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7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: The oldest person who ever lived... or a fraud?

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. Airbnb scam

James Temperton was in the AirBnb room he’d booked. Only it wasn’t quite the room that he thought he’d booked. Everything looked just a little… odd. So what was going on?

(Wired, approx 32 mins reading time)

I reply, explaining that this can’t be the case. In the photos on Airbnb, the kitchen had countertops on both sides. The kitchen I’m standing in has a countertop on one side only. There’s a hallway where there should be a solid wall. Heck, the whole lounge is completely the wrong shape. “Rest assured that you are at the correct property,” my host replies, before going silent.

2. The Last Garden

In this essay, originally published in Winter Papers, Paraic O’Donnell writes about his MS diagnosis and his garden.

(Irish Times, approx 26 mins reading time)

And then, when S. had left, I couldn’t see straight to strip the bed, to bundle the sheets into the wash. Because the crying had started. I hadn’t even noticed, but when I did I couldn’t stop. And this crying, it was not fucking around. It wasn’t the decorous glistening you see in films. No, it was epic, this performance, it was unrestrained and operatic. This was crying in the high style, the heroic mode. This was a balls-out Wagnerian tempest of sorrowing that suspended all other functions and went on for a week.

3. Searching for Mackie

A young woman goes out for the evening, and never comes back. Her family are still searching for answers.

(Longreads, approx 38 mins reading time)

British Columbia’s Highway 16 is a remote belt that stretches across the province to Haida Gwaii. Part of that protracted highway — 724 kilometers of it — is often called the Highway of Tears for the countless women, mostly Indigenous, who have disappeared or been murdered near it. Dozens of families who live around Highway 16 have been left to grapple with the pain of loved ones vanishing with no trace, several of them in recent years.

4. A paedophile writer is on trial

The story of Gabriel Matzneff, a French writer who wrote about his paedophilia but who was allegedly protected by elites. 

(New York Times, approx 13 mins reading time)

But Mr. Matzneff has been summoned to appear in a Paris court on Wednesday, accused of actively promoting pedophilia through his books. Mr. Matzneff could face up to five years in prison, yet the case is also an implicit indictment of an elite that furthered his career and swatted away isolated voices calling for his arrest. 

5. The oldest person who ever lived… or a fraud?

In 1997, Jeanne Calment died at 122 years of age. Or was that really a lie?

(The New Yorker, approx 43 mins reading time)

At a hundred and ten, Calment was still living alone, in the Rue Gambetta apartment, where she had never bothered to install a modern heating system. One day, she climbed up on a table to unfreeze the boiler with the flame of a candle, starting a small fire. She agreed to move to a local retirement home, the Maison du Lac, until the weather improved. She ended up staying, and, in 1988, at a hundred and twelve, was briefly recognized as the “doyenne of humanity,” the oldest person in the world. 

6. Tampon wars

The battle to overthrow the giant that is Tampax.

(The Guardian, approx 27 mins reading time)

The Tampax team know her intimately. Like all big brands, they run a rolling programme of focus groups, talking to hundreds of women every month. They want to know how she feels about her tampon, whether she’s using it right, what would make it more comfortable, more convenient. They are led, always and exclusively, they like to say, by her needs and desires. What they don’t say, but is implicit, is that they are also led by the need and desire to sell more tampons.


A look at the lives of women in Ulhasnagar, India, who become gestational carriers.

(VQR, approx 27 mins reading time)

Sonali showed us a photograph of herself and her husband, a young man with brilliantined hair and a maroon dress shirt that was too big for him. He had died on the railroad tracks—a rumored suicide—leaving the family with weighty home loans. Sonali had already borne a child—despite her husband’s reservations—for an Israeli couple, in December 2012, for which she had earned 2.5 lakhs, or about $4,600, which had not been enough to buy the house outright. To pay the loans, Sonali now planned to do a second surrogacy. She was also recruiting new surrogate mothers and egg donors for Padma, the neighbor who had recruited her in 2009.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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