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Sitdown Sunday: The story of the real Lord of the Flies

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

Image: Shutterstock/Ethan Daniels

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. At the clinic

Here’s Sally Rooney’s first short story, published in the White Review, which is online now.

(The White Review, approx 20 mins reading time)

They are now the only two people in the upstairs waiting room of the dental clinic. The seats are a pale mint-green colour. Marianne leafs through an issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and explores her mouth with the tip of her tongue. Connell looks at the magazine cover, a photograph of a monkey with huge eyes. That night last week, Marianne had called him first to tell him that she and Daniel had broken up. Connell was in the bathroom when the phone rang and his flatmate Barry answered. When Connell came back, Barry said innocently: Hey, what’s the name of that rich girl you went to school with? You know, the one you like to fuck. Believing the query was sincere, Connell replied: Marianne, why? Then Barry tossed him the phone. She wants to talk to you, he said. When Connell lifted the phone he could already hear her laughing.

2. Dispatch from isolation

Robert Pattinson took his own photographs for htis GQ interview, and the interview itself is… kind of bonkers.

(GQ, approx 26 mins reading time)

The film studio hired a trainer who left Pattinson with a Bosu ball, a single weight, and a sincere plea to use both, but right now, he says, he’s ignoring her. “I think if you’re working out all the time, you’re part of the problem,” he says, sighing. By “you” he means other actors. “You set a precedent. No one was doing this in the ’70s. Even James Dean—he wasn’t exactly ripped.” He says that back when he was the star of the Twilight franchise, “the one time they told me to take my shirt off, I think they told me to put it back on again.” But Batman is Batman. Pattinson called another actor on the film, Zoë Kravitz, the other day, and she said she was exercising five days a week during their exile from set. Pattinson, well: “Literally, I’m just barely doing anything,” he says, sighing again.

3. The real Lord of the Flies

What happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months.

(The Guardian, approx 12 mins reading time)

The article did not provide any sources. But sometimes all it takes is a stroke of luck. Sifting through a newspaper archive one day, I typed a year incorrectly and there it was. The reference to 1977 turned out to have been a typo. In the 6 October 1966 edition of Australian newspaper The Age, a headline jumped out at me: “Sunday showing for Tongan castaways”. The story concerned six boys who had been found three weeks earlier on a rocky islet south of Tonga, an island group in the Pacific Ocean. The boys had been rescued by an Australian sea captain after being marooned on the island of ‘Ata for more than a year. According to the article, the captain had even got a television station to film a re-enactment of the boys’ adventure.

4. The chef who lost her sense of smell

Joshna Maharaj hadn’t been able to smell, but she worked as a chef so she tried to get away with it. Now, she has revealed her secret and starting to regain what she lost.

(BBC, approx 10 mins reading time)

One day she walked into a BBQ restaurant with friends and was the only one who couldn’t smell the meat smoker working its magic. “There was a moment where I retrospectively did all this math. ‘Wait a second, my nose is not working like it’s supposed to,’” she says. “And to be honest, at that moment, the idea of it filled me with enough panic – particularly with the professional implications of this – that I just shut it all down.”

5. The virologist who got Covid-19

Peter Piot is a scientist who was one of the discoverers of the Ebola virus in 1976. In mid-March, he contracted Covid-19, and here he explains what it was like.

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(Science Magazine, approx 7 mins reading time)

It turned out I had severe oxygen deficiency, although I still wasn’t short of breath. Lung images showed I had severe pneumonia, typical of COVID-19, as well as bacterial pneumonia. I constantly felt exhausted, while normally I’m always buzzing with energy. It wasn’t just fatigue, but complete exhaustion; I’ll never forget that feeling. I had to be hospitalized, although I tested negative for the virus in the meantime. This is also typical for COVID-19: The virus disappears, but its consequences linger for weeks.

6. Saving the world from a cyber attack

Marcus Hutchins was just in his early 20s when he noticed what he suspected were the FBI staking out his house. Their appearance came after he had saved the internet from a massive cyberattack, which at that point was the worst in history.

(Wired, approx 62 mins reading time)

This legendary feat of whitehat hacking had essentially earned Hutchins free drinks for life among the Defcon crowd. He and his entourage had been invited to every VIP hacker party on the strip, taken out to dinner by journalists, and accosted by fans seeking selfies. The story, after all, was irresistible: Hutchins was the shy geek who had single-handedly slain a monster threatening the entire digital world, all while sitting in front of a keyboard in a bedroom in his parents’ house in remote western England.

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

In this crime story from 2018, Dan Wiederer writes about the murder of Michael Jordan (yes, that Michael Jordan)’s father in North Carolina, 27 years ago.

(Chicago Tribune, approx 25 mins reading time)

Yet so many odd circumstances surrounded Jordan’s death. Jordan’s body was not discovered in his car but turned up in a swamp in McColl, S.C., 11 days after the murder. Jordan was cremated Aug. 7 by a South Carolina coroner — as a John Doe before his body had been identified. His 1992 Lexus was not discovered on the side of the road where he had purportedly slept but abandoned in the woods near Fayetteville, N.C., 60 miles from where his body was found and after it had been stripped. A total of 21 days passed before family members reported Jordan missing.

More: The best reads from every preious Sitdown Sunday>

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