Fiona on Tavi:
Tavi Gevinson wears voices like she wears clothes: no matter what she puts on, it becomes her. Her range is teenage, spanning from disaffected like Daria to true Belieber, sometimes within a matter of syllables. When she fangirls, which is often, she’ll trill until she’s short of breath. When she is self-deprecating, which is just as often, she’s Lisa Simpson affecting, “like, you know, whatever,” cool. Her jokes are deadpan—enthusiasm, curbed; her wisdom comes, like Yoda, couched in a smirk. “I was always drawn to fictional characters who had their own world,” she drawls, stretching the world into whiiirled, “ones with a sense of pride, honesty, and—” this with an eye-rolling grin, “truth.” When she recites gained knowledge—paraphrasing neurologist Oliver Sacks or astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, for instance—her voice booms with the authority of her subject. But on matters of taste, be it fictional characters or footwear, the underage editor is assertively girlish. “I feel like” is her go-to transition.
101 WAYS TO DESCRIBE CASEY AFFLECK’S VOICE:
- a straw scraping the bottom of an empty can of Coke
- a cartoon whose catchphrase is “Ack!”
- the sort of person who loses his voice on the happiest day of his life
- someone who’s been walking in the desert for days
- a brooding squall
- someone who is suddenly truly thrilled because he just remembered he had a chocolate bar in his backpack
The whole list, here.
Man vs. Corpse
But nothing happens! our dissenter cried. Still, a life filled with practically nothing, if you are fully present in and mindful of it, can be a beautiful struggle. In America we are perhaps more accustomed to art that enacts the boredom of life with a side order of that (by now) overfamiliar Warholian nihilism. I think of the similar-but-different maximalist narratives of the young writer Tao Lin, whose most recent novel, Taipei, is likewise committed to the blow-by-blow recreation of everyday existence. That book—though occasionally unbearable to me as I read it—had, by the time I’d finished it, a cumulative effect, similar to the Knausgaard.
Both exhaustively document a life: you don’t simply “identify” with the character, effectively you “become” them. A narrative claustrophobia is at work, with no distance permitted between reader and protagonist. And if living with Tao Lin’s Paul feels somewhat more relentless than living with Karl Ove, there is an element of geographical and historical luck in play: after all, Karl Ove has the built-in sublimity of fjords to console him, whereas Paul can claim only downtown Manhattan (with excursions to Brooklyn and, briefly, Taipei), the Internet, and a sackload of prescription drugs.
This photograph of Eleanor Catton in today’s NYTimes is a prototype for those of us who do not like having our pictures taken: slight smile, handless arms, body pivoted to the side and eyes fixed to the floor.