My favorite passage is about the intimacy of acquaintances. It’s a scene from near the end of Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse, when a woman who has spent many summers visiting the same family’s home reflects on one of her longtime fellow houseguests:
She did not know what he had done ... but she felt it in him all the same. They only mumbled at each other on staircases; they looked up at the sky and said it will be fine or it won’t be fine. But this was one way of knowing people, she thought: to know the outline, not the detail, to sit in one’s garden and look at the slopes of a hill running purple down into the distant heather. She knew him in that way. She knew that he had changed somehow.
I’ve been a shy, awkward bookworm all my life, and this is the way I know most people: from a distance, by observation, through the mutual understanding one gains simply from sharing a space. The two characters mentioned are a painter and a poet, which makes sense to me: Not only does Woolf’s description sound like a particularly writerly, painterly way of eavesdropping on the world, but it also seems to capture the relationship shared among readers and writers—a kind of intimacy through distance, the brief, deep, tangential connection you get when the same set of words runs through each of your heads.
The series is a set of loosely connected stories, jumping back and forth in time. When I first read pieces of it as a teenager, I didn’t really care for it. But for whatever reason, I picked it back up in grad school and was completely blown away upon reread.
There are a lot of amazing stories in Phoenix, but the one I keep coming back to is volume 2, which is about the end of mankind. The world ends in nuclear war, and one lone survivor is given immortality and tasked by the phoenix to bring back mankind. The bulk of the story is dedicated to his isolation, loneliness, and despair, but at the end he finally gets to see the re-emergence of man. Every time I read the final pages it gives me chills. Phoenix deals so much with themes of cycles and rises and falls, and Tezuka was able to subtly inject that into the artwork and panel design. A couple of loose pages without the full weight of the story don't really do it justice, but it's a work I find myself coming back to time and time again.
This next reader’s favorite—from Shakespeare’s Macbeth—is also a rediscovery:
My 10th-grade English teacher made everybody memorize and perform this. We hated him with the heat of 10,000 suns at the time. I am now grateful.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Thucydides’ account of the civil war in Corcyra affects me every time. It’s the best piece of writing that I know of regarding the terrible logic whereby violence escalates:
So revolutions broke out in city after city, and in places where the revolutions occurred late, the knowledge of what had happened previously in other places caused still new extravagances of revolutionary zeal, expressed by an elaboration in the methods of seizing power and by unheard-of atrocities in revenge. To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one's unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action. Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man, and to plot against an enemy behind his back was perfectly legitimate self-defense. Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect. To plot successfully was a sign of intelligence, but it was still cleverer to see that a plot was hatching. If one attempted to provide against having to do either, one was disrupting the unity of the party and acting out of the fear of the opposition.In short, it was equally praiseworthy to get one's blow in first against someone who was going to do wrong, and to denounce someone who had no intention of doing any wrong at all.
Another reader brings us back to the present—“not a book of classic literature, but a former bestseller that I enjoy”:
Here is a passage from Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. The context is that, after a hellish week in which a friend dies, another friend is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and she faces some financial troubles. She and a friend go hiking in a marshy area and end up falling in, covered in mud:
When Neshama and I finally got up to go, I was still sad, but better. This is the most profound spiritual truth I know, that even when we’re most sure that love cannot conquer all, it seems to anyway. It goes down into the rat hole with us, in the guise of our friends, and there it swells and comforts. It gives us second winds, third winds, hundredth winds. I have spent so much time trying to pump my way into feeling the solace that I used to feel in my parents’ arms. But pumping always fails you in the end. The truth is your spirits don't rise until you get way down. Maybe it’s because this—the mud, the bottom—is where it all rises from. Maybe without it, whatever rises would fly off or evaporate before you could even be with it for a moment. But when someone enters that valley with you, that mud, it somehow saves you again. At the marsh, all that mud and one old friend worked like a tenderizing mallet. Where before there had been tough fibers, hardness, and held breath, now there were mud, dirt, water, air, and mess—and I felt soft and clean.
