The Sunday Post for September 15, 2019

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights just a few things we loved reading and want to share with you. 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.

I read Natalie Beach's essay about her relationship with Caroline Calloway somewhere around 3 a.m., grateful for the insomnia that allowed me to bypass self-respect and lap up the gossip shame-free. So I was startled when Paul Constant described it, with interest, as a story about writing.

If you haven't been following the relentless internet frenzy over this — I dunno, maybe you're following the relentless internet frenzy over Donald Trump or whatever else Twitter's got hold of this week — here's the short version: Caroline Calloway built her Instagram empire on captions ghost-written by her friend Natalie Beach. There was a book, also to be ghostwritten by Beach, then there wasn't. There were fights and hurt feelings. Now, there is a public airing of grievances: by Beach in The Cut, by Calloway in front of her 800,000 Instagram followers.

Is this a story about writing? Beach and Calloway met at in a creative nonfiction writing workshop at NYU, so at least at one point they both cared about the craft. But I couldn't find much published by Beach beyond her tell-all — except, somewhat ironically, a bit of bookstuff for Calloway remains her own best creation.

Is this a story about writing? Beach calls herself Calloway's ghostwriter. She was slated, though not contracted, to receive a generous slice of Calloway's profits from the book. When Calloway decided not to complete the book, Beach received nothing — and Calloway lost the right to be the public author of the story they were telling together.

Paul called silence the most important part of the job of ghostwriting. I think that's less true now than it used to be. Ghostwriters now are often recognized for their work, even on the front cover. The idea of authorship has changed, at least for the kinds of books that are often ghostwritten: to be the author doesn't mean, any more, to be the writer. Which is brain-bending in and of itself.

Is this a story about writing? During Colette's early writing career, her husband's pen name was the one on the cover of her books. He got away with it because he was a controlling shit, but also because he was visible to the world in a way a woman was not. Less cringe-y (maybe): Dick Francis credits his wife with writing his immensely popular thrillers, credit she gently deflects because she believes the testosterone-laden books require a male byline for success.

Beach and Calloway created a character together — Caroline Calloway. When Calloway decided she wanted to have her name on the cover alone, Beach created a new character: Natalie Beach. There's no gender imbalance in the push-pull between the two, just opportunism. But there is a story here about how being seen gives you the power to be heard.

This is going to be a leap, but bear with me: because we take pitches, instead of submissions, we get a lot of email from writers packed with impressive bios, lists of big publications — and it's great! We need that information, especially links to past writing, so we can make good guesses about who'll be a fit for the site.

But it's also how people tell us they've been seen. That they're worth looking at. And, by extension, that what they want to say is worth hearing — which is an even bigger leap than the one I just made.

That's a story about writing, too.

Meanwhile, here's Beach giving away the game in the very opening of her piece ...

I was Caroline Calloway
I began going to Caroline’s after every class, then just any chance I could. To my other friends, I described her as someone you couldn’t count on to remember a birthday but the one I’d call if I needed a black-market kidney. What I meant was that she was someone to write about, and that was what I wanted most of all.
Other good reads this week

My Terezín Diary

Zuana Justaman on what she didn't say in the diary she kept during the Holocaust.

In my memory, it seems as though my mother remained in prison for months. But according to my diary she “was away from us for three weeks.” Against all reason, we never gave up hope that she would be released.

DRM Broke Its Promise

Cory Doctorow on the feudalism of digital books.

The established religion of markets once told us that we must abandon the idea of owning things, that this was an old fashioned idea from the world of grubby atoms. In the futuristic digital realm, no one would own things, we would only license them, and thus be relieved of the terrible burden of ownership.

They were telling the truth.

Ship of horrors: life and death on the lawless high seas

Out of sight, out of mind: an excerpt from Ian Urbina's forthcoming The Outlaw Ocean investigates labor conditions in deep waters.

Greed, not water, sank the Oyang 70. The ship had tried to swallow too much fish; the ocean swallowed the ship instead. The last men off the drowning ship said that they saw Shin in the wheelhouse, refusing to abandon his post or put on a life jacket. Hugging a pole and clutching his clear bottle, he was muttering in Korean and crying.