America This is Quite Serious: Obama’s America

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Humility and steeliness. Love. Hope. Optimism. Vigor and strength. This is what our politics should be. America this is quite serious. Listen:

Read more in our election year series “America This is Quite Serious.”

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What We’re Reading – August 2016

The Fire This Time

The Fire This Time edited by Jesmyn Ward: “National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time.”

The Field of the Cloth of Gold

The Field of the Cloth of Gold by Magnus Mills: “Magnus Mills’s new novel takes its name from the site of a 1520 meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I of France, to improve relations between the countries as the Treaty of London deteriorated. It allegorically suggests a number of historical encounters on British soil: the coming of the Vikings, the coming of the Romans. But The Field of the Cloth of Gold sits firmly outside of time, a skillful and surreal fable dealing with ideas of ownership, empire, immigration, charisma, diplomacy, and bureaucracy.”


How I Became a North Korean by Krys Lee: “Yongju is an accomplished student from one of North Korea’s most prominent families. Jangmi, on the other hand, has had to fend for herself since childhood, most recently by smuggling goods across the border. Then there is Danny, a Chinese-American teenager whose quirks and precocious intelligence have long made him an outcast in his California high school. These three disparate lives converge when they flee their homes, finding themselves in a small Chinese town just across the river from North Korea.”

Also this month: We’ll talk about Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe, Bad Faith by Theodore Wheeler, The Humorless Ladies of Border Control by Franz Nicolay, and Girl & Flame by Melissa Reddish.

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Seeking Advice and/or Assistance re: Mountain Lions

Souvenirs - Matt Tompkins

Yes, so.

There’s a family of mountain lions living in my basement.

I say a family because I know there’s more than one, but I don’t know exactly how many. If I knew how many, I’d just give you the hard number. Like five mountain lions. But that would only be a guess.

To be fair, a family of mountain lions may not be correct either. I’m not sure they’re related. To be really precise, then: there is a group of mountain lions living in my basement. And in case you’re wondering, there’s no proper term for a group of mountain lions. I looked it up.

Not a herd, or a pack, or a gaggle, or a pride—not even a murder, as it is with crows, and which I personally think would be apt! (Please notice that I’ve not yet entirely lost my sense of humor.)

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America This is Quite Serious: Up, Simba

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Back in the year 2000, Rolling Stone sent David Foster Wallace on assignment to cover John McCain’s long-shot effort to be the Republican candidate for president. Remember John McCain? Well yeah, but do you remember him from the year 2000? When he actually seemed like a maverick and rode around the country on the Straight Talk Express, being vulnerable and open with voters, and making people feel like they’d held up Diogenes’ lantern and seen the one honest man in politics?

Remember that feeling? There is no candidate in 2016 that has accomplished anything like that feeling*.  Continue reading

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Non-Fiction by Non-Men: Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister is the author of the recent New York Times Best Seller All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. She is a writer at large for New York magazine and a contributing editor at Elle. Traister has been a National Magazine Award Finalist, writing about women in politics, media, and entertainment for The New Republic, Salon, The Nation, The New York Observer, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Big Girls Don’t Cry, Traister’s first book, about Hillary Clinton and the 2008 presidential election, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2010 and the winner of Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book prize. Anne Lamott, another non-man writer of nonfiction, describes Traister as “the most brilliant voice on feminism in the country.”

EB: What first drew you to nonfiction? Has it always been your genre?

RT: I’ve never written fiction. I was trained as a journalist—though I didn’t go to journalism school. In the late 90s, when I got out of college, I worked as an assistant to the actor Harvey Keitel. I got my second job, which was the assistant at a magazine, which I found because I had a Hollywood connection—Talk magazine was published by a movie producer, and I heard about the job through my work for Keitel. Talk was edited by Tina Brown, and while I was there, I met journalists and editors who recommended me for a job at the New York Observer. That’s where I learned to be a journalist and trained to be a reporter. First I was encouraged to learn just the mechanics of journalism: on the record, off the record, meeting deadlines, picking up the phone, gathering information, fact-checking. As I grew as a reporter, and once I had learned to get the facts down, I was encouraged to develop more of an opinionated voice.

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A Beautiful Idiot

Problems - Jade Sharma

The following passage is excerpted from Problems by Jade Sharma.

Somewhere along the way, there stopped being new days. Time progressed for sure: The rain tapered off through the night; near dawn, cars rumbled and then zoomed away. Sounds folded back into the world, moving on, light-years from the living room where I lay around, hardly living.

The soundtrack of the night looped every twelve hours: the hum of the refrigerator, the blare of a siren going by, the sound of someone turning on a faucet somewhere in the building. The Saturday night remix of the chatter of drunk guys, who smoked cigarettes in the courtyard and called each other “bro,” interspersed with the chorus of drunk girls’ high-pitched squeals every time a rat scurried out of the bushes.

Sometimes in the early morning, a man somewhere in the building would yell about the music being too loud. But I never heard any music. I only heard him yelling. Continue reading

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