December 28th, 2018

Hi Friend,

If you’re wondering why you’re receiving this email, it’s because I thought you might like this sort of thing.

I’ve spent the last couple days bathing in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, relishing in the distinct lightness elicited as each of the author’s speculations unfurls into something that sounds like a universal truth. To quote one of these moments:

“We have more and more universities and more and more students. If students are going to earn degrees, they’ve got to come up with dissertation topics. And since dissertations can be written about everything under the sun, the number of topics is infinite. Sheets of paper covered with words pile up in archives sadder than cemeteries, because no one ever visits them, not even on All Souls’ Day. Culture is perishing in overproduction, in an avalanche of words, in the madness of quantity (pp. 103).”

I would like for this newsletter to be a small remedy to the perishing of culture from overproduction. I, for one, am easily overwhelmed by the insurmountable amount of available content on the web and elsewhere, to the point that I’ll sometimes miss out on my daily dose of culture altogether. Butter for the Brain will be a weekly (hopefully) newsletter with a little nosh for the noggin. I would love for the content to be mostly contributed by all of you – if a piece of art, writing, music, whatever catches your eye, please send it over and it will appear in the next newsletter. Original content is even more coveted! This week will be a small taste of what is to come, if people are up for this whole thing.

If you know anyone who may enjoy the arrival of Butter for the Brainin their inbox, please forward the newsletter and fill out this form so they can be permanently added to the Listserv. Likewise, if you are not interested in receiving the newsletter, let srl9tu@virginia.edu know that as well (no hard feelings).

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For this week:

Seoul-based artist Miwon Yoon began her career as an animator, but has since shifted towards illustration, where she has found wide acclaim. I, for one, was seized by her delicate illustrations of food for Magazine F.

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This week in music delivers a stunning 1974 crooner form Norwegian jazz singer Karin Krog (SpotifyDiscogsYoutube), and one of the most comprehensive LPs originating from a single artist: a 2017 compilation of experimental artist Geoffrey Landers’ mostly unreleased works from 1979-1987, spanning new wave, ambient jazz, avant-pop, and minimalism (SpotifyDiscogsYoutube).

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If you happened to miss Flaubert Again, a prose poem (?) by Anne Carson featured in an October New Yorker issue, be sure to carve out a few minutes before bedtime to give it a read.

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And lastly, I give you the unnerving, trapping work of photographer Alex Prager, whose staged scenes of the mundane expertly dance the line between realism and surrealism.

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Milan Kundera devotes a chapter of The Unbearable Lightness of Being to unpacking the concept of kitsch – not as in “poor taste because of excessive sentimentality” but rather a Nietzschean notion of an aesthetic ideal associated with an ideology. Kundera mostly speaks of the agrarian Communist kitsch, but kitsch has its place in most cultures. The American holiday season has its own potent kitsch: fuzzy socks, a flickering fireplace, and a cozy mug of peppermint cocoa nestled within the confines of an Instagram frame; Christmas trees and their related antics; a champagne-soaked New Years soiree riding the line between raucous and classy, topped with a midnight kiss. But the holiday season rarely lives up to this kitsch and that is okay – turn loose the burden of a perfect holiday and instead savor the time with family, fill those invaluable extra few vacation hours with a weighty read (I’ll be relishing in Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus myself), and join my mom and I in baking Miss Edna Faust’s Blue Ribbon Pound Cake (God bless Miss Edna and her dense, moist, decadent gift from the heavens).

Much love,

Sophie

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