The Sunday Post for February 12, 2017

Doris Lessing’s library: a life in 4,000 books

To an incurable book snoop, this seems like the opportunity of a lifetime: Nick Holdstock was given free access to Doris Lessing’s books in order to inventory them after her death. It’s a massive project (Lessing’s collection, Holdstock says, “seemed untouched by what Walter Benjamin called ‘the mild boredom of order’”), to which he brings a storyteller’s eye, tracking Lessing’s studies, her eccentricities, and her ongoing conversation with the books she loved.

Best of all, Lessing had drawn faces next to several passages. They wore hats and had particular expressions. The eyes in the face drawn next to the tautological statement “It is not hidden knowledge but useless knowledge unless you have the capacity to use it”, were looking sideways at the text, perhaps doubtfully. No such equivocation was on the face drawn next to the sentence “You start by mastering the ability to learn”. It was smiling, its hat jauntily perched.

Fifty Shades Darker: It’s The Economy, Stupid

La Donna Pietra follows Fifty Shades Darker through six degrees of separation back to Jane Eyre and then examines the economic underpinnings of both. Smart and smartass and much more fun than you’d think.

Granted, Jane Eyre is rather short on explicit sex scenes. Likewise, Fifty Shades Darker is rather short on believable character development. That said, Jane Eyre also features characters telepathically calling to each other across great distances and ridiculous melodramatic plot contrivances about madwomen locked in attics, so it’s not like realism is much of a metric here.

The Surprising Rise of the “S---gibbon”

There’s something irresistible about really good, creative swearing, maybe because the average joe (that’s me, not you) pulls from a small pool of threadbare curse words. Last week, Pennsylvania senator Daylin Leach delighted the Twitterverse by challenging Donald Trump in terms both blunt and unexpected.

Ben Zimmer tracks the origins of the headline-making epithet. Purely etymological interest, of course.

As Leach’s “fascist, loofa-faced, shit-gibbon” line made the rounds on social media, he didn’t back down from the characterization (which was inspired by reports that Trump had threatened to “destroy the career” of a Texas state senator over the civil asset forfeiture issue). His spokesman Steve Hoenstine doubled down ...

The Troll Taunter

Emily Temple-Wood joined the Wikipedia community as a 12-year-old and spent a decade on the receiving end of gender-based threats and harassment. Her solution? Relentlessly post profiles of her harassers’ greatest fear: strong, smart, successful women.

Jake Orlowitz, the head of The Wikipedia Library, was at the annual Wikimedia conference in Mexico City in July 2015 when he witnessed Temple-Wood’s anger and frustration boil over. “Out of nowhere, Emily turns red and chucks her cell phone against the wall,” recalls Orlowitz. “She was not in the mood for another death threat, and that’s what had come to her inbox. But at this point, it’s very clear that somehow, Emily is fueled by every challenge.”
Fuck That Gator

This is fascinating: an unavoidably clickbait-y piece about a family’s attempt to reclaim their personal tragedy from social media. Tommie Woodward was killed by an alligator while swimming in a bayou in eastern Texas; posthumously, he became the butt of viral online mockery. It’s easy to see how irresistible the story of Tommie’s death would be — you’d have most readers at “gator” — but also: what a breakwater the Internet can be for simple human empathy. Thomas Golianopoulos does a good job balancing both threads.

Some outlets used an image from Tommie’s Facebook page of him chugging a Miller High Life while wearing a T-shirt that reads “Classy Motherfucker”; a news anchor for KFDM, the CBS affiliate in nearby Beaumont, breathlessly noted “the hundreds and thousands of pageviews and hundreds of comments” that the story generated on its website. Another circulated photo portrayed Tommie as the epitome of dudedom: grungy reddish-blonde chin strap beard, middle finger up, wearing a goofy cowboy hat, wraparound Guy Fieri shades, and a “This Guy Needs a Beer” shirt. On Facebook, strangers littered Tommie’s wall with comments like “lol rip dumbass” and “What. A. Dumb. Fuck.” A controversial hunt for the killer gator ensued, which only compounded the attention.

Tommie’s friends and family refuse to allow his final actions define the 28 years that preceded it. He loved Van Halen, Marilyn Monroe, and Ken Griffey Jr. He was good with his hands. He enjoyed assembling computers, building sandcastles with his nephew, fishing, swimming, camping, and grilling. He had an adoring big sister, a mom, a best friend, and an identical twin brother, Brian, all left to wrestle not just with grief over a freak tragedy, but also the aftermath of public humiliation.