The Sunday Post for May 28, 2017

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.

The Beleaguered Tenants of ‘Kushnerville’

Withholding maintenance as a power play, hardcore debt collection, and public shaming for late rent — sounds like a classic slumlord. Or, maybe, Jared Kushner. Here’s Alex MacGillis on what it’s like to live in a property owned by the president’s son-in-law.

The worst troubles may have been those described in a 2013 court case involving Jasmine Cox’s unit at Cove Village. They began with the bedroom ceiling, which started leaking one day. Then maggots started coming out of the living room carpet. Then raw sewage started flowing out of the kitchen sink. “It sounded like someone turned a pool upside down,” Cox told me. “I heard the water hitting the floor and I panicked. I got out of bed and the sink is black and gray, it’s pooling out of the sink and the house smells terrible.”

Cox stopped cooking for herself and her son, not wanting food near the sink. A judge allowed her reduced rent for one month. When she moved out soon afterward, Westminster Management sent her a $600 invoice for a new carpet and other repairs. Cox, who is now working as a battery-test engineer and about to buy her first home, was unaware who was behind the company that had put her through such an ordeal. When I told her of Kushner’s involvement, there was a silence as she took it in.

“Get that [expletive] out of here,” she said.

What If We Cultivated Our Ugliness? or: The Monstrous Beauty of Medusa

On the same day that The Washington Post praised Melanie and Ivanka Trump for being pretty, stylish, and silent, Jess Zimmerman posted a call for women to embrace ugliness. It’s hard to pull off without sounding like sour grapes, but she threads the needle brilliantly — not anti-beauty, just pointing out that there’s more than one game in town. Naming Medusa the patron saint of not-lovely women doesn’t hurt.

There is no male-controlled culture that by default sees women, that allows women to be seen. In my country the government doesn’t (yet) require us to cover our faces, but don’t confuse that for visibility: We’re obscured not by cloth but by disregard, by the way men are taught to devalue us and we are taught to devalue ourselves. It’s beauty — and specifically femininity, and even more specifically, sexual attractiveness to men — that burns through the veil.

People look through your face, or past it, when beauty doesn’t focus them, when there’s nothing there they want. They’re not afraid to meet your eyes—they just don’t see the point.

Better for them to be afraid. Better for them to think they’ll turn to stone.

See also Mary Beard, more scholarly but no less righteously pissed off, on monsters, myths, and women in power.

Never Write a Novel With an En-dash in the Title

If you missed the reading by Seattle’s Nicole Dieker last Tuesday (or even if you didn’t), you can catch up with her at The Awl, where she’s chronicled the journey toward self-publishing her first novel with great wit and self-effacing charm.

Whether your novel will be a success is still to be determined — though you can guess already that it might not, five-star reviews and Ferrante comparisons aside. It is successful because you did it. It is financially successful because you have not yet spent more, to publish and promote the novel, than you earned from the Patreon project. You can say all of these things but you know there is another marker of success out there — well, multiple markers, because you know that the trad publishing world counts a “successful” literary fiction novel as one that sells 3,000–5,000 copies, and you also know that there’s the type of success that derives from momentum; from being good and having everyone talk about you at the same time.

You do not think you will have that kind of momentum, for the same reasons you weren’t ever popular in high school.

The Exquisitely English (and Amazingly Lucrative) World of London Clerks

There’s a numbing volume of subculture reportage on the internet, rapidly catching up with the ubiquitous personal essay. Simon Akam’s piece on the British legal system — specifically, the political, financial, and class-haunted relationship between the barrister and the clerk — stands out. Informative, bemusing, and vital background reading for fans of Sarah Caudwell and many others.

At a chambers that had expanded and was bringing in more money, three silks decided their chief clerk’s compensation, at 10 percent, had gotten out of hand. They summoned him for a meeting and told him so. In a tactical response that highlights all the class baggage of the clerk-barrister relationship, as well as the acute British phobia of discussing money, the clerk surprised the barristers by agreeing with them. “I’m not going to take a penny more from you,” he concluded. The barristers, gobsmacked and paralyzed by manners, never raised the pay issue again, and the clerk remained on at 10 percent until retirement.