This week, we’re sharing stories from Elizabeth Van Brocklin, Brian Merchant, Christine Fennessy, Peter Schjeldahl, and Gabriella Paiella.
“There’s no other country where the pandemic’s eﬀects have been so concentrated in a single city.”
Are we living in a computer simulation that has been created by our future selves?
“But the neighborhood used to feel to me like a rough part of a softer place, and nowadays the roughness feels more general, and this makes it harder to cheer for a neighborhood that is so loud and dirty and uninterested in or unfit for human life.”
If you’ve ever kept certain people visible in your social media feeds just because you loathed or envied them, or because you couldn’t tell the difference between envy and irritation, then Emily Flake’s New Yorker post is for you. In it, the talented cartoonist examines her unflattering insistence on following a certain artsy, nouveau-hippie family on Instagram who causes her constant side-eye. Flake is hilarious, and she’s as insightful in her drawings as she is in her writing. “There are so many ways to be a creep these days,” she says. “One of the easier ways is to follow people on social media toward whom you have feelings that are other than warm.” As she examines her pettiness, you might see yourself, as I have, in this snapshot of our cultural moment. But her attraction to this family is about a lot more simple envy.
My contemplation of the life of this rustically hip family takes on the “Is it this or is it that?” quality of those trick drawings: Is this an old woman in a babushka or a young one in a hat? Are the choices the hip family makes arrogant or inspiring? Stupid or brave? Maybe they’re both, in the way that my drawing is both, simultaneously. My side-eye at their neo-pioneer lifestyle is accompanied by a thrum of envy for the freedom of their life (Who works? Is there a trust fund at play here, or are they just that good at living off the land?) and a desperate, shame-filled recognition of the disparity between their towering competence and my obvious lack thereof. Who would you want to link up with in the coming apocalypse? The hot, fit, loving family who knows how to build a house by hand, or the tubby middle-aged broad who can’t even drive stick? Exactly. My ability to provide wry commentary about my own cervix is an asset useful only in a pre-collapsed society.
Hafizah Geter sets the record straight on outrageous displays of racism and white privilege in a literary fellowship she took part in, after The New Yorker frames the story “as a quirky tale of wealth and nepotism.”
At The New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten recounts what beer-league hockey has given him over the years: occasional bragging rights, countless happy sud-soaked memories, a feeling of camaraderie, and three concussions whose lingering after effects caused him to leave the game.
The third concussion came months later, in another Intangibles game, the clock running out on a late-night midseason loss. A freak accident, a collision with a teammate: we hadn’t seen each other. I got the worst of it. The light dimmed, the ringing kicked up, and the fog rolled in again.
In the following weeks, my skull felt as though someone had draped a towel over it and was pulling down on all four corners, or maybe cinching tight a bank robber’s stocking. I had trouble concentrating. If I tried to exercise, the headache came galloping in. I couldn’t handle crowds or concerts or the ordinary din of New York. The thought of playing hockey, the sight of men playing football on TV: it seemed as reasonable to stroll on foot across the New Jersey Turnpike. After an hour or two in front of a computer screen, a kind of dizzy fatigue washed over me. I began napping a couple of times a day. The Advil stopped working. My moods darkened. My work stalled.
This week, we’re sharing stories from Teju Cole, Barton Gellman, Dexter Filkins, Rebecca May Johnson, and Navneet Alang.
Teju Cole | The New York Times Magazine | May 18, 2020 | 9 minutes (2,411 words)
“History’s first draft is almost always wrong — but we still have to try and write it.”
Barton Gellman | The Atlantic | May 18, 2020 | 25 minutes (6,472 words)
“After receiving a trove of documents from the whistleblower, I found myself under surveillance and investigation by the U.S. government.”
Dexter Filkins | The New Yorker | May 18, 2020 | 39 minutes (9,920 words)
“Even as Iranians speculate about who will succeed Khamenei, many believe that, whoever becomes Supreme Leader, the revolution is no longer salvageable.”
