I’m Jarrett Fuller and this is my newsletter. You’re getting this because at some point in the last few years, you signed up to recieve updates about my work and thinking. Sometimes these are long-form updates, sometimes its work updates, and sometimes it a grab-bag set of thoughts and links and cultural recommendations. This issue is very much that last one. Thanks for reading.
I’ve developed a strange hobby the last few weeks. I’m going to the Internet Archive and looking up my favorite blogs, reading them again, fifteen years later, as if they were new. Some of these blogs are still online (many aren’t) but what I love about reading them through the Internet Archive is that I can read them as if it were 2004 again. The internet looked different then.
That’s when I started reading blogs. I was sixteen and they opened up my world. I’ve written about this before but blogs were crucial to my early intellectual development: they are where I learned about design history and criticism. I discovered movies and books and people I’m not sure I’d know otherwise.
What strikes me reading these old posts today is the voice. Each blogger had their own voice but there’s something familiar about it: they are friendly and inviting. There’s a generosity embedded in there as sense of I like this thing and I think you might too. They are also deeply personal. In between book recommendations and commentary on some current event is a public diary: how days were spent, friends they saw, ephemera that otherwise would be forgotten.
At the risk of nostalgia, I’m finding myself missing this era of the internet. Social media killed this style of writing; personal lives have become a type of performance. People say newsletters are the new blogs but it’s not quite the same. The community feels one-way with a newsletter: I see all of you but you don’t see each other. There’s no public commenting, no back-and-forth, no intellectual volleying. I’m interested in Robin Sloan’s proposed new internet protocol, that gets at some of the structures of blogging. I wonder if something like this could bring that spirit, that voice. That bloggy-voice doesn’t translate to the newsletter, either. Blogs were a hybrid personal/public persona but newsletters feel more personal and writing reflects that.
I’ve tried to make my own mostly-dormant blog more active again but it’s a muscle that’s atrophied. I want to keep working at it, even if just for myself. Nevertheless, I have published with a bit more frequency since summer started. I wrote about my summer reading list, a Japanese anime about a Roman bathhouse architect, why HBO’s The Staircase mini-series is really a story about storytelling, trying to find my photographic voice in a new town, and developing a summer routine that balances productivity and relaxation. The blog does have an RSS feed, if that’s your thing. It’s certainly still mine.
Elsewhere, I’ve written three things for Eye On Design so far this summer (with 1-2 more in the works). The first are two interviews, one with designer Sara de Bondt about her new book on Belgian graphic design and another with Morgan Crowcroft-Brown, the designer of MACK books who has published some of my favorite recent photography books.
They also just published a fun essay I’d been thinking about for years about the intersection of brands and cults. About a year ago, I scribbled this in my notebook:
cult + time = brand
It’s a play on the old joke cult + time = religion. I kept turning over this idea in my head and wanted to write an essay around it. This is one of those essays where I knew the last sentence and had to craft a structure to lead me there. I wrote about some of that process, too, on the blog.
I hope you read it and enjoy it. I spend entirely too much time consuming content about cults so it was great to finally channel that into something productive.
In case you haven’t heard, I’m taking a hiatus from my podcast, Scratching the Surface, for the summer. For June, July, and August, we’re releasing old episodes from the 200+ episode archive that have meant a lot to me over the years. So far, we’ve rebroadcasted my conversation with Jack Self and Ellen Lupton from 2017 and more are coming the next few weeks. It’s embarrassing, honestly, for me to listen back to these but striking to hear seeds of future projects, future guests, and future thinking emerge here, likely before I even realized it myself.
The podcast isn’t going anywhere but it’s been nice to set it aside for a bit. This gives me space for some other projects — I have a handful of other writing in the works, as well as some research projects in their early phases — that I otherwise wouldn’t have. During this break, though, I have realized how generative these conversations are to me; how I need to keep talking to people like this to feed my own work. I’m not rushing the return but I am excited for some guests I’ve already been trying to line up.
Speaking of audio, I made a new summer playlist, continuing my tradition of producing and sharing thematic playlists in the summer and winter. This one is called “Floating on Your Own Cloud” and features a strange mix of lo-fi pop with hints of hip-hop and electronica. You can listen to it on Spotify here.
