EDITORS’ NOTE: First, thanks to everyone who has followed us on Facebook and Twitter (where we now have 1000 followers!). Second, we are so glad to introduce Glynnis MacNicol as this week's guest editor. She is the co-founder of TheLi.st and the author of the forthcoming memoir NO ONE TELLS YOU THIS. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications including ELLE.com, where she was a contributing writer, The New York Times, The Guardian, Forbes, The Cut, New York Daily News, W, Town & Country, The Daily Beast, Shondaland, and Capital New York. She lives in New York City. She’s also a sharp horse-racing expert and, well, the Belmont has a Triple Crown wanna-be running next Saturday...
Glynnis, the floor is yours...
Good morning! I’m Glynnis MacNicol, author of the soon-to-be-published memoir No One Tells You This, and happy to have spent the week reading others’. One of the main reasons I was motivated to write my book, though I sometimes struggled to remember it during the seemingly endless revision process, was that I want to see my own complicated, often exhilarating, often difficult, life as a single woman with no children reflected back to me in a way that felt truthful. The stories we tell about women, much like the stories that get told about many “minority” groups, often felt limited to me and disconnected from lived experience. I wanted to try and give another version.
One of the things fueling this moment of reckoning that America is currently gripped by, is the fact the stories we are reading are more than ever getting told by people who have traditionally been silenced, or relegated to bit roles, or worse, demeaning, dangerous caricatures. That can make for some uncomfortable reading! It’s not all that shocking some people would rather these new narratives were fake. And yet, even with the relentlessly terrible news cycle I still end most days grateful to be present for this extraordinary moment in writing. Below is a collection of some of the reasons why.
With the recent deaths of Philip Roth and Tom Wolfe, there’s been a lot written about their deep and lasting effects on Literature. But what about the deep and lasting effects on women who were raised on the great white men of literature? An aspiring writer, Talia Lavin, “wanted to write a great novel. In the pursuit of doing so I wanted to sink my teeth into the canon, but the canon was aiming its erection straight at me…. You never learn what the well-breasted women think about their own breasts, or how they feel about the men who gaze at their breasts with such ardor. You never learn what it’s like to grow enormous breasts by the age of thirteen and carry them through a world that wants them as much as it doesn’t want you. You never read about bleeding profusely from your 'soft, protected secret.'” Fortunately, Lavin eventually discovered Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Jamaica Kincaid, Alice Walker, Pamela Colloff, Rebecca Traister, Doreen St. Félix, Ijeoma Oluo, Yamiche Alcindor, Rachana Pradhan, Jodi Kantor, and Danielle Tcholakian. One hopes, for future generations, that eventually will be sooner rather than later.
If you missed this brilliant and wonderfully consuming piece by Jessica Pressler about a young white woman who spectacularly grifted her way through New York, you must have enjoyed an extended Memorial Day weekend at a place with no internet. Nearly as enjoyable as the story and the writing was the experience of being caught up in a tale that had nothing whatsoever to do with our current administration. “Anna looked at the soul of New York and recognized that if you distract people with shiny objects, with large wads of cash, with the indicia of wealth, if you show them the money, they will be virtually unable to see anything else. And the thing was: It was so easy.” Early bets on the casting of the inevitable film version are here.
In April, David Buckel, an LGBT rights lawyer and environmental advocate, “left his small brick house on the edge of Prospect Park in Brooklyn,” doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. In an email to the media he wrote, “My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.” The suicide shocked friends and family and this piece digs deep into a story that seemed, at the time, to glance off the news cycle (as so much does these days). I often bike by this spot in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park — it remains a patch of burnt earth marked by flowers — and wonder if future historians will use Buckel’s death as the opening scene to best represent this moment in history when it seems impossible to turn our attention to the biggest and most devastating stories.
Wyoming has the highest gun ownership per capita in the country. (Once, sitting in a bar not far from where this story takes place, I remarked to a Wyomingite that I didn’t like guns, and was laughed at… not derisively but in the same way a Los Angelina might laugh at a person who said they didn’t believe in cars: it was a belief too absurdly disconnected from reality to bother with.) Moriah Engdahl, 16, is basically the lone vocal supporter of gun control in Gillette, and this is the story of how she takes her argument to the Campbell County school board, despite plenty of very derisive laughter, among other more threatening responses, from nearly everyone including her father. A better title might have been Moriah vs the Gun Goliath.
