Tech Sociopaths | Discoveries



Reviewing a series of addiction memoirs for the TLS, Eric J.  


The dandelion is a plant of uncertain status. Rebecca May Johnson debates the flower’s place in her garden: ‘Weeds are “matter out of place”…  

‘There really was a war in Vietnam,’ asserts David Thompson   in a review of Ken Burns’s new documentary The Vietnam War   (with a nod to   Jean Baudrillard). In their ‘Rehab’ issue, Tin House looks at John Berryman’s Recovery, a   ‘grim book’ exploring the author’s own struggle with alcoholism. ‘Is this film simply a documentary?’ asks Thompson. Are the witness on film telling the truth or ‘dreaming of a truth that might explain them to themselves?’ Michiko Kakutani has similar doubts about the value of the documentary form – ‘the extensive coverage of Vietnam, in fact, helps underline just how inadequate naturalism and documentary realism are as narrative strategies for dealing with the war,’ she writes, arguing instead that ‘fiction will provide us with a truth that eluded the cameras and neat columns of wire copy’. Iannelli, describes addiction as the ‘magical encounter with a substance that allows us to inhabit ourselves fully and elude that pervasive sense of soul-deep discomfort, to feel genuinely at home among humanity and yet uniquely separate to it’. Def Poetry, a spoken word television series with a cult following, has just announced   a 25th anniversary season, soon to air on Netflix. uncultivated, wild, unintended, unaccounted for, anarchic.’   This talk of dandelions sent us back to the Def Poetry Jam archives to re-watch seventeen-year-old Perre Shelton’s striking performance poem ‘Dandelions’. More recently however, the sexist company culture, inadequate driver background checks and dodgy politics have resulted in a backlash against the ‘tech sociopaths’. This week, Transport for London announced that they would not be renewing Uber’s licence to operate in the city. ‘Why do writers drink?’ asks Olivia Laing in The Trip to Echo Spring, a book that looks closely at the long association between writing and addiction, excerpted here. But, were the events that took place comparable to how they were (and are) presented? As a young start-up, they were forgiven their ‘toddler-like confusion over regulations, taxes, and transit bureaucracy’   despite their ‘violent desire to break everything’. ‘How much do you think they’ll charge during the next hurricane?’ asks a character in Ben Lerner’s Uber-themed short story, ‘The Polish Rider’.  

The Forward Prize ceremony was held last night at Royal Festival Hall, with awards going to Ian Patterson for best single poem with   ‘The Plenty of Nothing’   [paywall], Sinéad Morrissey for best collection with   On Balance, and best first collection to Ocean Vuong with   Night Sky with Exit Wounds –   ‘brushing my teeth at 2 / in the morning I say / over my shoulder / you guys you guys I’m serious’ begins   Vuong’s poem, ‘You Guys’, published in   Granta   140: State of Mind. Though dandelion greens are edible – and arguably delicious – the plant is categorised by many as a weed. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s story collection The Refugees might be one place to start.