Masquerades disclose the reality of souls. As long as no one sees who we are, we can tell the most intimate details of our life. I sometimes muse over this sketch of a story about a man afflicted by one of those personal tragedies born of extreme shyness who one day, while wearing a mask I don't know where, told another mask all the most personal, most secret, most unthinkable things that could be told about his tragic and serene life. And since no outward detail would give him away, he having disguised even his voice, and since he didn't take careful not of whoever had listened to him, he could enjoy the ample sensation of knowing that somewhere in the world there was someone who knew him as not even his closest and finest friend did. When he walked down the street he would ask himself if this person, or that one, or that person over there might not be the one whom he’d once, wearing a mask, told his most private life. Thus would be born in him a new interest in each person, since each person might be his only, unknown confidant.
It’s a passage that captures, I think, some of the best parts of the internet, which are also some of the best parts of reading: the fact that one person’s thought, expressed behind a screen or a book’s bound cover, could reach countless other people, and that a stranger’s secret can somehow find its way to someone else who understands. That in the private act of reading we can share in the lives of so many others. That we all, to borrow Woolf’s phrase, can know each other in that way.
So, tell us: Is there a literary passage that discloses your reality? A sentence that resonates with a major moment in your life, or simply a turn of phrase that you return to over and over? Can you quote a poem that’s shaped your philosophy, or a book that captures a feeling you’ve longed to express? Send us your favorite passage to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us a bit about why it’s been so formative.
Last week, I invited readers to send in the literary passages that most spoke to them and shaped them. Here’s Jen, with a passage from Dostoevsky:
I first read The Brothers Karamazov when I was 17, on a rocky family vacation. At first, it was a melodramatic Russian escape from my fighting parents’ slow-ending marriage. But then I got to the chapter “Rebellion.” I couldn’t look away from the page. It was my teenage introduction to the existential unfairness of the world. It was heartbreaking and exhilarating, depressing and empowering. Even now when I read it, my heart beats faster as Ivan breathlessly works his way up to his declaration. He feels as real to me as the impossible dilemma with which he struggles.
It’s not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to “dear, kind God”! It’s not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price. I don’t want the mother to embrace the oppressor who threw her son to the dogs! She dare not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she will, let her forgive the torturer for the immeasurable suffering of her mother’s heart. But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no right to forgive; she dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, what becomes of harmony? Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don’t want harmony. From love for humanity I don’t want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it’s beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It’s not God that I don’t accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket.
Adam Bielka wrestled with similar questions after reading a very different text, The Answer by K.A. Applegate:
In the ending of the Animorphs series, the titular child superheroes manage to take control of the mothership of the Yeerks—a race of alien parasites intent on enslaving all of humanity, and the Animorphs’ main antagonists. At this moment the Animorphs’ leader, Jake, considers whether to massacre the Yeerks aboard by flushing them into space.
Seventeen thousand. Living creatures. Thinking creatures. How could I give this order? Even for victory. Even to save Rachel. How could I give this kind of order?
They could have stayed home, I thought. No one had asked them to come to Earth. Not my fault. Not my fault, theirs. No more than they deserved. Aliens. Parasites. Subhuman.
“Flush them,” I said.
Having spent over fifty books watching the noble Animorphs fight the Yeerks, I had internalized a deep hatred for them. At the time I first read this, I full-heartedly agreed with the decision to massacre them, despite the fact they posed no longer posed a threat. Later, after some reflection, both Jake and I reconsidered the moral stakes, and regretted the moment’s extreme vitriol.
This passage stuck with me because it pointed to a dark part of my own soul. It was a jarring picture of how noble causes can turn horrible so quickly, and how easy it was to internalize hate and dehumanize enemies. An important lesson, and one that really shattered my confidence that I was an inherently good person.
