IN VAIN, BY GEORG FRIEDRICH HAAS

Dear ONION,

Your friend Artichoke is going on hiatus. I’m sorry I didn’t write this letter sooner. I meant to write it almost immediately after November 9, but I never actually had the time until just now.

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THE ENDING TO MRS. CALIBAN

This will only really make full sense if you have read Rachel Ingalls’ Mrs. Caliban. This contains no summary of the book. This is largely a discussion of its ending.

mrscaliban_cover

I read Mrs. Caliban ten days ago in a single sitting, while stuck in a waiting room for jury duty. Mrs. Caliban is a very short book—a novella, really—and it was a swift and pleasurable read, up until the ending, where Ingalls has things crash and evaporate in quick succession.

It is the sort of ending, of course, where you end up re-examining everything that came before.

Today, ten days later, when I think about Mrs. Caliban, I think mostly about the ending, and how my understanding of it morphed in quick succession from “this literally happened” to “this happened in the protagonist’s head” to “this is a metafictional address to the reader”. And then, I watched my understanding constantly flicker between the three.

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A BASIC DICHOTOMY

Dear ONION,

Your most recent letter got me thinking about the way our mainstream/internet culture has been using the term Basic over the past year or two – the 2015/2016 era – and why being called Basic seems to sting so much. Meaning, I just remember coming across so many posts online (thanks, Tumblr) by people that had almost this sense of outraged betrayal at being called Basic – in a way that I never really encountered with people being called Prep or Emo or Hipster or what-have-you.

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BASICALLY BITCHY ONION

My most dear Zanuda, ARTICHOKE,

The idea that basic isn’t exactly the kindest thing to call another person is not new– Buzzfeed had an article on why it shouldn’t be used way back in, like, 2013, and I’m not going to find it and link it, because who gives a fuck what Buzzfeed has to say anymore? (You heard me.)

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THE GREAT MIDWEST

Dear Artichoke,

I’ve been thinking about what you wrote about Zanudaism.

I’m real curious to know who this acquaintance is (just tell me), but I found the idea in general quite interesting, of course. You’ve told me about Zanudas before, but it’s got me thinking about language and cultural policing in a more general way. I can’t speak to the Russian perspective, but I can tell you that the American modus operandi– even as someone who doesn’t have any other ruler to measure against– is bananas.

English is a motherfucker of a language, because, to use an age old way of phrasing it, we don’t mean what we say and we say what we don’t mean. In other words, an English speaker is always going to communicate their message a little euphemistically, a little between the lines.

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ZANUDA

Dear ONION,

When having tea with my cousins this past weekend, I was describing an acquaintance who tells fascinating stories, and who is so interesting to listen to – if you have nowhere else to be for the next hour. Getting into a conversation with her is a bit like getting stuck in a charming and entertaining whirlpool. Personally I find it objectively fascinating to see the neat way that she dovetails every story or aside into the previous one, so that the conversation unfolds continuously, never allowing for a pause, and especially not the sort of natural pause that happens in most conversations, which most people need, and wait for, if they want to insert a benign conclusion to the conversation and thus go their merry way.

And as I explained this to my cousins, one of them laughed and said, “If she was Russian, it would never be a problem because she would know what it means to be a zanuda! If she knew what it means to be a zanuda, she would at least make an effort to stop being one. If you’re American, you can be a zanuda forever and ever, and no one can call you out for it, or even tease you gently about it, because the word doesn’t exist in English. So on you go, being a zanuda forever and ever.”

So now I am writing you a brief letter about this complicated and hard-to-translate term, and also I suppose a letter about language shaping a culture, and maybe a letter giving some credence to Orwell’s Newspeak notions. Or maybe not. You can decide.

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BREXIT AND AGATHA CHRISTIE

Dear ONION,

Since Brexit, the number of reported hate crimes in England has skyrocketed.

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