysis was distracting from the important truths that were exposed. I also found it difficult to buy in to the readiness with which she was incorporated into the 6th Street society until I reached the end of her field work and began the section dedicated to describing the process of ingratiation that allowed for her insider’s perspective, but I am still unconvinced of the necessity of Goffman’s including in that appendix stories of her other White friends’ reactions to her choosing to undertake this project and similar personal anecdotes of her awkward interactions with Whites outside of 6th Street. Those experiences not informing the goal of the text I think were meant for a memoir, not an ethnographic commentary on modern policing in low-income urban areas. In class I have been told that sociological work feels obvious and unscholarly to those with lived experiences in the communities being discussed. That being said, I did not appreciate feeling infantilized by her repetition. I have no issue with the restating of main ideas; that is an essential component of effective communication, but Goffman’s presentation was lacking with respects to an accompanying vocabulary. Generally, the whole book felt rushed, as if the pressure of her renowned father’s prestige (he’s the critically acclaimed sociologist Erving SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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Goffman) was the driving force for a premature compilation of her research. All that said, the most grave objection I have to “On The Run” is with the issue of absolving the police: This justifiable anger [from the 6th Street residents towards police] does not mean that we should view the police as bad people, or their actions as driven by racist or otherwise malevolent motives. The police are in an impossible position… the police and the courts are not equipped with social solutions. They are equipped with handcuffs and jail time.

I still find it incomprehensible that someone who was present during police raids, who was the target of their insults involving, without exaggeration on my part, accusations of her presumed preference for “Black dick,” and who had witnessed the aftermath of police beatings of innocents, could attempt to rationalize or deny the racism employed by those “in an impossible position” of either treating people with decency and understanding or being active members in the violent criminalization of a whole people. I agree with the #notallpolice movement which Goffman is advocating to the extent that I believe honest and respectable police officers do exist, and hopefully some of them will be present

in the 6th Street community in the very near future, but, again, she is charged with revealing the truths of this one neighborhood. and No social solutions are sustainable without serious discussion of those truths’ and, more generally, of the lack of “public outcry” at Goffman’s descriptions of life in this poor Black community. I offer another of the statistics with which Goffman frames her book: “Black people make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 37 percent of the prison population.” I say that this disparity is not an accident and that anyone interested in the story of Black incarceration in America should read “Slavery By Another Name,” both the book and the complementary documentary, and “Worse Than Slavery” for a historical perspective before diving into the plethora of articles dedicated to this subject in a modern context. Learn about broken windows policing, too, if you have the time. Watch “Boyz ‘n the Hood” if your attention span is not up for the challenge of books and online research. At the end of your studies, maybe you will come to adopt a mindset similar to mine and Goffman’s: that “intensive policing and the crime it intends to control become mutually reinforcing,” spawning a vicious cycle that leaves the neighborhoods of low-income people of color

without channels of resolution. I take issue with “On The Run” ending on the point which Goffman was almost desperately trying to reach, that 6th Street “represents only the latest chapter in a long history of Black exclusion and civic diminishment in the United States.” By using the book/chapter analogy, Goffman implies that Black experience can be compartmentalized and delivered in little packets of reconstructed sociological theory without considering the multifaceted narratives that are found within Blackness at any point in history. My last takeaway from this book is one that hits home: “...we might understand the U.S. ghetto as one of the last repressive regimes of the age: one that operates within our liberal democracy, yet unbeknownst to many living only a few blocks away.” With Chester five minutes down the road, how is it that we can think of Swarthmore as a bubble? We are living in a direct parallel to 6th Street. We aren’t special in this way. The inaccuracies devised by a purposefully manufactured idealism are at the root of many issues we are experiencing currently on campus. Ignorance coupled with prejudice, so deeply ingrained that we call it common sense, is the enemy of 6th Street, as “On The Run” so cogently conveys. u

The strange spirituality of Michael Robbins Powerfully written new poetry collection cares about each of us, in the small way it can

by Ian Hoffman

M

ichael Robbins has just released a new book of poems, titled “The Second Sex.” Should we be offended? Well, no. The book may be full of lines like, “All the planet does is bitch bitch bitch,” and “I’ve legally changed my name to whites only,” but, as Robbins has said, paraphrasing the words of his contemporary, the poet Anthony Madrid: “Put your finger on any given line, and I’ll tell you what percent I believe it. It never goes lower than 15 percent, and it never goes higher than 91 percent.” We can try this concept on a few lines from his oeuvre:

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The United States of Fuck You Too Is what you’re about to receive. You can shoot all the kids you like, But you can never leave. —from “Live Rust”

The United States of America, a consumption-driven capitalist behemoth, crushes the individual who receives it, against his will, at birth; if, driven insane by the difficulty of living in such an uncaring society, that person desires to shoot a kid (possibly even to save it from such a destiny?), that won’t help him escape its pincer-grasp. On the other hand, life in the United States can’t be that bad: Robbins has been able to write

REVIEW

The Second Sex by Michael Robbins PENGUIN BOOKS 64 pages | $18

these lines, and he isn’t being sent to jail. So is he disaffected? Yes. But he is affected enough to participate; he cares about what happens in the USA. He is not willing to just leave it, become like the “weirdos in caves” on whom the CIA keeps files. We have to note also Robbins’ riffing on cultural clichés in these lines: specifically, on the Eagles’ “Hotel California.” This makes him part of a cultural dialogue that includes the Eagles, and,


indeed, his poems frequently riff on modern rock and comment on its happenings. There’s a poem about making mixtapes for girls who “Won’t Give Death Metal a Chance”; Springsteen makes his appearance in “Out Here in the Fields,” and even Mick Jagger gets a shout-out when Robbins jokes, “Is this Mick Jagger I see before me?” (A riff, of course, on Shakespeare’s “Is this a dagger I see before me?”). This is a frequent tactic of his; to pair something incredibly old-school, like Shakespeare, with something new, like Mick Jagger, to highlight how crazy and mixed-up our culture has become. That might be why we’re reminded, in elegant diction, that Michael Jackson “slept with many a kid,” only to be told a moment later: I don’t know And you shouldn’t act Like you know what he did.

