My latest book is The One Who Swam With The Fishes.

"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times

"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine

"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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31 October 2023

The Internet Personified: Tuesday Link List

My friends, my friends!

Here I am bursting into your inbox with my links

Ah man, it’s 5.30 pm (on Monday, but I’ve cleverly titled this the TUESDAY link list so I can send it out tomorrow and assuage my guilt) and outside is pitch black. Like middle-of-the-night black. Like, I should have finished my dinner and be brushing my teeth for bed black. I’d forgotten this about Berlin, how dark it gets suddenly in the middle of the day. See, I’d been tending to romanticise winter—it’s so cozy! everything smells good! there’s soup and novels—but as the months go by, I’m going to see less and less daylight until finally, you get one strip of bleak grey sky for about an hour in the morning if you’re lucky and by 3 pm, here we are, dark as coal, cold as the Arctic. This is really Berlin’s season though. In the summer, you forget, it’s so beautiful here, the days are endless, the nights are warm, but that’s just a party dress she puts on. This is the time of year that Berlin is more comfortable in, often wet, quite cold, where the nights are endless instead.

Chalo, at least we have a few weeks left of autumn. “Herbst” they call it here. The trees are all red and gold, and my underlayers are still light. I have to go out this evening, but it’s already feeling like “too late.” K is away for the rest of this week and so I’m going to have a solitary life, where, in all likelihood I will fall asleep at 8 pm just because it’s dark as fuck outside and my body is super confused.

The global north is weird.

Anyway! Moving on to the purest form of escapism, ie, reading, and boy, do I have a lot of links for you this week. Who’s got two thumbs and is hiding from the news right now? THIS LADY. Who’s got two thumbs and also has read enough to acknowledge the privilege she has in being able to ignore the news? ALSO THIS LADY. Who hates the term “acknowledge your privilege” because it’s become a catch-all get-out-of-jail-free card where you can basically be as douchey as you like and wave it away by saying “I acknowledge my privilege” like a Gwyneth Paltrow type person? DING DING DING. Bah. Once you get old enough being a writer, you start to write yourself into circles, like a dog chasing its own tail.

Also Matthew Perry died, which makes me very sad because I’ve rewatched Friends a zillion times and feel like Chandler Bing was a part of my life when I needed him. Apparently Matthew Perry himself was a part of many people’s lives when they needed him so RIP to someone who seemed like a great human being.

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“What if he was your son??” someone posted at me angrily. This comment is emblematic. It’s not the kind of thing one normally says about an artist getting a critical review (unless the criticism is extremely over the top and disproportionate to the status of the artist in question). Generally, the point of presenting an art show in public is to see if it can hold the attention of people who don’t directly know you.- From: The World’s Most Popular Painter Sent His Followers After Me Because He Didn’t Like a Review of His Work. Here’s What I Learned (Artnet) (Editor’s note: I’m linking this because I’ve been thinking about reviews and criticism a lot lately. I feel like the lines between artists and reviewers have blurred, especially because of social media so anyone can jump over the line and say anything they want to. The old rule of “not contacting reviewers because it’s bad manners” just doesn’t seem to apply any more, so it’s likely that if you give a social media star a bad review, they’ll come after you. Not me though. I read the weird reviews, I feel hate in my heart and then I just internalise it like everyone in my generation! It’s ok! I’m in therapy!)

Conversations, like improv scenes, start to sink if they sit still. Takers can paddle for both sides, relieving their partners of the duty to generate the next thing. It’s easy to remember how lonely it feels when a taker refuses to cede the spotlight to you, but easy to forget how lovely it feels when you don’t want the spotlight and a taker lets you recline on the mezzanine while they fill the stage. When you’re tired or shy or anxious or bored, there’s nothing better than hopping on the back of a conversational motorcycle, wrapping your arms around your partner’s waist, and holding on for dear life while they rocket you to somewhere new. From: Good conversations have lots of doorknobs (Experimental History). (Editor’s note: Ever since I read this piece I’ve been thinking about how good conversations work. Doorknobs! Try it next time you meet someone new.)

It is hardly possible that Mohammad hasn’t heard that innocent civilians were killed in the attack. Photos of the dead bodies have also been broadcast on Arab-language channels. Does he feel sorry for the victims, many of whom were his age? Mohammad doesn’t answer before letting out a laugh and looking imploringly at his friend. "Just say that you think it’s terrible when innocent people die," his friend tells him with a grin. From: The Mood on the Berlin Streets: "I Actually Don't Like Hamas, But..." (Der Spiegel) (Editor’s note: oh man, the conversation around Israel and Gaza is SO WEIRD here. Super polarising. But the German government has taken a strong pro-Israel position and that is officially what most people stick to.)

