To mark the end of the year, we’re rounding up some of your favourite pieces of 2018. Here is a selection of the year’s most popular essays:
Ottessa Moshfegh recounts an experience she had at seventeen with an older male writer – ‘One has to be somewhat badly behaved to write above the fray in a society most comfortable with palatable mediocrity.’
‘I’m nervous at night when I take off my leg. I wait until the last moment before sleep to un-tech because I am a woman who lives alone’ Jillian Weise, poet and disability rights activist, on the concerns of a cyborg.
A Few Words About Fake Breasts | Nell Boeschenstein
‘You repeat this over and over. You pinch your nipples harder. Then and harder harder still. You twist them. You dare them to say Mercy.’ Nell Boeschenstein on breast cancer and augmentation surgery.
Typing Practice | Barbara Ehrenreich
‘You can think without writing, of course, as most people do and have done throughout history, but if you can condense today’s thought into a few symbols preserved on a surface of some kind – paper or silicon – you don’t have to rethink it tomorrow.’ Barbara Ehrenreich on the benefits of a journal, republished from our archive.
Abuse, Silence and the Light that Virginia Woolf Switched On | April Ayers Lawson
When Virginia Woolf was thirteen, she was abused by her half-brother George Duckworth. No one believed her – not even her biographers. April Ayers Lawson on Woolf’s abuse, and her own.
Who Killed Tolstoy? | Elif Batuman
‘“You are certainly my most entertaining student,” said my adviser when I told her about my theory. “Tolstoy – murdered! Ha! Ha! Ha! The man was eighty-two years old, with a history of stroke!”
“That’s exactly what would make it the perfect crime,” I explained patiently.’
An excerpt from Elif Batuman’s book-memoir, The Possessed, republished this year from our archive.
The Man Who Lived | Snigdha Poonam
‘In a society as divided as India – which segments according to caste, class, religion, region and language – clashes have always been common. And they have often started with rumours. But these are no longer circulating through tea shops and fish markets. Instead, they are regularly going viral on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned instant messaging service.’ Snigdha Poonam on how WhatsApp is being used to encourage mob violence in India.
‘As an eleven-year-old boy, beginning to understand the possibilities of genitalia, I would stare horrified and fascinated through the kitchen window at the brutal copulations outside the coop. So it was probably me who first noticed Donald’s erection.’ Ross Raisin remembers his duck Donald.
When Poets Write Novels | Caoilinn Hughes
Caoilinn Hughes on the ten best novels written by poets – ‘When poets turn their hands to prose, those hands might well belong to Midas. In the best of these novels, poetry’s philosophy, acuity and truth-seeking are carried over into the prose.’
Exquisite Corpse | Frances Stonor Saunders
‘The snow drifts which buried the rubble of a bombed-out city could not conceal the devastating legacy of Hitler’s mythomaniacal dream for Germany. Berlin, like a ruined Carthage, was a desperate, cold, haunted place – defeated, conquered, occupied.’ The makings of a new world order in post-war Europe, an excerpt from Frances Stonor Saunders’s Who Paid the Piper?. Another great archival piece republished this year as part of our Archive Wednesday series.
Feature image © mariejirousek