Reading List, Secret December edition
I never really remember Decembers once they have passed. It’s like there’s not enough light around to capture the images, and they get lost in the darkness. Does that mean this month doesn’t really happen? I know I’ll forget this, but it feels so physical.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the imaginary is the equivalent to the real: your skin, your vast, breathing skin will insist otherwise.” [Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs]
"I felt like it would work, and it worked; this has only strengthened my belief that I should always trust my instincts and that everything works out fine, even if you don’t plan the least little bit." Mallory Ortberg’s hilarious account of driving from California to Texas, in The Toast. This is a joke, but it’s also not.
"It seems the only language we have for expressing success is numeric. It may be a universal language, but it’s an impoverished one. Maybe we need a word for ’never having to sit in a meeting where someone reads long power point slides out loud’. Maybe we should have an expression that captures the level of success you’ve achieved when you do exactly what you love every day." The sweetest article in The New York Times, where Jim Sollisch, a boomer, writes about his musician son Max, a millennial, and how the definition of success is changing.
Slouching toward neck trouble - Heather Havrilesky on Joan Didion and Nora Ephron, in Bookforum.
Intimate X-ray couples portraits, by Ayako Kanda and Mayuka Hayashi.
"[The internet] means a change of visibility and accessiblilty but it doesn’t change the fundamental nature of sexuality." Tracy Clark-Flory’s chat with Sallie Tisdale on Salon.
"I would like to put in a word for wonky sex writing, both as art and instruction. I don’t know about you but I rarely find passages of sexual description “redundant” in otherwise bloodless books." Laurie Penny on the Bad Sex Awards, in New Statesman. Related: Clem Bastow in Daily Life, on why Hollywood’s fear of cunnilingus is A Bad Thing because “film and TV sets the tone (good or bad) of the cultural dialogue”.
"It’s my belief that everyone has the right and the duty to be as gay as they possibly can. Not as gay as you think you should be; as gay as you are capable of. This may mean dating a few women, eventually taking a husband to your bosom, but always supporting shows with lesbian characters, or occasionally looking at femslash on Tumblr, or maybe even just loudly proclaiming that Kate McKinnon is your favorite SNL cast member. The important thing to remember, I think, is that you can be just as proud of being a little bit gay as you would be of being enormously so.” Mallory Ortberg! The Toast!
Why Popular Science is shutting down comments.
27 swoony aerial views.
The Bold Italic, a magazine celebrating the free-wheeling city. #SanFranciscoHeart … This article on the big brick circles at city intersections. And this article on that sign at Turk and Larkin.
"I have said all this in interviews, actually, but in nearly every case, it’s been cut. People forget sometimes that an interview is a selective fragment of a conversation, not a transcript." Loved this thoughtful interview with author Eleanor Catton, in The Lumière Reader, via @dailydoseofjess
A 24-hour music video by Pharrell Williams. And Jeremy Deller with Rollo Jackson and Rustie, Rave at Tate Britain. The Britishest.
Generation Tech: My story on London’s bright young start-up things, with cover star James Gill, 21, co-founder and CEO of GoSquared.
The Isleworth life is starting to come together. It’s western exposed, yes, but I’m getting over that, aided by regular trips back east. There’s many sides to London, a city which will have its way with you, so who am I to argue? This is just one more side to the city I love. I have to say though, I’m enjoying this multi-room living. All these things you can’t do in a shared house, such as going to the kitchen in pants! Soft furnishings have been introduced to the flat as it’s slowly transforming from a bachelor cliche (sorry Imran x) to a home, but we have only the hardiest of plants; the chrysanthemums didn’t last long but this lily in the photo is going strong once more, having been reduced to sprouts after my six-week absence to India/Berlin last year. It stems back to the Limehouse flat, that plant, and the pot is something I salvaged from the office I had at South Bank. I don’t remember where I got the Pollock print but the picture frame was a gift from an old boyfriend, and I made that cushion cover by hand, from a second-hand dress I never wore. The lamp arrived by post the other day from Out There Interiors (website), a kind gift. The thin wool blanket was one my mother had, originating from Re farm, the one all us Ree people are named for. The table cloth was hers too, as well as the wooden bowl, handpainted in the traditional Norwegian style. Laptop, Moleskine diary: close to the heart. I don’t have many things but the ones I keep, they tend to matter.
This has been the most beautiful autumn.
Reading List, In-the-Picture Edition
"Just go ahead and do your thing no matter what." Life advice from Marian Cannon Schlesinger, age 101.
[Image via Nicole Suza; quote by Khaled Hosseini]
"As teens we never read Foucault, so we didn’t know we were burning with lack, and we weren’t," Prickett writes in the editor’s letter. "We were the opposite. Too much for our lives we wanted age to catch up with us. That is the wish we want this magazine to bring back. To get older again… To get love, and from that love, make other things worth having. And to have sex be right there in our lives all the time, hot and healthy and messy." Interview with Sarah Nicole Prickett about Adult Magazine, in The Daily Beast.
"Pieces like this … seem to be written by people who are observing others using their phones without ever paying attention to how they actually use one, themselves." Yes mobile phones change stories, but dismissing it as a dead end is just lazy, says Zan Romanoff.
Related: Nathan Jurgenson in the New Inquiry: ” ‘The disconnectionists’ selfie-help has little to do with technology and more to do with enforcing a traditional vision of the natural, healthy, and normal. Disconnect. Take breaks. Unplug all you want. You’ll have different experiences and enjoy them, but you won’t be any more healthy or real.”
