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7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: I escaped the cult - but not its mentality

Settle back 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. I was Caroline Calloway

This essay by Natalie Beach went viral this week. It’s about her friendship with the now notorious Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway.

(The Cut, approx 31 mins reading time)

I never felt better than when viewed through Caroline’s eyes. But a year later, I came across the journal I’d kept on the trip and realized how bitter I’d been. “I found myself wishing something bad would happen … a humiliation, like the one I feel always,” I had written. “There has to be a price for getting everything you want. For never being embarrassed.” It read like a tantrum: “I am beginning to feel like a child or an unpaid intern,” I wrote, “both of which I had been recently and never wanted to be again.”

2. Stephen Ireland speaks

In this interview with Stephen Ireland, he gives an insight into the difficulties and scandals he’s faced in his career. [Needs subscription]

(The Athletic, approx 20 mins reading time)

“I know I’m not a City legend,” he says during the course of a frank, three-hour assessment of his life and career, which touches on frustration, regret, vulnerability and defiance.

3. I escaped the cult – but not its mentality 

Daniella Young writes about her time in a cult, and how it affected her life.

(Narratively, approx 15 mins reading time)

COG members believed in Jesus, love, brotherhood and the looming specter of the Apocalypse, when the world would end in fire and brimstone. The group had originally held a unique appeal for American hippies during the late 1960s, but over the course of 40 years the cult’s leader took his unquestioning followers on a very dark journey through religious prostitution, physical and sexual abuse of children, and various forms of religious isolation and extremism, all while convincing them that they were the “true” missionaries of God.

4. Hustlers

The film Hustlers is out this week – it’s about a group of strippers who conned the not very nice who visited them. Here’s the original article that inspired the film

(The Cut, approx 25 mins reading time)

By the time Rosie met her, Samantha was in her 30s — ancient by stripper standards — but she’d maintained her supremacy in part by cultivating younger dancers. While evolutionary theory and The Bachelor would suggest that a room full of women hoping to attract the attention of a few men would be cutthroat-competitive, it’s actually better for strippers to work together, because while most men might be able keep their wits, and their wallets, around one scantily clad, sweet-smelling sylph, they tend to lose their grip around three or four. Which is why at Hustler, as elsewhere, the dancers worked in groups. “And everyone wanted to work with Samantha,” Rosie recalled. “Because she had a lot of clients and she knew how to work well.”

5. Ship of horrors

In this extract from his book, Ian Urbina writes about lawless life on the high seas.

(The Guardian, approx 19 mins reading time)

At about 3am on 18 August, the ship’s first mate frantically roused Shin from his sleep. The net was too full, the first mate told him. It was pulling the boat under. Water in the engine room was already several feet deep. The crew on deck was begging to cut the net. The captain jumped from his bunk and raced to the bridge. But instead of ordering the net cut, he demanded that the bosun, the man in charge of the deckhands, command them to keep hoisting. That order would be Shin’s last.

6. Daniel Johnston

The beloved indie musician died, aged just 58, this week. Here’s a story about how he got famous – and the price he had to pay.

(Texas Monthly, approx 25 mins reading time)

He looked at least 10 years older than his 44 years, and his face seemed pinched in pain or fatigue. We shook hands and he introduced me to his parents, who are both fundamentalist Christians, members of the Church of Christ. Mabel, 81, is sweet and frail and suffers from Parkinson’s. Bill, 82, is no-nonsense but friendly. He is now Daniel’s manager, the only rock and roll handler to ever fly fighter planes against the Japanese in World War II and then accompany his son on tour in Japan 55 years later.


It was the 18th anniversary of September 11th this week. In 2017, Meg Cabot wrote about her experiences of living in New York when the twin towers were struck.

(Meg Cabot, approx 26 mins reading time)

It was. I couldn’t see his building from our apartment, but I could see the World Trade Center. The black smoke billowing from it had to be going right into my husband’s busy investment office on the 60th or so floor. “I better call him to see if he’s okay,” I said, and hung up to do so. There was no answer at my husband’s office, however, which was crazy, because over a hundred people worked there.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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