Here is a first-hand account of what is actually happening at the border. In the United States of America. "The next morning, the child was taken. Delia fell on her knees during the removal, wailing and begging not to be separated. Officials looked on indifferently, she said, as her child screamed incessantly."
Like with so much else in American History, when you dig down to the origins of a movement you find women of color. Here writer Melinda D. Anderson speaks with author Rachel Devlin about her book A Girl Stands At The Door. “Before Brown, some dozen lawsuits were filed on behalf of young black women attempting to enroll in all-white schools—and, after Brown, black girls, almost exclusively, did the hard labor of walking through all-white mobs and sitting in previously all-white classrooms, with sometimes hostile classmates and teachers, in pursuit of school integration.”
Rebecca Traister, a writer very much meeting her moment in history, got good and mad on Twitter this week, and reshaped her thread into this very necessary piece for TheCut. “Language’s ability to inflict harm depends on the power of who’s wielding it and against whom it is being wielded.” Or, as Chaucer, among others, might have said: Is it for ye wolde have my queynteallone?
"As we in journalism and the public at large continue to debate the utility and accuracy of labeling Trump's statements as ‘lies,’ we should speak in clear terms about what he does.” Which is exactly what Jamil Smith does here.
"It's not entirely surprising that Jane Fonda, a woman who refuses to go quietly into that good night where the public has long-preferred its starlets to decamp after a certain age, is being reassessed in the era of #MeToo. Here Haley Mlotek takes a fresh, comprehensive look at Fonda, who once considered leaving acting entirely to pursue activism before she was told there were enough activists already; what they needed was a movie star.
Anyone who’s kept an even cursory eye on the fashion world in the last four decades knows who Andre Leon Talley is. In light of the new documentary about his life “The Gospel According to Andre,” Vanessa Friedman goes behind the caftan, to find the man. The result is as wonderful as it is heartbreaking.
Adam Sternbergh takes Yale Professor Laurie Santos’ wildly popular class PSYC 157: Psychology and the Good Life. (Spoiler Alert: The answer, it turns out, is more complicated than “get off social media.”)
Five years ago, this story, about people who really do believe the earth is flat, might have made for a great punchline and/or Onion headline. These days it feels like a terrifying metaphor for our diminished faith in facts and science. “The unsettling thing about spending two days at a convention of people who believe that Earth is flat isn’t the possibility that you, too, might come to accept their world view, although I did worry a little about that. Rather, it’s the very real likelihood that…. you will come to actually understand why a growing number of people are dead certain that Earth is flat. Because that truth is unnerving.”
"The kids will save us,” is a phrase that’s been oft-repeated in the weeks following the Parkland shooting and the rise of teen activists like Emma González and David Hogg. Here Lily Herman profiles 22-year-old Ja'Mal Green, who’s running as a Democratic candidate for mayor of Chicago; 13-year-old Democrat Ethan Sonneborn, who is "gaining respect from adults in his run for Vermont governor”; Kat Kerwin, a 21-year-old from Rhode Island who's running for Providence City Council Ward 12, and 18-year-old Hadiya Afzal, who announced her candidacy for DuPage's District 4 County Board in Illinois at the age of 17.
How can Americans have such different memories of slavery? This piece reminded me of the reaction of some residents to the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama last month.
If you are a person who gets angry when people call you without texting first to let you know they are going to call, this piece may resonate. (Stayed tuned for next year’s report: how FaceTime replaced the telephone call.)
Josephine Livingstone reads the legendary reporter’s new memoir. “Almost every person in Hersh’s memoir is a man—a sign of the time and the industry. But there’s an interesting moment that Hersh did not have to include. In 1974, he writes, Hersh heard that Nixon’s wife Pat was in hospital after being punched by her husband. It was not an isolated occasion. He did not report on the story, he told Nieman Foundation fellows in 1998, because it represented 'a merging of private life and public life.' Nixon didn’t make policy decisions because of his bad marriage, went the argument. Hersh was 'taken aback' by the response from women fellows, who pointed out that he had heard of a crime and not reported it. 'All I could say,' Hersh writes, 'is that at the time I did not—in my ignorance—view the incident as a crime.'"