Rebecca May Johnson | Granta | May 13, 2020 | 16 minutes (4,171 words)
“That violent heteronormative cultures of sex and reproduction among humans are attributed to ‘nature’ feels astonishing after spending time on the allotment. The slutty ingenuity of vegetables when it comes to desire and reproductive methods is a marvel that makes a mockery of conservative ideas of the natural.”
Navneet Alang | Eater | May 20, 2020 | 16 minutes (4,041 words)
On Alison Roman, social media, and the conundrum of formerly “exotic” foods finding mainstream success.
This week, we’re sharing stories from Michael Barajas, Evan Ratliff, Andrew Mckirdy, Raffi Khatchadourian, and Agnes Callard.
* * *
Love and look forward to the weekly Top 5? We’ve been hand-picking the week’s best reading for over 10 years and we need your help to continue to curate the best of the web and to publish new original investigative journalism, essays, and commentary.
Please chip in with a one-time or — even better — a monthly or annual contribution. We’re grateful for your support!
* * *
Michael Barajas | Texas Observer | January 21, 2020 | 25 minutes (6,335 words)
Decades with no personal contact, no way back into the general prison population, cut off from the possibility of parole — solitary confinement is an ongoing experiment in cruelty on human subjects.
Evan Ratliff | The California Sunday Magazine | January 16, 2020 | 48 minutes (12,100 words)
Nicola Gobbo defended Melbourne’s most notorious criminals at the height of a gangland war. They didn’t know she had a secret.
Andrew McMirdy | The Japan Times | January 10, 2020 | 9 minutes (2,465 words)
Japan is the second-biggest producer of plastic waste per capita, after the US. One journalist tries to spend a week without using single-use plastic and discovers how dependent Japan’s food system has become on disposable plastic.
Raffi Khatchadourian | The New Yorker | January 20, 2020 | 26 minutes (6,746 words)
In Raffi Khatchadourian’s New Yorker profile, N.K. Jemisin recounts the racism she witnessed as a child in Alabama in the ’80s, as well as racism — editorial and otherwise — that she has lived through in her career.
Agnes Callard | The Point | January 16, 2020 | 6 minutes (1,549 words)
Hi, nice to meet you, are we playing the Importance Game or the Leveling Game? With a skilled player, it’s hard to tell one from the other.
This week, we’re sharing stories from Jane Mayer, Patricia Lockwood, Rachel E. Gross, Ann Babe, and Theresa Okokon.
Jane Mayer | The New Yorker | July 13, 2020 | 34 minutes (8,530 words)
“The secretive titan behind one of America’s largest poultry companies, who is also one of the president’s top donors, is ruthlessly leveraging the coronavirus crisis—and his vast fortune—to strip workers of protections.”
Patricia Lockwood | London Review of Books | July 8, 2020 | 14 minutes (3,546 words)
Patricia Lockwood recounts her maddening experiences with COVID-19: “I had developed a low-grade fever. My head ached, my neck, my back. My eyes ached in their orbits and streamed tears whenever I tried to read or watch television. My mouth tasted like a foreign penny.”
Rachel E. Gross | The New York Times | July 13, 2020 | 9 minutes (2,360 words)
The adorable eucalyptus-eaters are on the front lines of research for a chlamydia vaccine.
Ann Babe | Rest of World | July 14, 2020 | 13 minutes (3,350 words)
In South Korea, the cultural and familial pressure to conform is massive, and for many, crushing. Meet the individualist loners, the honjok, who are carving out a new way — and changing the Korean economy.
Theresa Okokon | Hippocampus Magazine | July 7, 2020 | 9 minutes (2,403 words)
“Mrs. Wilson would have cocked her head to the side, furrowed her brow a bit as she pursed her lips like she had tasted something sour. She removed her eyes from my proud gaze to look instead at my mother. Is there anything else we can call her? Mrs. Wilson asked. Does she have a real name? An American name we can call her?”