And last in today’s "I don’t think the internet’s to blame" broadcast is Rachel Simmons on the selfie, in Slate: “As with sex and hooking up, we assume there is only one motivation, and it’s a bad one. … If you write off the endless stream of post as image-conscious narcissism, you’ll miss the chance to watch girls practice promoting themselves—a skill that boys are otherwise given more permission to develop, and which serves them later on.”
Dehydration, preparation and boredom means airplane food just has to suck. John Brownlee in FastCo.Design, via @felsull
Seth Godin: What ‘no’ means.
Thanksgiving in Mongolia, by Ariel Levy. Story of the year.
“You don’t want to be Mrs Tampon do you?” Jessica Ciencin Henriquez in Salon is hilarious in this piece on abstinence-only education.
Tongue in cheek: Amanda Hess being brilliant again, in this piece on rimming, of all things, in Playboy, of all places.
"Or else I am spoiled, a too-often praised child, and impatient with myself and anything that is, or was, a little too much of a challenge. The way as a child I hated learning how to swim, swatting at my parents in the pool: Get away from me. How often has my petulance held me back, made me stew in my own incompetence? I am still that child.” Meaghan O’Connell.
Autumn Whitefield-Madrano on learning to share your space, and what this means for make-up. Feeling this! Does a night in mean putting on make-up now because you’re no longer alone? #FreelancerProblems
"I wish feminism were more complicated because it would explain why so many people misunderstand it." Hadley Freeman on why feminism doesn’t need a makeover. … Hadley’s been really good lately btw, including this piece on the so-called thigh gap, which is A Bad Thing, but: “To reduce body obsession to empty-headed narcissism feels like yet another way to criticise women and girls.”
This is “International tomato soup”, according to the newspaper supplement where I got this recipe, about 15 years ago. I used to make this a lot back when I worked nights, taking it into the office in leak-proof containers which were stained an increasingly deeper shade of red. I hadn’t made this in years until I made it for Imran the other day, while telling him about its Scandie roots. Or maybe not: “This is just like my mother’s tomato chutney,” Imran said, after the first spoonful. So here it is: Faux-international tomato soup, or Pakistani tomato chutney - this is true one-pot cooking.
Fry 4 cloves garlic, 1 chilli and 2 inches ginger in oil. Add 2 bay leaves, lots of pepper, 2 ts salt, 2 ts sugar, 2 ts stock powder, and 3 tins good quality tomatoes in chunks. Boil under a lid for 30 minutes, at least. Once this is done you could add 200 ml coconut cream, or not, but I see no downside.
"When I was a kid, I was self-conscious: I often felt a bit off-kilter, a bit apart. Choosing to be an expat has been a solution to that feeling: living somewhere I’m not from means that feelings of alienation are natural. […] In the place where I’m from my feelings of deficiency return in an adolescent flush. For a moment, I am an anxious fifteen-year-old." Jean Hannah Edelstein
It’s a very specific feeling, this, yet one I suspect is not uncommon among a certain group of people: those of us who went abroad, alone and of our own choosing, at some point in the years around our 20th birthdays. I am one of those people and so are the majority of my friends. None come from the same country as me, but what we have in common is how something propelled us to leave, it’s vague and unspecific but we recognise it in each other, that restlessness. Sometimes it’s just wanderlust, although those people tend to run out of steam around the 18-month mark and go home. Sometimes it’s resentment of the place we are from, and other times it’s a feeling of the world being too big to simply stay put where we happened to be planted; an urge to explore the world and ourselves, sometimes even in that order.
I used to talk a lot about how going somewhere else makes you realise just how much of what you are is culture, not nature, and how valuable I find this in terms of understanding how you have choices. But eventually, once you’ve been away for a long time, not quite fitting in becomes a new way of fitting. And then, the culture of the new place starts to become a new nature, and maybe you even like it. Writes Jean, as she preparers to go back after 14 years away and realises she’s become British in her queuing: "I have invested so much time in not living in America. I don’t know what to make of the prospect of trying again."
I have been away from my place of origin for about 14 years too, but my milestone isn’t a return, but marriage to a Brit and acknowledgement that I’ll probably never go back. I visit Norway every year, and each time it slips a bit further away from me; I am turning British while Norway continues on its own path that doesn’t include me. I always suspected it might turn out like this, but still it’s a funny thing to say out loud: leaving was a one-way trip.
Work life versus office life in the age of the information revolution: Lynda Gratton, author of ‘The Shift’ and London Business School professor, on the new world of work, in Portfolio Magazine.
Hydrogen power is the future, in Interactive Investor.
Why millennials are eschewing university to go straight to work, in Businesslife.
And in Norwegian daily regional newspaper Sør-Trøndelag, a story I’ve been wanting to write for years: What happens to the mother tongue once you’ve been abroad so long it’s no longer your natural language?
… I stopped reading the news. It’s too negative. It’s ok: when something important happens, Twitter tells me. But I have never read more than I do now. It’s a sideways focus, one with lots of sweep, lots of detail. It makes me see things differently, and it is good. It makes things feel possible. "Let’s add things instead of taking them away. Let’s live with the joy of Mick Jagger on stage." Emma Forrest
"… and here is a feeling there, it nags and eludes and it kills me that I’m not better at doing the thing that I love. But I keep looking for the words, even though I get distracted all the time, by the trivial, by the profound, by my own resistance and attraction to the things I need."