Time Capsules and Air Lifts

News and updates, the essays of Samuel Johnson, and more...

Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842–1910)

Mostly news and updates today, with a few reading notes beneath.

Paid subscribers recently received their first print newsletter in the mail. Nice! Some people did not, however, and I have now resent to all undelivered addresses using a different mail provider. So if you’re a paid subscriber and have not received a letter yet, just hang tight. If you’re overseas, you just have to be patient—it can take a while. I think we’re smooth sailing from here, sending mail is surprisingly complicated!

The fourth Other Life annual meetup is open for public registration, now that I’ve onboarded all paying subscribers who wish to attend. If we’ve never met, I’ll just ask you to jump on a short Zoom call with me before you pay. The Wagon Box Inn is an intimate, rustic, and somewhat isolated place where we’ll all be stuck with each other—so as a courtesy to the others the least I can do is meet everyone planning to come. Every person who’s ever come has been cool, so it’s probably overkill but feels like good practice. If you’re on the fence, you should come! If you have any questions, hit reply or just sign up here.

Join us tomorrow morning to discuss the essays of Samuel Johnson (which he published via paid newsletter in the 18th-century). Specifically, we’re reading #4 of The Rambler. Technically it’s about the nature and purpose of fiction, but more than that, I think. I’d also like for us to pay close attention to his style, rhetoric, and form. He was, after all, an independent writer earning an income from his writing, far before it was cool (he’d have much preferred a patron, which he could not secure). What do his essays teach us, substantively in their content but also practically in their example? Even if you’ve been too busy to read, we’ll start the meeting with a few quiet minutes for everyone to read (or re-read) the essay before discussion. RSVP here.

Currently Reading

And the Heart Says Whatever (2010) by Emily Gould. Some of you only learned the name Emily Gould a couple months ago when she had an essay go viral in The Cut. I need to write more about this, but for whatever reason, I've been following Emily Gould's career for a long time—since her first book, in 2010, when I was in college. Her recent essay fits squarely in the sad and terrifying female-professional-self-destruction genre but in some ways it is more interesting than the others. To check my hunch, I went and read her 2010 book of essays (which I’ve never read, I’ve only been following her career really). And oh man, I am finding this book so interesting. Such a time capsule. Gould is about 5 years older than me, so—though I’m not the target audience obviously—it’s nonetheless illuminating parts of my own life in surprisingly emotional ways. Anyway, I now have many notes on this and should try to write them up. We'll see if it comes to fruition.

They Flew: A History of the Impossible (2023) by Carlos Eire. This is really interesting so far. It's a dispassionate history of reported levitation miracles. When a saint hears a voice from God or something, that’s pretty disputable; levitations are interesting because they seem less vulnerable to competing interpretations. It turns out there have been many, many cases where people have witnessed another person lifting straight up into the air. The author does not say this stuff really happened, but neither does he go out of his way to say that none of it happened. On face, I like that. I'm sure I'll have more to say when I finish the book.

The Natural Theologian (2023) by Joel Carini. This is a collection of essays written on the author's newsletter over the past year or so. These are wide-ranging reflections on culture and politics written through the lens of natural theology. Readers interested in these topics will find much of interest, but quite apart from the content, I am especially impressed by the story behind the book. Joel joined our Indie Scholars writing accelerator at the beginning of his project more than a year ago, and he’s basically been publishing like crazy ever since then. Though I take no credit for his theological sophistication or work ethic, I’m always delighted to see what people achieve with projects launched through our program. Joel is one of many now who are really proving out the independent scholar lifestyle.

The invisible burdens of the two-year-old