All My Stars (36)

By: Joanne McNeil
September 8, 2016


One in a weekly series in which Joanne McNeil recommends books, films, exhibitions, and more. You can also subscribe to the All My Stars newsletter here.


“Writing… steals your body from you” is a line from a Spalding Gray monologue, I’m not sure which one, and I can’t remember the context either, although I just watched a few of the films this week. I think it comes from Steven Soderbergh’s “And Everything Is Going Fine.”

Part of the reason I keep thinking of this quotation is my laptop is inexplicably beachballing all the time just a couple months after I erred on the side of frugality in my decision to replace its failing battery over upgrading to a new laptop entirely. Meanwhile my right hip is inexplicably aching. Neither is a particularly terrible hindrance, just a bother, especially because one bother reminds me of the other and it’s been a loop of being annoyed by one or the other and then both bothers bother. It makes me feel like a character in a bad novel, in which the writer dutifully complied with the show-don’t-tell maxim: Oh yeah, I’m going to show you this character. First thing’s first: she’s a writer, her laptop is slow and her hip is aching. Now you know alllll about this character.


That’s why I’ve been dwelling on that quotation so much. And it reminds me of something Neal Stephenson said to a crowd of probably mostly Harvard and MIT students at a bookstore reading in Cambridge seven years ago. He was answering a question—that question—about writing and money. I wish I could remember the exact words in his answer. I have it misremembered, possibly augmented with my own perceptions of writing—as that writers are going to remain the monk-like losers for the rest of time while engineers, designers, craftsmen, artists can adapt to modern circumstances. That was long before he joined Magic Leap, so who knows?

I meant to write about Spalding Gray this week but I haven’t quite made my mind up about these films although I keep watching them and anyway it seems a fitting enough tribute to ramble on with my own thoughts or misremembered quotations from other people instead. I wonder why the think piece crowd hasn’t taken him up as a hero like so many bloggers more than a decade before. Most of the films (Swimming to Cambodia, Gray’s Anatomy) are on YouTube. Gray’s Anatomy is the first time I have wished for a trigger warning because the ten minutes or so at the beginning reminded me of the time I went to an emergency room with an eye injury. Ugh. Bill Hader’s impression, in the upcoming Documentary Now episode “Parker Gail’s Location Is Everything,” should be hilarious. Another quote I’ve been thinking about this week comes from Kristen Wiig’s recent interview on the Marc Maron podcast. Women, as artists and writers, are often expected to package their identity and conflate it or even mistake it for their work, which is why her reluctance to do interviews — even from the beginning — literally hiding behind a curtain on Jimmy Fallon’s show in 2009 — is striking. This is a quality I also noticed and admired about Carrie Brownstein’s elegantly guarded memoir. In the interview — about the 47-minute mark — Wiig says she wondered if “acting was a selfish career,” and Maron points out most of the characters she’s created are selfish, self-involved. And these characters, she says, “are always unaware that they are the character in the room.”



CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators