Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.
Susan Orlean sets Fahrenheit 451 ablaze.
I struck the first match and it broke, so I struck a second, which spat out a little tongue of flame. I touched the burning match to the cover of the book, which was decorated with a picture of a matchbook. The flame moved like a bead of water from the tip of the match to the corner of the cover. Then it oozed. It traveled up the cover almost as if it were rolling it up, like a carpet, but as it rolled, the cover disappeared. Then each page inside the book caught fire. The fire first appeared on a page as a decorative orange edge with black fringe. Then, in an instant, the orange edge and the black fringe spread across the whole page, and then the page was gone—a nearly instantaneous combustion—and the entire book was eaten up in a few seconds. It happened so fast that it was as if the book had exploded; the book was there and then in a blink it was gone and meanwhile the day was still warm, the sky still blue.
Michael Hobbes sets “corporate social responsibility” ablaze. This is very good — unraveling an ideology that has been carefully built up by for-profits and nonprofits both, in a shell game of respectability and money.
Samantha asks if you offer certification, a stamp her company can put on its website declaring that it complies with human rights.
"We prefer to work behind the scenes," you say, kicking off a spiel that has started to sound less natural lately as you have delivered it more. "Complying with human rights is complicated. It's relevant to all your operations, all your suppliers, all your relationships with governments. We recommend that companies do this privately, and focus on delivering real improvements to their employees and their customers, before they communicate it publicly."
"Right," she says. "But we can still put your name on our website, right?""Well of course," you say
My grandfather was an adventurer trapped in very suburban home in Jackson, Mississippi. He dreamed of planting saplings until a vast forest overgrew the land he owned, of free-diving for pearls in the Indian Ocean, of being lost in the desert of the American West. When macular degeneration blotched his vision and dementia blurred his reality, he talked with wonder and longing about the strange maps that floated between his eyes and the world.
Here’s Lev Grossman on the allure of maps of imaginary places, especially for those who long for more wonder than daily life readily yields.
One's eyes quickly learned to hungrily parse a newly acquired map: the long spindly corridors, the secret doors, the treacherous mazes, the crooked borders of unworked stone, the grand hall where the massive showdown melee would happen, the over-elaborate legend listing symbols for urns, statues, pillars, traps, treasure chests and altars to nameless gods. These maps promised extremes of excitement and pleasure, though players weren't actually supposed to see the maps, strictly speaking. D&D wasn't a board game: the map was a holy mystery, concealed during gameplay behind a makeshift cardboard screen. The Dungeonmaster would instead painstakingly describe a player's slow, bloody progress across it. Denied the aerial omniscience of a map, one was in the position, increasingly inconceivable in the age of Google Maps, of being lost on a darkling plain, stumbling towards an unseen goal, with only words to steer by.
Why do we want so, so badly to be liked? Human nature, sure, but human nurture, too. And who defines what’s likeable and what’s not? And who benefits? Hmm. Maybe Lacy M. Johnson knows.
As a woman, I have been raised to be nurturing, to care for others feelings’ and wellbeing often at the expense of my own. I have been taught that to be liked is to be good. But I have noticed that certain men are allowed to be any way they want. They get to be nuanced and complex. Adventurous and reclusive. They can say anything, do anything, disregard rules and social norms, break laws, commit treason, rob us blind, and nothing is held against them. A white man, in particular, can be an abuser, a rapist, a pedophile, a kidnapper of children, can commit genocide or do nothing notable or interesting at all and we are expected to hang on his every word as if it is a gift to the world. Likability doesn’t even enter the conversation.
Heather Havrilesky, in unintentional counterpoint to the Johnson essay linked above, brilliantly riffs on a 15-minute Yes video to provide a master course in being human.
Sure, you’ll become a joke to someone somewhere, eventually, just for doing what you love. Someone will say, “Holy shit, why don’t they stop touring?” And someone else will say, “And they’re still recording live albums, too!” How many live albums by Yes does any one human need?
But that’s not the takeaway here. The takeaway is PUT ON YOUR SATIN MCCALL’S PATTERN BLOUSE AND ROCK IT OUT.