The rhyme of “kid” and “did” chimes painfully, since he probably did (traditionally, it would be “low” to rhyme about such a serious thing as molestation). For Robbins, taking stock of such cultural going-ons, and mocking them even, is what it means to be a part of American culture, as a consumer of information. These are events with no immediate pertinence to his or to any of our lives, and yet we are eager to feel larger than ourselves, to feel connected through them, in a society which has reduced us all to various points on spreadsheets. Even if we’re more than that, as we indeed are, we must remember, as Robbins also tells us, that we’re just, “a billion points of glitter/ In a fathomless abyss.” All, of course, is transitory. So if it weirdly seems that great old poetic themes—that of the passing of life, and its inconsequentiality—are woven throughout the maddeningly referential, often sickly aggressive work of Michael Robbins, that’s because, subtly, they are. This is what makes his poetry work as more than a collection of revamped catch phrases, like “First comes love, which I disparage.” In fact, it is necessary for this low-level spirituality to be couched in banalities and dressedup with glitter and pyrotechnics, since our modern day culture doesn’t allow it to exist any other way: one can’t in good conscience escape into the caves, nor can one go mad, and traditional forms of spirituality, such as the nature poems which Robbins surely would disparage,

are meaningless if the practitioner goes back to browsing YouTube after meditating. Instead, Robbins is capitalizing on the resources that such a culture gives him, that is, his middle-class lifestyle, a lifestyle that gives him leisure time to endlessly browse the web, and his Ph.D. in a subject as superfluous as poetry, which lets him litter his poems with obscure, eyebrow-raising references. From these—and a heavy dose of natural wit, I’ll add—he produces poetry which is somewhat defiant and, in its own way, self-aware. As a well-off individual in his early forties, Robbins is able to sit back and criticize the political situation in the US without any personal risk, and from this, he can build bitingly funny poems such as “In the Air Tonight” which begins, “All my love come tumbling down/

Robbins’s Ph.D. allows him to litter his poems with obscure, eyebrow-raising references. and I get wild pregnant with Jesus.” This is an absurd way to begin a poem, and Robbins knows it, but it’s also mocking Americans who actually do “get wild pregnant with Jesus” at mega-churches, suggesting, perhaps that their wildness is not actually nearly as legitimate as they, perhaps, believe it is (but we can’t know). Instead, they’re probably blinded by their low-classness, by the fact that no one has ever given them a Ph.D. Even if Robbins doesn’t believe this—and who fully would—he doesn’t disbelieve it, either. His poetry exists to call into question our beliefs about such things as this, finding them not invalid or valid, but instead culturally constructed, toeing the line between truth and fiction. That’s what makes them fun to tease apart. Perhaps “In the Air Tonight” is also mocking people who expect poetry to begin the way it used to, with a sort of high seriousness typical of Keats or Yeats. Spirituality does exist in his work, but only when everything is stripped

away; it exists under the buzz of all his conflicting, lifted statements. We may all be “points of glitter/ In a fathomless abyss” but what does that really mean for our actions? It seems to mean that we’ll go right back to browsing the web, but maybe feel a bit of camaraderie for the other points of glitter too, for what that’s worth. Robbins believes in our own meaningless, and any spirituality he has seems, to me, forced. That’s OK: I don’t demand the spiritual from him. I like his work as a wild ride, and, where it really shines, as a reflection of a person—a persona, not the poet himself, who I don’t know—who is so over his head in technology that he becomes transformed by it just as he transforms its language. It is the portrait of a society of consumers who, in order to cover up the spiritual vacuums inside themselves, make jokes about murder and the messed-up country they live in, and are unconcerned about everything but the ability to remain distanced and ironize. And yet such poetry proves its converse: that some spirituality must exist in order for people to try so hard to hide from it. Robbins offers no alternative to this ironizing, nor does he seem to believe there is one, at least in poetry. But his is powerful writing, writing that cares about the state of each of us in the small way that it’s able to: writing about actual modern-day topics, for example, instead of about the wall in his backyard, means that Robbins, on some level, cares what happens in Iraq, even if he doesn’t believe in the power of poetry to change anything (as Auden wrote, “Poetry does nothing”). He sympathizes. However, we must also acknowledge that his poetry does have the power to change one thing: his own status in this society, and it has, rocketing the once-unknown Ph.D. candidate to the man whose 2012 collection, “Alien Vs. Predator,” sold more copies than any other book of poetry that year (what an accomplishment!). Thus, by crouching in the language of the internet, Robbins has advanced his own social status to an extent. For all his disparaging, he’s gained immensely. Maybe, as he’d want us to believe, there’s no alternative. Maybe there never has been. I don’t know: I’m still young. But I like the idea that contemporary poetry, for all its irony, could be more than that, that spirituality could be more than the shadow of consumerism. u SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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A fresh failure of heart in “10:04” While Ben Lerner is certainly brilliant, his new book is unfortunately elitist and exclusive

by Lily Frankel

“1

0:04” is a new, novel-length book which seems to identify as a “novel” in about the same spirit as I identify as a “lifetime suburbanite.” It’s written by Ben Lerner and narrated by a writer called Ben, who is himself writing about a man known as “the author.” On the cover of “10:04,” Ben Lerner identifies himself as the author of “Leaving the Atocha Station,” his exquisite first novel, in which his narrator/alter-ego Adam, a Brown graduate on a Fulbright to Spain, is called “El Poeta, whether with derision or affection I never really learned.” I have read a book of Lerner’s poetry and felt nothing. “Atocha” was different. After I finished it, Thanksgiving of my senior year of high school, I was so muddled, disillusioned, and elated at once that I swore to read only nonfiction until I graduated. In the deepest layer of “10:04,” we meet “the author,” who has recently been diagnosed with a potentially fatal brain tumor. His creator, Ben, has recently been diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart condition, but cannot stop imagining that it’s his brain which is diseased. Lerner, too, seems to prefer to address problems through his brain, even when they clearly stem from failures of heart. For instance, in “Leaving the Atocha Station,” Adam dates a Spanish woman, Isabel, whom he meets while just beginning to become proficient in the language. Unsure what she sees in him, Adam relishes the opportunity to be ambiguous with her, assuming that her imagination will fill in the gaps. (Not incidentally, this is how a lot of bad poetry works. Specificity is a commitment, sometimes novel-length.) Adam believes that their arrangement will be sustainable for as long as he continues to struggle with Spanish, but, unsurprisingly, Isabel quickly becomes frustrated and leaves him for another man. Even during their last conversation, when she points out that he doesn’t treat her as though she matters, Adam is unable to acknowledge

