Getting Tricked by Helen DeWitt


Brittany Allen | Longreads | July 2018 | 7 minutes (1,809 words)

Different writers call for different verbs. With Mary Karr, I go galloping. E.M. Forster wants to waltz. I hopscotch with George Saunders and craft, as in beaded amulets, with Helen Oyeyemi. Elena Ferrante is usually trying to slap me, and Denis Johnson is plummeting: out of windows, out of planes. Reading Helen DeWitt is puzzling, but not the kind of puzzling that will eventually resolve and make some pretty picture on a box.

There is the urge to go spelunking through her books, to descend into the mad caves and walk the corridors and labyrinthine tunnels, in search of meaning (or…treasure? Uh-oh, here goes the metaphor). But I discovered — about five stories in to DeWitt’s bursting, bizarre new story collection, Some Trick (New Directions) that the most pleasurable way to be with her fiction calls for…

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You’re Not Clean Until You’re 110% Clean


Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) for drug addiction — that is, methadone or Suboxone — is a proven way to help addicts stay clean. Narcotics Anonymous programs offer community support that helps addicts stay clean, but turns away people who are using medication to aid their recovery. Why, if their goals are the same?

The misconception stems from the fact that most medications for treating addiction, like Suboxone and methadone, are opioid-based. With the correct prescription, an addict’s compulsive behavior, loss of control, constant cravings, and other hallmarks of addiction will usually vanish. But if you take too much, you will get high. The idea that MAT is just a replacement drug has been debunked countless times by medical organizations, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Nonetheless, Michael has been told that he is still a junkie, not only by people in the 12 Step meetings he used…

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Why Some Protected Natural Areas Should Remain Off-Limits


Anyone who’s visited Yosemite National Park knows the effect its popularity has had on the park’s ecological quality: roads, cars, air pollution, noise pollution, forest fires, crowds, and trash. To say we can love something to death is a cliché because it’s true. For the San Francisco Chronicle, California native Robert Earle Howells sees this same dynamic at work on the world’s tallest, oldest coastal redwoods, and shows why it’s better to conceal champion trees’ locations than to publicize them.

Record-sized trees become so-called “trophy trees” to eager visitors, but the more people visit trees like Hyperion, the more they damage the trees and forest. Park policies have shifted in response. The fact is, people can’t visit everything in our own public lands, because even though parks serve the public by allowing us to see rare natural areas and experience wilderness, parks also need to ensure that those…

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A Music So Beautiful the Birds Fell from the Trees


Maija Liuhto | Longreads | June 2019 | 18 minutes (4,978 words)

Late on a Thursday night in a faraway corner of Old Kabul, a community of musicians and worshippers gathers for an evening of solemn prayer, ecstatic singing, and melodies from days long forgotten.

In a small shrine rebuilt after having been destroyed during one of the worst periods in Afghanistan’s tumultuous history, fires have been lit, milky tea is served, and hashish is being passed around. This shrine, called Charda Masoom (Persian for “the Fourteen Infallibles”), lies at the end of a muddy street with open gutters, lined with houses with cracked paint and tiny shops selling trinkets and household goods. On the surface, this congested alley looks like any other in this part of the city.

But what an outsider would not know is that for several hundred years, this street — known as Kucheh Kharabat, “the…

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Just Try It, You’ll Like It, It’s Good for You


The supermarket dairy aisle is increasingly the aisle of alterna-milks… but it all started with soy milk. Nadia Berenstein‘s deep dive into the history of soy milk at Serious Eats explains how soy milk was a hard sell for Americans until the Seventh-Day Adventists — who are vegetarian as a matter of of faith and are responsible for inventing many plant-based meat substitutes — decided to have a go at it.

