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Canoes by a lake in Canada Alamy Stock Photo
7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: A summer camp for grieving children

Settle down in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

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. Sally Rooney’s Catholicism

John Duggan writes of author Sally Rooney’s understanding of the perpetual appeal of a higher power, despite a modernising Ireland.

(First Things, approx 8 mins reading time)

Rooney presents religion as one might expect from a chronicler of contemporary Ireland—up to a point. Her characters inhabit a society in which the ancient faith is a nullity, a ghost that scares no one, partly because no one notices it. One character finds funerals and weddings “comforting in a kind of sedative way,” their communality soothing to the “neurotic individualist”; otherwise, Mass is a childish thing consigned to the past, or else a duty fulfilled infrequently in the present.

Morals have gone the way of faith. One can scour the novels for traces of Catholic or post-Catholic repression and find none. Sex is like a carousel, with characters awaiting their turns to get on and off and on again, with partners of the same or the opposite sex, and with mixed emotional results. One Irish mother in a Rooney novel tells her son: “As long as you’re using protection, you can do what you want.” She speaks for the nation, you feel.

2. Ghost towns

empty-derelict-properties-on-the-junction-of-charlemont-and-harcourt-streets-opposite-new-office-developments-dublin-ireland-july-2022 Derelict properties in Dublin city Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Gerard O’Toole looks at Ireland’s derelict towns and what can be done about them.

(Irish Examiner, approx 4 mins reading time)

Whether it’s the ruins of a military barracks in Nenagh, a collapsed building in Mitchelstown, a ghost estate in Abbeyfeale or the not so ‘Grand Hotel’ in Tramore, vacant and derelict buildings represent a legacy of neglect for our physical environment.

3. Is Britney really free?

Rebecca Jennings takes a deep dive into the supposed end to the conservatorship of Britney Spears.

(Vulture, approx 17 mins reading time)

To the loosely connected cross section of fans identified by hashtags like #BritneyIsNotFree, #WhereIsBritney, and #FindBritney, there was something strange about Spears’s new life. She was still working and hanging out with some of the same people she had during the conservatorship. Wouldn’t she have wanted a fresh start? Fans couldn’t shake the suspicion that something was off in the photos and videos of her 2022 wedding. Why were all these celebrities whom she didn’t seem to know in attendance? And was it possible the Spears they had been seeing on Instagram — the one in pictures that were often blurry — wasn’t the real Britney at all?

4. ‘Venice of Detroit’

Brian Allnutt talks to locals of Jefferson Chalmers, a unique, historic neighborhood, oriented around a canal system in Detroit, USA, as residents grapple with the mounting pressures of a changing climate.

(The Guardian, approx 4 mins reading time)

Residents see an existential threat from both the high costs and high water. These frustrations, coupled with climate crisis uncertainty, have left some questioning the neighborhood’s future.

“Is it time to turn the page in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood?” longtime Jefferson Chalmers resident Frank Bach wrote on the website Nextdoor. He pointed to the extreme fluctuations in water levels and the neighborhood’s location on a former wetland as challenges that might be difficult to overcome.

“What was made here in the 1800s isn’t working any more,” he wrote.

5. Grief Camp

Mitchell Consky writes of an unusual summer camp that caters specifically to children dealing with grief.

(The Walrus, approx 12 mins reading time) 

The ensuing days at this summer camp in McKellar, Ontario, a two-and-a-half-hour ride north of Toronto, would be full of traditional camper activities. More than a hundred boys and girls would climb the high ropes, jump into the lake for polar bear dips, and roast s’mores around campfires. But beneath the cheery surface of the conventional childhood experience, this was a different type of program. Here, a group of grieving kids—and the adults overseeing them—would try to find solace in the outdoors.

6. ‘Ruzzki not welcome’

ukranian-and-georgian-flags-tbilisi-april-2022-the-war-in-ukraine-has-raised-a-huge-wave-of-solidarity-in-georgia Ukrainian and Georgian flags fly on a building in Tbilisi, Georgia Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Joshua Kucera writes of the frosty reception some Russians are getting as they move to Georgia to escape the war.

(The Guardian, approx 12 mins reading time)

Georgians have long insisted that their grievance is only with the Russian state, not with the Russian people. But the invasion of Ukraine has all but eroded that distinction. The flight of tens of thousands of Russians who consider themselves victims of their own government comes just as Georgians are more inclined than ever to place collective responsibility for the war in Ukraine upon all Russians. The mass migration has roiled Georgia and confronted it with knotty moral questions: who counts as a victim? What responsibility do citizens hold for the actions of their nations? How should we allocate our sympathy?

7. Stripping off

Ann Lee looks at how explicit nudity is creeping back on to our screens.

(The Guardian, approx 5 mins reading time)

[Scarlet] Johansson and [Jennifer] Lawrence have both acted in nude scenes before. But as two of the most bankable female stars in Hollywood, they certainly won’t need to do any nudity to further their careers. Promoting Asteroid City, Johansson laughed about how “uncomfortable” Anderson was while filming her nude scene, the implication being that she was relaxed about it herself. Lawrence has also talked in the past about how “empowering” her nude scenes were in 2018’s spy thriller Red Sparrow after naked photos of hers were leaked in the 2014 celebrity hacking scandal. For her No Hard Feelings nude fight scene, “I didn’t even have a second thought,” she told Variety. “It was hilarious to me.” Hsu has similarly stressed how comfortable Lim and the team behind Joy Ride made her feel about the vulva tattoo reveal. The message from the three women is clear: any nudity is strictly their own choice (even if they use a body double).

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