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Sitdown Sunday: Who can rein in Trump?

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

Image: Shutterstock/Evan El-Amin

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. Diary of an ER doctor

A New York-based doctor shares their Covid diary.

(New York Times Magazine, approx 45 mins reading time)

A few days from now, I will come across the name of Guido Bertolini, a clinical epidemiologist who studies intensive care. Through a colleague of his, I reach out to him over Whats­App, and we begin corresponding. He had been high up in the Italian Alps through the last day of February, when the distressing messages started to come in from colleagues asking him to join a new Coronavirus Crisis Unit for Lombardy, a region in northern Italy. Some of the pleas had an Excel file attached. When Bertolini opened it, he tells me, he couldn’t believe the numbers. He had to see the situation for himself.

2. The talented Mr Schlesinger 

A profile ofthe late, great Adam Schlesinger, who died aged 52 of Covid-19-related complications.

(Rolling Stone, approx 14 mins reading time)

Still, some in the music industry had never quite figured out Fountains of Wayne. Krumper recalls frequent comparisons to Matchbox 20, who had signed to Atlantic at about the same time and followed through with two multi-platinum smash albums. Tensions peaked when Fountains’ cheeky modern-rock cover of Britney Spears’ “….Baby One More Time” began to get some airplay in Los Angeles. “The promotion department at the time went, ‘Oh my God, we have a single!’ And the guys in Fountains were just like, ‘No fucking way,’” Krumper says. “Matchbox 20 said yes to everything

3. The end of pessimism

Irish writer Mark O’Connell was quite a pessimistic person – until he had to parent during a crisis.

(Slate, approx 8 mins reading time)

For many years, I considered myself a pessimist. This is not to say that my own experience of life was a miserable one. I was, broadly speaking, a happy and fortunate person for whom the world had laid on a great many privileges and benefits. But to the extent that I could claim to have a basic philosophical position, it was that life, for most people in most places, was characterized by terrible suffering, for no good reason, and that it was unlikely to get any better over time, and that it was therefore on balance probably more trouble than it was worth. Throughout my 20s and into my 30s, the writers who seemed to me to possess the truest vision of the world, who seemed to speak to me out of the deepest wisdom and authority, were those who most firmly denounced the possibility of hope, who rejected most thoroughly the idea that life might be on aggregate a good thing.

4. Weird Al

A look at the weird world of Weird Al Yankovic.

(New York Times, approx 20 mins reading time)

Long before showtime, the Weird Al fans started streaming in. The vibe was lighthearted reverence. It was a benevolent Weird Al cosplay cult. There were so many Hawaiian shirts that it felt like an elaborate code, some secret language composed entirely of loud patterns: parrots, hot dogs, palm trees, flowers, cars, accordions, pineapples, whales, bananas, sunsets. Everyone was so floridly mismatched that they seemed, paradoxically, to be matching — a great harmony of clashing. I saw Weird Al T-shirts from 10 tours ago, Weird Al hats covered with Weird Al pins, every possible colorway of checkerboard Vans. Down toward the stage, hard-core fans greeted one another like relatives reunited at a wedding. Ages seemed to range from 80 to 4.

5. The decline of a brilliant coder

Lee Holloway was one of the coders who helped create Cloudflare. But then his behaviour became very strange, and people couldn’t make sense of it.

(Wired, approx 35 mins reading time)

When people invited them to parties, Lee refused to go. Alexandra started attending her friends’ weddings by herself. It hurt her to see everyone else there as a couple, while the chair next to her sat empty. At home she’d cook dinner, and he’d look at it and say he was ordering pizza. On a weeklong family trip to France, he spent three days sleeping in the hotel room. “I’d say, ‘What’s going on, we’re going to these places—are you coming?’ ” Alexandra says. He’d insist he was too tired. She was finishing up a master’s degree and shouldering the bulk of childcare; she, too, was tired. Alexandra begged him to go to therapy and cajoled him to play with their son, but he didn’t engage. “After a while you think, well, this is the person I’m with,” she says.

6. Mitch and Donald

A look at the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and his ‘refusal to rein in the President’.

(The New Yorker, approx 53 mins reading time)

Eleven days later, the Senate still had not come up with a bill. The Times ran a scorching editorial titled “The Coronavirus Bailout Stalled. And It’s Mitch McConnell’s Fault.” The Majority Leader had tried to jam through a bailout package that heavily favored big business. But by then five Republicans were absent in self-quarantine, and the Democrats forced McConnell to accept a $2.1-trillion compromise bill that reduced corporate giveaways and expanded aid to health-care providers and to hard-hit workers.

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

This is from very recently, but we’ve got a good reason for it. Fiona Apple released a new album on Friday (her first since 2012), so let’s go back and read about the making of it.

(The New Yorker, approx 46 mins reading time)

“Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is a reference to a scene in “The Fall,” the British police procedural starring Gillian Anderson as a sex-crimes investigator; Anderson’s character calls out the phrase after finding a locked door to a room where a girl has been tortured. Like all of Apple’s projects, this one was taking a long while to emerge, arriving through a slow-drip process of creative self-interrogation that has produced, over a quarter century, a narrow but deep songbook. Her albums are both profoundly personal—tracing her heartaches, her showdowns with her own fragility, and her fierce, phoenix-like recoveries—and musically audacious, growing wilder and stranger with each round. As her 2005 song “Extraordinary Machine” suggests, whereas other artists might move fast, grasping for fresh influences and achieving superficial novelty, Apple prides herself on a stickier originality, one that springs from an internal tick-tock: “I still only travel by foot, and by foot it’s a slow climb / But I’m good at being uncomfortable, so I can’t stop changing all the time.”

More: The best reads from every preious Sitdown Sunday>

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