‣ David Roth writes in New York Magazine about two new biographies of some of the richest people in the world that were literary and historical duds. Writing about Michael Lewis’s book on Sam Bankman-Fried and mentioning Walter Isaacson’s book on Elon Musk, Roth says:
Between Going Infinite and Walter Isaacson’s enormous biography of the increasingly daffy and grim Elon Musk, it has been a rough time for the Heroes of Capitalism genre. The future prospects for that type of book are certainly still bright; Americans aren’t going to stop revering rich people just because they are “awful” or “boring” any time soon. But the ways in which Going Infinite falls short suggests a problem that goes beyond a national shortage of sufficiently compelling or just acceptably non-sociopathic rich guys. The fact that Isaacson’s “The Genius Biographies” series has declined from Leonardo Da Vinci to Steve Jobs to Elon Musk suggests not only that the heroes are getting less heroic, but that these books’ usual signifier of genius — vast wealth — has completely decoupled from any personal merit.
‣ Writing for Huck, Lydia Spencer-Elliott explains what “conkers” is and why it’s taking London by storm. It also makes me wonder if people in London are ok, but this is nuts, literally:
Conkers, typically, is a silly British game played by children across the UK every autumn. When horse chestnuts drop from their unfurled trees, players scoop them up, hole the nuts, thread a string through their centre and try to smash their opponent’s conker by swinging their own into it. The first recorded game happened on the Isle of Wight 175 years ago. Today, the World Conker Championships take place in Northamptonshire where the rules – stand one meter apart, don’t tamper or reuse your conkers, keep at least 20 cm of string between knuckle and nut are strictly enforced by finicky umpires. In Peckham, the competition is rambunctious: Battle Royale Rules– with cheating encouraged.
‣ Both CBS and CNN have canceled or clipped segments from Palestinian journalists and commentators in the past week, including Noura Erakat and Omar Baddar. Mari Cohen reports for Jewish Currents:
And Palestinian journalists, as well as Arab and Muslim journalists more generally, often find that this marginalization intensifies during periods of active conflict in Israel/Palestine. Last Friday, Semafor reported that in the week following the Hamas attacks, MSNBC had temporarily removed or postponed host appearances by three Muslim journalists—Mehdi Hasan, Ayman Mohyeldin, and Ali Velshi. Anonymous MSNBC staff members told Semafor that they were concerned these shifts were attempts to sideline anchors with “some of the deepest knowledge of the conflict,” although the network insisted that all such scheduling moves were coincidental. Semafor also reported that MSNBC executives had previously been uneasy about critical coverage of Israel during the country’s 2021 bombing of Gaza, with some “privately express[ing] discomfort” with coverage that highlighted the impact on Palestinian civilians. According to reporting by Slate in 2021, several journalists who covered Israel/Palestine for major American newspapers in the 2010s similarly faced pressure to moderate their coverage. Journalists recalled that senior managers often interfered with their reporting on what was happening in Gaza; one said that because of that pressure, they had “some trouble reporting the truth” of what they were witnessing on the ground. One major newspaper reporter recalled that their editors would challenge their firsthand accounts of Palestinian casualties “in a way the IDF’s point of view was never scrutinized.”
‣ For the Baffler, Palestinian-American writer Sarah Aziza shares dispatches from watching Israeli violence unfold in Gaza. Her moving series of vignettes and reflections reads:
“Five in Khan Younis,” my father says. He’s speaking of our dead relatives. He does not use that word, dead. “Five gone in Khan Younis,” he says. “Just two of the children left.”
“But what about Hamas?” I grew up with this question whipped at my face every time I declared my people’s right to survive. “What about Hamas?” It didn’t matter if I’d just asked for clean water or the right to return to our stolen land. “What about Hamas?” they’d ask, holding my humanity hostage. Their smug smiles at this question, which they saw as a rhetorical coup. I gave them hours, pages of my words. I filled rooms with my hot breath, panting, “We are not terrorists—Hamas is a symptom of oppression—yes of course I condemn extremism—this is a struggle for human rights—Israel propped up Hamas for years—please look at our children—please, don’t you see our helpless elders?—please, if you don’t respect us as humans, could you spare some pity?”
Another aunt disappears.
‣ Writer Arundhati Roy made comments in 2010 about the occupation of Kashmir, and now, the Indian government is set to prosecute her. Scholar Vijay Prashad explains for the Wire:
The BJP has an elephantine memory. Nothing of these kinds of remarks is forgotten. Everything is remembered. The BJP returns at some point to cash its cheque. Roy made a speech in 2010. It was not forgotten. She was at the protest against the arrest of Purkayastha and Chakraborty. The FIR against her has been activated by the LG less than a week later. The FIR is not just about that speech in 2010. It is against everything she has stood for since ‘The End of Imagination’.
‣ In the Intercept, Ryan Grim and Neha Wadekar write about how the World Bank appears to have been covering up child sex abuse at its for-profit schools:
The conspiring would have remained in the stage of paranoid rumor had the notes from the critical September 12 call not fallen into the hands of the CAO. After the meeting, World Bank staffer Shannon Atkeson filed the notes internally. The notes are not always clear on who is doing the talking, though in some portions, initials are attached to particular comments. Efforts to reach Sonneborn, Atkeson (who has since left her post at the World Bank), May, and Kimmelman for clarification were unsuccessful. When the CAO asked bank officials to turn over all documents related to the Bridge investment, those notes wound up with investigators, and eventually into the hands of the U.S. government.
‣ Whale tails and low-rises and halters, oh my! Early 2000s fashion is making a comeback, which for some brings a distinctly more radical, body-neutral spirit, writes Honey Simatupang for Grain of Salt Mag:
I bought my first pair of low rise jeans as an adult from a thrift shop last year, and my first lacy exposable thong followed. I got them in the throes of a particularly bad spell of body dysmorphia, and I was surprised to find that I couldn’t stop wearing them. After a certain point, the constant exposure of my stomach made me forget that it was out there. I began to see my stomach as a stomach, not as one either bigger or smaller, softer or more muscular than others. Just a stomach, period. My anxiety over appearing more fit and taut barely manifested, and I found myself unexpectedly embodying body neutrality.
‣ TikToker @saratalksart breaks down art censorship as a litmus test for settler colonialism:
‣ Veteran Israeli journalist Amira Hass talked to Democracy Now about what is going on in Israel right now:
‣ If you’ve never seen the Canadian documentary Manufacturing Consent (1992), then I highly recommend it. It focuses on Noam Chomsky’s ideas around media and it’s available for free on YouTube.
‣ Why Barcelona’s beaches are disappearing, by the Guardian:
‣ This is an unbelievable story from Malaysia about an apartment complex that lost the rights to the entrance of their homes:
‣ What’s your lerv language?
‣ Cave painting criticism, anyone?
Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.