161. READ.LOOK.THINK.

READ: “In the following months, the author invited me to attend his various lectures and readings around town. I heard him talk about the idea of the paragraph on several occasions. He liked to repeat that he was bored by stories and that he didn’t enjoy reading entire novels. At the same time, however, he quoted works often and with authority, fitting them into literary eras and styles. I couldn’t tell whether his knowledge was gleaned second hand or belonged to another phase in his career when he’d read entire books.” | “My fear wasn’t even of public speaking, per se: It was a fear of people seeing me get nervous.” / “… my brain notices, does everything it can to gauge if what I’m about to say is “right,” then lets me know that “saying the wrong thing” must be risky since I invest my whole being trying to elude it, which supports my fear that my words aren’t right and sensitizes me to any possibility of wrongness — on and on, until now my brain perceives “speaking up” or “speaking in error” as life-threatening.”

“I have accumulated layer upon layer of bad feeling; of negativity, rage and doom” — on postnatal depression. | “I suffered only for being so blessed, and for my cowardice. I dodged fights, I held my tongue, I minded my rules. Do the work. Deliver on deadline. Don’t sweat the nonsense; you’re not dead. I kept Jane’s picture on my desk.” | “I had wanted leverage, and in some cases I had it. Men had started to act like scared animals, whimpering and then snapping. They had no way of knowing how hostile their very presence could feel to a woman who has been assaulted.” | “If we’re to do anything other than perform false versions of ourselves for the entertainment, or moral satisfaction, of others, we have to be willing to give voice to those words they don’t want to hear the most. Artists, writers, and thinkers are supposed to say the unsayable.” | “Since I’ve stopped my struggle to be beautiful, I am overtaken by beauty more often.” | The Crane Wife. | This piece by Rachel Cusk about Yiyun Li is now locked for subscribers but here’s a bit I can quote because I whatsapped it so much: the “not-good-enough mother, who leaves a shard of her own self-hatred inside her daughter and then disowns or disapproves of the resulting pain”. | “No one is asked to leave and no one feels anxious about out-staying their welcome.” (Rebecca May Johnson on canteens, or: why I love Westfield Stratford Food Court.) | “I am tired of the struggle […] I am always hungry. All I can do all day is wander about the streets. No one needs me. There is no place in the world for me.” | “A lot of my acerbic, cruel wisdom seems really irrelevant now.” | The ideal woman is always optimising / highly regimented.

Nico Muhly: How I write music. | “The Internet seems to me to be something like that, where what used to be passing thoughts and rumors—things intended to be spoken, intended to vanish after a moment or two—have stayed on, frozen, then thawed, then frozen, then thawed.” | “When I see beautiful 17-year-olds now, it’s not as though I’m ignorant of how one could be attracted to them. I can see their beauty and charisma as well as anyone. Maybe I even see it more clearly than those older people who seek out relationships with them, because I can’t imagine sullying it with my cynicism and beer gut and eye bags.” | “It’s now the mundane, the standard, the ho-hum that we want to keep secret, not whatever might set us apart.” | “Plus, I’m alive; I have emotional problems, I’m getting my girlfriend pregnant, all that stuff.” | Skin, stomach, vagina: the anatomy of a depression. | Click this if you need to cry. | A life-altering week on a cruise ship with a thousand lesbians. | How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell. | You can now pre-order the novel of your friend and mine, Victoria Hannan!

LOOK: The Highly Enthused podcast. | LRB 40th anniversary pink tote! | The Man in Seat Sixty-One: the train travel guide. | Amazing interview with Emily Maitlis (whose book is wonderful on audio). | Decidedly not-sweet granola. | Trash Plastic. | Food and climate change made simple. | An artist’s flat. | Smitten Kitchen family meal planning for real life. | Mama eats plants. | On Instagram: Dalston In The 80s RIO Archive, including Hackney women at Greenham Common. | Watching: Thatcher: A Very British Revolution / Everybody in the Place: an Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992 / Michael Cockerell archive.


THINK: You can pay more tax if you want to. | Are you really the ‘real’ you? | Are white girls capable of making art that’s not about themselves? / “To demand someone enter into and entertain your anxious mind-palace and reckon with your complicated and endlessly fascinating individuality can be an act of power.” | Why can’t we just call things unkind? | The politicisation of testosterone. | 1975 Icelandic women’s strike. | The language of transphobes. | Why having a third baby felt like the safe choice. | “I just say I was kind of connected to Australia. I was nearby Australia, so I learnt English from there. I just say something like that.” | You accomplished something great. So now what? | The case for redefining infertility. | Elizabeth Warren is completely serious. | Gutting a pile of books. | Poor pupils’ Xmas jumper shame. | How to bullyproof your child. | The new school bullies aren’t children — they’re parents. | The secret UK government blueprints shaping post-terror planning. | Precrastination. (I’m a sufferer.) | “‘professionalism‘ is mostly just codified racism/ classism/ sexism/ queerphobia/ etc meant to discredit the work & expertise of marginalized groups.”


Our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a mini-primer: his ten ages / “Let’s play reading” / Sinking giggling into the sea / He can never be found out because his mendacity was never hidden / “I feel 13 again because the old questions reassert themselves. How did these people get here?” / Why boarding schools produce bad leaders. | A poem: Bad New Government.



Climate stuff: “Young people have led the climate strikes. Now we need adults to join us too”: Greta Thunberg. Strike on September 20 if you can. | Ten steps for personal resilience in the face of a changing climate. | Roadmap to a UK Green New Deal. | “We have for too long as scientists rested on the assumption that by providing indisputable facts and great data that we are…counter[ing] the forces against science. And obviously that strategy has failed miserably. What we need right now is all the scientists who care so deeply…to shake off the fear that holds them back from engaging in this space.” This was, she says, the first time she had placed her “personal voice and body on the line.” | Authoritarians are less willing to make sacrifices for the environment. | From control to connection: A new ethos of care.