Tag Archives: The New Inquiry

A Lie of Creative Rehabilitation in ‘Vacationland’

At The New Inquiry, Chelsea Hogue has an expose on the Maine Department of Correction Industries (MDOC) woodshop and other prison-based businesses like it, which frame their exploitive inmate manufacturing programs as rehabilitative when in reality they’re more like state-sanctioned slavery — or, as Hogue puts it, “rebranding carceral slavery as ameliorative.”

MDOC profits from various wares made by inmates as part of their mandatory, low-wage labor, selling them at at The Maine State Prison Showroom, something of a feel-good souvenir shop.

Maine has sold its program to tourists as a form of arts-and-crafts nostalgia: Where cottage industries for handmade items have shrunk or evaporated, the story goes, these men work together to produce interesting objects. But the state’s labor program is no different from any other; its artisanal veneer may even make it more insidious. The majority of men are fulfilling monotonous duties. They aren’t learning marketable skills.

At the MDOC, the chosen method of rehabilitation is conveniently braided with punishment. Moreover, such punishment provides direct material benefit to the MDOC, those who are responsible for these men’s captivity in the first place. And yet we on the outside are told to think it is good to feel purpose—and that a task, however extractive, is one kind of purpose.

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A Reading List Inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins

Photo: Chris

I used the seven deadly sins–lust, gluttony, envy, greed, sloth, pride, and anger — as the springboard for choosing these stories.

1. LUST: “Eileen Myles on the Excruciating Pain of Waiting for Love.” (Eileen Myles, The Cut, February 2016)

Poet and novelist Eileen Myles muses on a summer fling that should’ve lasted forever.

2. GLUTTONY: “Hunger Makes Me.” (Jess Zimmerman, Hazlitt, July 2016)

Jess Zimmerman writes eloquently on the subject of emotional labor, and “Hunger Makes Me” connects the twin suppressions of women’s physical and emotional appetites.

3. ENVY: “Tan Lines.” (Durga Chew-Bose, Matter, August 2015)

Lucky for us, Durga Chew-Bose’s essay collection, Too Much and Not the Mood (not “not IN the mood,” as many 2017 book previews have miswritten), debuts in April. Here, Chew-Bose meditates on her heritage and the double standard of the white obsession with tanning.

4. PRIDE: “Southern Fried Pride: What Hattiesburg’s First Pride Means in the Deep South.” (Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Medium, August 2016)

In the parlance of sinning, pride is associated with selfishness, narcissism, and vanity (i.e., our current presidential administration). Instead, I wanted to feature self-love and self-confidence, a kind of pride that isn’t evil in the slightest, as well as a reminder that it’s 2017 and bigots still protest against LGBTQ people (and not just in the American South).

5. GREED: “A Tyrannosaur of One’s Own.” (Laurie Gwen Shapiro, Aeon, January 2016)

Are private fossil collections a disservice to the scientific community?

6. ANGER: “She Mad and She Magic.” (Muna Mire, The New Inquiry, August 2015)

An insightful review of Michele Wallace’s groundbreaking text, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwomanrecently reissued by Verso Books. Muna Mire examines the book’s controversial reception in 1979 and its contemporary resonance, concluding, “Black Macho may have been inconvenient; it may not have been careful. But it was a necessary push forward. Getting angry works for Black women — it gets results and keeps us alive.”

7. SLOTH: “Fuck Work.” (James Livingston, Aeon, November 2016)

“Fuck Work” sounds blunt, until you learn James Livingston is the author of a book called No More Work: Why Full Employment is a Bad Idea. Livingston critiques our capitalist obsession with productivity and defining our self-worth via our work ethic, because full employment doesn’t insure quality of life. He asks,

“How do you make a living without a job – can you receive income without working for it? Is it possible, to begin with and then, the hard part, is it ethical? If you were raised to believe that work is the index of your value to society – as most of us were – would it feel like cheating to get something for nothing?”

Full Disclosure: A Reading List About Confessions

I’m entranced by the moment our secrets become our confessions. Over the past three years, I’ve confessed my fair share: Coming out as queer. Coming out as non-binary. Sharing crushes, deep-seated fears and ridiculous hopes with my friends, my partner and my boss. In these six stories, a drunk driver confesses via viral video; an ex-Catholic returns to confession; and a high-school cheater reveals her indiscretions. Elisa Albert writes about her training as a doula, and I respond with my own doubts. Finally, acclaimed essayist Leslie Jamison reviews two collections of deeply personal writing from Sarah Manguso, David Shields and Caleb Powell.

