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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019

Sitdown Sunday: The life and tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman

Grab 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. The life and death of Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman death Source: Ian West

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s partner Mimi O’Donnell writes movingly and frankly about their relationship, family, and his untimely death.

(Vogue, approx 32 mins reading time)

When Phil and I weren’t collaborating, we would see each other at meetings, readings, rehearsals, or any number of the endless parties the company threw. It was a fertile, exciting time—we were all young, at our best and healthiest, and we were all in love with theater and with one another. Before every event, I’d think, Oh, God, I hope Phil’s there. And if he wasn’t, I was disappointed. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to date him. It was that I thought, You’re so attractive on every level that I want to be near you as much as I can.

2. Are they Scientology schools?

We don’t have them here, but in the USA they have ‘school voucher programmes’, and soon those schools will include ones that promote the Scientologist doctrine.

(Huffington Post, approx 13 mins reading time)

Clearwater Academy is a private institution, which means that in general, the school can teach what it likes with little oversight. But the learning materials it uses raise questions about its links to the Church of Scientology, in light of the school receiving more than $500,000 in taxpayer money for student scholarships between 2012-2016. HuffPost has been investigating the schools that receive such money for students, which comes via state-level voucher or tax credit programs.

3. The problem with muzak

App stock Source: PA Archive/PA Images

As the music world changes, Spotify has become the world’s largest streaming music company. Liz Pelly examines its obsession with mood and activity-based playlists, and what this means for listeners and music-makers.

(The Baffler, approx 20 mins reading time)

 One independent label owner I spoke with has watched his records’ physical and digital sales decline week by week. He’s trying to play ball with the platform by pitching playlists, to varying effect. “The more vanilla the release, the better it works for Spotify. If it’s challenging music? Nah,” he says, telling me about all of the experimental, noise, and comparatively aggressive music on his label that goes unheard on the platform. “It leaves artists behind. If Spotify is just feeding easy music to everybody, where does the art form go? Is anybody going to be able to push boundaries and break through to a wide audience anymore?”

4. The adopted black baby and the white one who replaced her

When she was eight, Amy Roost’s two brothers mentioned their ‘other sister’. She discovered her parents had adopted a black baby girl years beforehand, but had returned her.

(The New York Times, approx 14 mins reading time)

Decades later, the journeys of the two women tell a nuanced story of race in America, one that complicates easy assumptions about white privilege and black hardship. Lives take unexpected twists and turns, this family story suggests, no matter the race of those involved. And years later, it is not easy to figure out the role of race when looking for lessons learned.

5. Why women writers are better than men

These books command, not capture, your attention Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

In this essay, John Boyne writes about female and male writers, and what it means when we leave women out of the picture.

(The Guardian, approx 12 mins reading time)

I’ve been publishing novels for almost 20 years. In that time, I’ve become increasingly aware of similar double standards in the industry. A man is treated like a literary writer from the start, but a woman usually has to earn that commendation. There are exceptions. In recent years, some new female writers – Sara BaumeBelinda McKeon and Kit de Waal in particular – have broken through quickly due to the indisputable quality of their work, but others have struggled because they clashed with publishers over how female-oriented their book promotion should be.

6. Cat Person

One of the most-discussed articles online this week is Cat Person, a short story by Kristen Roupenian. Read it, then search out the many varied opinions on it.

(The New Yorker, approx 37 mins reading time)

Flirting with her customers was a habit she’d picked up back when she worked as a barista, and it helped with tips. She didn’t earn tips at the movie theatre, but the job was boring otherwise, and she did think that Robert was cute. Not so cute that she would have, say, gone up to him at a party, but cute enough that she could have drummed up an imaginary crush on him if he’d sat across from her during a dull class—though she was pretty sure that he was out of college, in his mid-twenties at least.


In 2009, Sports Illustrated looked at how big-time athletes can make a huge amount of money – but also lose it extremely quickly. And “the ways they blow it are strikingly similar”.

(Sports Illustrated, approx 33 mins reading time)

After that Ismail squandered a fortune funding not only that inspirational movie but also the music label COZ Records (“The guy was areal good talker,” says Rocket); a cosmetics procedure whereby oxygen was absorbed into the skin (“We were not prepared for the sharks in the beauty industry”); a plan to create nationwide phone-card dispensers (“When I was in college, phone cards were a big deal”); and, recently, three shops dubbed It’s in the Name, where tourists could buy framed calligraphy of names or proverbs of their choice (“The main store opened up in New Orleans, but doggone Hurricane Katrina came two months later”). The shops no longer exist.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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