Recommended Reading: John F. Kennedy’s 1960 essay, “The Soft American,” in which the president warns us about “an increasingly large number of young Americans who are neglecting their bodies.”
“Because what [narcissists] have inside is empty space, they have had to make a study of the selves of others in order to invent something that looks and sounds like one. Narcissists are imitators par excellence. And they do not copy the small, boring parts of selves. They take what they think are the biggest, most impressive parts of other selves, and devise a hologram of self that seems superpowered. Let’s call it ‘selfiness,’ this simulacrum of a superpowered self.” Go enjoy this excerpt from Kristin Dombek’s new book The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism.
“As time passed, I realized the Philip Roth I’d known before the two documentaries we ended up doing was in the process of transformation. The Roth I’d known for many years was an obsessively committed writer who, in the terrifying limbo between one book and another, could fall victim to a storm of depression or be spent to the point of looking as if his blood had been drained from his veins… This Philip Roth seemed to be discovering new, unexpected pleasures in life, like spending time in bed reading in the morning or inviting friends to his home to share with him the meals prepared each night by his newly hired, young and lovely cook.” Livia Manera Sambuy writes about her friendship with Philip Roth for The Believer. Pair with Gabriel Roth‘s recent guide to “everything you need to know” about the elder Roth’s oeuvre.
New this week stateside is buzzed-about Booker shortlister Room by Emma Donoghue. Also out: Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, a new collection by “20 Under 40” lister Yiyun Li; Sigrid Nunez’s post-apocalyptic Salvation City; and a McSweeney’s-published memoir Half a Life by Chang and Eng author Darin Strauss.
If you’re like this writer, you’ve read enough by now about the scourge of writer’s block. The literature on authors having trouble producing literature is enough to sustain a whole genre by itself. Which is why it’s refreshing to read this article, which tackles another problem: the vexing, peculiar strain of overload known as reader’s block.
“If Do-It-Yourself culture continues to gain appeal as fast as climate change lays on the chaos, we will need to look to the hinterlands for both practical guidance and hints about the fashions of the future. I recently watched Werner Herzog’s 2010 documentary (directed in collaboration with Dmitry Vasyukov) Happy People, which follows a few Siberian fur trappers over the course of a year, and let me tell you: when Celsius and Fahrenheit converge, Gennady of Bakhtia does not waste his time tossing boiling water into the air just to see what happens.” On surviving the next polar vortex.
“Write a short story from the point-of-view of a babysitter who one summer night witnesses something she never expected to see in her life, and then do a ‘find and replace’ in your Word doc until each instance of ‘babysitter’ becomes ‘Navy SEAL.'” Leigh Stein shares some “Writing Prompts for Girls and Women” with The Rumpus. Pair with our own Emily St. John Mandel‘s review of Leigh Stein’s The Fallback Plan.
“What people call you shapes how you see yourself, and teaches you how to navigate the world. But the moment you name something, you limit the possibilities of what it can be.” Marie Elia, who was trained as a cataloguing librarian, argues that our biases affect the way we describe books at Queen Mob’s Teahouse. Pair with our essay on “A Library of the Mind.”