Good morning, gentle readers. It’s been a chaotic and difficult weekend for the world, with terrorist attacks in multiple places and a growing sense of global unsettlement. At times like these, reading feels more valuable than ever — to inform ourselves about the world around us, but also to spend time reading in other worlds, and exploring other lives. Our reading roundup this week is packed with features that made us pause and think, from contemporary politics and pop culture to the tale of dedicated anti-paedophile activists out to catch a creep. We hope you enjoy.
‘Kathy Griffin’s Gaffe Proves She Doesn’t Know What’s Funny Anymore‘ (Scaachi Koul for Buzzfeed)
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you likely caught the news about Kathy Griffin’s shock value photoshoot featuring herself holding up a mockup of Donald Trump’s severed head. Trump obviously bit back in fury, but so did everyone else, much to the puzzlement of the comedian, who has suddenly found herself on the wrong side of a long career. This is a thoughtful exploration of Griffin’s triumphs, and eventual obscurity.
Much of Griffin’s comedic act has aged poorly because her perspective doesn’t jibe with a society slowly but surely becoming more amenable to the concerns of the marginalized. Laughing at women for being fat or at drug addicts for struggling or mocking black women by wagging your index finger and bobbing your head comes from a point of view that is dated and, frankly, uninteresting. The Trump photo shoot in particular was little more than an attempt to drum up controversy: It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t exactly thoughtful, and even Griffin’s attempt to explain the photo as commentary comes off as a poorly conceived justification.
‘Losing Gloria‘ (Lizzie Presser for California Sunday)
Deportation ruins families and lives, but this story turns that abstract statement into reality. It’s a deep look into the world of a family torn apart by deportation, and the challenging decisions underage children need to make when their parents are returned to their nations of origin.
Angel dreaded the weekends, when kids went home or talked to family. He rarely heard from anyone. He was allowed to speak with his mom and sisters, but coordinating with the prison was difficult. When he called his aunt’s house, she almost never picked up.
‘We Bought A Crack House‘ (Catherine Jheon for Toronto Life)
The most fascinating thing about this narrative of bad decisions is the privilege that drips throughout — two people made a very unsound homebuying decision because they were in a hurry, and because they had enough money to buy the house in the first place. What followed was a series of similar bad choices driven by desires to cut corners, any one of which could have created disaster but for a sizeable safety net to buoy the author up. How nice it must be to throw yourself headlong into terrible ideas in security of the knowledge that $1.2 million in capital will be available to help you out.
Today, we get stopped all the time by people from the neighbourhood who want to talk about our house—the mayhem that went on here has become Parkdale lore—and people love listening, wide-eyed about what we’ve been through. We love the house and it feels like home, though we still get reminders of its past life. Just the other day a ragged-looking guy knocked on the door asking if there were rooms available. Not at the moment, I said, though if the market tanks, I suppose that’s always an option.
‘The Loneliness of Donald Trump‘ (Rebecca Solnit for Literary Hub)
Solnit is a brilliant essayist, and her byline alone should be sufficient to coax you to click this link. But this is also a stark, striking, strong essay about a vile little man who has found himself at the top, only to discover that the top is a dark and wind-swept place. It doesn’t provoke pity, but does highlight the corrosiveness of ambition.
I have often run across men (and rarely, but not never, women) who have become so powerful in their lives that there is no one to tell them when they are cruel, wrong, foolish, absurd, repugnant. In the end there is no one else in their world, because when you are not willing to hear how others feel, what others need, when you do not care, you are not willing to acknowledge others’ existence.
‘Hunting Child Predators With Canada’s Freelance Vigilantes‘ (Suzy Khimm for Esquire)
This is a fascinating essay not just about men who set up stings in order to entrap child predators for the purpose of exposing them to the public, but also about cultural differences. Though the United States and Canada are neighbours, and are often treated like effectively identical nations, that’s not entirely accurate — they’re very different culturally and socially, and their legal systems function quite differently. The result is a unique culture for the nation’s ‘creep catchers.’
As a matter of principle, Canada doesn’t push those accused of sex crimes into the spotlight: There, the sex offender registry is only available to law enforcement, rather than the general public. Police don’t often release names of suspected criminals until they’re actually charged. Even if an accused criminal is convicted, records are notoriously difficult to track down in some provinces. Predator hunting has given an outlet for ordinary Canadians—whether students, factory managers, or construction workers—to act on their fear and disgust.
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Photo: Louise Palanker/Creative Commons