The Sunday Post for April 29, 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.

Whose Story (and Country) Is This?

Rebecca Solnit reframes America’s ideological churn as a battle over story — not who tells it, but for whose benefit it’s told. It’s a very Solnit-y clarifying lens on something insidious: our willingness to worry over the men held to account by the #MeToo movement, our willingness to cosset men whose views toward other humans are simply reprehensible, our immense discomfort with the discomfort of white men. At a far extreme, this is the narrative of the incels; to be prevented from taking their place at the center of the story is so violent to their egos that it justifies real and deadly violence to others.

The common denominator of so many of the strange and troubling cultural narratives coming our way is a set of assumptions about who matters, whose story it is, who deserves the pity and the treats and the presumptions of innocence, the kid gloves and the red carpet, and ultimately the kingdom, the power, and the glory. You already know who. It’s white people in general and white men in particular, and especially white Protestant men, some of whom are apparently dismayed to find out that there is going to be, as your mom might have put it, sharing.

It may seem like a forced tie-in, but it’s hard not to draw a connection on the day after Independent Bookstore Day: Cultivating independent bookstores and independent literature written by people who have other stories to tell might, perhaps, be a useful thing to do?

The Ben Duncan and Dick Chapman Papers Come Out

Ben Duncan was an American student on fellowship at Oxford University when he met Dick Chapman. Chapman was British, shared a love for literature, shared left-leaning politics. When Duncan and Chapman fell in love, their relationship was not just unacceptable but illegal. In 2005, five decades after they met, they became one of the first gay couples to register as civil partners in England.

One of the joys of bibliography is seeing how the making of books tells as much of a story as their contents. Duncan’s autobiography, The Same Language, charts changing public and political opinion in what subsequent editions reveal. Similarly, a collection of letters between the two men — donated to Columbia University Libraries in 1990 but closed to researchers until after both of their deaths — says much even in how it was stored. A blog post from the library tracks the progress of the collection, including how librarians helped Duncan and Chapman keep their secret until they were ready to tell it.

Calling the collection the Ben Duncan and Dick Chapman Papers might have been too obvious, but the addition of Duncan’s manuscripts allowed it to be presented as Duncan’s papers alone. Thus the collection’s original name: the Ben Duncan Papers. The collection’s original summary likewise hinted at the importance of the letters without giving anything away. The archivist wrote, “The correspondence consists chiefly of letters between Duncan and Richard Chapman, during 1956 and 1957, when Duncan, an American, was working in advertising in England, and Chapman, an Englishman, was working in advertising in New York. These letters provide a perspective on daily life during the mid-1950s, including such topics as books, plays, current events, and customs of that period.”
How the Trump Show Gets Old

We’ve had plenty of comparisons between the Trump presidency and his reality-television career, so kudos to Michael Kruse for finding an angle worth exploring: the similarity between the arc of Trump’s political career and the win-lose-win arc of his entertainment (and real estate) career. You may not feel like you need to know more about Donald Trump — likely you wish you knew less. Still, this is an interesting detailed look at how Trump handles failure, and especially how he manages to paint himself with success while the ship goes down beneath him. That he might do so again in 2020 is a possibility we can’t afford to ignore. Sadly.

The relentless decline of “The Apprentice” reflects a splash-and-crash cycle that’s been a hallmark throughout Trump’s life — from his buildings to his casinos to even his brief stint as a sports team owner. His initial successes are often followed by reckless decisions to double down on his bet, just to keep the excitement going — with often disastrous results. “It’s true of everything he goes into,” Trump biographer Tim O’Brien said in an interview. “He will hunker down and do something well — and then he thinks he’s Zeus.” And that’s when the trouble starts. “Because he’s not Zeus.”