Capitalism, the German sociologist Jens Beckert argues, is based on fantasy: People (and institutions) spend, save, and earn money in hopes of achieving an imagined life. But the future of capitalism and the financial market—and the ability to achieve that fantasy—is shrouded in uncertainty. So how does one understand it? Through literature, as Beckert suggests.Sally Rooney’s sophomore novel, Normal People, embeds politics into a love story about two people of different socioeconomic statuses, demonstrating “how relationships can function like miniature states,” as the critic Annalisa Quinn writes. In Marie Kondo’s best-selling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which has been adapted into a Netflix series, the physical and emotional effects of consumer culture are revealed for KonMari converts—but, as one writer notes, an immense privilege goes along with having clutter that can easily be thrown or given away.In the world of real estate, … [Read more...] about The Books Briefing: Money, Money, Money
I know why the caged birds sing
In the years before he became Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam apparently chose not to read books in which blackface was present. “I used just a little bit of shoe polish to put under my—or on my—cheeks,” he said about the day he impersonated Michael Jackson in blackface. “I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that.”Now, as governor, Northam is choosing not to heed calls for his resignation. He is denying he’s pictured on his medical school yearbook page in blackface or in a Ku Klux Klan outfit above the notation of his alma mater, his interests in pediatrics, and his quote advocating having “another beer.”Is Northam, then and now, two sides of the same blackfaced white man affronting African Americans? He wants to be seen another way.“Now that he knows better, he is going to do better,” a Northam adviser told BuzzFeed.He is being presented as another white … [Read more...] about A Reading List for Ralph Northam
At their worst, there’s little to distinguish poorly conceived memoirs from the kind of thing better suited for a mental health professional. At their best, memoirs burn through the “me” of the genre, and into the universal of the human experience. Those masterly memoirs are rare: Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” comes to mind. “Anything that works against you can also work for you once you understand the Principle of Reverse,” Angelou tells us in that debut autobiography, thereby generously bestowing her readers with the precious key to her own liberation. In other words, a beach read offers escapism; an excellent read offers the means to escape. Enter, then, into my reading nights this dark winter season three memoirs written by women who have in common their gender but little else. Gallingly, none of the works rise very far above this special-interest corner; they’re neither sufficiently escapist for beach reads, … [Read more...] about The Examined Life May Be More Worth Living. Reading About It Is Another Matter.
This September, outside a boutique store in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, members of the Well-Read Black Girl book club sat in a misshapen circle of folding chairs on the sidewalk. The sky was gray, rain minutes from spilling over onto the diasporic spread of bantu knots, dreads, twist-outs, wash-and-gos, afros and braids below; one woman covered her pressed hair with a scarf in anticipation. They listened intently while Glory Edim, who created the book club, interviewed Charlene A. Carruthers, author of “Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements.” A number of passers-by slowed down to hear the two women in conversation, and by the end it was hard to say who had planned to be there and who had come upon the gathering by chance. Well-Read Black Girl started as an online community in 2015, when Edim launched an Instagram account where she posted writers’ quotes and shared the books she was reading. At the time, she was … [Read more...] about ‘Well-Read Black Girl’ Is Bigger Than Glory Edim
Melvina Young, 55, is a senior writer at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Mo. How hard could it be to write pithy lines for a greeting card? That’s what many people think, that we are the lowbrow ditch diggers of the writing profession, the punch lines of jokes and films. Frankly I, too, thought this would be a quotidian task. But it requires a specific, well-honed skill set. I do a lot of research, sit in on focus groups, read The New York Times, check discussion boards, Tumblr, Pew Research, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, consumer trend studies, and we have team brainstorming sessions before I sit down to write. What was your professional writing experience before joining Hallmark? I came from academic writing. With a master’s degree in African-American studies and as a Ph.D. candidate in U.S. history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, I taught women’s studies, black history, empathy and social justice at the university and wrote articles, such … [Read more...] about She Made the Shift From Academic Writing to Hallmark Cards