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.
If you like newsletters, and aren’t already subscribing to Philip Christman’s “The Tourist,” I highly recommend you do. Christman publishes thoughtful, mid-length reflections, and I often start the day with them when they come in — it sets my brain to the right rhythm for really looking at the world, instead of skimming through it like I’m living in a Twitter feed.
In this letter, Christman talks about his mother, who voted for Donald Trump and who he loves in that difficult, complicated way we love people sometimes — through a blur of their flaws and our own.
This is the part where it's tempting to write "in that moment, politics fell away, and pragmatics/common sense/simple values took over," but that sort of sentence is a lie. Your politics and your pragmatics, your common sense, your simple values, are a series of Russian nesting dolls that contain each other. My politics in that moment was that my mom had spent her life doing the best she could with the information she had, and that her best was not good enough and that mine would never be either. And neither is yours, whoever is reading this.
Writing about the amazing, dreadful field in which he’s made his career — tech — Paul Ford is gentle, wry, and fearless. We built the tools of power, he says to his industry — now we must be accountable for their use. And maybe, just maybe, consider that tech’s time to lead is ending.
It’s that second part that’s so amazing: tech issues a new call to action, to itself, every day of the week. But a call to step away from the throne? That cuts to the culture’s heart, wallet, and soul.
I wish I could take my fellow CEOs by the hand (they’re not into having their hands held) and show them Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and any of the other places where people are angry. Listen, I’d say, you’re safe. No one is coming for your lake house, even if they tweet “I’m coming for your lake house.” These random angry people are merely asking us to keep our promises. We told them 20-some years ago that we’d try to abolish government and bring a world of plenty. We told them we’d make them powerful, that we’d open gates of knowledge and opportunity. We said, “We take your privacy and security seriously at Facebook.” We said we were listening. So listen! They are submitting a specification for a world in which fairness is a true currency, and then they’re trying to hold everyone to the spec (which is, very often, the law). As someone who spent a lot of time validating XML and HTML pages, I empathize. If bitcoin can be real money, then fairness can be a real goal.
James Wolcott bites into Bret Easton Ellis' career with the tenacity and repulsion of a man determined to eat a worm-infested apple just to prove the worms exist.
Bad reviews, media bashing, mockery, disdain, brutal accusations of old-fartdom — will Bret Easton Ellis learn anything from this debacle? Of course not. It would be out of character and borderline disappointing if he did. A sudden onset of empathy would neutralise the snot factor so integral to his persona and voice.
McKinsey & Co. is a stunningly successful brand story: the consulting firm that managed to sell standard-issue white male arrogance as cutting-edge business smarts. ProPublica reports on McKinsey’s questionable choice of bedfellows in Mongolia, the country’s rejection of the firm (now reversed, under new government), and suggestive echoes from South Africa and other places where McKinsey has made millions.
A diffuse operating style worked for McKinsey when it had 300 partners or so, as it did 30 years ago. But the firm now has over 2,100 partners, and oversight of their engagements remains limited. Sneader told the _Financial Times_ that he would like to see the entire partnership weigh in on more decisions. But corralling 2,100-plus partners who cherish their independence is no easy task.
In the match of the century, David Foster Wallace goes into the ring with YouTube — and loses. Will he take literary journalism down with him?
The social contract between journalist and reader — “what I am telling you strictly happened” — thus seems increasingly conditional in the case of the literary journalist, who is more incentivized to place all of their observations and reportage into an ordered narrative about what it all means. In college, I took a course called “Literary Journalism,” which makes me wince for a few reasons. First among them is how we were exposed to a wide range of great writers — including all the people I’ve mentioned today — without our professor discussing the likelihood that their work was partially fabricated. For weeks, I’d sit there thinking, “this is great material, how did they get it” without my earnest young mind considering that it was probably not as conveniently illuminating as depicted; that “they sort of made it up” was a strong possibility instead of a cynical interpretation. And yet these writers continue to be valorized.