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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Jenny Slate Wrote A Book-Shaped Thing. What Is It?, by Bonnie Wertheim, New York Times

“I was trying to say goodbye to my ex-husband, who is an important person in my life and a friend,” the actress and comedian said of the story, “I Died: Bronze Tree.” After her divorce from the director Dean Fleischer-Camp in 2016, she heard that sometimes, as a healing exercise, trauma survivors reimagine painful experiences. “I decided to write for myself what my life would be if I had a relationship that lasted till the end,” she said.

Maybe this isn’t what you were expecting from Slate, who is known for voicing animated characters in television shows like “Big Mouth” and “Bob’s Burgers,” as well as the internet’s favorite anthropomorphic shell, Marcel. Nor is it what you might have assumed would emerge from the mind of the stand-up comedian whose monologues are punctuated by “poop and fart jokes,” as she put it, among other bodily concerns. But “Little Weirds” wasn’t really meant to be funny.

Sleep Loss, Sunscreen, And Very Little Sex In These 'Love Poems' For Parents, by Scott Simon, NPR

"Marriage with children is endlessly sort of elegiac and beautiful, isn't it? ..." Kenney asks, without a hint of sarcasm. "Just endless amounts of sleep, and love, and almost too much sex. It's a joy, is what it is."

Hollow Places By Christopher Hadley Review – Dragons And The Nature Of History, by Rosemary Hill, The Guardian

Hadley wears his scholarship lightly but at the heart of this antiquarian wild goose chase is an ingenious meditation on what history, in all its complexity and unevenness, really is.

How To Be A Dictator By Frank Dikötter Review – The Cult Of Personality, by Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Guardian

Questions of chronology, sequence and influence are not much discussed here. The mid 20th century is generally considered the heyday of dictators of the right and the left, but Dikötter does not explore why this might have been so, and even obscures the issue by including chronological outliers such as Mengistu. It is important to study dictators, he suggests, because they are an eternal threat to democracy and freedom – but not, it seems an acute current threat. “Dictators today, with the exception of Kim Jong-un, are a long way from instilling the fear their predecessors inflicted on their population at the height of the twentieth century … Even a modicum of historical perspective indicates that today dictatorship is on the decline.” That’s reassuring. Perhaps it would be churlish to ask how we got so lucky.

What Happened When Paul Theroux Bought An Old Buick And Set Out Across Mexico, by Rigoberto González, Los Angeles Times

Theroux traveled to Mexico and found, unsurprisingly, a complex country with a rich history and culture that’s beset by travesty and contradiction exacerbated by class differences and a lack of economic and educational opportunities. But what allowed him to conclude the journey “uplifted, smiling when I set off for home, my hand on my heart, promising to return” was his insistence on celebrating the downtrodden Mexico, which he characterizes as resilient and, despite the odds, self-sufficient. Though his sendoff acknowledges that he has changed, the Mexico he prizes most is the one that adheres (as a form of resistance) to its old traditions and deferential values.