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his own actions or their effects: “’I didn’t mean that exactly, but it’s difficult to express myself with subtlety in Spanish,’” I said. ‘You are fluent in Spanish, Adán,’ she said, maybe sadly.” We can read Adam’s irresponsibility as tragicomic rather than heinous because he is essentially our age. Probably most Swatties are sometimes guilty of using schoolwork to hide from the mess of a human relationship. When someone does this to you, it hurts a lot less if you can recognize it as temporal–this isn’t our whole lives. We’re just really busy…right now. But Ben, the narrator of “10:04,” is 33 years old. He has an apartment in Brooklyn, a membership at a food coop, and one friend he really trusts. Like Adam, he is somewhat dependent on psychiatric medication; however, instead of ceding further control to dependencies on drugs and alcohol, he fills his spare time tutoring a third grader at the nearby bilingual elementary school. Ben’s therapist has taught him some strategies to cope in social settings while navigating internal conflicts, rendering him less transparent than Adam. Beneath the new veneer of “Ben,” though, a lot of Adam’s same shit lies unresolved. Though he writes fiction, Ben thinks of himself mostly as a poet, which the narration never lets you forget. He imagines corruption and impending doom as the driving forces behind almost every passing moment, including for instance a delicious seafood dinner, which to him evokes “the rhythm of artisanal Portuguese octopus fisheries coordinated with the rhythm of laborers’ migration and the rise and fall of art commodities and tradable futures in the dark galleries outside the restaurant and the mercury and radiation levels of the sashimi and the chests of the beautiful people in the restaurant– coordinated, or so it appeared, by money.” Here is all the specificity Adam was avoiding, but it serves no purpose aside from establishing a mood of panic, which might be done in fewer words. Perhaps I take Ben’s ruminations too

REVIEW

10:04 by Ben Lerner FABER & FABER 256 pages | $25

personally. After all, this is a metafiction, part of whose mission is to make me aware of my involvement as “co-constructor” (Lerner’s boxy term) of my own reading experience. Such tricks do not have to feel cheap, but they do here, mostly because I suspect that what Lerner wants most is to be recognized. Some of what he describes–the transcendent community spirit which accompanies most hurricanes, or the heavy feeling of waking wrongly in your best friend’s bed– are attempts to elucidate the universal, which I consider a noble goal. However, taken together, the details of “10:04” establish a code that I, as a fellow liberal arts student, Spanish learner, child of psychologists, and aspiring writer am made to feel I’m in a unique position to understand. Lerner consistently employs symbolism natural just to college-educated New Yorkers, or perhaps students whose colleges subscribe to the New York Times, to reinforce his themes. This is most obvious in the descriptions of food, but also something I noticed with the itineraries of Ben’s walks (the High Line, the Brooklyn Bridge) and casual references to the high-concept modern art he enjoys. As for Lerner’s convoluted diction, I was giving him the benefit of the doubt (maybe he’s just keeping faith with his inner voice?) until I came across Ben’s critique of a less pretentious poet as writing with “an almost autistic simplicity,” a description which offends me. I felt my suspicions confirmed: Lerner’s choice of words and images is meant to divide his audience into those on his level and those below it. I return to “Atocha” for insight on this unfortunate trait, to a passage where Adam is thinking himself into a downward spiral: “If I was a poet, I had become one because poetry, more intensely than any other practice, could not evade its anachronism and marginality and so


constituted a kind of acknowledgement of my own preposterousness, admitting my bad faith in good faith.” Bad faith in good faith may be exactly right, but altogether this is logical fallacy–if critically acclaimed poetry by Ivy League graduates has a small audience, it’s not because it’s marginalized, but because it’s elite. Still, Adam is young and depressed and not quite sane, and I love him for being those things so earnestly. Ben, on the other hand, is a grownup, marking his place in the NYC intelligentsia with references to quinoa and paid speaking engagements. His ironic tone seems to imply that he finds Adam’s most urgent questions irrelevant. What Ben has in common with Adam is a profound sense of self-pity. Strangely, it manifests mainly in relation to Ben’s work, which seems to be the part of his life in which he is most functional. He is nearly able to think around his loneliness, social anxiety, and participation in a system he believes is ensuring the planet’s destruction, and for Ben, to rationalize is to transcend. Ben cannot, however, rationalize his diagnosis, so it seeps through to become an extended metaphor in his writing. His main means of production turns into a diversion for his negative energy. Ben doesn’t have Adam’s yen to justify his creative impulses; he accepts the mantle of Writer without much angst over whether he deserves it. Instead, Ben’s indignation is with form. The book opens at the aforementioned seafood restaurant as he closes the deal for a new novel with a six-figure advance. Ben’s relationship with the money, given on behalf of a commercial literary world far more receptive to the stories he never planned to write than the poems he considers his life’s work, evolves throughout the book. By the end, he’s found a really worthwhile way to invest his new wealth, and so essentially comes to terms with it. But his frustration with the idea of the novel remains evident throughout “10:04.” Rather than admitting that he is telling us a story, Lerner conflates the novel Ben plans to write with the book itself, spinning out the plot into Ben’s various unchronological side-projections of disaster. Lerner’s distaste for the novel, as with the way he crafts his metafiction, is not inherently unforgivable, but again I feel suspicious of his motives. He’s written two novels, after all, the first of which I love. And some of the most memorable moments in both books come when secondary characters share their stories (in

pure, non-meta form) with the narrators. It is an interesting pattern; in “Atocha,” Adam’s best friend recounts a drowning he witnessed in Mexico, and then later Adam retells the incident in the first person to gain the sympathy of a listener. In “10:04,” Ben spends an entire shift at the Park Slope Food Coop listening to an Arab-American activist explain how she found out that she’s not really Arab, and then later considers co-opting her experience for his forthcoming novel. These tragedies fascinate Adam and Ben, two poets, by breaking through their pathological self-absorption and delivering them what Zadie Smith names as the novel’s greatest gift, “‘a convincing imitation of multiple consciousnesses,’ otherwise known as ‘other people.’” Does Lerner give this to us in 10:04? I would say that Ben is a fully convincing and very well-written outline of another person. But here’s what he says of himself, at the very end of the book: “I know it’s hard to understand/ I am with you, and I know how it is.” At first, this claim struck me as patronizing. However, its true function is to isolate me as a reader. I am no longer even co-constructor of my own reading experience, reacting to a foreign consciousness present in the text, but invited to conflate myself completely with Ben, who’s positioned as a screen for my projections. “Por qué nací entre espejos?” asks Adam, quoting the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. “Why was I born between mirrors?” Again, perhaps I take Ben’s ruminations too personally. We do have a lot of objective personal descriptors in common. And beyond the objective, we also admit to a desire for omniscience, which masks deeper desires for total control and the power to insulate ourselves from pain. Our most important shared characteristic is that we both believe in writing as a form of prophecy: “You believe, even though you’ll deny it, that writing has some kind of magical power. And you’re probably crazy enough to make your fiction come true somehow.” That’s Ben’s

volta by Joyce Wu

humid wood and crunching cotton, thuds and pipes. the start, wait, the sleepy reach. the turn. a moment, a pause, a held breath let loose.

