Slate: Beginning To See

Slate reviews back-in-print collections of essays by Ellen Willis, Beginning to See the Light and No More Nice Girls.

Willis_NoMore coverI was living in Park Slope, nearly three years ago, when I was offered a full-time job with benefits writing film criticism in Los Angeles. I was 29, and this sort of job was the only thing I had even thought about wanting for years, so I jumped at it, without giving any real thought to the enormous ways in which the decision would change my life. For one thing, I had to move across the country within two weeks, and the easiest way to pull that off was to give away most of my stuff. I had a party at my apartment, and my friends (both real-life and Facebook) came over and pillaged my books, my DVDs, and my records. Some of that shit I had been holding on to for years. Some of it I had inherited from my mom and dad. Physical media is dead!, I declared, on Tumblr if not out loud.

What I didn't realize was that once I was installed in this new job in the town where I grew up but had never lived as an adult—when I was living in a Koreatown apartment with almost no furniture and nothing on the walls and no shelves full of books and no physical artifacts representing three decades lived consuming media—I would fall into something like an identity crisis. I had always defined myself by what music I listened to, which books I read, what I thought about movies, and the obsessive need to know everything I could know about the media I was taking in—which, of course, led to getting a job like this one in the first place. And so I came to realize that the stuff I had given away so capriciously wasn't just stuff.

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Published in: Slate
By: Karina Longworth