HELLO and welcome to the 295th installment of Things I Read That I Love, wherein I share with you some of the longer-form journalism/essays I’ve read recently so that you can read them too and we can all know more about what I’ve been doing on my mental health break! (A LOT OF READING) This “column” is less feminist/queer focused than the rest of the site because when something is feminist/queer focused, I put it on the rest of the site. Here is where the other things are.
The title of this feature is inspired by the title of Emily Gould’s tumblr, Things I Ate That I Love.
The Radical Transformations of a Battered Women’s Shelter, by Larissa MacFarquhar for The New Yorker, August 2019
This is very long but so worth it. It’s so good. It’s so good! Also there are a lot of lesbians in it.
There were also deeper dynamics in the collective that were harder to see. Some women swayed decisions more than others—people tended to look at them when an impasse was arrived at, or fall silent when they spoke. Women could feel power shifting around in meetings, but it wasn’t until years later that they understood what had been going on. “At the time, I loved the collective structure because I thought, Everybody’s equal, everyone has a voice,” Carole Sousa says. “But people that have privilege got to move the organization, and that was never acknowledged.” Some of the dynamics had to do with race or class; others were subtler, to do with personality and friendships. But because this sort of power was not official, and barely visible, it could not be curbed or held to account.
Lost Boy: On Michael Jackson, by Margo Jefferson for Harper’s, August 2019
Am I chagrined and shamed that when I wrote my book I couldn’t push myself to acknowledge that this damaged man was almost certainly a sexual predator? Of course I am. As a critic I’m invested in believing I’m not in the grip of naïveté or denial.
Annie Dillard and the Writing Life, by Alexander Chee for The Morning News, October 2009
If fiction provided the consolations of the mask, nonfiction provided, per Annie’s idea of it, the sensibility underneath the mask, irreplaceable and potentially of great value. The literary essay, as she saw it, was a moral exercise that involved direct engagement with the unknown, whether it was a foreign civilization or your mind, and what mattered in this was you.
Was E-Mail a Mistake? by Cal Newport for The New Yorker, August 2019
The dream of replacing the quick phone call with an even quicker e-mail message didn’t come to fruition; instead, what once could have been resolved in a few minutes on the phone now takes a dozen back-and-forth messages to sort out. With larger groups of people, this increased complexity becomes even more notable. Is an unresponsive colleague just delayed, or is she completely checked out? When has consensus been reached in a group e-mail exchange? Are you, the e-mail recipient, required to respond, or can you stay silent without holding up the decision-making process? Was your point properly understood, or do you now need to clarify with a follow-up message? Office workers pondering these puzzles—the real-life analogues of the theory of distributed systems—now dedicate an increasing amount of time to managing a growing number of never-ending interactions.
Conspiracy of Two, by David Amsden for New York Magazine, August 2007
I’ve been working on my book, which is partially set in the summer of 2007, when this story was heavy on my mind, so I revisited it. One thing I noticed in the revisiting: amid a litany of their absurd paranoid suspicions, one has since actually turned out to be true — that Scientology does take covert actions against people they suspect as threats to the church!
“…you could, in a sense, rationalize their occasional erratic behavior. They were artists, after all, and artists are allowed a degree of lunacy.”
Blood Oranges, by Carla Bruce-Eddings for Guernica, August 2019
The literature of the Bible—bombastic, poetic, bafflingly contradictory—remains a formative part of my makeup, my morality. I didn’t know then, so smug in my adolescent skepticism, that belief in something so elemental doesn’t dissipate; it sublimates into hope, or despair, or joy, grounded in the knowledge of something greater. What form that takes, I no longer pretend to know.
America Wasn’t a Democracy Until Black Americans Made It One, by Nikole Hannah-Jones for The New York Times Magazine, August 2019
This article should be a part of every American History class forever and ever.
With independence, the founding fathers could no longer blame slavery on Britain. The sin became this nation’s own, and so, too, the need to cleanse it. The shameful paradox of continuing chattel slavery in a nation founded on individual freedom, scholars today assert, led to a hardening of the racial caste system. This ideology, reinforced not just by laws but by racist science and literature, maintained that black people were subhuman, a belief that allowed white Americans to live with their betrayal.
Three Years of Misery Inside Google, The Happiest Company In Tech, by Nitasha Tiku for Wired, August 2019
Somehow this felt like it would be part of the same reading list as the first article on this list, in some universe that only exists in my head.
“But in many respects, Google’s most vexing threats during that period came from inside the company itself. Over the next two and a half years, the company would find itself in the same position over and over again: a nearly $800 billion planetary force seemingly powerless against groups of employees—on the left and the right alike—who could hold the company hostage to its own public image… In a larger sense, Google found itself and its culture deeply maladapted to a new set of political, social, and business imperatives.”