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Posts tagged "Stephen Marche"


Masculinity in Crisis: Unexamined Libidos and the Organizing Principle of Lady Bird

If it’s true what Stephen Marche writes in The Unmade Bed, that there’s nothing less manly than talking about manliness, I’m not sure where that leaves me. After reading Marche’s latest column in The New York Times, “The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido,” I realized I’m averaging one essay per year on the subject:

Underachieving Boys and the Masks Men Wear
Online Males, Deadbeat Females, and the Simplest Thing in the World
Are You Man Enough? When Virile Was a Compliment
Please Help The Cause Against (Middle Age Male) Loneliness

It’s some of the stuff I’m most proud of, to be honest, partly because…

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An Impossible Position (and a Minor Aspect)

Here’s one from Stephen Marche’s (fantastic) recent book, The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth About Men and Women in the 21st Century:

To be a mammal and to be a human being is an impossible position, it should be pointed out. No gender politics, no politics of any kind, is going to solve the problem of being a body that wants to be more. No mere philosophy will ever solve the confusion of biology and aspiration and desire that is the massive human mess. Maybe at some point, though I don’t see how, we’ll reconcile being animals with the desire to be something more.

We pretend that family life is achievement and negotiation, a logic puzzle from an aptitude test. We fantasize that life is something built by the person living it, so that we may pretend that our fate is in our hands and that others are to blame for their failures. Control is, at best, a minor aspect of the human condition. Love is something into which we fall. The problem of work-life balance divides life into negotiable responsibilities, but there is no real balance, or rather the balance is a pose that is hard to hold. There is only falling down and getting up. There is loss and gift. (pg 50-51)

On Our Bookshelf (This Time Around)

As summer winds down, here’s what we’ve been reading over here at Mockingbird HQ (and on sabbatical), as published in the Love & Death Issue

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

George Saunders’ widely acclaimed first novel addresses death, grief, and the afterlife. Narrated by a graveyard full of, um, lively ghosts, this novel is a roller coaster from start to finish. With humor and empathy, Saunders powerfully illustrates that “the truth will set you free.”

Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott

Published this spring, Lamott continues to sing the song of grace: “Mercy is radical kindness. Mercy means offering or being offered aid in desperate straits. Mercy is not deserved. It involves forgiving the debt, absolving the unabsolvable.” Pulling from St. Augustine and the Dalai Lama, she weaves her thoughts on mercy with such honesty and humor that you might feel like you’re sitting down as one of her Sunday School students.

The Kingdom by Emmanuel Carrère

Emmanuel Carrère’s new book (novel? memoir? biography?) on St. Paul and the early Christians often reads like a diary fused with historical fiction. Carrère, well-known in France for his unique non-fiction storytelling, believes that the only way he can really communicate a subject is by looking as honestly as possible at himself. In this book, then, that means capturing the New Testament through his own relationship with and (un-)belief in its God. A powerfully honest and captivating reimagining of both the nature of belief and the radical message Paul carried.

The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth about Men and Women in the 21st Century by Stephen Marche

Stay-at-home dads get no respect, women are still almost never in the boardroom, and feminism has failed us. Why, Marche ponders, have we come so far and are still inundated with the same bizarre problems? Because women are still women and men are still men, and no one wants to make the damned bed. If you are in ministry, your premarital counseling couples should read this brilliant book alongside Capon’s Bed and Board.

My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford

Halford, who spent several years working as a staffer at The New Yorker, writes with immense care and loyalty about the devotional that shaped (and continues to shape) her life, Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. Halford, who was raised in an Evangelical family in Dallas, uses the devotional (and Chambers’ own life story) as a way of excavating her own life and Christian faith.

Against Everything: Essays by Mark Greif

Greif is the co-founder of culture magazine n+1. This book synthesizes the strangeness of the modern world by challenging it and unpacking everyday taboos like exercise, hipsters, and punk music. Greif shows his cards as an Enneagram 8, but that doesn’t stop him from writing some real sizzlers on everyday life through a decidedly intellectual lens.

