Sally Rooney: “At the Clinic”

This was recently released online for the first time by The White Review, and while reading it I had a lot of questions: is this canon? Where did it fall in the timeline of writing Normal People?

This interview with Sally Rooney in the New Statesman sheds some light on the timeline question:

The book started as a short story, “At The Clinic”, which sees a 23-year-old Connell driving Marianne to the dentist. “I kept wanting to write about these characters who were in their early twenties,” Rooney tells me, “and their relationship had this texture to it because of their history. Eventually, I thought, what if I just went back and just told their story from the beginning, chronologically.”

I like the ambiguity of Normal People’s ending, and I wonder if Sally Rooney still feels like this is where Marianne and Connell would end up. It would certainly fit the pattern of their relationship throughout the book, although as a reader I also have hope that the characters would start to work on their communication.

I liked At the Clinic — Rooney’s writing here follows the same approach from Normal People, balancing what her characters are feeling versus what they say to each other. Rooney is so good at drawing out the tension between the internal life of her characters and their external words and actions — there’s a rhythm in her writing sometimes, where she has these short, ambiguous exchanges between her characters that play against the longer internal passages. All this stuff is happening underwater, but only a tiny bit of it makes it to the surface:

For a moment she pretends to be engaged in reading. He can see she’s deciding what to do or say. The workings of Marianne’s mind become transparent to him in brief flashes like this before they recede again.

NYT: “‘Mad Max: Fury Road’: The Oral History of a Modern Action Classic”

This retelling of the Fury Road production has been making the rounds in my various friend circles; has it really been five years? It’s wild to hear how the film almost didn’t have the Citadel scenes:

He [Jeff Robinov] said, “The camera will stop on Dec. 8, no matter what you’ve got, and that’s the end of it.” We hadn’t shot any of the scenes in the Citadel yet, where the opening and closing book ends of the film are set, and we had to go into postproduction without them. It was almost incomprehensible.

I’m not sure how I feel about the just-announced prequel plans — it sounds like they’re recasting the Furiosa role, and I feel like that’s an even tougher casting choice than Tom Hardy stepping into Mel Gibson’s role.

The Sweet Setup: “Using an iPad for Photography Workflows”

The Sweet Setup just updated their comprehensive iPad photography workflow guide, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve read about using an iPad for importing/managing/editing your photos, especially if you shoot a dedicated camera. Marius Masalar has done a lot of work to talk about the different hardware and software involved, but also provides helpful reasons to choose certain tools/processes over others (for ex: a filter-based approach to editing, vs hands-on adjustments to exposure/color).

My photography workflow is very basic these days compared to when I last wrote about it, mostly because I replaced the Fujifilm X100S with an X-T30. Unfortunately, the X-T30 RAW files requires the latest version of Lightroom, which requires at least macOS 10.13 — but my home laptop is so old it tops out at El Capitan (10.11). (Let that be a lesson that upgrading one part of your toolchain can have a cascading effect on other parts). So my primary workflow these days looks like this:

  • Use the in-camera RAW processor to generate JPGs (which are usually great to begin with, since Fuji has plenty of film simulations)
  • Import those into my iPad’s camera library
  • Use Darkroom for adjustments (usually a little tweak to the curves for more contrast, and tweaking white balance). I used to use VSCO for filters but haven’t touched the app in over a year.
  • Back up RAW files to an external drive, which is cloned locally (using SuperDuper!, and to the cloud via Backblaze.

On the rare occasion that I want to edit some RAW files I import them straight to Lightroom on iOS using that program’s new external device support, make my edits, and save JPGs into the camera library. I don’t do this as much because I have an older iPad Pro 9.7-inch model, which still uses a Lightning port, which means that importing RAW files is slow. You can start to see how aging hardware is a recurring theme in my life.

Jeff Chu: “It Is Not Well with My Soul, But I’m Trying (Part 2)”

This piece by Jeff Chu — remembering his friend Rachel Held Evans — brought me to tears. Grief is never easy, but I’m glad he shared these words with the world:

The love of true friendship creates space—space to be, space to grow, space to imagine new possibilities. But it requires attention and care. It must be tended and nurtured. And when it is, who can even measure its generative power? Such love is never passive. At its best, love behaves less like a noun than as the most active of verbs—breathing life, stirring generosity, inspiring even more love. Rachel loved so well.

This, too:

It is not well with my soul that Rachel is not here. It is not well with my soul that I never got to cook her the dinner that we had planned; she was supposed to visit Tristan and me about 10 days before she died. It is not well with my soul that Dan and the kids don’t have her with them. It is not well with my soul that we miss her every single day.

Emily VanDerWerff: “On editing”

I really enjoyed this piece from Emily VanDerWerff’s Episodes newsletter, describing the editing process from her experiences as a writer. This bit, especially, echoes my own feelings every time I sit down to write a blog post, an article, a talk — anything, really:

The trick of rewriting isn’t really about writing, actually. It’s about emotion. The second you realize something doesn’t work in your writing, it’s tempting to fall down a spiral of self-loathing — if your writing isn’t good enough, does that mean you aren’t good enough? The best writers are the people who’ve brute forced their way through this natural emotional process to realize that their work isn’t them. But even they will have that brief twinge of, “Am I worthless??” that so often strikes when somebody says, “So, I have some notes…”

After starting out with that common writer’s struggle, however, Emily then proceeds to discuss/review Susan Choi’s recent novel Trust Exercise, and how it deals with the malleability of memory. Emily connects that to her own experiences coming out as trans and how that has provided a very different lens through which to view her childhood memories.

I loved this essay — it starts out with a common writer’s lament, rushes headlong into a book that I’d read but only vaguely remember, and connects it to a deeply personal story of understanding, accepting, and celebrating one’s self. It’s not neat or tidy in any way, but you can feel the life and heat coming off of it.