best friend, talking to him, but reading her accusation I felt captured. Maybe my discomfort with “10:04” is just a projection of my fear that life is and will be as Lerner has prophesied. He involves me so convincingly in his metafiction that I feel genuinely worried, an echo of my reaction to Atocha, that within fourteen years I will end up like Ben: alone, cynical and too serious to laugh at myself. Another worry, predating (but given words from) “10:04”: that my heart will fail. John Gardner, one of fiction’s late champions, says that “to write with taste…is to write so that no one commits suicide, no one despairs; to write, as Shakespeare wrote, so that people understand, sympathize, see the universality of pain, and feel strengthened, if not directly encouraged to live on.” In “10:04,” Ben Lerner forces sympathy with his own pain, but he also drives home the message that he is anything but universal. He is special: a genius, a Brooklynite, and unique even within his cadre because he is so uniquely tortured. While Lerner’s brain is certainly brilliant, I would count the book, for this exclusivity and unrepentant elitism, as a failure of heart. u SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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MUSIC Rebelling against the constraints of genre New York City’s Poetry Project fuses forms for an interactive, volatile dialogue

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no separation between the famed and the anonymous, or the performers and the audience members—the space is shared no matter who you are. Inside the church the pews and aisles are filled, the floor is covered in people, couples perched on windowsills, friends resting their heads on each others’ shoulders. There are flowers and cameras, papers and guitars, a whole array of personalities collected in this space to listen to each other. The Poetry Project’s fusion of poetry and music has its roots in the mid-1960s and 1970s New York art scene where the visual, the rhythmic and the poetic collided, a scene that produced works like Allen Ginsberg and Paul McCartney’s “Ballad of the Skeletons” and partnerships like the one between Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. Innovative musicians are drawn to the Poetry Project because it is home to poets whose goals are deeply musical: to share a feeling communally while retaining an expression of individuality. At the Project, poetry is not presented as academic or reserved for high society, but is meant to be communal, and in that way resembles rock n roll; it also rebels against the constraints of its own genre in the way that jazz and, later, rock, asserted the idea of spontaneous individuality against the idea of music as clean, well-rehearsed and uniform. It is interactive, volatile, in dialogue with dance and laughter and silence. The voices of the poets are singing: the tonal quality and the emphasis on vowels blurs the boundary between poetry and music, making them synonymous. Likewise, the voices of the musicians are speaking to us in words as well as music, stressing the importance of their lyrics. One woman recites a poem about the sea, begins to sing, then yelps and runs down the aisle until she disappears out the door. Two women come up and twist their bodies around while another improvises absurd noises. The Lou Reed

tribute, Tammy Faye Starlight’s performance of “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” sways the audience with its nostalgic flow and pays homage to an era that shaped our own. Lenny Kaye plays a song about World Book Night, a holiday celebrating reading, that seems to soothe the adult audience members into their childhood selves. His voice frequently shifts from singing to gently speaking to us, as if he’s reading us a bedtime story. Patti Smith reads quiet, reflective poetry about her years of travel and the people who she has met and lost—her voice dips into and out of the soulful ring it takes on when she’s singing. As Steve Earle, Lenny Kaye and Patti Smith perform in the same lineup as new poets and artists, the Project reveals its peaceful anarchy, its placement of everyone on the same playing field. It preserves a bygone New York City era, a time when (at least according to legend) you could brush up against the people whose songs you’ve heard on the radio. As I’m waiting in line for the bathroom, Patti Smith walks by. I stumble over an awkward attempt to tell her that I love everything she does. She sort of ignores me and ducks into the men’s bathroom, which does not have a line; soon she comes back out and replies, “I’m sorry, it was nice to meet you, I just had to pee.” This struck me as the most punk thing that happened that night. The blending of poetry and music makes for an art form that is personal but universally communicable, reflective but present-minded, political but grounded in feeling. The space at St. Mark’s church embodies the respect and attention of a poetry reading but the accessibility and interactive quality of a rock concert. My favorite thing about the Poetry Project is that there is no categorization of what poetry is—it can be visual, verbal, or musical, and the setting can be a museum, a reading or a concert. It’s always changing, and there aren’t rules. To me, that’s what rock n roll is. u

by Colette Gerstmann

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n her memoir Just Kids, Patti Smith says that what you’re doing on New Years’ Day is what you’ll be doing for the rest of the year. To secure myself a year of poetry and song, this January 1st my best friend and I ventured to the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church on East 10th Street in New York City. Every New Years’ Day, the Poetry Project

Allen Ginsberg said that the Poetry Project, at St. Mark’s Church on East 10th Street in New York City, “burns like red hot coal in New York’s snow.” hosts an all-day poetry marathon, with performances from world-famous and low-profile artists alike, all mixing and mingling in one room and representing a shared community. An active member of this community throughout his life, the poet Allen Ginsberg’s description of the Poetry Project was that it “burns like red hot coal in New York’s snow.” On my way to the marathon, the air is chilly, the sky is dark and I’ve tripped on the sidewalk and landed on my knee, but the sizzling light of the Poetry Project laughs with me. Since the show’s been running all day, people are trickling in and out. Steve Earle is in the courtyard, leaning on the side door with his guitar. There’s 36

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TELEVISION What if a person is no more than a story? In “Gone Girl,” a perfect critique of media consumption and identity projection

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Rosamund Pike plays Amy Dunne in “Gone Girl.”

by Sophia Frantz

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avid Fincher’s “Gone Girl” follows the story of a woman’s disappearance: Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) goes missing; her husband, Nick (Ben Affleck), is quickly identified as a suspect in her kidnapping. Throughout the film, we learn that this is not the whodunnit case it initially appears to be. It’s a contrived plot of lies: a staged kidnapping, a framed killer, a more-than-dysfunctional marriage. “Gone Girl” is a study in relationships, identity, image, and the impact of the media. The storyline is sticky and hard to summarize; it’s built upon the intrigue and lies that are slowly revealed as the film progresses. Critic Richard Brody wrote, of this film, that “the plot quickly melts into the ideas that sustain it.” One of these sustaining ideas that resonated with me is the question of how to construct identity and tell your own and others’ stories. I was interested in what seemed like Amy’s lack of identity — or at least the ambiguity of her identity and personal story. There’s the story Amy tells herself about her life, the story she tells her husband, and the story the two of them project for other

Photo courtesy of Regency Enterprises

people. Then there are the stories others tell her about herself: Amy is a wife to Nick and a perfect daughter to her parents — the inspiration for the protagonist (“Amazing Amy”) of the series of children’s books they wrote together. Amy is a series of prescribed identities based on perception. When she realizes her life is a story that is too much not her own, that she has become a “Cool Girl” who “loves seitan and is great with dogs,” she tries to start over, to rewrite her story, to reconstruct herself. She arranges her disappearance, and the “Cool Girl” becomes the “Gone Girl.” But this “Gone Girl” is still not Amy. So who is Amy? What does she actually love, what are her aspirations, what does she want? Once Amy is rid of her husband and her old life, she remains obsessed with her murder, following coverage on the radio and television. This — her media-constructed identity — is the only thing keeping her from fulfilling the “Kill Self?” post-it note on her calendar. Critic Anthony Lane writes, “[Amy], onscreen as on the page, feels cooked up rather than lived in.” And of course she’s cooked up! She’s not a person, but a representation of the absence of personhood.