Abandon Me: Memoirs by Melissa Febos

One of our guests on The Mockingcast, Febos’ cutting collection of memoirs wrestles with addiction and sexuality and offers up a gratifying depth of spirituality. Her riff on the Jonah story and our innate calling towards “choose your own adventure stories” is one for the ages. She writes, “every love is a sea monster in whose belly we learn to pray.”

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

Ripping its title from a Dostoevsky classic, Elif Batuman’s debut novel follows Selin through her first year at Harvard. Upon arriving at school, she’s given an email address, her first. One night, she sends a snappy message to Ivan, the mysterious boy in her Russian class, and hilarity ensues. The romance would fit well in a 19th century novel—excepting Selin and Ivan’s preferred form of communication. Armed with a healthy suspicion of her surroundings and a sharp wit, Selin makes for a revelatory, refreshing narrator.

Why Won’t You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts by Harriet Lerner

This little book ranks up there with our other social science fave, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me). Lerner gives us a powerful glimpse into all the strategies and self-deceptions we have around our wrongdoing–on what counts as an apology, and on what keeps us from giving (and receiving) it. She also insightfully keys in on the prime impulse that makes the non-apologizer a non-apologizer: the need to be perfect.

Phases: Poems by Mischa Willett

Poems playful, at times, epigrammatic, conscious of things Italian and incongruous—they are delightful and plain spoken, rhythmic and musical, at times difficult enough to slow the reader’s march through them, most times sufficiently welcoming and placed (e.g., the Pacific Northwest) to keep the reader coming back for more. The collection’s nine brief sections are laid out as though phases of a voyage. An exciting new volume in the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade Books), curated by poet/editor D. S. Martin.

Love of Children and Fear of the World

Love of Children and Fear of the World

Stephen Marche’s The Unmade Bed is the book I cannot stop recommending. He talks about the state of modern marriage with unflinching clarity. And in a bold literary move, his wife provides footnotes. It is like being at a dinner party with the funny, poignant couple who occasionally correct one another’s stories.

From a theological perspective, the book serves as the perfect, secular counterbalance to Robert Farrar Capon’s Bed and Board. In Capon’s era, it was women who made the bed, but in Marche’s modern take we learn that bed-making is an activity we all long to avoid. Seriously,…

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Another Week Ends: Facelessness, Lent CEOs, Literacy Losers, Baseball Clocks, and North Korean Inspiration

Another Week Ends: Facelessness, Lent CEOs, Literacy Losers, Baseball Clocks, and North Korean Inspiration

1) Stephen Marche is certainly making a name for himself as the technological doomster, and in a supremely convincing way. He’s the one that wrote that piece we completely over-covered, called “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” and then there was that piece on our modern muse, Failure, and right in time for Ash Wednesday, we have “The Epidemic of Facelessness,” an op-ed piece which appeared in this Sunday’s Times. Marche talks in great detail about an age where, in most part, the majority of our social interaction takes place online and on screen. One of the consequences of this impersonal…

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Failed Confessions of a Success-o-holic

Failed Confessions of a Success-o-holic

We’re told that learning how to handle failure is an important part of growing up. Yet we do everything we can to make sure our kids never experience it. What did Samuel Beckett actually mean when he told us to “fail better”? And what does it have to do–if anything–with the theology of the cross? All this and (not) much more!

If Only You Were Lonely: Social Media, Self-Forgetfulness and Yvette Vickers' Computer

If Only You Were Lonely: Social Media, Self-Forgetfulness and Yvette Vickers’ Computer

Lord have mercy! The Atlantic just dropped the article of the year, at least as far as this website is concerned. Underneath the slightly been-there-done-that title of “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” lies an exploration of identity creation and loneliness and self-immolation that may even jerk a few tears of grief. Stephen Marche has crafted a tour-de-force, combing the research, polling the experts and injecting a fair amount of his own considerable insight to form a fairly significant statement about modern life (not to mention a timely endorsement of online communities needing flesh-and-blood get-togethers every once and a while…).

The basic…

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