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Weekend Reading

One of my quieter goals for 2020 is to do more substantive reading – thought-provoking reading, with actual time devoted to it, not just scrolling Reddit for headlines.

To that end, here are a few articles that I enjoyed and thought a lot about this week.

On Robert Caro, Great Men, and the Problem of Powerful Women in Biography by Caroline Fraser

So writing about women who have achieved a modicum of influence can often feel like watching someone on a precipice: One foot wrong, and it’s the block, the pillory, or the head in the oven. This is true whether writing about a forbidding figure, such as Mary Baker Eddy, the sinister founder of the Christian Science Church, who features in my first book, God’s Perfect Child, or a model of perseverance and pluck, Laura Ingalls Wilder in Prairie Fires. It requires one to follow a more circuitous path than the one Caro lays out, leading not to the exercise of power in any straightforward way but to the subversive, often stealthy assumption of it.

Power and ambition in women are often hidden, buried, shrouded, veiled, disguised, crushed, thwarted, mocked, diminished, warped, punished, or excoriated. Women oriented toward ambition may have concealed such a desire even from themselves.

The Last Time Democracy Almost Died by Jill Lepore

The series’ lead contributor, the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce, took issue with the question, as philosophers, thankfully, do. “I call this kind of question ‘meteorological,’ ” he grumbled. “It is like asking, ‘Do you think that it is going to rain today? Had I better take my umbrella?’ ” The trouble, Croce explained, is that political problems are not external forces beyond our control; they are forces within our control. “We need solely to make up our own minds and to act.”

Don’t ask whether you need an umbrella. Go outside and stop the rain.

I DON’T HATE WOMEN CANDIDATES — I JUST HATED HILLARY AND COINCIDENTALLY I’M STARTING TO HATE ELIZABETH WARREN by Devorah Blachor (satire, in case you were startled)

My hatred for Hillary wasn’t diabolical. I never bought into the whole pizzagate thing, or the whole Uranium One thing, or the whole spirit-cooking-she-drinks-blood-infused-Podesta-rice thing, and I never once believed she was the devil. I would see those posts and just be like, Huh, if people believe that stuff about her, she must be really terrible.

And I never chanted LOCK HER UP or created memes showing her in prison, but I did laugh a little at those memes, because the thought of this accomplished woman behind bars with all her agency stripped away from her was funny to me.

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