The Sunday Post for July 10, 2016

Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid

Rufi Thorpe’s article is a jarringly honest reflection on her attempt to reconcile art, motherhood, and marriage. It exemplifies the vulnerability that comes with good writing and reveals a litany of thoughts that open a window into the multifaceted life of an individual woman.

For me, the conflict between motherhood and my life as a writer is not so much Brooks’ fear that art’s job is to unsettle, while a mother’s job is to make safe. I unsettle and disturb my children all the time. I remain unconcerned that my safe, middle-class life as a stay at home mom makes me less edgy or interesting. I view my own interestingness as being directly related to the thoughts I think and the work I do rather than the aesthetics of my leisure time. After all, Wallace Stevens was an executive at an insurance company. The idea that parenting is any more boring than working at an insurance agency is absurd.

Still, there is a concern that the stank of uncool motherhood will befoul the beautifully tormented artist. It is, I think, this same stank that women’s magazines would like to occasionally excise from my work. In the novel Dept. of Speculation, which seems to be an epicenter for these sorts of worries in the Geist, Jenny Offill’s protagonist and narrator writes: “My plan was to never get married. I was going to be an art monster instead. Women almost never become art monsters because art monsters only concern themselves with art, never mundane things. Nabokov didn’t even fold his own umbrella. Vera licked his stamps for him.”

The Relationship Between Creativity and Mental Illness

This hot topic in literature and psychology is incredibly polarizing. While some hate the “tortured genius” idea, others vehemently defend it. But new angles and studies continue to emerge, as Maria Popova discusses in her article about Nancy Andreasen.

Once she became a psychiatrist, having come from a literary world “well populated with people who had vividly described symptoms of mental illness,” Andreasen decided to apply everything science had uncovered in the decades since Ellis’s work and design a rigorous study on the relationship between creativity and mental illness. Andreasen had attended the University of Iowa Medical School and had completed her residency in psychiatry there — a somewhat fortuitous circumstance that presented her with the perfect, quite convenient sample pool for her study: the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, one of the most prestigious creative-writing programs in the world, which has included such distinguished faculty as Kurt Vonnegut and Annie Dillard since its inception in 1936.

Andreasen’s study had a couple of crucial points of differentiation over Ellis’s work and other previous efforts: Rather than anecdotal accounts in biographies of her subjects, she employed structured, first-person interviews; she then applied rigorous diagnostic criteria to the responses based on The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of modern psychiatry.

Police Shootings Won’t Stop Unless We Also Stop Shaking Down Black People

Under the layers of outrage and explanations of police shootings is one less-addressed reason: the fiscal element behind the frequent emergence of new names, hashtags, and protests. Jack Hitt explains that police feel pressured to bring in more revenue for the city or state, which leads to cases such as San Diego, where African Americans and Latinos — who comprise less than one third of the population — make up almost two thirds “of those searched during a traffic stop.”

There is still no comprehensive study to determine just how many cities pay their bills by indenturing the poor, but it is probably no coincidence that when you examine the recent rash of police killings, you find that the offenses they were initially stopped for were preposterously minor. Bland's lane change signal, DuBose's missing plate. Walter Scott had that busted taillight — which, we all later learned, is not even a crime in South Carolina. Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes. When Darren Wilson was called to look into a robbery, the reason he initially stopped Michael Brown was for walking in the street — in Ferguson, an illegal act according to Section 44-344 of the local code. Between 2011 and 2013, 95 percent of the perpetrators of this atrocity were African American, meaning that "walking while black" is not a punch line. It is a crime.
The American Dream Is Alive in Finland

Bernie Sanders’ self-identification as a socialist ignited a lot of debate and defense of American ideals. Uri Friedman talked to Anu Partanen, a Finn who published a book claiming that these American Dream ideals are in fact better executed in Nordic countries. However, she moved to the US in 2008 under the impression she would find more work as a journalist. Friedman covers Partanen’s argument and her contradictory move to New York City.

Partanen’s principal question is the following: What’s the best way for a modern society to advance freedom and opportunity? She explains that Nordic governments do so by providing social services that the U.S. government doesn’t—things like free college education and heavily subsidized child care. Within that big question, Partanen poses more pointed questions about contemporary life in the United States: Is “freedom” remaining in a job you hate because you don’t want to lose the health insurance that comes with it? Is “independence” putting your career on hold, and relying on your partner’s income, so you can take care of a young child when your employer doesn’t offer paid parental leave or day care is too expensive? Is “opportunity” depending on the resources of your parents, or a bundle of loans, to get a university degree? Is realizing the American Dream supposed to be so stressful?
‘The Arrangements’: A Work of Fiction

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote a short story for the New York Times Book Review, and it’s amazing. Mrs. Dalloway Trump family editon follows Melania Trump's day of arrangements.

Melania decided she would order the flowers herself. Donald was too busy now anyway to call Alessandra’s as usual and ask for “something amazing.” Once, in the early years, before she fully understood him, she had asked what his favorite flowers were.

“I use the best florists in the city, they’re terrific,” he replied, and she realized that taste, for him, was something to be determined by somebody else, and then flaunted.