BEDTIME SONGS by Kiese Laymon
Published in Oxford American, this essay by Kiese Laymon is lovely and moving in its purity. She writes evocatively about the experience of driving at night — with no particular geographic destination, just circling through town — and listening to personally meaningful music. It is poignant and quietly powerful, less about music than the feeling of listening to music when it is needed the most. As someone who has taken to a vehicle while the rest of my small town is sleeping, finding comfort in Sinéad O’Connor’s “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart” played repeatedly at top volume, I can relate.
Unlike Any Other by Nick Paumgarten
I’m perpetually behind on print issues of The New Yorker, so as long as I keep doing this “Outside Reading” thing, I will occasionally share articles from that distinguished magazine that have at least a month’s worth of dust on them. Nick Paumgarten’s evaluation of golf’s stuffiest tournament, based largely on on-site reporting from its most recent staging, is an expert takedown of the sort of grotesque ritualized privilege that often poses unconvincingly as classiness in the U.S. The details are lined up like damning evidence, straight recounting of the experience and all the trappings of Augusta National Golf Club more than enough to make the whole endeavor come across as unbearably ridiculous. (I opt for the headline used in the magazine, but it’s worth noting that the article was published online as Inside the Cultish Dreamworld of Augusta National, which is a fine encapsulation of its thesis.) Paumgarten also had the good fortune to write this article in a year notable for an unlikely win by Tiger Woods, who, within the world of professional golf, epitomizes the lack of true accountability for people in this country if they carry enough fame and wealth. His victory provides a forceful underline to the article’s depiction of outdated tradition preserved in rotting amber.
Why Would Anyone Defend Jeffrey Epstein? by Jessica Valenti
As Jessica Valenti points out, writing for GEN on the Medium platform, the inarguable villainy of convicted sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein is already prompting an insidious manipulation of rhetoric, mostly in a long game to protect other powerful men who’ve routinely engaged in criminal predatory behavior. Valenti shares a particularly repugnant quote attributed to Robert Trivers, a famed evolutionary biologist funded by Epstein to provide shady, quasi-scientific justification for the rape of children, but the assault on basic decency through language finessing is more likely to be slow and stealthy. I think this tweet from The Good Place writer Megan Amram is a useful reminder about the need to push back against attempts to soften the narrative: