(Photo: Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)
TOP THREE OF AUGUST & SEPTEMBER
- I have sent this essay to everyone I know, and now you too. Because: “Give a man a makeover and you fix him for a day; teach a man that masculinity under late capitalism is a toxic pyramid scheme that is slowly killing him just like it’s killing the world, and you might just fix a sucking hole in the future.” “The Queer Art of Failing Better” by Laurie Penny
- “Because OxyContin was so powerful and potentially addictive, David Kessler told me, from a public-health standpoint “the goal should have been to sell the least dose of the drug to the smallest number of patients.” But this approach was at odds with the competitive imperatives of a pharmaceutical company, he continued. So Purdue set out to do exactly the opposite…it was Purdue’s position that OxyContin overdoses were a matter of individual responsibility, rather than the drug’s addictive properties.” [just like it’s poor people’s fault they’re poor] “The Family that Built an Empire of Pain” by Patrick Radden Keefe
- “Instead of investing in the non-glory of a future publication date, I want to strongly recommend that you learn to create a giddy bubble, a Bizarro world, in which you are a fucking creative genius whether or not you have an impressive body of work to your credit. Each day, celebrate your most minor word-crafting victories; cheer on your most constipated, tedious paragraphs; and use the writing process to enjoy your freaky gray matter until every single writing session emulates the feeling of being a drunk, stoned, young, gorgeous ballerina living on Mars. That is the point, the purpose, the peak: to enjoy the world you inhabit when you write.” “Should I Quit My Day Job to Write a Book?” by Heather Havrilesky
- Capitol Hill Books, the love of my life. “‘Chaotic Glory’: Why Four Millennials Bought a Used Bookstore on Capitol Hill” by Teo Armus
- “Dear Suzanne Brockmann,” I told her, “People are asking for a chance to tell their stories. You do not have to read anything you don’t want. Absolutely do not add characters to your story who don’t belong. But please be a friend and ally to writers who represent marginalized voices.” by Nicki Salcedo
- “My Fellow Prisoners: On John McCain” by George Blaustein Obama and McCain were the American Century’s last literary statesmen, and they presided over its decline. Both catered to the desire to see America as a text, as something legible, and both assumed its futurity. Obama was the narrator whose every speech added a paragraph to the American story, moving all of us, the expansive we of “yes we can,” ever nearer a promised land. McCain was not a narrator but a character—a hero rather than an everyman, but no less literary for being heroic. He summoned Hemingway’s foreign fighter above all, but also older archetypes: the captivity narrative of the 17th and 18th centuries, the imperial adventures of the 19th. His heroism was always twice-told, never not an old book. In every Obama story, something is transcended; in every McCain story, something is preserved. These narrative postures live on in the Trump era, but they feel like obsolete rituals.
- “Paul Beatty in conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen” in The Believer: VTN: “I was raised a Catholic. And we’re all about obligation. We’re all about guilt. And even though I’m an atheist, the culture of Catholicism stays with me no matter what happens. Being a communist or being a Marxist is just like being a Catholic, just with a different god, and you martyr yourself for different things. And that whole idea of being in church where everything is sacred and revered and you’re going to sacrifice yourself for something—that’s always stayed with me. I transferred it into politics. But at the same time, like you, I’m also interested not just in the sacred but in the profane. Like, I revere the priest but I want to make fun of him at the same time. And literature occupies the same space for me. Literature is sacred for me; it has to be for me to have devoted thirty years of my life to it. But literature isn’t something for reverence. It’s to point out people’s hypocrisy too. And to point out our own hypocrisy. Which is why when I want to be a public intellectual, I don’t take it very seriously. I take my writing seriously, but I don’t take being a writer seriously. I take teaching seriously, but I don’t take being a professor seriously. Because once you start taking yourself seriously, and you don’t see the ironies around obligation, or the hypocrisies around it, then you’re in a dangerous place.”
- “You could argue that Simeon’s improvement was irrelevant. The Marshall Islands needed a sprinter and he was that sprinter. They told him all he needed to do was try. Whether he performed well or poorly, he still fulfilled his job of ensuring the country had somebody, anybody, on the track in Rio.” “The story of the slowest athletes at the Rio Olympics, and why they compete” by Rodger Sherman
- “LeBron James opened a public school in Akron for at-risk kids” by James Dator: “The school will operate with a longer-than-normal school year, with a focus on accelerated learning to bring kids up to speed who otherwise might be lagging. In addition, there is a focus on combating factors outside of the classroom that could cause children to struggle.”