I remember Animorphs as a staple of my middle-school-library shelves, which makes me think of another turn our literary-passage series could take: Can you recall a children’s book or young adult novel in particular that shaped your views growing up? If so, let us know. Emma has one:
It’s about angsty teens in Pittsburgh (my hometown) trying to make sense of their surroundings, friends, family, and themselves as they plan for high school graduation and college. It fit me almost too well. As a bored, middle-class suburban kid, I always wanted to get out of this town and pursue my own life outside of the social constraints of my high school and the family obligations at home. I always felt tied down and held back, never able to fully break away from the rut I was in growing up.
There’s a passage that struck me like lightning when I read it:
So I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.
This was magic to me as a 16-year-old. It very simply told me that no, I can’t change where I’ve been and who I’ve been in the past, but I can change myself going forward, and I don’t have to feel guilty about it. We all have our pasts, but we are the captains of our futures, and that is so powerful to hear as a kid stuck in the suburbs.
Lastly, here’s Sarah Dorger, with a passage by Aldous Huxley:
I had to read Brave New World in my senior-year literature class in high school (Thanks, Mrs. McFarlan!). I remember being interested in it and enjoying it because I’d always liked the exploratory nature of science fiction, but it wasn’t sticking as something that was particularly meaningful until I’d nearly reached the end. Then, in chapter 17:
“But I like the inconveniences.”
“We don’t,” said the Controller. “We prefer to do things comfortably.”
“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.” There was a long silence.
“I claim them all,” said the Savage at last.
I still can’t describe the emotion that this passage induces. It still makes me feel like someone’s taken my bones out of me. What really sticks with me isn’t even necessarily what’s being said; what sticks with me is that silence. That still, held-breath, precipice-standing, heavy Silence as John the Savage considers the weight of walking away from bliss and convenience, and then, with paradise right at his feet: “I claim them all.”
I could write about the significance of this moment academically; I could talk about the meaning in the choice to accept life’s lows as part of the beauty of the human experience; but I don’t want to. I don’t want to approach this with detachment, I just want to feel it. And I have felt it; I can’t get it out of my head. I've thought about it for years. It’s become such a bone-deep part of my understanding of the world that I couldn’t imagine forgetting it.
Last week, we published a series of formative passages that have prompted readers to confront deep existential questions. This week, more readers look to literature for answers and guidance—and sometimes a challenge. Jenny Bhatt writes:
I first came across a worn-down copy of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own at age 18 in a tiny “raddiwala” (used paper/scrap collector) shack in Bombay, India. Reading it all the way through that evening, I went alternately hot and cold at various passages. Like the Girton College women [to whom Woolf addressed the essay], I was trying to decide what to do next with my life, as the options for someone of my gender, class, and caste in India then were limited and all led to a lifetime of housewifery. I had wanted be a journalist, a writer, and had been told it was not a respectable profession. I had heard the ridicule Woolf had described: “The world said with a guffaw, Write? What’s the good of your writing?”
At the time, this was a major revelation (she elaborated it beautifully and compellingly over several pages, of course):
Intellectual freedom depends on material things. Poetry depends on intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. Women have had less intellectual freedom than the sons of Athenian slaves. Women, then, have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one’s own.
And this part was as if she was talking directly to me:
By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream. For I am by no mean confining you to fiction. If you would please me—and there are thousands like me—you would write books of history and biography, and criticism and philosophy and science. …
Young women, you are, in my opinion, disgracefully ignorant. You have never made a discovery of any sort of importance. You have never shaken an empire or led an army into battle. The plays of Shakespeare are not by you, and you have never introduced a barbarous race to the blessings of civilization. What is your excuse?
Even now, I have a visceral reaction to this challenge. Before I finished reading, I knew I had to do what she had exhorted those Girton women to do: get “500 a year, and a room of one’s own.”
It’s been a tough, long road of not-writing to get to where I am able to live off my own “500 a year” and, yes, write. So, I’m a late-starter, but I’m doing it on my own terms. I would never have taken those first steps to defy convention, get over my own mental roadblocks, and make my way in the world if it hadn’t been for this book and this author. I return to both often and with a love and gratitude I cannot even put into appropriate words.