Because I’ve been doing so much writing this summer, a lot of my music listening has focused on ambient tracks to listen to in the background while writing. For years, I’ve been interested in drone music — especially from countries like Iceland and Norway — and that genre has become a frequent morning listen. I have four ongoing, ever-changing related playlists going, focusing on this music:
They’re all meant to be played on shuffle. Maybe you’ll like them too? Who else should I listen to?
I’ve realized lately how hard it is for me to write about my own work. Trained in criticism, I know how to read the work of others. I have lots of opinions on other creative people and their work but when I sit down to write about my own, I always come up short. The ideas feels forced, the prose stilted. I’ve recommitted to keeping a daily journal, in the hopes of doing some of this work in private first. Perhaps, then, some new personal writing can emerge.
As I was thinking about this, I was delighted to find this short New Yorker essay on sculptor Anne Truitt’s diaries. I was familiar with Truitt and knew her diaries were published but knew nothing else. Upon finishing this piece, I went out and bought all three volumes of Truitt’s diaries and can’t wait to dig in. (I started an Are.na channel of artist diaries here, btw.) Again, I ask for recommendations!
Also in the New Yorker, I enjoyed this fascinating essay on what happens when real estate gets involved in venture capital, especially in the restaurant industry. Anna Weiner focuses on San Francisco bread darlings Tartine but the pervasiveness of the entanglement is stunning.
This interview with writer, publisher, urbanist Justinien Tribillon resonated with me deeply, for the obvious connection in polymathic practices but also for his openness in talking about his laziness, putting language to a feeling I feel deeply for myself. I’d like to say I’m a hard worker but I don’t think I am. I work, largely, to counteract a bend towards laziness. I’ve felt this tension for years am and thankful for Tribillon for pointing it out and speaking to it.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the failures of leftists to not simply enact the policies we believe in but also in bringing more people into the conversation. Especially in the wake of a post-Roe world, why are we, on the left, so bad at communicating and galvanizing support of our ideas? Bhaskar Sunkara, founder of Jacobin and president of The Nation, has some thoughts on this too and spoke eloquently about them on The Ezra Klein Show.
A few weeks ago, I listened to my first audiobook. Audiobooks never felt like they fit into my lifestyle — much in the same way it’s hard for me at times to listen to podcasts — until I realized I could listen to them while running. In the last two months, I’ve listened to three audiobooks — all memoirs — which feels like the perfect type of book to listen to.
I listened to Michael Chabon’s Pops, a collection of essays on fatherhood where, upon finishing one essay, found myself crying as I finished my workout. Up next was Lisa Brennan Jobs’s - Steve Jobs’s first daughter — Small Fry. It’s easy to think of this as a memoir about her father but in many ways, I found Steve the least interesting character here. Brennan Jobs’s account of her relationships with her mother, her step-mother, her parent’s other partners were as complicated and confusing as the one with Jobs. Much like Pops, this is really a story about parents and children and the relationships between them. (Speaking of these relationships, I’m very much looking forward to reading — listening? — Ada Calhoun’s new book Also A Poet, a hybrid biography of Frank O’Hara and memoir recounting her own relationship with her father, the New Yorker art critic Peter Schjendahl.) Finally, I really enjoyed Kyo Maclear’s Birds Art Life, a quasi-memoir/journal about a writer’s experience birding.
On the non-audio front, I recently started the graphic novel series Saga and am completely blown away. I’m very much a half-hearted comic book reader — have read many a dozen total? — but this one I can’t put down. It has the expansiveness and action that reminds me of something like Star Wars but is also incredibly intimate and personal. It’s a story about parenting, about growing up, about immigration and refugees. It’s easily one of my favorite things I’ve read so far this year. (And I was delighted to discover that Brian K. Vahaugn, the series’s author, was a writer for LOST, still one of my favorite television shows.)
I’m about a quarter of the way through Emily St. John Mandel’s (Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel) new novel Sea of Tranquility and wow! I have no idea what I’m reading or where it’s going but I am hooked. (No spoilers but I’m reminded of elements of The Glass Hotel.)
Thanks for reading the preceding 1,794 words — a much longer letter than I was expecting when I sat down to write this. As always, if you have thoughts, recommendations, or want to chat, you can just hit reply. Have a good summer!