- Last month, Trump and his coterie signed a bill to withhold funding from Planned Parenting services. In other words, a group of people without wombs made a pledge to de-fund womb-care. Would things be different if Trump and co. had wombs of their own? In 1978, Gloria Steinem asked a similar question. What would happen if men could menstruate and women could not? Well, getting your first period would be seen as ‘the envied beginning of manhood’ celebrated with family dinners and stag parties, and menopause would be welcomed as ‘the symbol that men had accumulated enough years of cyclical wisdom’. On the other hand, priests would argue that women were ‘unclean’ without a monthly purge of impurities, and medical schools would bar their entry, claiming they would ‘faint at the sight of blood’.
- Fox hunting is a long-standing (and brutal) British tradition, finally made illegal in 2004. Last week Theresa May announced her plan to reintroduce the ritual. For an insight into the secretive fox-hunting communities that continue the practice, we recommend ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ – Tim Adams’s 2005 essay following a group of animal-rights vigilantes as they drive about the countryside trying to catch illegal fox hunters in the act. Adam’s article takes its title from the children’s book by Roald Dahl – in which farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean – ‘one fat, one short, one lean’ – engage on a murderous vendetta against their four-legged neighbour and his family. Dahl’s story is hilarious fun, but also goes straight to the heart of rural England’s ancient feud with the fox.
- ‘The first time I lay actual eyes on the real David Lynch on the set of his movie, he’s peeing on a tree.’ To prepare for the highly-anticipated return of Twin Peaks this weekend, we’re recalling the time David Foster Wallace infiltrated the set of Lynch’s Lost Highway. Wallace is interested as much by Lynch’s obsession with ‘the irony of the banal’ as by the crew’s fashion choices, and dots his with trivia on the lesser-known details of the auteur’s career. Is Lynch a genius or an idiot? Artistic integrity or raging ego? The only thing that we are sure of is that ‘the owls are not what they seem’.
- Today marks the anniversary of Oscar Wilde’s release from Reading prison in 1897, after serving a two-year sentence for ‘homosexual offences’. While imprisoned, Wilde was permitted one piece of paper each morning on which to write, which was taken from him every evening. Wilde used these sheets of paper to write De Profundis, a 50,000 word love letter to the lover who betrayed him, Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas.
- The MFA is the cause of much debate. n+1 dedicated an entire anthology to it, which contains a blistering essay by Elif Batuman. She argues that ‘the programme will not generate good books, except by accident’, explaining that it’s disingenuous to pretend ‘literary production is a non-elite activity’. Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen also has reservations, writing of the hostility workshop spaces can generate for people of colour: ‘the writing workshop . . . is also an object lesson in how power propagates and conceals itself’. The MFA has undeniably changed the literary landscape, but has it been for the better?
- When it comes to nuclear waste, the disconnect between science and policy can have catastrophic effects on public health. This is why international governments must respect research and collaboration, according to Marilynne Robinson’s 1985 Granta essay ‘The Wasteland’. That same year Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale – recently adapted by Hulu – which explores the potential consequences of nuclear recklessness: rampant infertility, stillbirths and miscarriages, all as a result of radiation poisoning. We’ve been warned.
Image © Yanxin Wang