This week we’re getting a sneak preview of spring in Maine, and the two feet of snow is fast melting. But there’s still a bit of a chill in this week’s roundup, either the literal kind — a hilarious story about the offbeat sport of curling — or the metaphorical kind, with a couple of great longform stories about chilling misogyny.
The art of the obituary: It’s a dying one. I’ve long wanted to spotlight the art of obituary writing on Storyboard. Some of the best profiles are in obituaries. So when Steve Chawkins, a former obit writer, agreed to do a Storycraft post, I was thrilled. He riffs off the irony seen in the headline: Obit writing is a dying art. And then he takes a look at The New York Times obit of a favorite writer, James Thurber. Love this bit: “The anonymous obit writer evokes Thurber and the spirit of the old New Yorker in a quote from Harold Ross, the magazine’s legendary editor. Criticized for hiring ‘a fifth-rate artist’ like Thurber, Ross sprang to his charge’s defense. ‘You’re wrong,’ he said. ‘Thurber is a third-rate artist.'”
The soundtrack: “Ballad of the Dying Man,” by Father John Misty. How about this for a great lyric? “Eventually the dying man takes his dying breath/But first checks his newsfeed to see what he’s about to miss.”
“The only break from the darkness comes when the sub drops through clusters of bioluminescence that look like stars in the Milky Way.”
Brooke Jarvis, “The Deepest Dig.” The California Sunday Magazine, November 2, 2014. Read here why we think it’s great.
Guy Larson and “Merv Curls Lead”: It’s kind of like “The Office” on ice. I recently had the surreal experience of spending a Sunday afternoon learning the oddball sport of curling in a local Maine town and then getting a Narratively newsletter link to a story on curling the next day. And the story wasn’t even new — it was from nearly 20 years ago. That’s weird, right? But sometimes weird is good. Because the story by the Canadian writer Guy Larson is one of my favorite recent reads. It’s not only a wonderful character study, it has a true narrative arc. Tip to writers: Subheads can be a very clever narrative device, especially when you’re on the road through towns like Yorkton, Saskatchewan, and Red Deer, Alberta.
The soundtrack: “The Ice is Getting Thinner,” by Death Cab for Cutie. This is a (not particularly subtle) extended metaphor about a relationship going cold. But the feeling of uncertainty fits the story.
What I’m reading online: Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber. This is the story everyone (well, every woman, at least) was talking about this week. Engineer Susan Fowler describes the almost unbelievably awful behavior she says she endured as a woman at the company. Misogyny turned up to 11.
Plus, On the Milo Bus With the Lost Boys of America’s New Right, by Laurie Penny for the Pacific Standard. I’ve got a theme going on: a rare woman in a large group of frat-boys-meet-Gamergate-trolls. This was also a much-talked-about piece of longform this week. Some great insights in there, and vivid writing.
What’s on my bedside table: “Vinegar Girl,” by Anne Tyler. I’m trying to save money, and also support my local library. I just picked up “Vinegar Girl” in the “new” pile. (Oh, that frisson when the Date Due sticker is blank and you’re the first to check it out.) This book is one in a series that the imprint Hogarth Shakespeare is commissioning from well-known authors to reimagine some of Shakespeare’s works. This one is a reboot of “The Taming of the Shrew.” It’s fun and fizzy, and although it doesn’t have quite as many great lines as the original, Tyler throws in some decent ones. Describing a coquette teen’s eyes as asterisks, for example: I’m imagining a faux-startled look, all eyelashes and wide eyes.
What’s on my turntable: Although I spend most of my time listening to music on Spotify, sometimes I want to hear the needle touching down on vinyl. This week’s vinyl: “Be What You Are,” by the Staple Singers. I got this in a recent Stax Records haul at a Portland record store (including a couple of v. cool Isaac Hayes ones). Feeling down? Put this album on you’ll be happier. Inspirational lyrics, and a really good groove. Plus: Those horns! And those divine voices!
If you want to chat about storytelling (or music), you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter.