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.
“Believe me, you are not too dumb to understand this,” says Laurie Penny, right before slicing Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life and Peterson himself into a paper blizzard of puffery, self-pity, and pretension. It’s a tour de force takedown, every breathlessly brilliant insult backed with rigorous logic, a glorious read for the language alone — and also a determined tug on a needle that’s been moving, a bit, and that a lot of angry people would like to re-set to the status quo.
Angry white male entitlement is the elevator music of our age. Speaking personally, as a feminist-identified person on the internet, my Twitter mentions are full of practically nothing else. I've spent far too much of my one life trying to listen and understand and offer suggestions in good faith, before concluding that it's not actually my job to manage the hurt feelings of men who are prepared to mortgage the entire future of the species to buy back their misplaced pride. It never was. That's not what feminism is about.
Barack Obama recommends a short list of books by African authors as he gears up for a trip to sub-Saharan Africa to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. The internet has been very gracious in not snarking about our current president’s reading habits while discussing this list, so I’ll try to do the same. (But seriously. A reading list personally curated by the last leader we had who read at all? Yes, please.)
I've often drawn inspiration from Africa's extraordinary literary tradition. As I prepare for this trip, I wanted to share a list of books that I'd recommend for summer reading, including some from a number of Africa's best writers and thinkers — each of whom illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways.
Here are two essays that use small, harmless things as a device to explore the deeply personal. First Emily Alford, who transforms a childhood viewing of The Silence of the Lambs into a grown-up meditation on poverty, neglect, and loss.
There are all sorts of reasons to go hungry: because the only food in the refrigerator is a pot of something crusted black at the edges and baked grey and brown in the center, meant to last all week, globbed on top of hardened white rice and reheated to hot, runny goo in a microwave where roaches dart across the gummy insides, legs sticking to squirts of months' worth of runny dinners. To see how long it takes for someone to notice the untouched plastic baggies full of slimy lunch meat that accumulate in a lunch box, warm to the touch by the time they return home uneaten. To become so thin the wind might catch flaps in a too-large tee shirt and send a body someplace else, like a balloon loosed from a bunch. When I was a baby, the doctor measured the length of my spine and promised my mother I'd be tall, she likes to tell me. Instead, I stopped growing right smack at average, never claiming the length of bone that serves as a reward for being one generation away from poor white trash.
"Was your daddy a coal miner? Did he stink of the lamp?" Dr. Lecter asks Clarice Starling.
Then Aaron Hamburger, for whom a pack of Smarties helps clear the way to reclaiming himself after a brutal rape. Both of these are difficult, excellent, and best read in private, when you can give them plenty of space and time.
My parents were midwestern-friendly, polite, though they became increasingly silent, even stoic, as I recounted my story. I imagined that no one in the room had ever encountered a shameful and bizarre story like mine, or someone foolish or weak enough to allow such a thing to happen to him. This was the kind of crime that happened to women. But then, after what had happened, maybe I wasn't really a man.
Neal Ascherson on the experience of reading a more traditional kind of permanent record — the files kept by the secret police to track suspected spies. Thought-provoking in this era where digital surveillance, both commercial and political, is an unavoidable fact of life.
The crowning mercy of human relations is that we don’t know what other people are really thinking about us. They — those others — decide what redacted selection we are offered. But to read one’s police file is — suddenly — to have the curtain pulled open. The self you think you know becomes a mask, concealing a devious somebody else whose relationships are mere espionage fakes.