Quick note: I goofed and took an unintentional hiatus—therefore, this list is particularly lengthy. But the extra time has gleaned so many especially good pieces. Also, you have to read the latest NYT report about climate change. I don’t make the rules (but our planet, rapidly warming by our collective actions, does).
- As delightful (in correcting tragic circumstances; in answering dreams deferred) as you expect: “Running Out of Children, a South Korea School Enrolls Illiterate Grandmothers” by Choe Sang-Hun
- bell hooks argues that it’s essential that we have a definition of love, because if we can’t define it, we are more likely to confuse love with abuse. Love is an action; to love someone is a privilege. It is something we choose to do, not something that happens to us. Mixed Feelings: A Better Version of Love by Mandy Len Catron
- Learning Tongva, Twaa’aa nehiino tehoovetmo – I count my blessings. “Tongva, Los Angeles’ first language, opens the door to a forgotten time and place” by Thomas Curwen, Katie Falkenberg, and Sean Greene
- “She sees “little difference between habitat restoration in the traditional sense and restoring habitats for human thought”; both are endangered by “the logic of capitalist productivity.” To make money from something—a forest, a sense of self—is often to destroy it. “What It Takes to Put Your Phone Away” by Jia Tolentino
- “And You Thought Your Last Breakup Was Bad” Five love stories by Matt Leibel
- No way to summarize this with one quote, but please read. “Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind” by Rachel Kushner
America (in one way or another).
- I claimed for my son an American genealogy that was also an African-American genealogy that, through me and my son, would also be a Vietnamese-American genealogy. Ellison Nguyen, a name that compressed all of our painful, aspirational history as a country. “America, Say My Name” by Viet Thanh Nguyen
- “What Makes the Advice Column Uniquely American?” by Jackie Mansky
- You can read this for its no-mercy indictments of Disney + capitalism + the American dream + American longing + the West or for excerpts of *fascinating* conversations with Disney and Elie Wiesel or because it’s a great essay or all of the above! “The Magic Kingdom” by Sarah Marshall
- Red Sauce America via Bon Appetit: Every article in this is wonderful, but Buca di Beppo was especially great.
- I am about to buy a car and I am awfully sad about it. “When you drive, you are more unlikely to notice change. When you drive, the landscape becomes only what is in front of you, out of necessity. Perhaps the worst crime of driving is how, unlike previous modes of transportation, other travelers are transformed from strangers, with whom you share a collective experience, into enemies guilty of the crime of inconveniencing you.” “Man-Writer Against Nature” by Kate Wagner
- The Man Who Made Koreatown
- Miami, sea level rise, real estate agents. You must read. “Heaven or High Water” by Sarah Miller
Figuring It Out Together
- I think about this story, and the idea of what makes a “proper” and “respectable” living and career and life, all of the time. “But forward progress as material comfort is cultivated through the ubiquitous lie that upward mobility equals righteousness. Honest living is a nice story we tell ourselves to rationalize privation, but in the real world money procures all the honesty we need… A common feature of depression is being unable to imagine a decent future, one reason why insightful thinkers connect the condition to the scarcities of modernity and increasing recognition of a coming ecological catastrophe. I don’t know that salvation can be found in labor, a notion that combines the most alienating elements of Christianity and capitalism, but I’m not disposed to anymore pretend that grace can be attained by discussing work in paid conversations.” “An Honest Living” by Steven Salaita
- Nihilism is not, in fact, about shooting frogs but about “There is not some external standard we can appeal to for right action, be it the church, the law, custom, so we need to figure things out together,” so, when people ask me if I am kind of nihilistic I say, “Yes, indeed, I am, what a nice compliment.” “Do Things Matter?” by Sarah Miller
- On first loves, county fairs, and the directionlessness of youth: “I spent most of it goofing off, playing guitar, pretending I was some kind of poet by reciting “The Waste Land” in speech class. It made me feel important to tell a room of my peers that April was the cruelest month. Who cared what it meant?” “Seventeen” by Steve Edwards
April is National Poetry Month and I read accordingly.
- I don’t want to sound unreasonable
but I need to be in love immediately. “Sunset on 14th Street” by Alex Dimitrov
- POETRY RX — probably the best part of the Paris Review. All of the columns are beautiful and good.