“Sex and the City” debuted twenty years ago this week, joining the “long line of ongoing obsession, literary and otherwise, with single women.” For better or worse, parts of it still feel all too relevant. (I wrote about rewatching it here.)
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN A HORSE RACE:
One of the reasons I asked to edit this week is because I knew we’d be smack dab in the middle of the few weeks of the year, between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont, when the general public
is aware of the sport of horse-racing.
I grew up looking for William Nack’s byline in my father’s Sports Illustrated (I have the original “Pure Heart” paper-clipped at the bottom of a desk drawer, along with a pre-internet Fantasy Derby; Man O War, the forever asterisk on every horse obsessive’s Derby argument), and later went on to work at the racetrack myself. Horse-racing no longer occupies the public’s imagination the way it did back when Depression-era America stopped everything to listen to Seabiscuit’s match race against War Admiral. Nor even when Ruffian’s tragic pair-up against Derby winner Foolish Pleasure could be promoted on the strength of the Women’s Movement as a “Battle of the Sexes.” But when it did, it provided a stage for some truly great writing. Some favorites: the aforementioned Pure Heart (Nack’s August of 1959 is also delightful and closer to my experience at the track than anything else despite the difference in eras); John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Horsemen, Pass By (later turned into a book); Carson McCullers' The Jockey; Meghan O’Rourke’s Confessions of a child horse-racing addict (she, like me, was also devoted to the Black Stallion series, with a special place of honor for The Black Stallion’s Courage).
Though those of us who missed the ’73 Belmont might wish ourselves back, the timing of my love affair with racing was fortuitous. To say that horse racing was a rich white man’s game is to understate the matter somewhat. Women weren’t allowed to work on the backside until the 1960s and were not permitted to ride racehorses until 1969. Horse racing’s history with African-Americans is even more complicated and treacherous: As this piece (and book) by Katherine Mooney notes, “Former slaves populated the ranks of jockeys and trainers, and black men won more than half of the first 25 runnings of the Kentucky Derby.” And yet when Marlon St. Julien rode the Derby in 2000, he became the first black man to get a mount since 1921. Further back, lawn jockeys, traditionally painted black, were sometimes used as markers on the Underground Railroad. Prior to that, as Sullivan writes in his book, Jerry Delph, said to be a model for the slave dealer in Uncle Tom's Cabin, sold human beings and horses off the same block in Lexington, Kentucky, now home of the famed Yearling sales.
Roy Morris, Ambrose Bierce's most recent biographer, calls
this memoir, written two decades after the savage Civil War battle, "an article whose revolutionary treatment of warfare as
a hallucinatory and absurd experience prefigures much of modern literature's attitude toward the subject." It's like Michael Herr's Dispatches, only crueler and more violent. Because "Shiloh" is exceedingly long, I feel a curator's duty to entice you with a lengthy passage that let's you view briefly the battle that Bierce could never stop seeing.
In many of the engagements of the war the fallen leaves took fire and roasted the fallen men. At Shiloh, during the first day’s fighting, wide tracts of woodland were burned over in this way and scores of wounded who might have recovered perished in slow torture. I remember a deep ravine a little to the left and rear of the field I have described, in which, by some mad freak of heroic incompetence, a part of an Illinois regiment had been surrounded, and refusing to surrender was destroyed, as it very well deserved. My regiment having at last been relieved at the guns and moved over to the heights above this ravine for no obvious purpose, I obtained leave to go down into the valley of death and gratify a reprehensible curiosity.
Forbidding enough it was in every way. The fire had swept every superficial foot of it, and at everystep I sank into ashes to the ankle. It had contained a thick undergrowth of young saplings, every one of which had been severed by a bullet, the foliage of the prostrate tops being afterward burnt and the stumps charred. Death had put his sickle into this thicket and fire had gleaned the field. Along a line which was not that of extreme depression, but was at every point significantly equidistant from the heights on either hand, lay the bodies, half buried in ashes; some in the unlovely looseness of attitude denoting sudden death by the bullet, but by far the greater number in postures of agony that told of the tormenting flame. Their clothing was half burnt away—their hair and beard entirely; the rain had come too late to save their nails. Some were swollen to double girth; others shriveled to manikins. According to degree of exposure, their faces were bloated and black or yellow and shrunken. The contraction of muscles which had given them claws for hands had cursed each countenance with a hideous grin. Faugh! I cannot catalogue the charms of these gallant gentlemen who had got what they enlisted for.