In the 1950s, the British psychoanalyst John Bowlby posited that being separated from a maternal figure in the first years of life warps a child’s future ability to form close relationships. He and other psychologists later added nuance to what became known as “attachment theory,” taking into account new research, such as a longitudinal study of children who’d spent their early years in residential facilities, which indicated that some children had more resiliency than Bowlby had initially grasped. In the ensuing decades, the idea that breaking off a primary attachment would do lifelong damage became influential in child-development spheres and eventually infiltrated popular culture. Early in this century, several adoption attorneys “hit on this thing of attachment” and saw its utility, Dale Dove, who co-chairs the Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys’ foster care committee, told me. With the supply of adoptable babies dropping, foster children were becoming a “hot commodity,” he said, and he and his colleagues (among them Tim Eirich’s law partner Seth Grob) realized that attachment experts could be called into court to argue that foster children needed to remain with their foster parents in order to avoid a severed bond. From: When Foster Parents Don’t Want to Give Back the Baby (ProPublica) (Editor’s note: Found this longread very interesting. When children become a commodity, obviously there will be a tussle between who gets to take care of them all framed under the narrative “it’s the best thing for the child.”)

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It’s a form of dancing I haven’t done in front of anyone for years; it’s the kind of thing I used to do with a group of other young women or girls when there were no boys around, or at least no boys we cared to impress. That’s what this entire concert reminded me of — time I spent in my own teenage bedroom, singing songs and pinballing between sexy stripper moves and goofy square dancing. Maybe that’s what Eras really is: the acknowledgment of girls as people to memorialize, of who we are and who we were, all existing in the same body, on the same timeline. You are your sluttiest version, your silliest version, your most wholesome, your smartest, your dumbest, your saddest, your happiest — all at once. From: This Is Not a Taylor Swift Profile (NYT) (Editor’s note: What I know about Taylor Swift could probably be expanded into one paragraph but she’s a phenomenon and reading about phenomenons is always fun, especially in a sassy “experience review” of a concert like this one.)

It's true that my wife and I had been calling Gary a lot. About a year and a half prior, we'd walked into his office in the Berkshires, in Massachusetts — home to white folks who love the Boston Pops, farm to table, and Lyme disease — and signed a contract for Gary to build a pool in our backyard. It made me feel a little bit like an asshole to be honest, the idea of having a pool. Just the rich-person-ness of it. But what is life if not a long march toward losing all your morals and shame. And thanks to the support of my friends and family, I was able to bury my feelings deep inside and become invested in the idea of having a pool. A pool could be evidence that my life hadn't amounted to nothing. When I found myself at a party with intimidating people, I would sometimes say to myself, I am a person with a swimming pool, so I could believe I had the same right to exist as anyone else. And people would have to be friends with me, right? Because who doesn't want a friend with a pool? It would be like when Jeff Allen's mom used to let him have pool parties at his house in eighth grade. Sure, after everyone ate all the grilled cheeses his mom had cut into triangles and sneaked shots of vodka and then thrown up in the bushes, they all left and didn't invite him to come along. But wasn't that better than sitting at home alone on a Friday night, which was probably what Jeff would have been doing otherwise? Wasn't that a win? From: The Great Zelle Pool Scam (Business Insider) (Editor’s note: I’m always afraid things are scams, so much so that I’ve joined the subreddit r/scams so this whole story is dodge AF but in a schadenfreude so glad it didn’t happen to me way.)

One Twitter friend told me, of the platform’s current condition, “I’ve actually experienced quite a lot of grief over it.” It may seem strange to feel such wistfulness about a site that users habitually referred to as a “hellsite.” But I’ve heard the same from many others who once considered Twitter, for all its shortcomings, a vital social landscape. Some of them still tweet regularly, but their messages are less likely to surface in my Swift-heavy feed. Musk recently tweeted that the company’s algorithm “tries to optimize time spent on X” by, say, boosting reply chains and downplaying links that might send people away from the platform. The new paradigm benefits tech-industry “thread guys,” prompt posts in the “what’s your favorite Marvel movie” vein, and single-topic commentators like Derek Guy, who tweets endlessly about menswear. Algorithmic recommendations make already popular accounts and subjects even more so, shutting out the smaller, more magpie-ish voices that made the old version of Twitter such a lively destination. (Guy, meanwhile, has received so much algorithmic promotion under Musk that he accumulated more than half a million followers.) From: Why the Internet Isn’t Fun Anymore (The New Yorker) (Editor’s note: Great minds! I wrote about exactly the same thing in my last newsletter which you can read here if you missed it.)

Postscripts: Reconciliation on Death Row. ** People Are Shocked When They Find Out How Old I Am. Here's Why It's Not A Compliment.** 40 trailblazing companies that are beating the West. ** And a throwback to one of my favourite shows, here’s “Where’s the bathroom?” from Crazy Ex Girlfriend.

Have a great week! Speak soon.



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Who are you? Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of eight books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.

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