She is extremely malleable. Even when she returns to Nick after her “murder,” we find her the next day cooking him breakfast, fitting into the role of the perfect wife. She fulfills all the tropes of the victim for the media; she welcomes photographs and interviews and professes her excitement over the inevitability of a book deal. This crime story reminded me of another current obsession of mine: “Serial,” the weekly investigative journalism podcast produced by Sarah Koenig. During this first season, Koenig is revisiting the 1999 case of a teenage girl’s murder. These two works are radically different, as “Serial” is a work of investigative journalism that attempts to tell a compelling but truthful story, and “Gone Girl” is entirely a work of fiction. But both stories challenge our craving for the perfect crime, for justice, and for telling the story of identity. What is Sarah Koenig doing with “Serial?” She talks about wanting to “solve the case,” but she says that it “isn’t her job” to determine whether Adnan Syed — the man serving life in prison for Hae Min Lee’s murder — is guilty or not. Koenig talks at length with Syed, and with other witnesses, to try to figure out what really happened, SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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who’s lying, and where alibis break down. Sarah Koenig is doing what she does best: storytelling. And the intriguing and essential part of this case is where Koenig tries to reveal who exactly these people are. To me, Koenig’s job is to answer this question about the identities of her subjects, especially Adnan Syed and his friend Jay — another prime suspect in the case. In the tradition of “This American Life,” she is trying to reach these people at a personal level. She’s shocked when, after dozens of hours spent talking to Adnan on the phone, he challenges this endeavor: “You don’t

really know me,” he says. Koenig grapples with the possibility that she only knows Adnan’s image, his reputation, his over-thephone self. “Serial” tries to avoid crafting identities for these real people, as though they’re fictional characters or tropes. As “Gone Girl”’s Amy puts it, “It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters.” In his review for the New Yorker, Joshua Rothman writes: “As in many postmodern narratives, the heroes and villains in Finch-

er’s Gone Girl aren’t people but stories.” “Gone Girl” uses its characters to tell stories about marriage, the struggle for identity in society, crime, violence, and justice. But works like “Serial” shouldn’t reduce their subjects to ideas or stories. The story of “Serial” — of any investigative journalism — is rooted in the people who comprise it: the story is the person. In “Gone Girl,” the person is no more than a story — it fits the film’s fictional format, but it might be a perfect critique for the way we consume media and project identities in the real world. u

Adventures in Shondaland Why you should be thankful for Thursday nights on ABC

by Anna Gonzales

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or the longest time, I never quite understood the obsession with “Grey’s Anatomy.” One of my best friends in high school hung a framed poster on her wall of the main characters, and I remember the television light flickering on my parents’ faces as I said goodnight to them in middle school, while beautiful scrub-capped heads on the screen delivered dramatic monologues peppered with words I didn’t understand. McDreamy? McSteamy? McWhat? A drama about doctors who broke each others’ hearts when they weren’t too busy performing open-heart surgery? No thanks. It wasn’t the soapy quality that turned me off to the show — it merely felt impossibly far from my own life, or from what I wanted my life to be. I didn’t like courtroom or medical dramas about adults — I was much more interested in shows about people in high school. Over breaks from school, I watched, or rather devoured, all of “One Tree Hill,” “The O.C.” (twice), “Veronica Mars,” “Gossip Girl,” and “Degrassi” at a blistering, brain-melting pace. Even a Netflix account and a facility with illegal websites couldn’t keep me entertained forever, though. Maybe television was getting worse, but, one winter break, snowed in at my house, “Pretty Little Liars” and “Teen Wolf ” just weren’t doing it for me. I’d gotten more serious and grown up a little bit, too, so with “Prison Break,” “Dexter,” “Bones,” “Weeds,” and “Lost” behind me (or at least, the good seasons), I decided to give “Grey’s Anatomy” a shot. After all, it was

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all on Netflix. The rest is history. I finished all of the seasons on Netflix and got a Hulu Plus account, just so I could keep up with the current seasons. “Grey’s” crept up the list of shows I followed that I kept on my computer — and then, as life got busier, the list got shorter and shorter, until “Grey’s” was the list. I was finally in a monogamous relationship...with a TV show — or rather, with all of the characters, whose lives and loves I genuinely cared about. I continued to follow the show through college, even when they killed off or failed to renew the contracts of some of my favorite characters. The summer after freshman year of Swarthmore, I found a few new shows that I liked. It could have been the summer of “Orange is the New Black” — but for me, an underworked and overpaid intern at a skull-crushingly boring non-profit in Washington, D.C., it was the summer of “House of Cards” and, more importantly, “Scandal.” “House of Cards” might have been a little melodramatic at times, but mostly it was oily and dark and intense. It was something my parents liked. “Scandal,” by contrast, was bright, flashy, trashy — snappy soap at its best, set in the same overdetermined landscape as “House of Cards” but so much lighter, so much more fun, like the rooftop pool at my apartment. “Scandal” and I had a summer fling together, a kind of breath of fresh air after a serious relationship with “House of Cards.” I didn’t know what it was, exactly, about “Scandal” that I loved so much, but I noticed that a lot of the very minor characters looked familiar. Also, it was

one of the less-white shows on television (and I hope it’s clear by now that I’ve watched a lot of television). Then I stumbled across some think piece or another (I read a lot of think pieces at my desk that summer, since I didn’t even have work to pretend to do) talking about Hollywood’s foremost female “showrunner” and how she was “changing the game.” Finally, it clicked — the faces from “Scandal” were so familiar because they’d been on the hospital beds and in the waiting rooms of Seattle Grace (the hospital in “Grey’s”), learning that they had cancer or that their loved ones were going to survive various freak accidents or that their brain tumor was inoperable, for seasons and seasons. The showrunner in question was Shonda Rhimes. I became one of Rhimes’ disciples as soon as I grew aware of her gospel. After years of using my Facebook in a mostly ironic fashion and exercising restraint when it came to the “Like” button, I unashamedly liked the “Grey’s” and “Scandal” Facebook pages and couldn’t stop myself from thumbs-upping all of the pages’ promotional content, from cheesy birthday well-wishes to cast members to poorly-designed teaser photos from upcoming episodes. I knew the exact dates on which the shows would premiere their new seasons. I didn’t have a TV at school, so watching the episodes on Thursday night was impossible, but I would devote Friday mornings, while nursing a nasty Natty Lite hangover from Pub Nite, to making sure I was caught up. I rhapsodized about the glories of Rhimes to my friends, who have much better taste than me, every chance I got.


Left to right, Sara Ramirez on “Grey’s Anatomy,” Kerry Washington on “Scandal” andJack Falahee on “How to Get Away with Murder.”

