In a hilarious twist, this newsletter exists because of Jenny Odell and Elon Musk.
Just this morning, Odell reminded me of the pure joy I’ve always found in curiosity. I’ve been reading her delightful book, How to Do Nothing, and found myself resonating hard with this paragraph over breakfast:
So why go down the rabbit hole? First and most basically, it is enjoyable. Curiosity, something we know most of all from childhood, is a forward-driving force that derives from the differential between what is known and not known. Even morbid curiosity assumes there is something you haven’t seen that you’d like to see, creating a kind of pleasant sensation of unfinished-ness and of something just around the corner. Although it’s never seemed like a choice to me, I live for this feeling. Curiosity is what gets me so involved in something that I forget myself.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been someone who has liked to give myself little projects. Like watching every Friday the 13th sequel during the month of October, for example, or deep-diving Wikipedia’s exhaustive compendium of hoaxes, or tracking down every essay or blog post a new-to-me-author has ever written once I’ve finished all their books.
I started publishing work about these obsessions this year. (Here’s an essay about Angela Carter’s unwritten Jane Eyre sequel that I’m really proud of.) I’ve even been lucky enough to talk with other writers about theirs. (Check out my interview with Ander Monson about watching Predator 146 times for his new memoir.)
I guess there’s something thrilling about finding little ways to play detective in everyday life. Clicking hyperlink after hyperlink until you’re a total expert on a tiny facet of culture. Using the the internet to time travel. “I live for this feeling,” Odell says, and really, so do I.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to Twitter, but in the midst of the unmitigated chaos unfurling on the platform this last week, I found myself beginning to feel a curious sense of loss. The best parts of the internet, I think, have always been those moments of connection that exist in spite of everything: these digital messages in intangible bottles that we hurl out into the ether, hoping to reach someone who feels the same way.
So, here’s mine.
The gist: My little obsession inventories will go out once a month, and I may occasionally send out a longer essay every now and then (e.g. the one I’m trying to place right now about watching every Tom Cruise movie as a coping mechanism during the pandemic, lol). And if you’re interested in keeping up with my published work, I’ll pop links into the bottom of these emails as well. (I’ve got an essay forthcoming in January about Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s terrifying 2001 horror flick, Pulse.)
We’re not quite halfway through the month yet, but just to give you a taste of what’s to come, here’s what I’ve been thinking about in November so far:
lesser-known band feuds
the utter havoc behind the making of The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)
ethics of celebrity diary publication
I’d also like to extend an evergreen invitation to readers to share your microfascinations, either in the comments or directly via email. I live for these rabbit holes and trading in the likeminded enthusiasm of others brings me a lot of joy.
Anyway, thanks for being here. Hope you stick around!
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I've been feeling the same sense of loss. Looking forward to your post about band feuds!