The Sunday Post for January 5, 2020

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.

The strangeness of grief

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a friend who grew up in rural California, who did not grow up with books, and who had just started reading Of Mice and Men. It was exactly his kind of story, he said, an adventure story about two men, farming, other familiar things.

When we met again he reported on his experience of the ending of the book. I tried to remember the age at which a teacher put Steinbeck in my hands, and how that reading felt. What would it be like to read about George and Lenny for the first time at 50, after a lifetime of work and love and grief?

Talking about sadness and stories and school reminded my friend of a classroom screening of Old Yeller (again, he did not grow up with books), and how he turned around at the critical moment to find the boy behind him crying openly, red-faced, unashamed. How he turned back around quickly, glad his sadness was better hidden.

My friend and I have a common language of sad childhood stories, mostly on the screen on his end, mostly on the page on mine — Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, Where the Red Fern Grows, Charlotte’s Web. Animals in danger and often dying populate the world of children’s stories, as if to train us for what’s to come.

Grief remains strange, though — untrainable. As V. S. Naipaul puts it:

We are never finished with grief. It is part of the fabric of living. It is always waiting to happen. Love makes memories and life precious; the grief that comes to us is proportionate to that love and is inescapable.

Stories make us love, and so we grieve for loss in stories. It’s part of the fabric of reading. It is inescapable.

Best books of 2019

But it’s not! Anne Trubek’s weekly(ish) newsletter is not at all about the best books of 2019, thank goodness, because everything else is — the best of 2019, the best of the decade, or how in the last decade social media ate us alive and left the carrion remains for Donald Trump to pick over.

Instead, Trubek reflects on what it takes for a small publisher to win at the publishing game, which is, in very brief, doubling down on respect for readers and refusing the lure of Big Publishing tactics.

I have to keep Belt Publishing from falling into becoming ‘like any other publisher’ — which will definitely happen unless we constantly fight against the momentum to do so — so many forces pressure us into making decisions we are only subconsciously aware of, daily, that will render us ‘just like the others’ otherwise. We will fail if we make such decisions, because of the conglomeration of publishing. We will lose if we try to play the same game as the big fish.
The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism

Some interesting reflections here on how minimalism became a hipster brand — a longing for simpler times, a desire for control in a world of overwhelm. Doesn’t all ring true; there’s a difference between minimalism the brand and simple thoughtfulness about what and how much you own. But I’m on board with anything that helps deflate the trend of hipster trends.

On one hand there was the facade of minimalism: its brand and visual appearance. On the other was the unhappiness at the root of it all, caused by a society that tells you more is always better. Every advertisement for a new thing implied that you should dislike what you already had. It took Andersen a long time to understand the lesson: “There was really nothing wrong with our lives at all.”