Where do we go from here?
Sai Versailles opens Out of Print’s second volume as guest editor, contemplating what constitutes the spirit of our age today.
Cultural Learnings is an editorial platform for discussions on contemporary culture, curated by Sai Versailles. You can support it by subscribing to this newsletter, sharing it with your friends, emailing your thoughts, or answering this survey.
The following text is the editor’s note for Out Of Print’s first issue of its second volume.
On March 31, 2020, sixteen days after the first series of lockdown measures in Metro Manila, I put out a tweet asking journalists and editors how they were writing in this brave new world.
“I’m not just referring to #COVID19-related reporting, I’m talking about everything else,” I wrote. What will happen, I wondered, to the long-form essays on dolphins, true-crime, and tikka masala?
“Must I end every headline now with ‘in the age of corona?’”
Many doubled down on their raison d’etre. Others didn’t write at all. But in retrospect, my question was premature. More than a year later, we’re only just realizing the subtle ways this collective disruption has changed us and the writing is fermenting to bring out that nuance.
When I was invited to guest edit this issue of Out Of Print, we didn’t set out on a theme, much like the previous ones. Yet, what came out of it is very telling of our zeitgeist today; that our lives are punctured by a non-linearity, pulling us apart in a myriad of directions. Our interview with Jenny Odell about her new book explores the purpose of time in an age when so many of us are refusing it. In doing so, she conveys what Frederic Jameson meant when he urged us to “Always historicize!” — that how we got here is as much about what we didn’t see on the way as it is about what we did.
This is why if you ask anyone about “where we are now,” answers will vary. Is the light at the end of the tunnel the sun or a speeding car? To artist James Clar, whose work illuminates this site’s pages, the light just is — an “inevitable.” The world will change with or without us and it’s our imperative to pick up whatever we can of it. Pulling ourselves apart reveals a core humanity that appears in the subtle way we twiddle our thumbs, or turn our head to one side and sigh.
This deconstruction is our reckoning. Filmmaker and drag artist Celeste Lapida attests to this as the lines between her true self and her carefully crafted persona blur with each day of actualization, of seeing the sun set. In this lifetime where we only have a handful of summers, it’s easy to doubt what we are doing. I’m sure you readers are familiar with the crippling fear of wondering whether we have the right to tell the stories we do — as it did for photographer JL Javier — despite feeling it is the right thing to do.
But nothing captures today’s zeitgeist more than the desire to reinvent. It doesn’t mean we come out of this stronger, richer, smarter, or more beautiful; the days ahead just have a newness that is very much up for the taking. Artist Bree Jonson felt this desire even before her untimely passing last September, and it lives on in the memories of people who remember her here. I see this desire in myself as I edit this issue under a pseudonym — my real name carrying a burden that no longer reflects what I aspire to be.
Deconstruction, reckoning, reinvention, the non-linear passage of time: All these capture the spirit of our age, but it also looks a lot like creativity — the messy and cathartic means by which we persevere and defy all odds.
As Out Of Print celebrates its first year with this new volume, we hope you find between these stories a little bit of who you were, what you are, and where you will be.
Out Of Print’s Cultural Learnings
Out of Print’s editor Jonty Cruz gives his list of cultural learnings for the week.
I Have Notes - This is writer and editor Nicole Chung’s newsletter for The Atlantic. It just came out a few weeks ago but already carries so much wisdom and lessons for writers.
Love Lessons from a Forty-Four Year-Old Plant Shop in New York City - I saw this short documentary film at the height of the plantita craze and I’ve gone back to it once in a while. It’s an intimate look at the things we nurture—or fail to.
My Soulmate’s in an Armchair at McNally Jackson - As much as it is my favourite place on earth, it was heartbreaking to see my favorite bookstore again. The café and those famous armchairs have been replaced by a quaint or quiet stationary section. I found this book of poems there and a lot of it deals with what we choose to romanticize.
Mother Tongue TV - I’m a sucker for stories of grandma’s. One of the things I regret as I try to learn how to cook is not being able to cook with and cook for my lola.
Funny Weather - For anyone who wants to write about art or just see examples of how to write exceptionally well, this book is a perfect reference point. “Paradise” in particular broke me.
The Tortoise and the Hare - My friend shared this episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast with me and it was baffling how unreasonable something as mundane as a standardized test can actually be. Gladwell looks at the history and structure of the United States Law School Admissions Test and what it says about education and success in America.
Founded by former magazine editors and made in the Philippines, Out of Print tells the stories of the Filipino creative diaspora.