The Sunday Post for April 1, 2018

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.

Ten Times Gravity

Reading this essay by Richard Chiem is like being run over by a very gentle freight train; there’s a vibration on the tracks, then suddenly you’re aflight — slightly stunned, wondering how something that looked far off got so close so fast. He’s talking about confidence, about childhood, about cruelty, about love, and in every paragraph he fixes himself and his reader to a point, then quietly flips it and leaves you both spinning. Hard to excerpt, especially because every paragraph’s so carefully crafted and so very much of its place; just click the link.

I ghost at parties because I’m a ghost inside. You will never know it, but I’m reanimating myself right in front of you, all beneath the surface, because I am too much in my own head. I am thinking what to say, how to say it. I am thinking how much it takes to be in a room. It takes so much to be in a room.

My mother, unfortunately, was a cruel person, and my childhood, unfortunately, was her masterpiece. I am made from mostly water and one hundred thousand beatings. I am made of hyperbole and perhaps one hundred dozen beatings.

Letters: Iris Murdoch

Sometimes you just wake up in an Iris Murdoch mood, you know? Maybe you have time for this conversation between biographer James Atlas and Murdoch, from 1990. Or if you’re nearing the bottom of your coffeecup, try this tiny collection of letters from a young Murdoch to Raymond Queneau, an older and then more successful writer, in which she wields her stunning mastery of language to express all the glorious awkwardness of a literary crush.

If the devil were bargaining with me for my soul, I think what could tempt me most would be the ability to write as well as you. Tho’ when I reflect, in my past encounters with that character he has not lacked other good bargaining points ...
The year in Trump novel pitches

Literary agent Erik Hane reads his slush pile like it’s tea leaves for the state of society.

. . . no matter the state of the world, the truly great manuscripts will always be a small fraction the slush. That’s publishing. But if you want a window into the collective state of our writing lives, it’s not the successes that do the revealing — it’s the far larger, unseen body of attempts, false starts, and misshapen Trump novels that reveals that something inside us has been knocked off its axis.
When the Heavens Stopped Being Perfect

Sometimes it’s better not to see the things we love too closely. Alan Lightman on how we lost the perfection of the stars.

Although the history of science has not awarded Messenger the same laurels as Newton’s Principia or Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, I regard it as one of the most consequential volumes of science ever published. In this little book, Galileo reports what he saw after turning his new telescope toward the heavens: strong evidence that the heavenly bodies are made of ordinary material, like the winter ice at Lute Island. The result caused a revolution in thinking about the separation between heaven and earth, a mind-bending expansion of the territory of the material world, and a sharp challenge to the Absolutes. The materiality of the stars, combined with the law of the conservation of energy, decrees that the stars are doomed to extinction. The stars in the sky, the most striking icons of immortality and permanence, will one day expire and die.