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Weekly Reading: Best longreads on the web

Saturday 2nd September 2017

Our weekly recap highlighting the best feature stories from around the internet.


This week author Hilary Mantel writes about Princess Diana on the 20th Anniversary of her death.

Photo: AFP

The Princess Myth: Hilary Mantel on Diana, by Hilary Mantel, The Guardian

“When Diana died, a crack appeared in a vial of grief, and released a salt ocean. A nation took to the boats. Vast crowds gathered to pool their dismay and sense of shock. As Diana was a collective creation, she was also a collective possession. The mass-mourning offended the taste police. It was gaudy, it was kitsch – the rotting flowers in their shrouds, the padded hearts of crimson plastic, the teddy bears and dolls and broken-backed verses. But all these testified to the struggle for self-expression of individuals who were spiritually and imaginatively deprived, who released their own suppressed sorrow in grieving for a woman they did not know. The term “mass hysteria” was a facile denigration of a phenomenon that eluded the commentators and their framework of analysis. They did not see the active work the crowds were doing. Mourning is work.”

Blank Space: Taylor Will Not—and Should Not—Solve Your Donald Trump Anxiety, by Justin Charity, The Ringer

“Ideally, the pop star Taylor Swift will resist all calls for political conversion indefinitely, if only to frustrate the dangerous, pathological conflation of politics and entertainment that Trump has mastered. For whatever it’s worth, Swift was just as politically inaccessible for all of Barack Obama’s two presidential terms. In general, she doesn’t seem to care very much about politics at all. I write “seem” because it’s possible that Taylor Swift does, in fact, care deeply about politics, and maybe she’s much more knowledgeable about health care reform than a pop critic might guess. If Swift voted for Clinton, does it really matter? If she voted for Donald Trump, do you really want to know?”

Reality TV’s Wildest Disaster, by Sam Knight, The New Yorker

“Butterworth, the gardener, was distraught. “I had gone in there to be cut off from the outside world,” she said. Butterworth works in food education, and she worried about how “Eden” would be televised. “People were spooning white sugar into their mouths, because we were starving,” she told me. She lost her motivation. The garden, in which Butterworth had managed to grow a stunted harvest, was soon consumed with weeds. During August, she thought she was having a breakdown. She imagined that she was in Eden permanently, and that if she tried to leave she would be caught by the police and brought back. “I totally believed it,” she said. “That is how ill we all got in there.” On August 16th, she climbed the fence and walked away.”

In Movies and on TV, Racism Made Plain, by Wesley Morris, The New York Times

“Not too long ago, men like Lee and Mr. McGregor remained hidden within message boards. They were anonymous Twitter eggs. But now the eggs have hatched and some of those people are feeling free to come out of their supremacist closets. We saw some of those people in Charlottesville. Hundreds of men — young men — (and some women) marching, in the night. Watching the way photography froze many of their faces into a rictus of rage was chilling. Some of that dismay came from seeing how perfectly basic they were — or what, about nine months ago, you might have called “normcore.”’

Exiles on Pennsylvania Avenue: How Jared and Ivanka Were Repelled by Washington’s Elite, by Sarah Ellison, Vanity Fair

“Outside the White House, a key problem seems to be, as one Washington veteran told me, that Kushner and Ivanka don’t have the necessary self-awareness—don’t understand how to behave when you roll into Washington as the creature of someone else. Most such people take a seat a little off to the side, at least until they get their bearings. “What is off-putting about them is they do not grasp their essential irrelevance,” this veteran told me. “They think they are special.”’

The Whole Sorry Lot, by Joe Nunweek, The Pantograph Punch

“Accountability and empathy aren’t always easy bedfollows, but how and when politicians exhibit either is worth scrutinising ahead of an election. Blame, regret, shame and how you live with consequences aren’t fun processes to experience or tease out, but they’re meaningful, particularly where people have sat at the extreme end of power, control and influence. But those who expect to divine them from the statespersonlike murmurs of these semi-retired dignitaries will come away disappointed, if not radicalised.”

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