The Sunday Post for June 30, 2019

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights just a few pieces of longform writing that we loved reading. Settle in with a cup of coffee, or tea, if that's your pleasure — we saved you a seat! Read an essay or an article online that you loved? Let us know at Need more browse? You can also look through the archives.

Being normal

In the language of crisis management, grand-scale systems failures (think Chernobyl and the Challenger) are “normal.” Leah Finnegan applies the same eerie, inevitable logic to the noonday demon.

Depression is inevitable in society. Among billions of people, many are going to have fucked-up brains; unfortunately one is me, and now my young friend. But I wonder if depression, in some non-parallel extrapolation, can be thought of as its own kind of normal accident: a guaranteed cataclysm in the dark, complicated system of a mind that cannot be prevented, only managed after the fact.
Unnameable things

“How can one protect what one cannot name?” Kerri ní Dochartaigh writes the fierce fragility of the natural world out of and back into existence — a stay against extinction, in the only words she has.

In the early evening, when a ‘phone signal could be had, I logged onto Instagram to find my fee full of insects of every type — a collective yet individual response to the new article in the Guardian, with its heart-wrenching, terrifying truths. A few hours after a dream in which an insect presumed dead proved to be alive, I read the news that within a century they could ALL be gone. How are we meant to go on from here? I tried to muster up everything, anything inside of me; I tried to find the words. The only thought I had was: I have no words. Not in the way that the teenagers around me say ‘literally can’t even’ but rather: ‘I am living on my home island, on the soil of my ancestors, and I don’t even have the word for butterfly.’
Liu Cixin's war of the worlds

Travel Washington, DC, with Liu Cixin, and you see the US capitol compared to its cinema self (the Lincoln Memorial in person is disappointing, after Planet of the Apes). Reading about Liu in this profile has the same addictive feel as reading Liu, with the familiar and unfamiliar disorientingly reversed. But this is my favorite bit — a self-own of sorts by China’s college exams.

In China, one of his stories has been a set text in the _gao kao_ — the notoriously competitive college-entrance exams that determine the fate of ten million pupils annually; another has appeared in the national seventh-grade-curriculum textbook. When a reporter recently challenged Liu to answer the middle-school questions about the “meaning” and the “central themes” of his story, he didn’t get a single one right. “I’m a writer,” he told me, with a shrug. “I don’t begin with some conceit in mind. I’m just trying to tell a good story.”