Every day, The Browser newsletter selects and presents the most intriguing writing from around the web, and every month we choose the best of the best, the pieces we’ll want to read and re-read forever.

And the Golden Giraffe for June 2019 goes to….

The Best Abortion Ever

Sarah Miller | The Cut | 19th June 2019

Unflinching but upbeat comparative study of how it feels to terminate two pregnancies in one year — the first with RU-486, the second at a clinic. The clinic comes out ahead, thanks to a particularly skilled doctor. “In a minute or so, she said, ‘Okay, now instrument’. There was a feeling between uncanny and mildly unpleasant, then there was pain. It lasted about ten seconds. I was just about to say, ‘This really hurts’, when, suddenly, it didn’t hurt any more, and the doctor was snapping off her gloves” (2,300 words)


Drew Dickson | Albert Bridge Capital | 17th June 2019

An extraordinary, one-off piece of writing, which moves easily through two familiar genres — the deeply troubled teenager; the stray dog whose affection brings the teenager back from the brink — before taking a final twist and ending up in wholly unexpected, and wholly satisfying, territory. You would need a heart of stone to read this and not feel at least a little bit better about the ways of the world (1,833 words)

ALSO BRILLIANT: History’s Greatest Horse-Racing Cheat

Josh Nathan-Kazis | Atavist | 6th June 2019

Profile of Peter Christian Barrie, race-fixing virtuoso of the 1930s. “He was a master of the measures a man could take to bend the odds at the track. But it was his fingernails that told the story of his particular genius: They were nearly gone, eaten away by the bleach and ammonia he rubbed into the hides of horses so that racetrack stewards, detectives, jockeys, and even the horse’s own trainers mistook them for entirely different creatures. He was a horse painter, perhaps the best in the world” (3,600 words)

Congratulations to Sarah, Drew and Josh! We hope you’ll enjoy their writing as much as we did.

If you’d like to get beautifully-capsuled recommendations for 5 outstanding pieces in your inbox each day, you can try out the Browser for free by clicking this link.

For Whom Is The Water Park Fun?

Barrett Swanson | The Paris Review | 3rd July 2019

If you’re asking, it’s not for you. An ambitious, exhausted young professor receives an “injunction to relax” from a tenured superior and heads (with a coupon) to Noah’s Ark water park, “aggressively themed after the biblical flood.” He reminisces about “the weird, existential thawing” of childhood holidays, where by “virtue of geographical displacement” the troubles of home could be “momentarily suspended.” He sees horrible echoes of climate change in every ride, and fails to resist imagined social pressures (2,693 words)

Down The Rabbit Hole

Issendai | 17th March 2015

Part of a long series on “Estranged Parents’ Forums,” where an outside observer sees abusive histories in the elisions and evasions of people who themselves feel they have been badly wronged. Fascinating psychological vertigo. One bad sign is when a poster claims to have no idea why they’ve been cut off, despite describing long conversations on the topic. “Saying I don't understand the problem when you really mean I don't agree this is a problem will not make the problem go away. It will make the person who DOES think it a problem go away” (3,159 words)

Gay Rites Are Civil Rites

Scott Alexander | Slate Star Codex | 8th July 2019

Highly speculative. “For me, the important part of religion isn’t the part with gods, prophets, or an afterlife … it’s about a symbiosis between a society and an ideology.” In present-day San Francisco, it’s the annual Gay Pride Parade which “builds social trust and helps turn a city into a community.” Everyone’s invited: corporations, cops, boy scouts, beer brands. Will “Pride” follow the same trajectory Christianity once did, from telling the establishment “where they could shove their respectable values” to embodying it? (3,073 words)

Myra Breckinridge And The Life Of Gore Vidal

Camille Paglia | Lithub | 27th June 2019

Essentially two essays, one on Vidal and one on his novel, fused together. “Myra Breckinridge was a surprise sensation: 85,000 copies were sold even before its release in February 1968,” when “it was still very difficult to convince most people to take gender seriously as an analytic category.” Vidal, “the most graceful of born aristocrats”, was prolific both professionally (“publishing hundreds of essays and 24 novels”) and personally, and seems to have seen himself in his “gender-shifting” heroine (2,954 words)

