I’m going to California! So I bought everything Eve Babitz to bring with me. I’ve only read Babitz’s two-page preface to L.A. Woman but based on that alone I can tell I’m going to love everything she’s written. I also just read David Trinidad’s new book Swinging on a Star and Meghan O’Rourke’s Sun in Days , both books I highly highly recommend.
—Colin Drohan, Writing Programs Coordinator
If you feel like taking a deep dive into the bizarre world of essential oil companies, I highly recommend Rachel Monroe’s longread on the industry from last week’s New Yorker . When asked how their business model is different from a pyramid scheme, one employee offered this: “You have two legs of your pyramid. I mean, not a pyramid , but, you know, it has a triangular shape.”
Just as much of a trip is Leonora Carrington’s The Hearing Trumpet . Replace exploitative essential oil companies with an institution for the elderly that is equal parts surreal and suspicious.
The more I think about it, the big business of essential oils has more in common with Carrington’s mind-bending fiction than first meets the eye.
—Allie Wuest, Editorial Assistant, Web
Just bought Helen Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours at Politics and Prose the other night, and am eager to dig in this week.
—Nicole Chung, Managing Editor, Web
This incredible piece of reporting in The Walrus . One paragraph comments on the stiff fines Canada levies on airlines and ships which happen to bring undocumented people into Canada, followed by this:
“In 1996, officers aboard the Maersk Dubai, a Taiwanese-registered ship bound for Halifax, discovered three Romanian stowaways. The officers, apparently in an effort to avoid Canadian fines, ordered that the men be thrown into the sea.”
—Megha Majumdar, Assistant Editor
I am reading Halsey Street by Naima Coster.
—Morgan Jerkins, Contributing Editor, Web
I’ve been catching up on a lot of magazine articles this week, and here are two I really liked:
“Death at a Penn State Fraternity” by Caitlin Flanagan for The Atlantic . I’ve been thinking a lot about toxic masculinity lately (I wonder why), especially the toxic masculinity of young white men, and as a former member of a sorority in Texas, the problems with campus Greek Life that Flanagan probes in this horrifying investigation seem unfortunately all too familiar. It’s a comfort to me that people like Flanagan are looking into the institutions (like fraternities) that perpetuate the kind of toxic masculinity that has fed so many of our country’s issues.
“The Year of Jen Hatmaker” by Courtney Runn for Texas Monthly . My sister, who is devoutly evangelical, just got engaged, and while I am elated for her, the engagement brought up hard things in our relationship. As a queer woman who wants to marry a woman, it can often be difficult for me to see eye-to-eye with my sister on who gets to get married (and to come to an agreement on other, much larger issues regarding queerness/holiness). Needless to say things can get a little discouraging for me, which is why I found Runn’s profile of Jen Hatmaker, a Texas evangelical leader who claims that gay marriage can be holy, interesting (and heartening, in a way). There are so many problems with Christian radicalization in this country, and communication can often feel hard, so I’ve been looking into ways to bridge the gap, as futile as that often feels.
—Kelli Trapnell, Production Associate
I’m finally all caught up on One Piece. Up next: Naruto. But not before I finish the wonderfully bizarre and very tender Last Night at the Lobster , by Stewart O’Nan. I recently got in a passionate argument about Red Lobster, and decided I needed to plumb the surprisingly deep well of feelings I have about the restaurant. Last Night at the Lobster is the perfect blend of humane and tongue-in-cheek.
—Casey Gonzalez, Creative Project Manager; Associate Editor, Black Balloon
I watched the movie Losing Ground last night. It was directed by Kathleen Collins and was ecstatically abstract and specific at the same time. I’d gone with a friend, and our reactions to it varied based on our relationships to Collins’s story collection, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? : my friend had just read it, and I have yet (am about) to read it.
—Wah-Ming Chang, Managing Editor
I’ve just read the first chapter of John L. Parker, Jr.’s Once A Runner. I was never “once a runner,” but my partner comes from the trail running and ultra scene in Ashland, Oregon. This is the book he cites if ever he is asked “why?” about long distance running. I’m intrigued by the cult-ishness of its publication history––first self published in 1978, hand-sold at running stores and bookstores, now cited as one of the best novels ever written about running. I can’t speak yet to this (or probably ever . . . I haven’t read that many novels about running), but I can speak to the winding conversations it provokes about the differences and similarities between success, failure, and persistence––somewhere there's a great metaphor about a track: the finish line is in the exact same place as the starting line.
I also recently read this hypnotic piece in Mask by Kylee V. Luce which is somehow about all of these things: Shia LeBeouf, the free market, fame-as-disease, Alain Badiou, performance art, politics, and masculinity.
One of my favorite lines: “Masculinity, in this economy?”
And listening, as usual, to Kurt Vile.
—Dory Athey, Marketing and Sales Assistant