Emily Witt

Emily Witt’s memoir Health and Safety will be published this autumn.

Rambo v. Rimbaud: On Justin Torres

Emily Witt, 4 April 2024

Jan Gay​ was born Helen Reitman in Leipzig in 1902. She came out as a lesbian in young adulthood, studied under the German sexologist Magnus Hirshfield, started a nudist colony with her partner, Zhenya, and eventually collected interviews with hundreds of queer women in European cities, in the hope that writing up their sexual histories would help make lesbianism more accepted. When she...

In the first paragraph​ of Teju Cole’s new novel, Tremor, a man takes a photo of a hedge. ‘The leaves are glossy and dark and from the dying blooms rises a fragrance that might be jasmine.’ Probably not jasmine, since the main character, a photography professor called Tunde, lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but frost zones are not the point. ‘You can’t do that...

Sheila Heti writes for a generation that seeks guidance from fortune-tellers, self-help books, behavioural science, evolutionary biology, make-up tutorials and lists of the food famous people consume in a given day. Despite their freedom, her characters bear little resemblance to the 20th-century existentialists who seem to be their intellectual predecessors.

Whyis Maggie Nelson writing this way, I wondered, after reading the first pages of her new book, On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint. Nelson has written cultural criticism before, but she is better known for her memoirs The Argonauts and The Red Parts, existential inquiries that describe her experiences of sex, childbirth and violence while also drawing on cultural theory and...

Eels on Cocaine

Emily Witt, 22 April 2021

This morning​ I watched a video of some ducks eating lettuce from an enamel bowl. The text of the newspaper lining their cage indicated the birds were in Japan. They devoured the lettuce ferociously, producing an eerie, rattling sound. The lettuce evaporated in a matter of seconds. Nothing about my description explains why the video is interesting, or why it was shared around the world and...

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