This next reader, Andrea, sends two excerpts from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet that resonate with her “as someone trying to live some important questions right now”:
This is somewhat akin to Nietzsche’s aphorism “No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,” but it’s far lovelier:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
More from that same book but less well known:
Almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension that we find paralyzing because we no longer hear our surprised feelings living. Because we are alone with the alien thing that has entered into our self; because everything intimate and accustomed is for an instant taken away; because we stand in the middle of a transition where we cannot remain standing. For this reason the sadness too passes: the new thing in us, the added thing, has entered into our heart, has gone into its inmost chamber and is not even there any more—is already in our blood. And we do not learn what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing has happened, and yet we have changed, as a house changes into which a guest has entered. …
The more still, more patient and more open we are when we are sad, so much the deeper and so much the more unswervingly does the new go into us, so much the better do we make it ours, so much the more will it be our destiny, and when on some later day it “happens” (that is, steps forth out of us to others), we shall feel in our inmost selves akin and near to it. And that is necessary. It is necessary—and toward this our development will move gradually—that nothing strange should befall us, but only that which has long belonged to us. …
That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter.
Lynn shares a different kind of guiding passage:
This is what’s on my fridge most prominently at the moment (it is from Muriel Burberry’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which was not my favorite read by a long shot, but I have loved this idea):
There’s so much humanity in a love of trees, so much nostalgia for our first sense of wonder, so much power in just feeling our own insignificance when we are surrounded by nature … yes, that’s it: just thinking about trees and their indifferent majesty and our love for them teaches us how ridiculous we are—vile parasites squirming on the surface of the earth—and at the same time how deserving of life we can be, when we can honor this beauty that owes us nothing.
It feels powerful and affirming to me, because I struggle with the knowledge that we are destroying our surroundings, but that we, too, are creatures of the earth and have a right to take joy in it. Will we ever be able to find a way to live with the earth instead of against it?
I retired 10 years ago and soon came across a quote in a book by British author Jane Gardam, Old Filth (acronym for “failed in London, try Hong Kong”). One of the characters, Isobel Ingoldsby, is referred to in this short line:
She was unfailingly delighted by the surprise of each new day.
I want it to define the days in the years still available to me.
This has become a common refrain among the cautious—and it’s wrong.
For many fully vaccinated Americans, the Delta surge spoiled what should’ve been a glorious summer. Those who had cast their masks aside months ago were asked to dust them off. Many are still taking no chances. Some have even returned to all the same precautions they took before getting their shots, including avoiding the company of other fully vaccinated people.
Among this last group, a common refrain I’ve heard to justify their renewed vigilance is that “vaccinated people are just as likely to spread the coronavirus.”
This misunderstanding, born out of confusing statements from public-health authorities and misleading media headlines, is a shame. It is resulting in unnecessary fear among vaccinated people, all the while undermining the public’s understanding of the importance—and effectiveness—of getting vaccinated.
Justices love to proclaim their impartiality, all evidence to the contrary.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett is offended by those questioning the impartiality of the Supreme Court.
“This Court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” she announced at a recent event at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, named for Senator Mitch McConnell. “Judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties.”
For Barrett to insist on her nonpartisanship at a center named for the legislator whose procedural hardball was instrumental in securing her seat suggests that, although Barrett’s peers have praised her legal mind, her sense of irony leaves something to be desired. But then, it’s not much more absurd than her colleague Justice Brett Kavanaugh insisting on his impartiality days after vowing revenge against the left while under oath. Similarly, Justice Clarence Thomas recently warned against “destroying our institutions because they don’t give us what we want, when we want it,” complaining that “the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference.” Next month, Thomas will give a keynote address at a symposium celebrating his years on the Court at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, alongside McConnell.
The former president could still win fair and square if Biden lets these five problems spiral.
