Author Archives: Jackson Lathrop

Squares and Rectangles

What is literature? A book? An essay? Poetry?

The Oxford English dictionary defines literature as: familiarity with letters or books; knowledge acquired from reading or studying books, esp. the principal classical texts associated with humane learning; literary culture; learning, scholarship. On, literature is defined as: writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays.

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Lying About A Mountain

John D’Agata’s book About¬† A Mountain is a wide-ranging book that delves into the culture of Las Vegas during the time he helps his mother move there. At the same time, tons of controversy had been building up around Yucca Mountain potentially being used as a nuclear waste storage site. D’Agata weaves in vast amounts of research with a meandering narrative, covering topics such as the experiences of him and his mother during her move, the life of a boy who committed suicide in Las Vegas, and a school field trip to Yucca Mountain. But, in the end, D’Agata includes in his notes that he had “conflated time in this way for dramatic effect only” and “also changed subjects’ names or combined a number of subjects into a single ‘composite’ character.”

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Have you ever wondered who it is that decides what genre to call a certain piece of writing? Is it the author? Is it a group of snobby intellectuals sitting around a table that “know best”? Or is it the audience that it caters to? And further, what sort of criteria could even be used to define each and every work into a specific genre? Lauren Slater’s “memoir,”¬†Lying, is a perfect example of this.

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McElwee’s March

Sherman’s March, a documentary produced by Ross McElwee is not in fact about General Sherman’s march to the sea, but about McElwee’s journey through the south in search for love interests. The majority of the film, McElwee is basically stalking several women trying to find love. His mother becomes involved at one point, too, because she thinks he is wasting his life and should already be married. Though to be fair, the setting of the film happens to take place near several historical locations of General Sherman’s march during the Civil War that McElwee throws in random facts about it.

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How An Unlikely Podcast Made It Big

After finishing Serial and doing some further research on the podcast, I have come to realize how effective it truly is. What do I mean by effective? I mean to say that despite a small budget, mountains of doubt and a seemingly straightforward case, Sarah Koenig was able to make something from nothing. Koenig even says about the series that the case just happened to fall in her lap. Initially, it was a low-profile case that had been settled legally, but when Koenig gets her hands on it and opens it up, she finds tons of inconsistencies and faults in the prosecution.

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Selling Out the Sixties

Joan Didion’s collection of essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem sheds light on the true essence of the counterculture during the 1960’s. Her essay topics range from obsessions with over-inflated cultural icons to radical activists, such as the Diggers, to the biggest stereotype of the era, acid-tripping hippies. Each essay in the collection opens up a door to all the different corners of life during the sixties in and around San Francisco. And to achieve this, Didion did as any dedicated reporter would do and threw herself right into the midst of it all. At the end of the preface, she even goes as far as to claims that “writers are always selling somebody out.” Continue reading