The Sunday Post for September 22, 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’ve never liked the architecture of Seattle’s Central Library, which doesn’t matter one bit. Nobody is liked by everyone, and that goes for buildings, too, especially if they have a bit (or a lot) of personality. (And yes, the logo of this publication is inspired by the Central Library, and I love the resonance there, even if it gives me the willies sometimes.)

Still, I felt slightly and unworthily validated by this, by David Brewster. Brewster’s insight on the selection process for the library’s architect shows a winner — Rem Koolhaas — who pushed every one of Seattle’s buttons: innovative, “disruptive,” cool. Aggressively competitive, the kind that’s called ambitious if you win and cheating if you lose.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these qualities (maybe), and many people like them, or at least like the money and power they’ve brought. The Central Library was built in 2004; Amazon moved to downtown Seattle in 2008, after a burst of “disruptive” launches — Amazon Prime (2005), Amazon Fresh (2007), the Kindle (2007).

The spark for Brewster’s piece is an essay in the New York Times about a new library by Steven Holl, who was the quiet runner up to Koolhaas. Holl’s New York library is gorgeous: warm but not precious, modern but not pretentious.

Brewster wonders what Seattle’s library might be like if our city had chosen Holl over Koolhaas; I wonder what Seattle might be like if we were the kind of city to make that choice. It’s pretty obvious that Holl wasn’t a lesser option.

And yes, the Times piece is also about how long the Holl project took and how much over budget it went. Architecture is hard, and so is being a city.

The Seattle Library That Might Have Been
Koolhaas gave a kind of TED Talk to the public meeting, very cool and disruptive. His firm was then intent on getting an important American job, and his wooing continued in earnest when the selection committee visited European works by the two finalists. Holl, honoring the no-contact etiquette of the final decision, hung back. Another factor, I’m told, was the reluctance of the Library to pick an architect who had done a major project in (gasp!) Bellevue.
Other good reads this week

Communiqué from an Exurban Satellite Clinic of a Cancer Pavilion Named after a Financier

An excerpt from Anne Boyer’s The Undying that dissects cancer treatment as mercilessly as any surgeon.

The system of medicine is, for the sick, a visible scene of action, but beyond it and behind it and beneath it are all the other systems, _family race work culture gender money education_, and beyond those is a system that appears to include all the other systems, the system so total and overwhelming that we often mistake it for the world.

Everyone writes. But is everyone a writer?

Katherine Rosman on the new, high-price-tag writing workshop.

Thanks to tweets, comment threads, Instagram captions, Facebook confessionals, newsletters, self-publishing and the internet’s insatiable thirst for first-person essays, _everyone_ is now a writer (or a “content creator”). With an oversupply of words and increasingly distracted demand, making money in a side hustle or day job is harder than ever.

Medicaid’s dark secret

Rachel Corbett on what happens when Medicaid comes to collect.

Some states initially resisted implementing estate recovery. West Virginia legislators called it “abhorrent” in a federal lawsuit seeking to have it declared unconstitutional. (An appeals court rejected the suit in 2002.) Michigan became the last state to enact recoveries, in 2007, after the federal government threatened to cut its Medicaid funding if it didn’t. Other states opted to collect only high-value assets, or offered exemptions for family farms or estates worth less than a few thousand dollars.

The majority of states, however, took a harder line.