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Regular dispatches from our contributors.

The Red Ring and the Wrecking Ball

On Yu Miri

Every two years, when the Olympic institution plants its flag in a new city, speculators from metropolitan Lausanne meet with profiteers in the new athletic colony. They hover over the city map with carving knives, repurposing public spaces and re-zoning residences. Together, for the sake of a two-week event, they take over the territory, line their pockets with public resources, bring in outside workers, and push long-established locals aside.

Suspended Hell

Suspended Hell

It is other people

All social media both feeds and feeds on narcissism, but Twitter’s capacity to mirror the world and its users’ neuroses in discrete verbal and visual units, at least in certain corners of the site, elevates self-regard to a formal principle. We compulsively iterate ourselves as memes, set pieces, and DIY allegorical photos, as if hoping we’ll eventually perfect the reflection.

On Janet Malcolm

On Janet Malcolm

From that point on she was fully formed, and she could write about whatever she liked

When I read In the Freud Archives for the first time, I understood myself to be looking for facts, dates, quotations—material. The material was there, and like a good nonfiction writer I dutifully underlined and annotated, but I also found that the particulars of the story she told had difficulty competing with the writing she used to tell it.

Big Jill, Little Jimmy, Little Rosalynn, Big Joe

Big Jill, Little Jimmy, Little Rosalynn, Big Joe

The dream of strength and youth

One way to think about the viral explainers of the viral photo is that their function was almost pharmacological. A rapidly disseminated image that leads to spinning heads requires a dose of fast-acting cultural Dramamine. Speed is key. With the internet producing the weird stories, and grabbing all the ads that go with them, traditional media has been forced to move to the higher ground of analysis, but that was never journalism’s forte. So, somewhere between newsfeed dazzle and the insight that comes later (if at all), explanation became a familiar part of the information age news cycle. Sometimes, it’s enough.

In the Penal Colony

In the Penal Colony

Outsourcing Australia’s detention industry

While private companies should not have been given so much power over Victoria’s hotel quarantine, the program itself illuminates the swiftness with which this country reaches for tools of punitive confinement. Initial evacuations of Chinese-Australians from Wuhan in early 2020 were sent to Christmas Island. Hotel quarantine may be a comparatively benign and expedient manifestation of that impulse, but others during the pandemic have not been so.

The Afterlife

Revisiting Roth’s promise

My own sense of Roth is that the motive behind his books, his drive and ambition as a writer, has everything to do with his unceasing energy as a seducer—a seducer of readers as well as of living people, friends and lovers. One might argue, again, that the intimate connection between eros and the desire to communicate with readers is true of many writers—but in Roth’s case I wonder if he might have been a better writer, certainly a freer one, if he had been able to unknot the two impulses a bit more.

Freeway Ends

Freeway Ends

Infrastructure, they’re talking about it a lot more

A billboard whose finer print I can’t read says FREEDOM and the next says EMPIRE (an insurance group) and the next says ESCAPE REALITY (an image of a boat). This road leads to Lake Superior, which might as well be an ocean. 35 takes you to the end of America, or the beginning, depending on whom you ask. But there’s an energy to the ends of things. Cars and trucks are driving very fast.

The Boat

The Boat

When you come in all excited about putting on your short shorts, that’s new to me

On our sides, the flood flowed through gutters into lawns and lapped at the bases of driveways. The occasional house’s garage was open and a generator ran. A few people stood outside smoking or watching the water. Aubrey began pushing again and yelled hello to someone, who yelled hello back. What did we look like to them? A black boy and a white girl on a boat in the flood, a case of water between them, the boy sitting at the front as though being ferried, the girl standing in the back as though in control.

English Is Mine

English Is Mine

Dutch people, in live-action Dutchness

This is our English. Brought to us by Playmobil, Intertoys, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Superman and Batman, Michael Jackson, Rocky Balboa, the internet, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, advertisements, clothing labels, Coca-Cola, Big Macs, Nike Air Max, cars, hotel signs, warnings, et cetera, et cetera. Clear and without the secret in-crowd nuances. Every controversial word we use has been pointed out—called out? You should try it: speaking world-English. No hidden or fuzzy meanings. Democratic. Accessible to all. Eat it or starve behind your own bastions, you dialect-speakers. But hé, I don’t care.