This week has been a sad one. Mary Oliver died on Thursday aged 83. More than anything, I recommend people reread their favorite Oliver poems and relish her love for the natural world.
In other news, the government shutdown is still in full swing with no end in sight. To ease the burden, Chapo Trap House and Amber Frost provide comic reprieve and hope for the future, Vinson Cunningham talks about the landscape of hell, and we remember James Baldwin and Patrice Lumumba.
I am unabashedly obsessed with a little known podcast called Chapo Trap House. Its hosts excoriate most players in modern politics, and their collective voice has provided fuel to our nascent rage. The episode “MacKenzie’s 60 Billion Dollar Challenge” explains why Sanders is our only hope. (In tandem with this, I also recommend reading Amber Frost’s piece in The Baffler–“It’s Bernie, Bitch.“)
This week marked the 58th anniversary of Patrice Lumumba’s death. See Jacobin’s profile of the ill-fated leader.
Here we are again. Another week, another roundup. Most of the articles I loved this week come straight from LitHub: the greatest lit website you or I will ever encounter. My keen interest in the work of Jia Tolentino led me to a review she wrote of the song “Rude” by Magic! It was published a few years ago, but never have I witnessed such sweet vivisection. Otherwise it’s a mixed bag of true crime, elegy, and writing about writing/writers.
Here are the things I loved this week:
“The Perils of Pearl and Olga” by Clair McKelway appeared in the New Yorker this week. The sinister and twisted story will satisfy any true crime aficionado.
Some of my favorite book bloggers publish weekly roundups of things they loved, and many of them contain links to articles, artists, or products that I end up really enjoying. I’ve decided to contribute my own weekly lists of things I love. This week, I’ll be sharing a handful of articles I found fascinating. Here goes!
“Sally Rooney Gets in Your Head” is a profile of the writer by Lauren Collins for the New Yorker. Anything Sally Rooney related is bound to grab my attention. This article in particular paints a portrait of Rooney as a wunderkind of literature.
As much as I love year-end “best of” lists, compilations of books to look out for in the year to come are my favorite. The Guardian happens to publish some of my favorite lists, and I was excited to see the books its contributors highlighted for 2019.
Every morning, I get emails from Anne Bogel’s blog “Modern Mrs. Darcy.” She compiles my favorite weekly lists because they often draw my attention to bookish articles I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. This past week, she highlighted “Jane Austen’s Subtly Subversive Linguistics” in which the author argues that Clueless is the most faithful Austen adaptation.
LitHub is my absolute favorite. They publish fascinating pieces about writers and artists that are often forgotten by other book websites and bloggers. I tweeted last week, that if I had an aesthetic, it would be their article titled “Edward Gorey, Frank O’Hara and Harvard’s Gay Underground.”
Also from LitHub, a hilarious rundown of “The Weirdos of Russian Literature.” The next time I break plans, I’ll just pull a Turgenev and tell people I couldn’t have possibly gone out because my thumbs are too small. What a legend.
Yesterday morning, The New Yorker published an essay penned by critically-acclaimed author Junot Díaz. This personal history, titled “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma,” details Díaz’s being raped at the age of 8-years-old and how that horrific event almost destroyed his life.
He addresses the piece to an individual referred to as “X” — someone who approached the author during a book signing and asked if the sexual abuse alluded to in his books came from personal experience. Terrified of broaching the darkness of his past that had yet to escape him, Díaz avoided giving an answer and watched as X drifted away, “shoulders hunched.”
Of the harrowing encounter, Díaz writes:
“That violación. Not enough pages in the world to describe what it did to me. The whole planet could be my inkstand and it still wouldn’t be enough. That shit cracked the planet of me in half, threw me completely out of orbit, into the lightless regions of space where life is not possible. I can say, truly, que casi me destruyó.”
He outlines a childhood marred by bouts of depression, mood swings, emotional isolation, suicidal ideation, and the overbearing weight of shame. The shattering of his identity as a Dominican man.
Bravery isn’t a strong enough word for what is expressed in this essay — in reaching out to that individual fan who, like many of us, identifies with the boundless dimensions of the author’s work — Díaz offered readers a vulnerability in the beautiful and humane medium of language, giving hope to people who continue to suffer from such traumas.
It is an offering — it is a glimpse into the recovery process of someone who survived in darkness for so long.
The essay also illuminates the complex web of Díaz’s work, from his short stories in Drown and This is How You Lose Her, to his epic novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and his recently-published children’s book, Islandborn. Though it was the latter that profoundly influenced Díaz’s decision to finally recall his rape in such an open platform. In doing so, the age-old fear of being “found out” returned to him during a time when he was being questioned about his own childhood history more than ever before.
“Toni Morrison wrote, ‘Anything dead coming back to life hurts,’” writesDíaz. “In Spanish we say that when a child is born it is given the light. And that’s what it feels like to say the words, X—. Like I’m being given a second chance at the light.”
Díaz’s openness is a beacon for those who no longer believe healing is possible. The process might seem never-ending, but examining and channeling the pain into words–emboldening the universe as we speak — is the first step.