Women allow ourselves to be sold a dream: that we can work our way up, transform things from the inside, that the beauty we create offsets the ugliness it’s ultimately selling. That there’s a space that’s actually ours. But I can’t say I regret ever aspiring to work at a magazine. As a kid I was moved by YM and CosmoGirl! because they spoke directly to me, understood my interests, answered my questions. As Marnell’s mentor Jean Godfrey June told Into the Gloss, “I just always wanted to be a writer. I wasn’t particularly interested in beauty. What I discovered as I became a writer is that everyone relates to beauty.” I wanted to relate with people too, intimately and as myself: to be a woman, and a writer.
On a quickly darkening Friday afternoon in February, the mood is light at David Forsee’s house. When the seventy-two-year-old Hamilton man spoke to his doctor earlier, he realized making an appointment to die is akin to buying milk or renewing your driver’s license. “I went from the mystical, complex question of which day is right, to waiting in line,” he says through his oxygen mask.
Forsee has Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, an ultimately fatal lung disease marked by progressive tissue scarring and shortness of breath, and in late January he’d been approved for medical assistance in dying (MAID). He requested Monday morning, but his doctor already had another MAID appointment—how about Wednesday at seven p.m.? “I don’t want to spend the day sitting around,” Forsee says. “Three hours to go, two hours to go—I couldn’t handle it.”
“I cried and laughed,” Forsee’s friend and housemate Sarah Truman says. “Who wants to die on a Wednesday night at seven?”
Unlike the breakfast sandwich or the cruller, the humble buttered roll makes no claims to lusciousness. It’s not really greater than the sum of its parts: a round roll, sliced and slathered with butter. There is no alchemy involved.
And yet, like many New Yorkers, I’ve breakfasted all my life on buttered rolls, wrapped in plastic, foil or wax paper and sold for about a dollar at any corner deli, bodega or coffee cart.
Do I love them? No. That is not really the point. I love that they exist, an unsung, charmingly ordinary hero of the city’s mornings.
Self-portraiture is now so ubiquitous that it’s interesting to discover it only gained momentum during the 15th century, around the same time the “cult of the artistic personality,” write Reynolds and Peter, also arose. Self-portraits can be practical: some artists lack the funds to pay for a professional model, or they’re sketching out a new technique and want to keep the stakes low. The form satisfies instincts toward immortality, self-reflection and self-aggrandizement (#selfie), not to mention the human imperative to investigate if others perceive us as we perceive ourselves.
A little more than a billion years later, in the early hours of 14 September 2015, some of those ripples were detected by scientists in the US. By any standards, this was a truly remarkable achievement. The astronomers had managed to identify a disturbance that had lasted only 20 milliseconds – much briefer than the blink of an eye – and was smaller than a millionth of the width of an atom. They had found the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, a feat likely to be rewarded soon with a Nobel prize.
In Ripples in Spacetime, the Dutch astronomy journalist Govert Schilling gives us a lively and readable account of the waves’ discovery. They had first appeared in the mind of Albert Einstein almost a century before, after he deduced their existence from his new theory of gravity. For reasons that Schilling does not make entirely clear, Einstein twice doubted that the waves existed but was eventually convinced that they should be part of nature’s fabric.