Needless to say, when I heard a new Rhimes show was coming, I flipped. I watched the trailer for “How to Get Away With Murder” and forced my friends to watch it more times than I could count. ABC, the network on which Rhimes’ shows run, dubbed Thursday evening “Shondaland.” The Facebook pages for each show repeatedly asked, “Who’s ready for TGIT?” as in, “Thank God It’s Thursday.” I was ready, perpetually so.

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t some point, “Grey’s” stopped being a good show. Or maybe it was never actually that great to begin with — its characters sleep and fall in love with one another in dizzying rotations, its inevitable deaths and dramas overlaid with soulful indie-pop can get a bit repetitive, and its dialogue is by no means realistic. After ten seasons of this, one wonders if the soap opera form itself might have been hollowed out by such repetition (if there was any content there to hollow out in the first place). “Scandal” has gone much the same way, even though its run has been much shorter. This fall, especially, the satisfaction of the earlier seasons — largely due to the way in which Olivia Pope, the show’s main character, takes charge, executes her will flawlessly, and cleans up the messes of Washington’s thrillingly corrupt elite, despite a few personal weaknesses — is completely gone, as nearly every character I care about has been rendered powerless. I was definitely intrigued by “How to Get Away with

Murder” at first, as the show and I got to know each other — but it began to drag a few episodes into the season, increasingly unable to sustain the tension between its characters as they jockeyed for power. It got predictable, to an unbearable degree. So why will I keep watching, in a couple of weeks, when Shondaland recurs? Why should you even start? The denizens of Shondaland are neither real people nor particularly convincing characters, at least in terms of the standards by which we usually judge characters. But for me, these standards are a bit too high, and they don’t capture what is essential and important to me about these shows and about what Rhimes is doing (and why I cry every time I watch “Grey’s”). The truth of the matter is that Shondaland is the place you’re most likely to see nonwhite and non-straight faces on TV, and for a chunk of the 14 million people, for example, who tuned into the “How To Get Away With Murder” premiere — and, on a very real level, for me — this is invaluable. By no means do I think that the solutions to racism or homophobia lie in increased media representation — especially when that representation isn’t entirely unproblematic, as Rhimes’ can be. But Rhimes’ work constitutes an intervention in years and years of television in which characters’ race and/or sexuality are either single-episode plot points or are their entire identities. The truth, as we know from our own complicated, rich

Photos from left to right courtesy of imagozone.com, danisdvr.blogspot.com and howtogetawaywithmurder.wikia.com

lives, is somewhere in the middle. Rhimes’ characters’ blackness or gayness certainly shapes their lives, but they are allowed to embody identities beyond these categories, are granted full, real agency and personhood. Viewers are invited to consider these characters’ differences and relate to them at the same time, which to me seems like a major milestone in a long history of denying the humanity of marginalized people, even when they are represented on our television screens.

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omewhere near the end of 7th grade, Mischa Barton’s character on “The O.C.” went through a girl-kissing phase (kissed girl, Alex, was played by Olivia Wilde, which I still consider a blessing). I don’t remember curiosity or disgust or shame or any reaction to these steamy makeouts, but I do remember my father leaning across the couch and remarking, archly, “You know real lesbians don’t look like that, right, Anna? They’re usually really ugly or fat, and they’re with women because they can’t be with men.” Alex disappeared from the show after Barton’s character came to her heterosexual senses, she and her queerness mere plot devices. A lot of things have improved since the mid-aughts, including my father’s politics and his manners (though to this day he insists that he never said those things. Also, whenever we see a woman with an undercut in public, he asks me if my gaydar is going off). A few years later, thankfully without my father by my side, SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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I watched Callie and Arizona on “Grey’s” kiss and fight and make up and fall in and out of love. They were allowed to have full lives inside and out of the bedroom and made it possible for me to imagine what queerness might look like as part of a life, what it might mean to be in a legitimate, loving, queer relationship. I didn’t know

of any lesbians at my high school and my parents had no queer friends, so “Grey’s” was the only place I could locate and picture this relationship. Their queerness was a part of their lives, but it wasn’t the be-all and end-all, the only defining factor. On “How To Get Away With Murder,” Jack Fallahee’s character, a boarding

school graduate and sex fiend, seems to be enjoying the same freedom as Callie and Arizona did, to be a real, complicated person beyond his queerness. In other words, Rhimes shows no signs of slowing down. I hope all of her shows go on for dozens of terrible, wonderful seasons. u

Showing us how screwed up we really are As “The Colbert Report” comes to an end, who can give us the satire we need?

by Jesse Bossingham

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n December 17, “The Colbert Report” will end its nine-year, nearly 1500 episode long run. Stephen Colbert will replace David Letterman, and we will lose the leading, perhaps only, TV satirist to late night. “The Daily Show” will continue to air, and John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” offers a new take on the fusion of news and comedy, but these programs lack the sardonic bite that Stephen Colbert brought to his character and his show. “The Daily Show” may have created “The Colbert Report,” but Colbert’s arrogant windbag was fundamentally different from Stewart’s faux-news anchor. Colbert played a character, imitating and mocking cable personalities. In contrast, while “The Daily Show” is nominally a satirical take on the evening news, with Stewart in the Tom Brokaw chair, the humor does not originate from the form. Stewart comments on the news as he delivers it, an unsuccessful imitation of the television news broadcast. On some level, Stewart is a cable blowhard. It’s worth remembering that some people consider Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly to be comedians. Stewart may be more explicitly comedic, but he is still taking the news and adding his two cents. The humor of those two cents depends on whether you agree with him. This isn’t satire; it’s pontificating with a punchline. Satire requires the influence of the form on the subject. It’s a funhouse mirror that reflects back reality, but twists it into ridiculousness. Done well, this twisted mirror reveals flaws unseen in standard reflection. “The Colbert Report” embodied this. Unlike Stewart, Colbert set out to be a cable blowhard. His name took top billing, his desk was in the shape

