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From “Our broken economy, in one simple chart” by David Leonhardt in the New York Times

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I don’t want this to sound like a gendered question, but you keep mentioning your kids, and so I was wondering if you felt that motherhood changed you as a writer.

I think it’s superuseful. I remember when I was pregnant with my first child: I was at a book festival and a writer of my own age, who will remain nameless, sat opposite me and said, “God you’re having a kid huh?” It was a man. He said, “I guess you’re going to lose a lot of time and you must be worried about falling behind.” I was about seven months pregnant, and I just had a sudden inspiration. I said, “Yeah I guess so” and then, “You must be worried about just a complete lack of human experience that you’re now going to be 40 and then 50.” His face went so pale. It was a wonderful way to frighten him back.

The honest truth is that Eliot wrote without children, Woolf wrote without children, Gertrude Stein, loads of people write extraordinary things without children so it’s not any answer. Every life that you live will give material for fiction. But given that I do have children, it is that experience of just the simple thing of seeing life in the round. It’s so dull to say that, but it is extraordinary to see your childhood replayed, refracted, to see yourself saying things your parents said, to be in this new relation to death.

When I think of writers, I really love someone like Ursula Le Guin, who had three kids and lived an entirely domestic life. I feel her children in those books, I feel that the weight of it, her experience of being a girl, a woman, a mother, an old woman, it’s almost overwhelming when you read her. I don’t know, when I read Woolf, I love Woolf and I love Eliot, but they remained young women their whole lives. That’s part of their genius. They had that pointed, critical perspective, which never faded. What I get from Le Guin, maybe because I’m now heading in the same way, is something I appreciate particularly.

From Zadie Smith in Salon with “Zadie Smith on male critics, appropriation, and what interests her novestically about Trump” by Isaac Chotiner. This is so, so good.

You said your concern was people, not politics. Does anything interest you about Trump, novelistically?

What interests me, which probably doesn’t interest other people, is the children. I’m going to talk in a generalization. When people are children of narcissists, and there are multiple children, they usually bond together against the narcissist. But when you have a lot of money, as Trump does, that seems to skew the whole thing. What I find so painful is the idea of children competing for the affection of a narcissist, whose affection they will never receive. That seems to me just excruciating. That’s what boggles my mind: Reading interviews with them where they boast about who gets to call him in his office more regularly or who saw him more than four times during their childhood. It’s so sad, that part. It’s slightly unbearable. Also because if the children don’t correct the narcissist, he goes to his grave never knowing. I think that’s the kind of man he is, right? He’ll never know.

I imagine Saddam’s kids, or Qaddafi’s, being the same.

But even with the children of a dictator there’s usually one who turns. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this. Maybe just to be told you are the prettiest is enough from this kind of parent.

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We are finally coming to a time when we understand that work life balance is vital (not just some soft issue mothers bang on about) and that workaholics are by and large a liability.. This is very good from Katharine Murphy with “The political life is no Life at all” in Meanjin. 

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Dear Brenda: I have started writing again after the great silencing that was the election and the installation of that person and all those who stand behind him and his supremacist notions. Now I am carrying a very small, very cheap, very inconsequential notebook, and sometimes I write things in it. It feels like something, and it also feels like nothing. Like all those calls I keep making to my senators and representatives.

Here is a photo of the little gifts you sent Callie Violet. They are leaning against a start from one of my African violets. All of the violets have done so well in our living room that they outgrew their pots. I’ve had to give them new homes. They’re struggling now. But they are hanging on.

My whole life feels like a metaphor these days.

All love,

Camille

From “Notes from the lower level” by Camille Dungy in The Guernica. 

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Conservatives who reject feminist theory nonetheless understand exactly what feminist theorists of gender construction have been saying: not simply that gender is constructed, but that gender is an apparatus of power and disempowerment. How could it land with such a thud on the life of James Comey who, as head of the FBI, sure seemed like the most secure wielder of power, not its sufferer? This is not just a story of the once-mighty brought low, but of the mechanisms of feminization by which Donald Trump and his allies tend to seek people’s compliance or arrange to bring them down.

That Trump seeks to diminish or humiliate those around him is no secret. That such abjection often takes the form of “feminization” is also widely known. Recall Chris Christie’s account of a dinner with Trump:

He says, ‘There’s the menu, you guys order whatever you want,” and then he says, “Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.”

Why didn’t Christie stand up for himself? Order the steak? Demand to be one of the “guys”? Declare himself unsuited to the role of wife in some 1950’s supper club scene?

From “He Said, He Said: The Feminization of James Comey” in the Boston Review by Bonnie Honig.

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This, “Coalition accused of vilification after releasing list of ‘bludger hotspots’ in The Guardian..

The Coalition has been accused of “heartless vilification” for releasing a list of welfare “bludger hotspots” across Australia.

The federal government on Tuesday released a list of 10 suburbs and towns with the highest jobseeker non-compliance numbers.

The list, which News Corp dubbed a “list of shame”, referred to the number of welfare recipients who failed to meet requirements, usually by failing to attend appointments or interviews with job service providers.

.. begs the question what has government done in these areas lately?

What’s the social mobility rate for families in these suburbs? Has it shifted since you came to power? What’s the local job creation rate? I mean, if jobseekers meet their requirements, what’s their chance of actually obtaining a job with a living wage in their local area? How do their wage rates compare with those in more prosperous suburbs? Their children’s access to elite schools? The provision of infrastructure? The number of children in out of home care?

More score cards.

Boggles the mind that government could think they’re somehow excused of responsibility for economic management.

 

 

 

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Autumn. Somewhere over Michigan, a colony of monarch butterflies, numbering more than fifteen thousand, are beginning their yearly migration south. In the span of two months, from September to November, they will move, one wing beat at a time, from southern Canada and the United Sates to portions of central Mexico, where they will spend the winter.

They perch among us, on chain-link fences, clotheslines still blurred from the just-hung weight of clothes, windowsills, the hood of a faded-blue Chevy, their wings folding slowly, as if being put away, before snapping once, into flight.

It only takes a single night of frost to kill off an entire generation. To live, then, is a matter of time, of timing.

I am writing because they told me to never start a sentence with because. But I wasn’t trying to make a sentence—I was trying to break free.

From Ocean Vuong’s “A letter to my mother that she will never read” in The New Yorker. 

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