1. “‘I Killed a Man’: What Happens When a Homicide Confession Goes Viral.” (Joel Oliphant, BuzzFeed News, March 2014)

After a night of heavy drinking, Matthew Cordle killed Vincent Canzoni in a drunk-driving accident. Overcome with guilt and on the brink of suicide, Cordle made an earnest video through the organization because I said I would, confessing what he’d done. Alex Sheen, the creator of because I said I would, thought Cordle’s confession might get 100,000 views and provide some solace for Cordle. He underestimated a bit—2.6 million people watched Cordle’s video. His viral confession impacted the victim’s family, Cordle’s family and Cordle’s trial. Read more…

On Beauty: A Reading List About Makeup

My makeup routine is nonexistent. I wore mascara to a presentation on my birthday last week, and before that, I had my friend apply my red lipstick in an Au Bon Pain in New York City. I’m uncoordinated, anxious and fidgety—my idea of hell is eyeliner application. But I appreciate the artistry that goes into the creation and execution of gorgeous makeup. I’ve watched tutorials, and I’ve watched my friends draw wings on their faces. They enjoy it, and I am glad for them. Beauty criticism analyzes the ways we can subvert a society that would have us subsumed by self-loathing. We use the tools we’ve been given. Makeup, then, can be a weapon. And it can be damn fun. Read more…

I Can See Your Future: Six Stories About Psychics

I can see your future / there’s nobody around. 

It was a typically brutal Maryland summer, and I worked for a small music publishing company. I was often alone, collating or alphabetizing or organizing something, armed only with my iPod.  I alternated between Belle & Sebastian’s The Life Pursuit and Keane’s first two albums. When my workday was over I’d walk the half-mile to the church on Main Street where my mom was a secretary. Or I’d go to the local library, its silence so different from the tense quiet of the publishing office. With my soundtrack, these walks became existential adventures. Even now, as I hit play on “Another Sunny Day,” I am still walking down the sidewalk, my sternum swollen with something adjacent to love.

I like thinking about this time in my life. I think I am still looking for something that feels like those walks. They felt endlessly, stupidly romantic. I didn’t need anything except a charged battery. It’s unrealistic that my entire life should feel like a two-mile radius in the town where I had a dissatisfying part-time summer job. I think what I miss is a path with a destination. Then, I could take as long as I wanted on my walk or try a different route, but I knew where I was going. I don’t know where I’m going anymore. That’s what this part of my twenties is about, and that’s okay, but it’s deeply unsettling. I’m too anxious to take in the view or to consider an alternate path. I am desperate for news of the future.

1. “The Cat Psychic.” (Rachel Monroe, Hazlitt, May 2016)

When she returned from a month-long trip, Rachel Monroe’s cat, Musa, didn’t want to be near her anymore. He avoided their apartment and stayed outdoors for long stretches of time. Distraught, Monroe did something she never thought she’d do—she called a pet psychic to see if she could repair their relationship. Read more…

Into the World of Mushrooms: A Reading List

Is it weird I’ve been planning a mushroom-themed reading list for a long time? Probably. But mushrooms are intriguing. What other substance on earth is sustenance, poison, psychedelic drug, medicine and delicacy? There are approximately 1.5 million kinds of mushrooms (I Googled it). They survive via underground communication networks called mycelium. The biggest recorded mycelium is over 2,000 acres across, in Oregon. In the following five pieces, you’ll meet foragers, hikers, researchers, anthropologists, drug dealers and puppies. You’ll have a newfound appreciation for the men and women who devote themselves to studying these weird, wild fungi. Read more…

14 Stories About Love: A Reading List

Photo: fly

Heartbreak, desire, dating, romance—Valentine’s Day brings all of these experiences to the forefront of our minds and hearts. Revel in all the feels with these 14 (get it?) essays and interviews.

1. “A Modern Guide to the Love Letter.” (John Biguenet, The Atlantic, February 2015)

2. “Love is Like Cocaine.” (Helen Fisher, Nautilus, February 2016)

3. “Unlove Me: I Found Love Because I Was Lucky, Not Because I Changed Myself.” (Maris Kreizman, Brooklyn, February 2016)

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‘Every Means of Confession Creates a Kind of Person Who Confesses’

Every means of confession creates a kind of person who confesses. You become who you are by saying what you did. The details make a difference. That pronoun, “I,” feels one way when you say it as part of a formula, in the dusk of a confessional, to a priest you cannot see behind the metal grille he blesses you through. Rambling in the well-lit office of a psychiatrist, “I” feels very different.

Moira Weigel, writing for The New Inquiry about FitBit activity trackers and the nature of confession (“Like confession and therapy, activity trackers promise to improve us by confronting us with who we are when we are not paying attention,” writes Weigel).

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Beyond the Simply Salacious: Five Stories on Adultery

Here are five stories born of adultery. Read about technological advancements for philanderers and their cuckolds, personal perspectives from the cheater and the cheatee, a forbidden lust-fueled crime story, and a piece on how adultery became bedfellows with American popular culture and music—back in 1909.

1. “The Cuckold” (James Harms, Guernica, February 17, 2014)

“The cuckold knows betrayal as a form of revision: here is the life you thought you were living; now here is what really happened.” Read more…

Longreads' Best of WordPress, Vol. 1

Here’s the first official edition of Longreads’ Best of WordPress! We’ve scoured 22% of the internet to create a reading list of great storytelling — from publishers you already know and love, to some that you may be discovering for the first time.

We’ll be doing more of these reading lists in the weeks and months to come. If you read or publish a story on WordPress that’s over 1,500 words, share it with us: just tag it #longreads on Twitter, or use the longreads tag on WordPress.com.

Get the reading list

Photo: wallyg, Flickr