Emily Witt

Emily Witt’s Nollywood: The Making of a Film Empire came out in 2017.

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...

He’s Humbert, I’m Dolores

Emily Witt, 21 May 2020

Awoman​ wants to be the agent of her own life. She doesn’t want to be a victim. She wants to believe she has made choices of her own free will, even when shown evidence that she’s been coerced. She prefers to maintain that she was not seduced, manipulated or threatened, that she was an equal player. She is annoyed when her individual circumstances are taken as proof of structural...

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