Selfie Deaths, a Reader Loyalty Program, and the Meaning of Liberalism

What a depressingly predictable piece: Charles Boyle argues in The Guardian that we should stop reading Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe not because it’s poorly written (and there’s a case to be made on that score) but, of course, because of its politics: “Robert Louis Stevenson, comparing Robinson Crusoe to Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, found in Defoe ‘not a tenth part of the style nor a thousandth part of the wisdom’. EM Forster, rereading Crusoe as an adult, found ‘No gaiety wit or invention … Boy scout manual.’ My quarrel is with the way the novel has been used, and continues to be used to underpin the white male entitlement that is still evident in so many daily transactions in the UK: in who cleans the streets and the sheets and the toilets; who is served, who serves; in the gender pay gap; in the policies of the Conservative party relating not just to immigration but to every aspect of social welfare. Those are obvious examples. There are others buried so deep in the mindset of the past 300 years that most of the time they are invisible.” When our writers seem to have no interest in style but pivot almost without thinking to politics and the “social” effects of literary works (as if they were as easy to identify as a blowfish), well, we’re in trouble. It’s utter silliness to speak of a singular “mindset of the past 300 years,” and someone who cares about style might have noticed that.

In other news: A rare Hawaiian flower that botanists thought was extinct has been spotted by a drone.

Penguin Random House starts reader loyalty program. “Under the program, readers who buy PRH books across print, electronic, and audio formats will be able to collect points for purchases made at online or physical stores.”

Anthony Domestico reviews Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic: “[A]s much as Deaf Republic attends to the barbarism of war, it also speaks of the love—romantic, familial, and communal—that might resist such violence. Kaminsky’s poems are filled with exquisite renderings of love in its many forms: a husband and wife bathing together; a father hoisting his baby to the sky; a people dying for its freedom.”

What does “liberal” mean? Nathan W. Schlueter reviews Helena Rosenblatt’s The Lost History of Liberalism.

James V. Schall passed away last week. Here is his last piece for The University Bookman.

Essay of the Day:

In Outside Magazine, Kathryn Miles writes about the increase in “selfie deaths” over the past several years:

“It began as retribution for a lost bet: in 2014, Gigi Wu, an experienced hiker from Taiwan, posed atop a snow-covered mountain, clad only in a bikini. The stunt resulted in a series of undeniably gorgeous photos. So Wu, a model and adventure sports personality, kept at it for the next four years, photographing herself on the summits of more than 100 of Asia’s most impressive peaks, always in a bikini. The images are at once absurd and beautiful, a juxtaposition Wu told Taiwan TV that she adored.

“They also appealed to followers, and according to BuzzFeed, she quickly amassed thousands of them. Fans loved the way she worked both the climbing and bikini personas and encouraged her to keep at it. Haters, meanwhile, wondered why Wu would be so stupid as to climb in scanty swimwear. Actually, she didn’t—the bikini always came along in her backpack, in addition to her satellite phone, first-aid kit, and other supplies.

“This January, Wu embarked upon a solo multiday traverse of Taiwan’s Yushan National Park, home to a series of 10,000-plus-foot peaks. But while attempting a summit in the park’s central mountain range, the 36-year-old Wu fell an estimated 60 to 100 feet and landed in a remote ravine. She contacted friends with her satellite phone and reported that she was unable to move the lower half of her body. They, in turn, alerted emergency workers.

“The weather was bad, with temperatures below freezing. After several failed helicopter attempts to reach her, rescuers set out on foot. Wu, who was fully clothed, wrapped herself in an emergency blanket and tried to stay hydrated. According to Hong Kong’s TVB news channel, she wrote in her journal and penned quick notes to loved ones.

“It would take the search-and-rescue team 43 hours to reach Wu. By the time they arrived, she had died, either from hypothermia or internal injuries or a combination of both.

“In the following days, Wu’s Facebook and Instagram accounts were deleted and replaced with a memorial page, which has garnered comments from detractors and fans alike.

“Perhaps this should come as no surprise. Wu’s death, after all, is only the latest in a string of selfie-related fatalities. Termed ‘killfies’ by some social media researchers, these accidental deaths have involved social media personalities and, of course, adventurers. Canadian rapper Jon James McMurray perished last October after crawling out onto the wing of a Cessna while filming a music video. Last October also witnessed the much-publicized deaths of travel bloggers Meenakshi Moorthy and Vishnu Viswanath, who apparently fell while taking a selfie at Yosemite’s Taft Point, a popular rock outcrop with an 800-foot drop. A month prior, Tomar Frankfurter, an 18-year-old from Jerusalem, also fell to his death in the park while reportedly taking a selfie at Nevada Fall. Last July, three stars of High on Life, a popular YouTube thrill-seeking adventure travel show, plummeted to their deaths at a waterfall near Squamish, British Columbia. And in late March, a man from Macau fell 1,000 feet to his death while attempting to take a selfie on the rim at Grand Canyon West.”

Read the rest.

Photo: Schloss Birseck

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Author: Micah Mattix


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