Here are some things I’ve been reading and thinking about.
Wells Tower took his dad to Burning Man and the resulting story is lyrical, hilarious and vividly rendered. These sentences should sell you: “The land, the very atmosphere out there, is alien, malignant, the executioner of countless wagon trains,” as well as: “In line is a naked older guy who I know is from Southern California because his buttocks exactly resemble a sun-dried seal’s corpse I once saw on a Santa Barbara beach.” One of my favorite reads of the year.
Authors’ favorite first lines of books.
And a lovely ode to The Great Gatsby, which I overlooked in high school and intend, now, to reread. “I think Gatsby is hobbled, in part, by its status as a Great American Novel,” Susan Choi writes.
“I do not want my daughter to be ‘nice.’”
In Florida, kids ‘kill’ each other at a Hunger Games-themed camp. A dark and funny read. Also: “If you actually sit down and talk to them and they say, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ they don’t understand what they’re saying. Death for this age isn’t a final thing. It’s a reset.”
McDonald’s proves it’s impossible to live on minimum wage.
Donal Ryan got 47 rejections over three years. Then his novel made the Booker Longlist after an intern fished it from the slush pile. It’s a lesson in perseverance — and another reason we should be wary of a smaller publishing industry. “The more gatekeepers, the better the odds for the next Donal Ryan.”
Writing: “It’s a private act with public consequence, and it’s only in that private moment that I can actually figure out what it is I really mean to say.”
A lovely graduation speech from George Saunders: “If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers. We have to do that, to be our best selves.”
The book is not dead! “How a book feels and looks has a material impact on how we feel about reading. This isn’t necessarily Luddism or nostalgia. The truth is thatthe book is an exceptionally good piece of technology.”
“We hit ‘send’ much more often than we buy a first-class stamp, but there is nothing like opening a box and holding a thing, a real and actual thing that was passed across space and time by someone who wanted you to have it.”
The Metaphysical Hangover.
“Far from disgracing the profession, Ms. Flaherty has elevated it — both despite and because of her bipolar disorder.”
Gorgeous desert photography by Chrissie White.
“I can’t help but imagine an intern sitting in the Maxim offices whose main job is to maintain a Google doc of starlets’ upcoming eighteenth birthdays.”
Feel like crying? From the Modern Love archives.
“Had they seen the newspapers? The ones that showed his face and the words sex offender?” An unlikely bond forms in an unlikely community.
Some bits I liked from Joan Didion’s ‘On Keeping a Notebook.’
A brutal short story by Roxane Gay for Rookie: ‘The Year I Learned Everything.’
And lastly, a nice homage to the “natural beach-encrusted splendors and the boozy, boardwalk MTV excesses of the Jersey Shore,” which I miss every summer. There is nothing like it.