Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles good for slow consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.
David Roth won the internet’s heart this week by boiling our nightmare national politics down a simple and compelling assertion: Donald Trump is an asshole. We’ve let the Confounder in Chief tie us in knots, and we’ve knotted ourselves up just as much, trying to make sense of it all. Roth’s Gordian solution — “stop trying” — is a bit of a relief all around.
There is no room for other people in the world that Trump has made for himself, and this is fundamental to the anxiety of watching him impose his claustrophobic and airless interior world on our own. Is Trump a racist? Yes, because that’s a default setting for stupid people; also, he transparently has no regard for other people at all. Does Trump care about the cheap-looking statue of Stonewall Jackson that some forgotten Dixiecrat placed in a shithole park somewhere he will never visit? Not really, but he so resents the fact that other people expect him to care that he develops a passionate contrary opinion out of spite. Does he even know about . . . Let me stop you there. The answer is no.
In an essay that's pretty much the antithesis of asshole (see above), Danielle Tcholakian talks about becoming a journalist in the era of fake news, and what it takes to keep an open heart — and an open ear — with people who have fundamentally different beliefs. May we all maintain the same equanimity in the face of conflict, and the same willingness to take a punch if it means a handshake at the end of the round.
Maybe it will be exhausting and frustrating. But I want to try, both in-person and online, with people who have thousands of followers and people who have a handful. Because it’s my job and I love my job, because they are colleagues and neighbors and voters, and because we all have to live here on this Earth together, and if we’re not communicating, what the hell are we doing?
Maybe you’re refusing to read any of the buzz around the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death; it’s an entirely defensible position, and I was like you until The Guardian pushed this piece by Hilary Mantel. Gretel, princess bride, Joan of Arc, White Goddess — Mantel applies her signature talent for pulling story out of history to the question of why we can’t stop talking about Diana Spencer.
Myth does not reject any material. It only asks for a heart of wax. Then it works subtly to shape its subject, mould her to be fit for fate. When people described Diana as a “fairytale princess”, were they thinking of the cleaned-up versions? Fairytales are not about gauzy frocks and ego gratification. They are about child murder, cannibalism, starvation, deformity, desperate human creatures cast into the form of beasts, or chained by spells, or immured alive in thorns. The caged child is milk-fed, finger felt for plumpness by the witch, and if there is a happy-ever-after, it is usually written on someone’s skin.
But in case you just can’t stomach or just don’t care (still very defensible), here’s another excellent long read from The Guardian: a look back at the tsunami that followed the monstrous 2011 earthquake in Japan, and how hard it is to make the right decision when the water comes over the wall.
“What do you like to read” is a very personal question; Amy Reading breaks down why. A little romantic — or, less generously, pretentious — this essay works best as a personal reflection and less well as an anatomy. Most readers will recognize themselves at least once or twice, then enjoy arguing when they don’t.
Part of the problem is in the word “like,” that little heart we tap ten thousand times a day. I like lots of things, so many things, but I am not guided by what I like. I regularly read books that I know I’ll dislike, not to hate-read, but because I’m just plain curious — because there is something in there I need that is not pleasure.
On a recent visit to the US Post Office, a postal employee offered some practical advice: need packing material? Grab a few copies of the The Stranger from the box at the door. Leaves you wondering: with the Village Voice gone digital, what the heck are New Yorkers using to wrap fish?
David Dudley’s mostly unsentimental comment on the shuttering of the Village Voice’s print edition does a good job on why alt-weeklies matter, and why print matters in particular for the free weekly newspaper. It’s not just the writing — though alt-weeklies can offer a specific and unique way of experiencing a city — it’s how print gets in your space, welcome or not, and stays there.
The thing the Voice and its descendants gave readers was something more important than the occasional scoop: They served as critical conveyors of regional lore and scuttlebutt and intel. Dailies may have told you what was going on; alt-weeklies helped make people locals, a cranky cohort united by common enthusiasms and grievances. The alternative media was the informal archive of the city’s id, a catalog of fandom and contempt that limned the contours of the populace. And this part of their role, as it turns out, is a lot harder to replace in the digital era.