Are constitutionally committed Americans doing all they can to prevent a pro-Trump plot to pervert the 2024 election?
But along with that question, here’s another: Are constitutionally committed Americans doing all they can to prevent Donald Trump from winning the 2024 election fair and square?
The Biden administration’s numbers are slumping in the fall of 2021, opening the way for Republican gains in 2022 and the return of the twice-impeached ex-president as a presidential nominee. The schemes and machinations of the pro-Trump movement are part of the story. But if we’re heading toward a crisis of the republic, the mistakes and misfortunes of the anti-Trump coalition deserve a mention as well.
A conversation with the former Google CEO Eric Schmidt
For years now, artificial intelligence has been hailed as both a savior and a destroyer. The technology really can make our lives easier, letting us summon our phones with a “Hey, Siri” and (more importantly) assisting doctors on the operating table. But as any science-fiction reader knows, AI is not an unmitigated good: It can be prone to the same racial biases as humans are, and, as is the case with self-driving cars, it can be forced to make murky split-second decisions that determine who lives and who dies. Like it or not, AI is only going to become an even more omnipresent force: We’re in a “watershed moment” for the technology, says Eric Schmidt, the former Google CEO.
Schmidt is a longtime fixture in a tech industry that seems to constantly be in a state of upheaval. He was the first software manager at Sun Microsystems, in the 1980s, and the CEO of the former software giant Novell in the ’90s. He joined Google as CEO in 2001, then was the company’s executive chairman from 2011 until 2017. Since leaving Google, Schmidt has made AI his focus: In 2018, he wrote in The Atlantic about the need to prepare for the AI boom, along with his co-authors Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, and the MIT dean Daniel Huttenlocher. The trio have followed up that story with The Age of AI, a book about how AI will transform how we experience the world, coming out in November.
The stakes were high for a Sopranos prequel. The Many Saints of Newark doesn’t measure up.
Whether you call it a spin-off, a prequel, or a companion film, The Many Saints of Newark is inescapably tied to David Chase’s HBO show, The Sopranos, which is still one of the greatest television series ever made. Who Made Tony Soprano, the movie’s poster blares, with its actual title in a far smaller font underneath. Written by Chase and Lawrence Konner and directed by the Sopranos mainstay Alan Taylor, the film is set decades before the show and mixes a self-contained drama of 1960s Mafia life with backstory targeted at devoted fans of the series. Separately, both elements largely succeed; together, they never quite gel into a cohesive narrative.
Even a simple question about The Many Saints of Newark is damning: Would a non-Sopranos viewer bother watching it? The film is narrated by the TV-showcharacter Christopher Moltisanti (played by Michael Imperioli), who, within minutes, references a crucial plot point about his arc on the series that was revealed in one of the final episodes. Fans will remember the story line; newcomers, I imagine, will be baffled. The Many Saints of Newark is more of a curious side project than a distinct work. That was probably inevitable: The Sopranos is too sprawling for a straightforward prequel treatment, and Chase is too ambitious a writer to follow a known formula. The result is a movie that, ironically, might have functioned better as a TV show.
While some Pfizer recipients can now get an extra shot, federal officials are still mum on what’s next for the at-risk individuals who got Moderna or J&J.
For some of us, booster shots have finally arrived. But they’ve charted quite a meandering course to get here. First, last month, President Joe Biden announced that most Americans would be able to nab third doses of mRNA vaccines eight months after their second shots. Then, last week the FDA narrowed the eligible population, before a CDC advisory committee suggested tightening the boundaries even further. Hours after that panel shared its recommendation, the agency’s director, Rochelle Walensky, reversed course and ballooned the guidance back out to more closely align with the FDA’s much broader guidelines—though she stopped short of urging the shots for everyone.
