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Sitdown Sunday: The incredible life and tragic death of Lyra McKee

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

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

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 incredible life and tragic death of Lyra McKee

Susan McKay writes about the late journalist Lyra McKee, and her legacy.

(The New Yorker, approx 24 mins reading time)

She grew up on Belfast’s Cliftonville Road, where swathes of decaying Victorian mansions front narrow red-brick terraces. It was known during the Troubles as Murder Mile, notorious for drive-by shootings and as a hunting ground for a sectarian gang called the Shankill Butchers; Lyra said there were certain streets that her mother still warned her to avoid, including one on which she’d seen a young man murdered. 

2. The two Jacobs

A look at post-war Britain today – in the wake of the election of Boris Johnson.

(London Review of Books, approx 40 mins reading time)

We find ourselves in a fantastical place: deep in the mire of post-Brexit politics before Brexit has happened. Brexit used to be about leaving the European Union. The contest for the Tory leadership, just drawing to a close as I write, has been a glaring signal that quitting the EU may not be the referendum’s gravest outcome. In the past three years the meaning of Brexit has shifted. First, what was supposed to be a future event with bureaucratically limited parameters became a rallying cry for a diffuse set of resentments. Now, the marshals of those resentments are poised to take over the government. 

3. ‘The town where people were raised to identify as black

Many residents of the small town of East Jackson in Ohio were raised to identify as black – but identity is a slippery and flexible thing in this town, when DNA and history come into it.

(The Guardian, approx 10 mins reading time)

Never mind that they might register to most as white by appearance, or that there is hardly a trace of black ancestry left in their blood. This inherited identity most East Jackson residents still cling to and fiercely protect is based on where they were born and who they were told they are. It comes from a history rooted in racism and an identity placed upon their ancestors – and now many of them – without their consent.

4. Carl Beech: Liar, fraudster and paedophile

On Friday, Carl Beach was sentenced to jail for lying about allegations of sexual abuse and murder involving MPs and senior figures in Britain’s intelligence services. This is a look at the fraudster’s life.

(BBC, approx  mins 19 reading time)

Beech, however, received more than £20,000 in public money as compensation for injuries he claimed were inflicted during the alleged abuse – injuries he had never actually suffered. After a 12-week trial, Beech was sentenced to 18 years in prison, having been found guilty of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice, one of fraud, and several child sexual offences.

5. The crane wife 

A beautiful essay about love, being loved, and finding strength.

(The Paris Review, approx 16 mins reading time)

Ten days after I called off my engagement I was supposed to go on a scientific expedition to study the whooping crane on the gulf coast of Texas. Surely, I will cancel this trip, I thought, as I shopped for nylon hiking pants that zipped off at the knee. Surely, a person who calls off a wedding is meant to be sitting sadly at home, reflecting on the enormity of what has transpired and not doing whatever it is I am about to be doing that requires a pair of plastic clogs with drainage holes.

6. Was the automotive era a terrible mistake?

We live for, and love, our cars. But was the invention of the car a big, bad mistake?

(The New Yorker, approx 25 mins reading time)

 Every technology has costs, but lately we’ve had reason to question even cars’ putative benefits. Free men and women on the open road have turned out to be such disastrous drivers that carmakers are developing computers to replace them. When the people of the future look back at our century of auto life, will they regard it as a useful stage of forward motion or as a wrong turn? Is it possible that, a hundred years from now, the age of gassing up and driving will be seen as just a cul-de-sac in transportation history, a trip we never should have aken?

 …AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

In 2014, Esmé Weijun Wang wrote about what it was like to experience psychosis, and believe that she had died and was reborn.

(The Toast, approx 20 mins reading time)

Let’s note that I write this while experiencing psychosis, and that much of this has been written during a strain of psychosis known as Cotard’s delusion, in which the patient believes that she is dead. What the writer’s confused state means to either of us is not beside the point, because it is the point. The point is that I am in here, somewhere: cogito ergo sum.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>  

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