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of a giant C. At the start of every show, the audience would chant “Stephen!” as Colbert sat up front, drinking it in. While “The O’Reilly Factor” had segments like “Pinheads of the Week” and “Tip of the Day,” Colbert ran with ridiculous themes like the “Threat Down” and “Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger.” Fox News created the website “Fox Nation” as the arbiter of American political dialogue. In response, Colbert created his own cult of personality: “The Colbert Nation,” and assumed every viewer was a member. All of this adds up to a show where the setup is also the punchline. Colbert reflected our media presence in a way that shows its deficiencies and self-involved ridiculousness. From his first episode, he coined a term that would come to define an era: Truthiness. He said, “We’re not talking about truth, we’re talking about something that seems like truth – the truth we want to exist.” In one word, he described how viewers of modern TV news didn’t need to know the facts when they knew what channel would offer their opinions. He described politicians who didn’t need to be right, so long as they were “certain.” And he did it all from the perspective of a character who the out-of-character Colbert described as a “well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot.” Colbert had a second tool that brought his satire home. His imitation of Bill O’Reilly could have come across as cynical and cruel, but underneath it all was an underlying sincerity and optimism. When faced with a disaster like the Citizens United decision, instead of ranting and raving, Colbert set up his own Super PAC to show the brokenness of campaign finance: Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. He still managed to work in a joke about one fictional donor, “Suq Madiq” and his parents, “Liqa Madiq”

and “Munchma Quchi.” Especially when going for the cheap, middle-school laugh, Colbert cracked, covering his massive grin behind his script. He liked the work he did. In his commencement speech at Knox College in 2007, Colbert said, “Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying ‘yes’ begins things.” This spirit gives the “Report” a sincerity that Stewart’s angry white man trope can’t match. “The Daily Show”’s pattern of showing a series of clips revealing hypocrisy lends itself to an easy cynicism. In contrast, look at how Colbert interviews his guests. While remaining in character, Colbert always managed to make his guests look good, while enabling them to insult him. Backstage, before interviews, he told them to “be real. That’s the best thing you can do. And call me on my bullshit.” Who will replace Colbert? John Oliver would be a likely candidate, but “Last Week Tonight,” while brilliant, has instead shifted in the direction of journalism. Oliver’s calling card has become longform segments dedicated to underreported subjects. This is certainly a noble project, but it doesn’t replace the twisted image of the mainstream that Colbert offered. We desperately need satire in this country, someone to show us just how screwed up we really are. Colbert perfectly combined razor sharp humor with earnestness and a genuine nature to create an outstanding character. While he is a great fit for “The Late Show,” I worry we are losing a critical commentator, a funhouse mirror that let us see and change who we are. u


EDITORS’ PICKS Brief recommendations of books, music, movies, and more from our editors TV series: Twin Peaks,’ dir. David Lynch (mostly) “Twin Peaks,” which ran for two seasons from 1990-1991, is a television series that should absolutely not be watched in the timeframe of two weeks. The show is directed by the legendary auteur David Lynch, who brings with him a style deeply informed by dream sequences and logic. The show’s plot revolves around the murder of high school student Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), and the investigation conducted by Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in the small Washington town of Twin Peaks. As the show progresses, strange directions are taken. Without including any spoilers, characters are motivated, with all due thanks to Lynch’s vision, by forces above and outside of their control. The show deeply influenced my state of mind during the time I watched it in ways I could not expect. I had previously only had one experience with David Lynch’s filmmaking style. I had seen Blue Velvet, a movie he made in 1986. However, the tone of Twin Peaks, combined with the binge watching was truly overwhelming. “Twin Peaks” is dark, but not in a completely insidious way. It punctures deep into your psyche and stays there until you finish it. Even then, as you lie in your bed thinking about Laura Palmer, your nightmares, and the source of evil and good in the world, you cannot fully alleviate yourself of the program’s warped dreamscape. —Noah Morrison, Photo Editor Book: ‘The Empathy Exams’ by Leslie Jamison Leslie Jamison was one of my instructors at a summer creative writing program I attended in high school (one of those twoweek residential functions for ambitious youths who fancy themselves to be artists and/or scholars). One afternoon, as a writing activity, she led our class to a cemetery, perched upon a sturdy-looking headstone, and told us to disperse: “Find one headstone you love, and write about the person buried there.” This sort of reflexive study, this marriage of imagination and introspection, a fixed gaze upon the uncanny, is all over Jami-

son’s first published collection of essays. “The Empathy Exams” is a study in pain. Jamison is a sharp writer, a keen observer, and a generous storyteller. How do we— how should we—feel pain? she asks. How do we care for others and ourselves? “The Empathy Exams” is a fantastic read even for the impossible array of experiences Jamison writes from—often as an outsider, scrutinizing her subject just as she scrutinizes herself. The collection includes personal accounts: on being punched in the face in a foreign country, on Jamison’s stint as a medical actor, on accompanying her brother at an ultramarathon. Other essays are journalistic: she interviews men in prison who rarely see their families, and reports from a convention for patients suffering from a rare and controversial illness. From this variety, Jamison suggests a multiplicity of ways to care and be cared for, and nudges her reader toward mindfulness in fragility, suffering, and empathy. “The Empathy Exams” is a beautiful, crazy-smart book: Jamison phrases some of my long-held yet half-baked musings in a way more lovely than I ever could. She presents ideas that I only wish I were bright enough to have conceived of myself. She’s a careful, considerate writer; her thoughts on empathy bear the weight of theoretics alongside viscerality. —Rachel Yang, Movies and TV Editor Book series: ‘Dublin Murder Squad,’ by Tana French It’s been a while since I read a book that thoroughly displaced me from reality, that engaged me so deeply that I skipped engagements to keep leafing through it. Perhaps that’s because the protagonist in Tana French’s “The Likeness” is doing something of the same. Here’s the bare-bones version of the plot, as spoiler-free as I can manage: Cassie Maddox, ex-undercover detective, gets called into a very strange murder case. The victim is not only identical to her, but died using a fake name that Cassie herself made up. Cassie then begins impersonating the dead girl to solve the case. It’s the kind of mystery that makes your eyes well up—not in sadness, but in sheer anticipation of what’s to come. And it’s incredible writing, because just as Cassie

convinces herself that she is friends with the dead girl’s friends, so too have I found myself missing them. It’s bizarre, but the sense of camaraderie and sheer fluidity of French’s characters was so striking that my life feels a little less bright without them. It’s no wonder Cassie has a hard time leaving, once she goes under. “The Likeness” is actually the second installment in what French calls her “Dublin Murder Squad” series. The conceit is pretty clever: each subsequent novel’s protagonist is a minor character from the previous one. The first novel, “In the Woods,” also excellent, is told by Cassie’s old partner Rob. Cassie features prominently in In the Woods, so you should start there, if only to ensure that you enjoy “The Likeness” that much more. I myself haven’t yet read books three through five—titled “Faithful Place,” “Broken Harbour,” and “The Secret Place.” I’m afraid to start, quite frankly, for fear of being sucked in again. But maybe it’s time. Drop me a line, let’s read them together. —Patrick Ross, Fiction Editor Album: ‘DEERPEOPLE EP’ by DEERPEOPLE DEERPEOPLE has the type of name that’s difficult to pronounce, on account of the sustained shouting it seems to imply. And the homophone problem, and the lack of a space. It’s a good thing, then, that all that shouting’s merited—certainly, the sounds on their eponymous EP make me want to shout out, “What’s going on?!” But in a good way, I promise. I’ve never encountered a band with a sound like DEERPEOPLE—for one, are they... folk? Folksy, for sure, but with some pop influences, some screaming tossed in, and a general dose of histrionics—what do you even call that? This whole classification business is even more clouded by what appears to be a trademark: NOW WE SWITCH TO ANOTHER GENRE but just for a verse. Let’s just skip this problem and say it needs no answer (in many ways it doesn’t; you could call it whatever you felt like and it’d probably resemble it for at least a brief econd): what about the music itself? The real brilliance of the EP lies in the lyrics—the music is extremed and strange, and perhaps you might be tempted to just SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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marvel at how Dr. Gay Washington turns from pure folk to something infused with shoegaze—but that’d be a mistake, one recognized instantly as you hear “We only have a few more days before the / Sun rains down with all the ecstasy we shoved into our / Blood and guts.” Then, New Dance, before a background of swinging strings,