- “I already know, just based on his gender alone, that Canon will probably have advantages in life that his sisters can only dream of. How do you make honest sense of that as a parent? What are the values, in this moment, to instill in a son? I think the answer is pretty simple. I think you tell him the same thing that we told those girls last week at our camp: Be yourself. Be good, and try to be great — but always be yourself. I think you teach him to always stay listening to women, to always stay believing in women, and — when it comes to anyone’s expectations for women — to always stay challenging the idea of what’s right.” “This is Personal” by Stephen Curry
- “Beyoncé in Her Own Words: Her Life, Her Body, Her Heritage”
- “To really love Rihanna, one must respect that what we so often find lovable about her — her so-called relatability, the way she’s able to de-emphasize the significant social and artistic distance between herself and her fans — is also her work.” “Rihanna is the 21st Century’s Most Influential Musician” by Jenny Gathright
- “Considering his appreciation of beauty (e.g., snowflake geometry) and busy schedule (e.g., Genesis), he would probably clothe himself in breezily tasteful garments made from natural fabrics cut for maneuverability, like a long denim jumper dress worn over a shirt of pure white cotton. God would look, in other words, like Maya Rudolph running errands on a Tuesday.” “How Maya Rudolph Became the Master of Impressions” by Caity Weaver (also go watch Forever on Amazon: run, don’t walk)
- Polyphonic breaking down “Good Vibrations: the Beach Boys’ Pop Masterpiece”
- NASA made a music video for Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” from a digital 3D model of the moon.
- Extremely cool graphic visualizations of “songs of the summer” – and analyzing if/“Why Songs of Summer Sound the Same” by Sahil Chinoy and Jessia Ma
- “Manifest Destiny-Lite With Souvenirs: Why Assholes in Turquoise Are Flooding the Southwest” by Anna Merlan A lot of what the Silver Lake Shamans do refers to and “borrows” from Native Americans, without ever directly acknowledging them. In other words, people have been, for a long time, buying the accessories of New Age spirituality and environmentalism without, in any meaningful way, tapping into either movement. They visit the gift shop without stepping foot in the museum. The Crystal Capitalists aren’t just participating in some warped, consumer-focused version of hippiedom. They’re doing a thing outsiders, especially white ones, have long done in New Mexico: consuming too greedily, too obliviously, while imagining themselves to be in a new and untouched place: a pre-contact civilization where nobody would know who they were, full of simple rural brown townsfolk who were surely too unworldly to know who they were.”
- “Q&A with poet Tracy Smith”
- “Crying in H Mart” by Michelle Zauner: “Sobbing near the dry goods, I ask myself, “Am I even Korean anymore if there’s no one left in my life to call and ask which brand of seaweed we used to buy?”
- This short documentary tells the story of Marie Wilcox, the last fluent speaker of the Wukchumni language and the dictionary she created in an effort to keep her language alive.
- “I recognise it now and look for it. The next time I see a cirro-cumulus sky, I will remember “teetar pankhi”, the wing of the partridge. These names will give shape, form and meaning to various patterns I had, previously, clubbed under insipid but exact scientific terms. When we lose an evocative lexicon, when we forget, we lose what Barry Lopez calls the “voice of memory over the land.”” “Forty Names of Clouds” by Arati Kumar-Rao
- Pair the above with “Minecraft and Me” by Will Wiles, who says landscapes are “for the most part, culturally devised. That is to say, when we look at a landscape, we do not see what is there, but largely what we think is there. … We read landscapes … in the light of our own experience and memory, and that of our shared cultural memory.” Landscapes do not have fixed meanings. From the medieval era and into the Renaissance, it was orderly and productive landscapes which were considered beautiful. Not only were mountains and heaths reviled as horrid; they were culturally invisible…. And yet in Minecraft the landscapes are not only wild and sublime but also utterly utilitarian. Like everything in the game, they are thoroughly useful: every block can be turned into something else or otherwise put to work. Here Minecraft recalls interpretations of Burke’s theory that have sought to reconcile the utilitarian with the wild — to understand the fascination with wild and challenging landscapes as a reaction to humanity’s increasing domination of those landscapes. To put it another way: this was less an appreciation of the useless than a recognition that it has its uses.”
- “How Traditional Food is Helping Communities in the Changing Arctic” by Sophie Yeo
- “Sperm Count Zero” by Daniel Noah Halpern: The chemical revolution gave us some wonderful things: new medicines, new food sources, faster and cheaper mass production of all sorts of necessary products. It also gave us, Andersson pointed out, a living experiment on the human body with absolutely no forethought to the result.
- “Go then, inside, and here she is, the baby. But here’s the bitter trick. If you go even farther, inside all these boxes, inside even her skull, beyond the thin rim of brain that keeps her breathing and to the center of it all, there’s just emptiness. There, in the middle, is the place where everything should be: the twin hemispheres of the cerebral cortex, the corpus callosum, the seahorse of the hippocampus, the pituitary that Descartes mistook for the seat of the soul. But inside the brain of this tiny doll, at the center of the whole giant puzzle box, there’s just water.” For centuries, priests, physicians, and philosophers alike believed that babies like Luz were omens and signs sent from the gods. What else, except divine anger over human folly, could account for such tragic little bodies, broken before they could even be born? “Monsters” by Margaret Wardlaw and an interview with her about the piece
- The game changer, the horse race, the Hail Mary — apt, perhaps, for the party politics of the 1990s and 2000s — are painfully inadequate for the movement politics of a new era, with higher stakes, higher passions, and far wider interest. “I Helped Create Insider Political Journalism. Now It’s Time For It To Go Away.” by Ben Smith
- “The High School We Can’t Log Off From” by Jennifer Senior
- the extremely fascinating Google Spreadsheet for Your Thoughts, by Laura Olin, analyzed by Shirley Li