Adventism’s soy-milk saint is Harry W. Miller, a doctor and medical missionary who spent decades in Japan and China, where he first became interested in soy foods. In 1931, Miller established an Adventist medical center in Shanghai, where cow’s milk was scarce and costly and where, though a handful of commercial soy-milk factories had recently begun operations, soy milk was usually not considered suitable for young children. In a series of feeding experiments, Miller and his medical staff showed…

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The Benefits of Spinsterhood


Men who live alone have a special name for their homes: bachelor pads. But what do women who live alone have, other than the ability to absorb and discard endless comments about when they’re going to get married? In Curbed, solo-living advocate Ashley Fetters looks at the history, stereotypes, and trends around women who choose to maintain their own spaces.

Solitude is often considered a privilege when we can afford to choose it and a punishment when it’s thrust upon us, and the same seems to extend to solo-living situations: Moving out to a place of one’s own for peace, quiet, and privacy is an occasion for congratulations, while living alone as a result of being abandoned or left behind is a much more pitiable affair. In other words, there’s an assertive, active image of living alone and there’s a sad, passive image of living alone.


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Nurses, Unite!


Livia Gershon | Longreads | June 2018 | 9 minutes (2,201 words)

Kate Phillips, a nurse who works in the intensive care unit at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, is part of a group trying to form a union. “Every nurse here has talked about times where he or she felt unsafe because there was not enough staffing, not enough equipment, or medicines came late because there were not enough pharmacy techs,” she toldThe Sun. The administration, she went on, “can basically make all the decisions and they don’t look at things from the perspective of patient care like we do.” This past January in Virginia, Patty Nelson, a psychiatric nurse who is the chapter chair of her local union, called on the state’s general assembly to expand Medicaid as soon as possible, citing clients with mental illness and addiction who can’t get the treatment they need…

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Here Be Tigers


Tasmania is a rugged, sparsely populated island off the southern coast of Australia. There’s a lot of bush and woods in which to disappear, or in this case, where a supposedly extinct species can cling to life. The last Tasmanian Tiger died in captivity in 1936, but thousands of people keep reporting tiger sightings across the country. For The New Yorker, journalist Brooke Jarvis spends time in Tasmania, examining the debate about whether this uniquely antipodal carnivore is extinct or alive, eking out its existence while avoiding scientific efforts to document it. What Jarvis finds is a species that represents colonizers’ remorse, the need for mystery in a world of diminishing scale, and one more expression of industrial society’s ruination of the earth.

The tiger mystifies Tasmanians. It’s a specter now, a myth. In the wider view, it’s part of a group of creatures like the Loch Ness Monster…

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On Mourning, Learning a More Sober Fandom, and Letting Go


Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, the singer-rapper known as XXXTentacion, died after an apparent armed robbery on June 18. He was 20 years old. His debut album, 17,  debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 last August, and a follow-up, ?, landed the number one spot in March. The popularity of his emotionally raw lyrics and sparse, cutting beats did not wane when allegations of strangulation, head-butting, kidnapping and other forms of physical and sexual abuse were made public last September.  In fact, XXX’s appeal only grew; fans as well as music industry insiders seemed to double down on their support. When the streaming service Spotify announced a plan to classify XXX and R. Kelly’s music as “hate content” and curtail promotion of the two artists, representatives of established hip-hop acts and label heads protested. Spotify abandoned the policy less than a month later, citing its “vague” language as one of the…

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Could Kratom End the Opioid Crisis?


At BuzzFeed, Azeen Ghorayshi reports on kratom, a plant-based substance that has helped some opioid abusers to overcome addiction. When users ingest kratom, it latches on to the same brain receptors as heroine and fentanyl, blocking the crippling withdrawal symptoms that prevent many users from breaking their habit. The problem is, because it does latch on to those same receptors, the US government’s not sure if they should classify it as an opioid and restrict it as a Schedule I controlled substance, even though it comes without a high.

By the time Courtney True found the Reddit thread about kratom in December 2016, she hadn’t touched an opioid for 48 hours. She was in bad shape — stomach cramps, diarrhea, jitters, hot sweats, cold sweats, and body aches that made even her teeth hurt. Sitting at her kitchen table hunched over a laptop, she recalled, “I felt like I…

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