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sitdown sunday

Sitdown Sunday: 7 deadly reads

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web.

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.

1. The Rape Joke

Patricia Lockwood writes a poem that is both discomfiting and truthful; shocking and real. It’s a poem that is hard to read but easy to imagine. This piece has received a phenomenal reaction online, evoking extremely strong reactions from those who have read it. What do you think? (Some adult language) (The Awl) (Approx 9 minutes reading time – 1935 words)

The rape joke is that he was seven years older. The rape joke is that you had known him for years, since you were too young to be interesting to him. You liked that use of the word interesting, as if you were a piece of knowledge that someone could be desperate to acquire, to assimilate, and to spit back out in different form through his goateed mouth.

2. Writing and witchcraft

Victoria Best delves into the life of Shirley Jackson, the American author of We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Suffering from ill health and obesity, having lived through an unhappy adulterous marriage and relying on a cocktail of amphetamines and tranquilisers to keep herself going, Jackson was in a tough place in her final year. This sympathetic and fascinating profile digs deep into the personal tragedy and literary triumph that tangled together in Jackson’s tumultuous life. (Open Letters Monthly) (Approx 24 minutes reading time – 4939 words)

“She became psychotic,” her agent, Carol Brandt, told biographer Judy Oppenheimer. “She wouldn’t come out of her room. She huddled by her bed.” Her daughter described how the children had to take over the running of the household, the province where Shirley had ruled supreme. “Sometimes she would go out to the car and say, ‘I really think I’m going to make it to the store today,’” her daughter, Sally said. “Then she’d grip the steering wheel and start to cry. I’d take her back inside and she’d say, ‘Don’t tell your father. Just take me up to my room.’” Worst of all, she couldn’t write.

3. Frack life

Elizabeth Shepherd writes about the impact of fracking on US towns from a viewpoint heretofore unexplored – that of a stripper. Working in the very towns that have seen the influx of money and people that fracking brings, she is able to see exactly how the flow of both of these impacts the town’s economic situation. This gives a compelling insight into the highs and lows of working as a stripper in smalltown America. (Buzzfeed) (Approx 37 minutes reading time – 7426 words)

There’s something sad about profiting from the activities of an industry dedicated to sucking out natural resources that, once used, make the planet less hospitable to life as we know it. When I heard some customers talk about the possibility of oil exploration in my beloved, beautiful western Montana, my stomach dropped. But on a personal level, it felt like I was providing a needed service.

4. Sister, sister

Allie Conti explores the question of why there are so few nuns today. In doing so, Conti meets the women currently making up the sisterhood, and looks at the reasons why convents are closing down at a rapid rate. What is going to happen now that the existing population of nuns is aging and there aren’t enough younger women to replace them? (Vice) (Approx 13 minutes reading time – 2702 words)

The religious life used to be far more popular among Catholics, especially women, than it is now. In 1965, the number of sisters in the US peaked at 181,000. Nuns were so common back then that the strict, ruler-wielding nuns of Catholic schools became a pop-culture trope. Some sisters participated in Civil Rights marches, worked in hospitals, and devoted themselves to social justice causes. But today, that kind of devotion has become so unpopular that there are fewer than 60,000 nuns in America, and those who remain are aging rapidly—only 12 percent of nuns were younger than 60 in 2009, a study found, while 10 percent were older than 90.

5. Discards

Nilofar Ansher examines the ‘waste plate’ – the tradition of having a plate for discarded food left at the end of a meal – and how it relates to how we consume food, how we treat waste, and how we ignore excess. Along the way, she examines why humans have a distaste towards handling waste food, and the socio-cultural reasons behind women’s role in being left to deal with it. (Long form writer) (Approx 10 minutes reading time – 2147 words)

In traditional families, it’s the woman who is expected to serve and clear away the table, and while I co-habited with my parents-in-law for a few weeks, I was expected to uphold this tradition. It was the toughest and quickest lesson for me in overcoming disgust. From never having cleared the waste plate in my maternal home to having to clear the plates off my new, extended family. I had to display a fierce need to clear away the waste, there by proving that I had adopted the new family as my own – bones, curry leaves and spat-out seeds included.

6. The truth in between

Jay Caspian Kang writes about Reddit, and its role in wrongly ‘unmasking’ one of the Boston bombers – who turned out to actually be a young man who had taken his own life. He asks, should the hugely popular website be blamed for the spreading of a smear? He meets the family of the late Sunil Tripathi, and documents the timeline that led to the student being mistakenly named as one of the bombers. (New York Times) (Approx 31 minutes reading time – 6365 words)

Minutes after the world first saw the suspects’ photos, a user on Reddit, the online community that is also one of the largest Web sites in the world, posted side-by-side pictures comparing Sunil’s facial features with the face that would later be identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The pictures were accompanied by speculation about the circumstances surrounding Sunil’s disappearance and the FBI’s involvement in his search. By 8 pm, three hours after the FBI released the suspects’ photos, angry messages began to appear on the Tripathi’s Facebook page


What happened to Monica Lewinsky after the Bill Clinton scandal? This 2001 article by Vanessa Grigoriadis meets Lewinsky post-scandal, when “she seems to enjoy life as a one-name celebrity – though she’d rather not discuss what she’s famous for”. What is life like for a woman whose name is connected with sexual antics involving a president? The truth is that she sadly can’t escape what happened – and articles like this certainly won’t let her forget it. (New York Magazine) (Approx 34 minutes reading time – 6948 words)

“The other night, I was thinking about that whole thing,” says Monica, now 27. “At first, I couldn’t leave my house. I was there with the shades drawn, and outside were reporters and camera vans and people yelling my name and throwing things at my window. I was like this prisoner. Then one day, when everything had died down a bit, my mother let me go out on the balcony. It was this giant step. I started crying. She said, ‘Don’t you see, Monica, this is a big victory! Today you’re on the balcony, in a month you might walk to the corner, and someday, in a couple of years, your life will almost be normal.’ “

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

The Sports Pages – the best sports writing collected every week by >

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