It is all, frankly, a bit confusing. Millions of Americans are now in a sort of immunological limbo, wondering which expert advice to heed, and how soon to reroll up their sleeve, as the guidance coming from up top shifts seemingly by the day. Boosters are, at this point, offering more whiplash than protection. I spoke with Walensky today at The Atlantic Festival to see if we could make sense of some of the current situation—her unconventional move to break from the advisory committee’s guidance, and the tough choices millions of Americans face as they navigate the months ahead.
Facebook is acting like a hostile foreign power; it’s time we treated it that way.
In 1947, Albert Einstein, writing in this magazine, proposed the creation of a single world government to protect humanity from the threat of the atomic bomb. His utopian idea did not take hold, quite obviously, but today, another visionary is building the simulacrum of a cosmocracy.
Mark Zuckerberg, unlike Einstein, did not dream up Facebook out of a sense of moral duty, or a zeal for world peace. This summer, the population of Zuckerberg’s supranational regime reached 2.9 billion monthly active users, more humans than live in the world’s two most populous nations—China and India—combined.
To Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, they are citizens of Facebookland. Long ago he conspicuously started calling them “people” instead of “users,” but they are still cogs in an immense social matrix, fleshy morsels of data to satisfy the advertisers that poured $54 billion into Facebook in the first half of 2021 alone—a sum that surpasses the gross domestic products of most nations on Earth.
One of the ocean’s top predators has met its match.
Filipa Samarra could hear the pilot whales before she could see them. In 2015, out on the choppy waters off of southern Iceland, Samarra and her research team were eavesdropping on a group of killer whales. She listened as they pipped, squealed, and clicked when suddenly her ears were filled with high-pitched whistling. “Then the killer whales just went silent,” says Samarra, a biologist and the lead investigator of the Icelandic Orca Project. As the whistling grew stronger, a group of pilot whales came into view, and the killer whales seemed to turn and swim away.
“It’s quite unusual because the killer whale is this top predator,” says Anna Selbmann, a doctoral candidate at the University of Iceland who is supervised by Samarra. “It’s very unusual that they’re afraid of anything—or seemingly afraid.”
The controversial cult brand LuLaRoe sold a powerful idea: that mothers could succeed as entrepreneurs while spending meaningful time with their kids.
People who have heard of LuLaRoe have usually come across it for one of two reasons. Either someone they know has tried to sell them the company’s stretchy leggings and fit-and-flare dresses over Facebook, or they’ve seen some of the gleeful coverage of LuLaRoe’s very public disintegration as a brand: the lawsuits, the bankruptcies filed by its sellers, the boxes of apparently moldy clothing shipped to vendors that smelled, in one woman’s description, like a “dead fart.” (Leggings! Never not controversial!) Much of LuLaRich, a new four-part Amazon series exploring the company’s rise and fall, focuses on its alleged mismanagement and manipulative aspects, grouping it with some of the splashier docuseries of years past. No one at LuLaRoe seems to have found themselves getting the area above their groin branded, or poisoning an Oregon salad bar with salmonella. But in one scene, a former LuLaRoe vendor recalls a company meetup where everyone assembled was, like her, wearing brightly patterned leggings and a broad, be-lipsticked smile. “I remember looking around and being like, We all look the same,” she tells the camera. “I was like, Oh my God, I’m in a cult.”
After 9/11, the kids from a school near Ground Zero were briefly, weirdly, famous for their proximity to tragedy. What has this anniversary season meant to them?
Darby Northington and his mom and younger brother had almost made it to school. They’d gotten a late start that morning; it was the beginning of the year at P.S. 234, an elementary school just north of the World Trade Center, where Darby was in third grade, and everyone was still getting into a new routine. They were about to cross Chambers Street when a plane flew directly overhead.
When Darby told me this story, on Zoom in late August, he looked toward the ceiling and held both his arms up in parallel, as though he were catching a basketball, to indicate the plane’s path. He remembered thinking, Whoa, this is the closest I’ve ever seen one of these. The plane was low and loud. When it hit the North Tower, everyone stood and stared. Darby said something to his mom about the accident they’d just witnessed. “She was like, ‘It’s not an accident,’” he recalled.