- “The First Person Who Will Live to Be One Hundred and Fifty Years Old Has Already Been Born” by Nicole Sealey
- I especially love “Never Landing” by Rich Smith.
- How should we like it were stars to burn / With a passion for us we could not return? “The More Loving One,” dissected on Brainpickings.
Quick, a Message from our Sponsors: Looking to 2020. (Everyone please donate to Elizabeth Warren.)
- I was so angry when Biden announced he was running because Joe Biden Isn’t the Answer. Thanks, Rebecca Traister.
- Oh man, it had to be said and it has finally, too quickly, been said: “The only strong conviction he really seems to have is that he deserves to be president.” “Beto 2020: a masterclass in male entitlement” by Arwa Mahdawi
- I like(d) Buttigieg—my initial enthusiasm for him bordered on Beto(running-for-Texas-Senate)mania—I do, but this essay pokes some excellent holes and provides some solid reminders to dampen our enthusiasm just a bit for an often ideologically evasive, understandably-but-too-much-for-my-taste war happy, former McKinsey consultant candidate. The reminder that, as “Gays for Trump” taught us before, that white people will prioritize being white over any other minority affiliation they may have. “All About Pete” by Nathan Robinson
- A deep dive into Hell! (lol) (“How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think” by Vinson Cunningham) There’s a cruel paradox at work: the more secular our representations of Hell become, the more the poor and rejected and otherwise undesirable tend to populate it.
By the time I publish my next list, Game of Thrones will be over.
- Bran Stark is far more like a character from a fairy tale: a child put through almost inexplicably harrowing experiences and coming out of it utterly changed. “Bran Stark will probably save the world, and he’ll probably kill your favourite character” by David Levesley
- “Fantasy’s role is to create a world where the howling absences and random tragedies of life have hidden meanings. It’s to fulfill that childish desire, hopefully still alive in all of us, all of you. To be special.” ‘Game of Thrones’ Is a Fantasy Story And it’s time for the showrunners to embrace that. Instead of shying away from its genre, the series should engage with it. By Jason Concepcion and Mallory Rubin
- “Why is fantasy literature stuck in the medieval times?” An interview with Duke professor Jessica Hines, who teaches “Game(s) of Thrones: Medieval Literature and Popular Culture.”
Women (in one way or another).
- The fashion is about as chef’s kiss stunning as the layout and design of the piece (and how about those goats?): Kacey Musgraves on Tour in the Most Enchanting Looks from New York Fashion Week
- Catwoman is sexual agency in all its snarling, pouncing glory, and her taste for expensive things and willingness to take them for herself is a symbol of her commitment to her own enjoyment. So it’s no surprise at all that she’s a villain. (Lily Dancyger)
- “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” by Alexandra Molotkow
Late Capitalism Loneliness & Other Sadness.
- On the thousands of possibilities our lives contain and the impossibility to live them all: “Carrying the Ghosts of Lives Unlived” by Kate Hope Day
- “We’ve Married Technology and Divorced Each Other” by Jennifer Sartore Hulst Instead of our devices being a distraction from our relationships, our relationships seem to be a distraction from our devices.
- This Is An Essay By Hanif Abdurraqib About Sneakers. It Is a Love Letter to a Culture of Collecting and the Importance of Letting Go.
We are certainly, in my opinion, in a new renaissance of the advice column. “Bank-robbin’ in Brooklyn” by Kristin Dombek
- Most work seems designed to make you feel absolutely alone, and
- Almost everyone, if they are honest with themselves, feels exactly like you about much of the work they do.
- Look, I am sorry to make you read this and inevitably cry. But the sheer act of writing this beautiful essay—“‘The Unthinkable Has Happened’ You learn to believe in your child’s existence. What happens when she’s killed by a piece of your daily environment?” by Jayson Greene—in the face of the truly unthinkable should be rewarded by, at the very least, our attention.
Possible Antidotes to Aforementioned Loneliness.
- Some tumblr thoughts about the utterly devastating human-condition spirit behind the robots we send out to explore the universe for us, like “the robots can say, when they made us, they called us discovery; they called us curiosity; they called us explorer; they called us spirit. they must have thought that was important.”
- Watch the 1995 movie Il Postino, and then read this essay by the director, Michael Radford.
- Mary Ellen Matthews’s SNL bumpers.