Favourites Of 2019, Part 5

In this holiday week, a chance to remember the writing that surprised and delighted us during the past year. Today, some our favourite stories from September and October

The Impossibility Of Refusal

Hasko Von Kriegstein | Daily Nous | 6th September 2019

Delicious conceit. It is logically impossible for an immigrant to Britain not to integrate. The immigrant can adopt British values and attitudes; the immigrant is thus perfectly British. Or, the immigrant can reject British values and attitudes; but moving to another country, and then spurning the host country’s values and attitudes, is the most British of all behaviours; the immigrant is thus perfectly British (780 words)

Half A Person

Agnes Callard | The Point | 27th September 2019

Notes on pregnancy, miscarriage, and fine art. An odd combination, but the miscarriage takes place at the Guggenheim in New York. “The handy thing about the Guggenheim is that there is a single-user bathroom at each full revolution. There was also an exhibition: Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), a Swedish pioneer of abstraction. I suspect that few humans have had the experience I had that day: Communing with an artistic visionary while miscarrying a baby. Let me try to communicate what that was like” (3,030 words)

Twelve Words

Brian Trapp | Kenyon Review | 2nd September 2019

Astonishing, unbearable, heartbreaking, unflinching memoir of the life and death of a severely disabled twin brother. You would need a heart of stone to read this through without shedding a tear. “I closed my eyes and held him to my chest. I pretended it was twenty-nine years ago, that we weren’t even born, still sealed in the womb. Where were our bodies? Where did I end and my brother begin? There wasn’t even language yet. Our cells were still blooming, getting ready. We would do it all over again” (7,260 words)

A Spiritual Autobiography

Candace Vogler | Comment | 19th October 2019

Autobiographical essay of astonishing candour and even more astonishing content. Events narrated here, with the author as victim or witness, include child abuse, nervous breakdown, rape, attempted rape, disfigurement, miscarriage, divorce, drug addiction and fraud, through all of which the author maintains her sanity and optimism by immersing herself in religion and religious philosophy, building a career which eventually brings her to a professorial chair at the University of Chicago (9,050 words)

Five Years At Capital One

Elena Botella | New Republic | 2nd October 2019

Possibly the most perceptive article about the financial industry I have ever read; and very good on the workplace more generally. It asks how good people can leave their ethics at the door each day when they work for amoral corporations. In the case of Capital One, “work” means devising strategies for tempting poor families ever deeper into credit-card debt. The key is wilful ignorance: You never meet a customer, nor ever discuss them, save in terms of financial abstractions and marketing jargon (3,140 words)

People Should Be Allowed To Change Their Age

Joona Räsänen | Aeon | 9th October 2019

If you feel twenty years younger than your age, and you want to be treated as a younger person, should you be allowed to change your legal age to express the age of your inner self? It is hard to see why not, all other things being equal, although it is also possible to imagine some “unsettling” outcomes — parents who want to be younger than their children, for example. “While this result is counterintuitive, it is not impossible to countenance. Just because it’s unusual doesn’t mean it is wrong” (1,208 words)

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