GABBLER RECOMMENDS: “What The OA Tells Us About Plato and the Human Heart” by Josephine Livingstone

Through its neat plays on old storylines—the OA regains her sight, rather than losing it; Homer is the blind prophet’s lover, not her creator—The OA toys with our expectations and with a rich and old narrative tradition. But it’s the OA’s ordeal that elevates these references into something deeply thoughtful. Her secret is that she and several other people (including her beloved Homer) were kept locked up in a psychopath’s basement, hewn out of bare rock.

As with its treatment of Homer, The OA both reverses and strangely expands upon parts of Plato’s allegory. Much like Plato’s captives, the prisoners understand part of the mysteries confronting them. They can see shapes of ideas. How can they get out? Why are they here? Why does this nutty scientist care about their brains in particular? They see the answers to such questions like half-formed shadows playing against a wall. But as the show unspools, we realize that the captives can only find the truth by turning inward.


GABBLER RECOMMENDS: “I Don’t Want to Be the Strong Female Lead” by Brit Marling

Even the spirited Antigone, the brave Joan of Arc and the unfettered Thelma and Louise meet tragic ends in large part because they are spirited, brave and unfettered. They can defy kings, refuse beauty and defend themselves against violence. But it’s challenging for a writer to imagine a world in which such free women can exist without brutal consequences.

Butler and other writers like Ursula Le Guin, Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood did not employ speculative fiction to colonize other planets, enslave new life-forms, or extract alien minerals for capital gains only to have them taken at gunpoint by A.I. robots. These women used the tenets of genre to reveal the injustices of the present and imagine our evolution.

As time has passed, I’ve come to understand what deep influence shaping a narrative has. Stories inspire our actions. They frame for us existences that are and are not possible, delineate tracks we can or cannot travel. They choose who we can find empathy for and who we cannot. What we have fellow feeling for, we protect. What we objectify and commodify, we eventually destroy.

I don’t want to be the dead girl, or Dave’s wife. But I don’t want to be a strong female lead either, if my power is defined largely by violence and domination, conquest and colonization.

Sometimes I get a feeling of what she could be like. A truly free woman. But when I try to fit her into the hero’s journey she recedes from the picture like a mirage. She says to me: Brit, the hero’s journey is centuries of narrative precedent written by men to mythologize men. Its pattern is inciting incident, rising tension, explosive climax and denouement. What does that remind you of?

And I say, a male orgasm.

And she says: Correct. I love the arc of male pleasure. But how could you bring me into being if I must satisfy the choreography of his desire only?

I imagine new structures and mythologies born from the choreography of female bodies, non-gendered bodies, bodies of color, disabled bodies. I imagine excavating my own desires, wants and needs, which I have buried so deeply to meet the desires, wants and needs of men around me that I’m not yet sure how my own desire would power the protagonist of a narrative.

These are not yet solutions. But they are places to dig.

Excavating, teaching and celebrating the feminine through stories is, inside our climate emergency, a matter of human survival. The moment we start imagining a new world and sharing it with one another through story is the moment that new world may actually come.


BookTuber Tuesday – City Arts & Lectures presents Rebecca Solnit & Brit Marling


GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ‘We live in a multiverse of multiverses, but what does that say about us?’ by Cassandra Landry

The multiverse as an internal salve is perhaps a new function. Where before the concept reflected new horizons brought by advances in technology, or warnings about the fragility of victory or political recklessness, one comfort of these contemporary narratives is confirmation that none of this is fixed. All we’d have to do is act, and we’d have, in essence, heralded a “new” dimension.

“How else do you notice the detail of your own life? I think that’s what great fiction does,” Day says. “Books or shows that engage with this question can really sharpen your eye to things that you might not have noticed — and those things are the best things about being a human being, I think.”


In August 2017, a video was uploaded to YouTube of a small flash mob assembled before Trump International Hotel in New York City. It’s during winter, or maybe spring; the trees are bare and the dancers are in coats. The group begins to perform the Five Movements featured in Netflix’s “The OA” — movements (choreographed by this dimension’s Ryan Heffington) that have the power to open a portal into another dimension.

“Would the power of the Five Movements work to protect us all from the darker forces at work in our country and the world?” the description wondered. We want to believe it could be that simple.

The research phase of “The OA” had a similar effect, as Marling and Batmanglij met and interviewed those who have survived brushes with death. “They have gone through something that the rest of us are just asking big questions about, living with a constant, unacknowledged terror at the fragility of our bodies,” she says. “They don’t seem to have that preoccupation, or the quiet fear that comes with it.”

Does great art have the power to replicate that crossing of the proverbial River Styx?

“What I have felt in my life from really great fiction is the sense that my vulnerability is not unique. That somebody else from the void is extending me a hand in solidarity. You don’t feel alone,” Marling says.

In the multiverse, we can die, in a broader, less weighted sense, leaving our known selves behind, so that we can really live. “Whether you’re using metaphor, or you’re using math, you’re just trying to articulate some sense of things,” she says.