I'm not much of an animation fan, but I stumbled across this podcast this week and particularly liked the episode with voice actors because—for obvious reasons—it works really well in audio. Pretty neat to hear people shape-shift in real time and conjure up some iconic voices. My one quibble is that I wish the host had a better quality mic. But, overall, a really fun listen.
Jody Avirgan is the host of FiveThirtyEight's politics podcast and is heading up the new "30 for 30" podcast documentary series from ESPN.
THE SLR POD:
No new podcast this week, but a lot coming up this summer. In the meantime, we'd love to hear from you! Who would you like to see invited on the pod? If you have a suggestion, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In Harvey Weinstein’s case, the image of the former film mogul in handcuffs on Friday, perp walking his way into the New York Police Department’s First Precinct, in Lower Manhattan, two words may actually get the job done: Time’s Up."
For those who know me, my posting of a cooking video may shock you. But why not go for a different tone once in a while? Learning how the masters make noodles by hand fascinated me and, judging from the number of clicks, many, many others as well. Plus, the production value of this video from Buzzfeed’s Tasty channel is superb.
This is not a list, per se, but a timeline thread from the NYT detailing their coverage of Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Last week, a study was released estimating the death toll could exceed 4,000.
THE SUNDAY STILL
Documenting the solemn remembrance of Memorial Day can be a test of restraint and sensitivity when there are crowds and many cameras, but Washington Post photographer Matt McClain patiently waited to capture the heartbreaking, solitary grief of 7-year-old Christian Jacobs as he slumps against his deceased father’s headstone at Arlington National Cemetery. Ceremony and speeches dominate national holidays and big moments like this, but the story is sometimes told best by an individual’s reaction on the sidelines or at the end of a long day. McClain zooms in on the exhausted boy while leaving enough of the headstones in the photo to convey the day’s overwhelming context.
Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he has worked since 1987. He is currently a Distinguished Executive-in-Residence in Emerson College’s Department of Journalism.
America's opioid crisis has been the subject of several recent hard-hitting pieces of journalism. The issue is increasingly starting to show up in the academic literature. Two professors--one from the University of Virginia and the other from the University of Wisconsin--recently released a study of the "moral hazard" surrounding the response to the crisis.
Ryan works as a professor at Florida State University, where he teaches research methods and sports law. He writes a lot of academic articles and some mainstream pieces too
TIM TORKILDSON'S SUNDAYLIMERICK
From The Verge:
"Uganda’s parliament has passed a law to tax those who use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Viber, and WhatsApp... The controversial tax was first introduced by the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, who wrote a letter to the treasury stating that social media encouraged gossip that was costing Uganda time and income.
The tax will come into effect on June 1st, imposing a 200 shilling ($0.05) levy per day on those who use social media platforms..."
From Tim: Uganda has passed a fine law
For citizens who like to jaw
On internet sites
In large megabytes
Neglecting their bricks without straw.
Tim Torkildson is a retired circus clown who fiddles with rhyme. All his verses can be found at Tim's Clown Alley.
I'm still recovering from the opening of this season's Handmaid's Tale. (Strange but true: this song was actually written for John Hughes' lesser known flick She's Having A Baby, which also featured an early Sharon Stone cameo.)
Finally, happy Sunday. Thanks for reading. Have a drink, and contemplate your bucket list.
Founder, Curator: Don Van Natta Jr. Producer, Curator: Jacob Feldman Producer, Curator: Étienne Lajoie Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer Senior Long View Editor: Justine Gubar Senior Photo Editor: Patrick Farrell Senior Limerick Editor: Tim Torkildson Senior Podcast Editor: Jody Avirgan Senior Editor of Esoterica: Ryan M. Rodenberg
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