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British by birth, New Yorker by nature.

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Ten Articles To Read Again And Again

Books & WordsAlexandra king2 Comments
marilyn monroe TSWIL


This post was inspired by the fact that it's fairly common to solicit book advice from friends and family and encounter book reviews (even the New York Post has one) but we don't do quite the same thing with articles, do we? Newspapers and magazines, each one a colossal miracle of copy, a full novel of words, produced by immense effort daily, are read and discarded and recycled.  At best, shared enthusiastically on social media with its accompanying five seconds of fame, or, in occasional cases, canonized quietly into literary permanence between the soft bindings of a published anthology. But there's not much in between. When I was younger, I used to cut out articles I liked and paste them in a scrap book (which I promptly lost somewhere between England and America). But now we have the internet, what a marvel, meaning I can discard my gluestick and reach for Google.

It must be said that Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Fran Leibovitz etc all belong here, but I didn't include them because everyone knows them already, and if you don't, I implore your eyes to eat up their respective catalogues at once. I tried to make this list recent, with the exception of Gay Talese, because the Joe Di Maggio piece is just so masterful and, in my humble opinion, under read (and because I love that line about him keeping a painting of his ex wife, Marilyn Monroe, dead by the time the article was written, in his living room- "there is a soft sweet smile on her lips, an innocent curiosity about her that is the way he saw her and the way he wanted her to be seen" HOW MUCH MORE SIMPLE AND PERFECT FEELING COULD YOU PUT IN A LINE? Heart-a-flutter to the max).

Below are ten articles that I find myself coming back to, again and again, when I'm in need of feeling or inspiration. The list features, among others, sensational writers like Marina Hyde, Sophie Heawood and Simon Van Booy. AA Gill, like his initial, appears twice. I hope you enjoy them all, and please post any links to your favourite articles in the comments. I'd love to read them.

"Raising a Princess Singlehandedly" by Simon Van Booy

My favourite lines:

"That was the first of hundreds of nights we would simply have to fake normalcy and hope it felt the same. Madeleine fell asleep during the film. She missed the part where the Prince brings Sleeping Beauty back to life with a kiss, and everything returns to normal. I wondered whether she fell asleep on purpose."

"Every day there is an egg to catch. But my one great hope is that my daughter will always trust me enough to throw it — and that in her growing heart she will see the world as a place where more eggs are caught than broken."

"Why The Boston Terrorist Plot Is The Least Successful In Living Memory" by Marina Hyde

My favourite lines:

"Not everyone in the UK knows someone running in Sunday's marathon, but you could imagine everyone knowing someone who knows someone running in it. Have you got a someone? It's not too late to get a someone."

"I had spent what felt like a couple of decades – but was in fact only a couple of days – asking everyone from doctors to nurses to cleaners to random people in corridors whether my baby was going to die, and been only answered with what felt like an increasingly tentative "Look, he's in the best place …"

"A Writer And A Friend Of The Highest Class" by AA Gill

My favourite lines:

"Ours is not a cosy profession. We don’t share much. Not contacts or leads. Not quotes or stories. Amy did. She was a paragon, and perhaps a lesson. "

"Amy was found hanged. I have been worrying about how to say that. Normally, I’d have asked Amy. She’d have said, “Put hanged. That’s what happened. You need to say.”

"In Memoriam, My Courageous Brother Christopher" by Peter Hitchens

My favourite lines:

"Here’s a thing I will say now without hesitation, unqualified and important. The one word that comes to mind when I think of my brother is ‘courage’. By this I don’t mean the lack of fear which some people have, which enables them to do very dangerous or frightening things because they have no idea what it is to be afraid. I mean a courage which overcomes real fear, while actually experiencing it".

"He never went home and now never will. Never, there it is, that inflexible word that trails close behind that other non-negotiable syllable, death."

"Thanksgiving in Mongolia" by Ariel Levy

My favourite lines:

"I liked the idea of telling my kid, “When you were inside me, we went to see the edge of the earth.” 

"But the truth is, the ten or twenty minutes I was somebody’s mother were black magic. There is no adventure I would trade them for; there is no place I would rather have seen. Sometimes, when I think about it, I still feel a dark hurt from some primal part of myself, and if I’m alone in my apartment when this happens I will hear myself making sounds that I never made before I went to Mongolia. I realize that I have turned back into a wounded witch, wailing in the forest, undone."

"The Silent Season of a Hero" by Gay Talese

My favourite lines:

"The banners had been held by hundreds of young boys whose dreams had been fulfilled so often by Mantle, but also seated in the grandstands were older men, paunchy and balding, in whose middle-aged minds DiMaggio was still vivid and invincible, and some of them remembered how one month before, during a pregame exhibition at Old-timers’ Day in Yankee Stadium, DiMaggio had hit a pitch into the left-field seats, and suddenly thousands of people had jumped wildly to their feet, joyously screaming—the great DiMaggio had returned, they were young again, it was yesterday"

"How To Get Thrown Out Of The Royal Enclosure" by Tanya Gold

My favourite lines:

"Ascot, as far as I can see with my middle-class eyes, is the British Class System in a grandstand. It is a world of barricades and badges and net veils and is thus the most terrifying place I have encountered since I last went to South Kensington by mistake. But that is for later. For now, the hats."

"The Queen looks, as ever, like an angry sweet sitting on her rage. She waddles to her box to watch the show. There's not much left to do but sit down, eat the cheese roll and wait for it all to die."

"Raves Made Me And They'll Make My Baby Too" by Sophie Heawood

My favourite lines:

"My one-year-old was with me in her pushchair, chewing on her own hand. Joining the queue, I found myself asking God – much like when I peed on a stick two years ago, actually – if this was really happening to me."

"And so I wish her the joy of being anyone, for a few hours, lost in the darkness, answerable only to the molecules. If anything, I want her to know that she is nobody, and nothing. I want her to feel like air."

"The Seismic Changes Of Having A Baby" by Eva Wiseman

My favourite lines:

"But I see now that it wasn’t only that, that exhaustion that you can almost chew on; it was something new, and it was horrible because it was love. The thing I feel for her is physically painful. It’s an awful love. A terrible love. It continues to wind me. It’s a one-inch punch. It’s not the comforting bath of love I’m used to. It’s a bruise being pressed, continually, by a strong thumb."

"...those tiny birds. Falling like snow. I realise now that the reason I’m still thinking about them is that I identified with both the flying geese and the falling babies."

"Rote 66" by AA Gill

My favourite lines:

'Having treated you at the door like social scurvy with contagious halitosis, the staff subtly changes demeanor once you’re inside. They treat you like deaf cretins with learning difficulties. “Have you eaten here before?” they ask. “Do you understand how this works?” “What—I order, you serve, I pay, you give me my coat back?”

"When was it that blank emptiness and mild discomfort became a synonym for deep thought? When models started doing yoga, I suppose."