ENDNOTES

elegant piano, and light timpani, calmly informs you “Motherfucker, I set my body on fire today“. I mean, what? Friends, this is pure poetry. These moments of extreme metaphorical imagery interspersed with lines like “And tell me the truth: / Are you simply retarded? / Are you dead? / Is it quite alright?”—incredible how absolutely

| by Mike Lumetta

October baseball To a certain extent, every sport marks the changing of the seasons, the passing of time. There’s a reason hockey is Canada’s national sport and not the United States’, one that replays in interviews before every NHL Winter Classic. Baseball is no different; with the coming of spring and longer and warmer days, kids pick up their gloves and bats and head outside. In the fall, they get their last swings in. In the big leagues, spring training in Florida and Arizona is the first taste of the season. And it ends with October. The World Series is the oldest championship in the four major sports, having been played nearly every year between the National League and American League champions since its inception in 1903. In a time when everyone seems to think that baseball is dying – a sentiment that, admittedly, has circulated for quite some time in various forms – the history of it keeps it meaningful. In the past decade alone, two World Series droughts of 80-plus years ended (Red Sox in 2004, White Sox in 2005). A team that spent 9 of its first 10 years in existence in last place ascended to the AL pennant, only to lose to the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2011, an unlikely hometown hero by the name of David Freese saved the St. Louis Cardinals from elimination in Game 6 with a game-tying double in the 9th and a walkoff home run in the 11th. This year, the story centered on the unlikely Kansas City Royals. TV coverage of Royals playoff games featured frequent reminders of what the world was like in 1985, the last time the Royals had been in 42

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unabashed DEERPEOPLE is to be bizarre, take risks. I highly recommend this album. It doesn’t actually make a lot of sense. But just listen to it. It doesn’t really have it. —Z.L. Zhou, Poetry Editor

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the playoffs. That year, the Royals came away with the title after a questionable (read: wrong) call by Don Denkinger at first base in Game 6. This year, the Royals defied expectations by winning in a way that completely goes against the lessons of sabermetrics: no home runs, lots of speed, and a stellar bullpen. In the wildcard game, they stunned the Athletics by coming back twice to win in 12 innings. As September bled into October on the East Coast, the Royals marched into the division series and into the underdog role. They then ripped off seven consecutive wins against the Los Angeles Angels, the best team in the regular season, and the Baltimore Orioles, the team leader in home runs with 25 more than the next closest team. It was a fun run, featuring reserve outfielder Jarrod Dyson guaranteeing an ALCS victory and starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie sporting a “These O’s Ain’t Royal” t-shirt in a press conference. On the National League side stood an easy foil. The Giants had won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 and retained plenty of veteran experience from those championship teams. Star pitcher Madison Bumgarner seemed damn near unstoppable by the World Series. It’s not a stretch to say that few people outside of the Bay Area were campaigning for a third Giants

championship in five years. The rest of the story is unfortunate but not unpredictable. The scrappy, speedy Royals played won three of four games not pitched by anyone named Bumgarner, but Bumgarner pitched the Giants to victory in Games 1 and 5. In Game 7, the Giants eked out a one-run win behind 5 innings in relief from Bumgarner, taking their third title of the decade and spoiling Kansas City’s hopes.

W

hen I was in middle school, I used to listen to these playoff games on the radio, especially the Cardinal games. I remember certain events with the context of these games: parish festivals, my parents redoing our kitchen, my aunt’s wedding. At night, I would fall asleep with the radio on. One such game in particular stands out. In 2005, with the Cardinals facing elimination in NLCS Game 5 against the rival Astros, Albert Pujols drove a monster home run near the train in the back of the left field seats at Minute Maid Park to put the Cardinals ahead for good. That kind of moment was a get-out-of-bed moment, a forget-school moment, an unforgettable moment of elation. The irony is that the Cardinals would lose Game 6 at home. We often forget, in our consumption of championship narratives, that for every World Series winner there are 29 losers. Except for when our team loses, we only see the team that survives. It’s weird to me that fan bases count championships the way they do. For one thing, there’s the common problem of fans identifying too strongly with their team of choice, phrasing triumphs in the form of “We won” rather than “They won”. But, on top of that particular issue, people have so little chance of gratification. Ask any living Cubs fan whether it’s worth it; New Girl actor Jake Johnson has a particularly vivid analogy for that experience that he uses frequently. Even good teams don’t win that


* Illustration by Steve Sekula many World Series titles. How many titles is enough? Two in nine years for the Cardinals? Three in 11 years for the Red Sox? Three in five years for the Giants? It seems like it’d be easier to just sit back and enjoy the games. At the very least, it could be easier if American professional sports had an organization more similar to European football, in which multiple championships are contested every year. Maybe, as Grantland writer and die-hard Royals fan Rany Jazayerli wrote before the beginning of this year’s Series, it would have been better to lose to Oakland than to get so far and lose. But I get it, because I do it too. Counting means keeping a record of an ongoing

narrative, one that forms a backdrop for families and friends and regional communities. Baseball in October has a kind of paradoxical feel for this reason. On the one hand, teams are marching up the mountain toward immortality. On the other, though, night falls earlier and the weather gets colder; it’s not the best time for baseball. The quest for excellence happens against the backdrop of all the things that symbolize mortality. The playoffs seem more important than the regular season, because they are, but at the same time, they’re the last gasp before winter comes. A little more than a week after the Cardinals lost the NLCS, rookie outfielder Oscar

Taveras died in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic. This tragedy calls attention to the bullshit in what I’ve just said – there’s a very real mortality beyond the dying of athletic careers and leaves falling down, of old age and another year gone. In the grand scheme, a game doesn’t matter much; the ultimate achievement has little to do with which team finishes on top. If it did, we wouldn’t care so much. Instead, there’s something to be said for the game as a pursuit of excellence. Even though the Pujols home run in 2005 didn’t change the outcome, it was an amazing feat. Without the mountaintop, the climb never happens. u SWARTHMORE REVIEW

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