Time Is Running Out For Sand

Mette Bendixen et al | Nature | 2nd July 2019

Everything you didn’t know you wanted to know about the sand trade. Desert sand is too smooth, so most industrial sand comes from rivers. Demand outstrips the natural replenishment rate. “Most of the trade in sand is undocumented.” Singapore claimed to import 80 million tonnes from Cambodia, but Cambodia only recognises 4% of that. Sand-mining of the Mekong delta means 500,000 people will have to leave their homes. Skip the last section unless you’re interested in global sand-governance (1,460 words)

Video: The Power Of The Pentatonic Scale. Bobby McFerrin plays the audience (3m 03s)

Audio: The Dead Can’t Do You Nothing | Scene On Radio. An eight year old’s honest view on death, and interviews at a cemetery (22m 38s)

“See enough and write it down”
— Joan Didion

Editor’s Note: Browser Editor Robert Cottrell is taking a well-earned holiday from July 1st to July 14th. During this time, The Browser will be edited by Publisher Uri Bram, with podcast selections by Lindelani Mbatha and videos by Nontsikelelo Mapoma

Mixed-Race Superman

Will Harris | 1st July 2019

“A mixed-race superhero is a contradiction in terms,” because “superheroes build their identity around a clearly established sense of Self (buttressed by its opposition to an evil Other).” The mixed-race experience embodies the fear that “one is too few and two is too many,” that “no single idea can make sense on its own, but no two ideas can be grasped simultaneously.” Keanu Reeves, mixed-race superhero, tries to get us “to see race differently: not as a fixed sign but as a fluid signifier” (897 words)

Frantz Fanon And The CIA Man

Thomas Meaney | The American Historical Review | 4th June 2019

“The image is not lacking in irony: Frantz Fanon, the intellectual father of Third World revolution, lying in a Maryland hospital bed, watched over by a blue-blooded agent of the CIA.” The author tracks the still-living C. Oliver Iselin III (captain of the Harvard crew team, writer for the Lampoon, and student of “colonial history”) to his horse-ranch in Virginia. Iselin claims to have developed a good rapport despite Fanon’s suspicions, though their views of Algeria and its future seem hard to reconcile (6,111 words)

House Hunters

Elizabeth Newcamp | Slate | 20th June 2019

Reality TV is even less real than you think. These participants on House Hunters had already bought the winning home and lived in it for a year before filming; the other houses they consider are actually AirBnBs. The producers demand conflict where none exists; the author is later identified at an airport as “Crazy Bathtub Lady” because of her invented sine qua non, while her husband is eviscerated on Twitter “for not letting his pregnant wife have the house she wanted,” which in fact she already had (2,117 words)

Michel Foucault’s LSD Trip

James Penner | LARB | 17th June 2019

Two young Americans lure Michel Foucault to the Valley of Death for an “epic LSD trip” that could “blow the fuses of the philosopher’s mind.” Foucault experiences “a lengthy bout of indecision” because, unexpectedly, he “had somehow made it through the 1960s without sampling the drug.” Getting “the greatest thinker of our time, perhaps all time” high doesn’t reveal the secrets of the universe, but Foucault enjoys it. “The only thing I can compare this experience to in my life is sex with a stranger” (2,877 words)

The Wild Ride At Babe.Net

Allison P. Davis | The Cut | 23rd June 2019

Obituary for Gen Z women’s tabloid Babe. Writers were given “the old Gawker archives to read in order to nail the tone” because “with an average age of approximately 23” they had rarely “heard of Gawker — much less did they know about its fall.” The author is shown a Potemkin office with fake meetings full of pre-scripted remarks. Eventually, the writers rebel against “racial and gendered power imbalances” and the CEO tries to sell the site “like a failed restaurant with a kitchen all ready to go” (5,557 words)

Video: 9 Ways To Draw A Person. Hypnotic animation by Sasha Svirsky, though not necessarily useful if you actually want to learn to draw a person (6m 29s)

Audio: Utopia In Our Backyard | Nice Try. Race and the suburbs (34m 11s)

“People create stories create people; or rather stories create people create stories”
— Chinua Achebe

Editor’s Note: Browser Editor Robert Cottrell is taking a well-earned holiday from July 1st to July 14th. During this time, The Browser is being edited by Publisher Uri Bram, with podcast selections by Lindelani Mbatha and videos by Nontsikelelo Mapoma

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