The Sunday Long Read, 1/10/22

Welcome back! Today we’ve got the privilege of introducing guest editor Rachel Sugar.

Rachel is a freelance writer in New York, mostly covering “food” (very loosely), and, more recently, “despair.” She is a regular contributor to both Vox and Grub Street, while her work has also appeared at Eater, Bon Apétit, Taste, Vulture, and elsewhere.

And now, The SLR is Rachel’s!

The first thing I did, when the city shut down in March, was check out every ebook the library had about plague. Then, I read none of them. I’d put several on hold—plague books were hot!—so all spring, I’d get notices: my new plague book was in! Did I want my new plague book?

No, it turned out. I did not. Instead, I read nothing. Everything felt like the wrong level of relevant. Either it was about the news, in which case, it felt aggressively newsy—couldn’t we get a break from the news?—or it wasn’t about the news, and how could you focus on that, with so much news happening! Instead, I refreshed Twitter and streamed British dramas about murders in small seaside towns, but then Britain ran out of murders. Luckily, Twitter is endless.

Eventually, I started reading again, mostly to rescue myself from Twitter. The stories I’ve found myself drawn to lately are stories about people, which is always true (and aren’t all stories, on some level, about people?) but is even more true now that I’m not interacting with any. I have no idea how to live, it turns out, but I am very open to ideas.

Anyway, I’d thought I had the reading question sort of under control, and then came this week and it was hard to do anything except watch the news. Who can focus, during a violent far-right insurrection? I tried to work, sort of. Mostly, I sent emails with typos. And yet this week, like all weeks, there was so much good writing! Writing about what was happening, and also writing that had nothing directly to do with it, most of which I would have certainly missed, were I not doing this.

I’m attempting to highlight some of those pieces here, all of which are, on some level, engaged with the basic question of how anyone is supposed to live now. You can’t actually separate that from the events of the week—it’s an inherently political question! For organizational purposes, though, and as a personal exercise in compartmentalization, I’ve given the insurrection its own reading list. Onward?