IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair. We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.
Judith Shulevitz poses the question ‘is loneliness lethal?’ in her essay for the New Republic, which explores how loneliness can ravage our body and brain. Helpfully, the Awl has put together a list of songs about loneliness to accompany you as you’re reading, which might take the edge off somewhat… (New Republic) (Approx 25 minutes reading time – 5111 words)
Just as we once knew that infectious diseases killed, but didn’t know that germs spread them, we’ve known intuitively that loneliness hastens death, but haven’t been able to explain how. Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack.
Ned Zeman looks in Outside magazine at what happened to John Felix Bender and his partner Ann, a rich American couple who built a mansion and wildlife reserve in the jungles of Costa Rica. Instead of experiencing paradise, things begin to unravel. Did John take his own life, or was his wife involved in his death? And what happened to turn their dream into a nightmare? (Outside Magazine) (Approx 41 minutes reading time – 8338 words)
Paranoia took hold. When John wasn’t searching for cures to what ailed Ann, he was fortifying the home and buying weapons. At one point, they again fled the country, this time to New Zealand for three and a half months. Again they were advised to cut their losses and move somewhere else. But no. “We chose Costa Rica,” Ann says. “We were in love.”
Luke Darby introduces us to Lyndon Baty, a young teen who loves sports, is a fast talker, would love to play in the NBA… and has a genetic disorder, polycystic kidney disease. Because he can’t attend high school due to dialysis, he sends a robot instead. Here’s how the bot ensures that this bright young boy doesn’t lose contact with the world. (Dallas Observer) (Approx 20mins minutes reading time – 4097 words)
Lyndon’s wisecracking and attention-loving nature didn’t just make it easier for people to interact with him; it’s what’s kept him engaged. When Mr Moeller had to chew out two girls for picking on Lyndon via the robot — taping paper over the camera eye, picking it up from behind and turning it around with Lyndon unable to see the culprits — their response was: “We’d be picking on Lyndon the same if he was here.”
Mark Seal delves into the Oscar Pistorius murder case – what really happened the night that his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was shot? When a hero becomes a suspect, things are irreparably changed. (Vanity Fair) (Approx 40 minutes reading time – 8028 words)
[Detective Hilton] Botha is proud of his record. “I try to investigate every case as if it were one of my own who was murdered,” he told me. A veteran of countless homicide investigations, he said he had immediately seen the Pistorius case as a simple one. A woman is killed by her husband, her boyfriend, or her same-sex partner. It happens every eight hours in South Africa, where “intimate femicide” is the country’s leading cause of violent deaths of women.
Iris Mansour meets Dakhil Shooshtary, who is trying to keep the language of Mandeism alive, as the number of speakers dwindles steadily. “It’s tough… I feel lonely,” he tells her. The language is thought to be similar to Babylonian Hebrew, but with few of its speakers under the age of thirty, it could soon disappear from the world. Shooshtary is just one of the interesting characters clinging on to dying languages who Mansour speaks to in this fascinating piece. (Project Wordsworth) (Approx 14 minutes reading time – 2856 words)
Some languages die brutally and suddenly, others fade gradually and slowly. All language deaths are painful, especially to the last speakers like Dakhil, who bear witness at their funerals. Few can be brought back from extinction. If nobody uses their songs, metaphors and lullabies, these languages can only exist frozen as mp3 recordings and notes in a linguist’s shorthand.
Adam Doster introduces us to Jackie Mitchell, the 17-year-old baseball wunderkind who struck out two of the sport’s most talented players, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The man who discovers Mitchell’s long-forgotten story at first thinks it a hoax, and sets out to discover the truth about this plucky teen girl. (Daily Beast) (Approx 13 minutes reading time – 2747 words)
Flipping through the pages, Wallace wondered how he’d never heard about Mitchell before, and why her triumphant outing wasn’t one of those canonical anecdotes fans of America’s most nostalgic game commit to memory. Eventually, a second thought entered his mind: Is there any way in hell this story could be true?
… AND A CLASSIC READ FROM THE ARCHIVES…
In 1999, Jr Moehringer won a Pulitzer prize for his look at a small Alabama town that has seen its occupants, the descendents of slaves, spend 180 years separated from their white neighbours. But with a ferry due to be brought to the area, the locals are grappling with their feelings about the changes that may come down the river. (Los Angeles Times) (Approx 51 minutes reading time – 10,284 words)
Gee’s Bend is where the Civil War came and went, but the slaves stayed, and their children stayed, and their grandchildren stayed, and their great-grandchildren, and so on, until today, Mary Lee and 700 of her kin cling to this bulb of bottom land their ancestors were chained to. They bear the surnames of the last slaveholders to live here. They grow corn near the slaveholders’ headstones. They come and go amid the ghosts and dust devils that dance on the site of the old Big House.