The Sunday Post for October 22, 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.

Judging Books by Their Covers

Jason Diamond loves books, and the Vintage Contemporary imprint in particular (you’ve almost certainly got one or two of those iconic covers on your shelves, whether you know it or not). This essay is steeped in his passion for the series, but it’s more truly a love letter to collecting — to how physical objects carry stories in their making, and to how paying respectful attention to small, necessary details makes life richer and more explicable.

I first loved Bright Lights, Big City as a teenager stuck in the Chicago suburbs in the 1990s. To my 15-year-old, Clinton-era mind, the book was moody and weird, an example of the kind of urban malaise I would have preferred over the suburban brand I’d experienced growing up. I can’t recall a book so perfectly set up by what was on the cover — a man in a trench coat framed by the neon glow of The Odeon restaurant and the glittering World Trade Center. McInerney’s Manhattan was the city I wanted to go to, in all of its decadent and gritty glory. If I was going to be lonely, I’d rather be lonely around people like me.
The Secretive Family Making Billions from the Opioid Crisis

In late September, Seattle sued Purdue Pharma, the nation’s largest makers of opioid drugs. That’s the stuff you get after major surgery, and also the stuff that’s created an epidemic of addiction across the United States. The lawsuit hoped to recoup the costs of epidemic addiction in our city.

Turns out, the people manufacturing those drugs are actually people, and in fact a single family: the Sacklers. The Sacklers are the Kardashians of pharmaceutical-style heroin, if you will, though with a much smaller social media presence. Christopher Glazek steps up to help with their publicity problem.

The descendants of Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, a pair of psychiatrist brothers from Brooklyn, are members of a billionaire clan with homes scattered across Connecticut, London, Utah, Gstaad, the Hamptons, and, especially, New York City. It was not until 2015 that they were noticed by Forbes, which added them to the list of America’s richest families. The magazine pegged their wealth, shared among twenty heirs, at a conservative $14 billion. (Descendants of Arthur Sackler, Mortimer and Raymond’s older brother, split off decades ago and are mere multi-millionaires.) To a remarkable degree, those who share in the billions appear to have abided by an oath of omertà: Never comment publicly on the source of the family’s wealth.
What Miyazaki’s Heroines Taught Me About My Mixed-Race Identity

I’m not saying that anybody’s princesses are better than anybody else’s. But isn’t there something grittier, more badass, and ultimately more relatable about Hayao Miyaziki’s heroines than those in the Disney catalog — no matter how hard mainstream American cinema tries to evolve?

Nina Coombs thinks so. Part Japanese, part American, in this short essay, she traces how Miyazaki’s heroines helped her understand a physical transition that made palable her position at the tipping point between two worlds.

That summer, I frequented bathhouses similar to those in Spirited Away with my mother and sister. One day I stood under a showerhead, rinsing my body of dirt and grime before entering the bath, and noticed that the arc of my stomach was jutting softly from my sternum. I had never seen my stomach before, not from this vantage point, with my chin tucked and hair wet. I had always been concave, a pocket of negative space ballooning between my ribcage and hips. To see my stomach take up space was new and strange. As I stared, water ran into my eyes and questions churned in my head: What was I becoming? Was I becoming an American? Was I not Japanese anymore? Had I ever been Japanese?

The Loneliest Polar Bear

I almost didn’t read Kale Williams’ story about Nora, an infant polar bear abandoned by her mother. In fact I was asked not to read it: I’ve been found on my knees sobbing in front of the BBC’s Planet Earth, I’ve been gently asked about my welfare by a bartender at Portland’s Tugboat Tavern (rest in peace, Tugboat Tavern!), where they used to show nature programming instead of sports. (Barnacle geese, with explanatory sound turned off, are a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.)

But proceed without fear. Except for devastating questions about climate change, the human race’s impact on the creatures with whom we share the planet, and the value of saving a single animal in the teeth of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event, this is a happy story told in a fabulously furry multimedia presentation.

Aurora had been gone for 30 minutes. She’d never left Nora for this long.

She wandered the rooms of the compound, seemingly deaf to the sounds of her daughter.

Inside the trailer, the tension was thick. Nora’s cries reminded the keepers of their own children, only louder and more urgent. As long as her vocals were strong, they were willing to wait.

The women watching had decades of experience hand-raising jungle cats, livestock and primates. The prospect was starting to hit them: Would they have to raise a polar bear?