As we try to get the mildew out of the swimsuits we left in the corner over the weekend, we wanted to leave you a pile of stories for when you take refuge from the baking heat of August and are looking for something to read other than the rusty box of Old Bay seasoning in the back of the cupboard at your aunt’s lakeside cabin (“same great taste for over 60 years”). Have a look…

The crisis of middle-class Americaby Edward Luce in the Financial Times (via The Browser)

Technically speaking, Mark Freeman should count himself among the luckiest people on the planet. The 52-year-old lives with his family on a tree-lined street in his own home in the heart of the wealthiest country in the world. When he is hungry, he eats. When it gets hot, he turns on the air-conditioning. When he wants to look something up, he surfs the internet. One of the songs he likes to sing when he hosts a weekly karaoke evening is Johnny Cash’s “Man in Black.” Yet somehow things don’t feel so good any more.

Carol City High reunion confronts vexing issue of race,” by Robert Samuels in The Miami Herald (via Be sure to read to the end.

Now, as adults, they spoke about classmates in code — the “other reunion.” Some didn’t even realize that reunions were segregated. “When I looked at the attendance list, I thought, boy this was small,” said Leslie Dee, who was on the swim team. “Then, I noticed that everyone was white. If I had known about the other reunion, I would have been there.”

The Empty Chamber” by George Packer from The New Yorker

Observed from the press gallery, the senators in their confined space began to resemble zoo animals—Levin a shambling brown bear, John Thune a loping gazelle, Jim Bunning a maddened grizzly. Each one displayed a limited set of behaviors: in conversations, John Kerry planted himself a few inches away, loomed, and clamped his hands down on a colleague’s shoulders. Joe Lieberman patted everyone on the back. It became clear which senators were loners (Russ Feingold, Daniel Akaka) and which were social (Blanche Lincoln, Lindsey Graham); which senators were important (Dick Durbin, Jon Kyl) and which were ignored (Bayh, Bunning).

Pynchon in Poland” by Nick Holdstock from n + 1 (via

The conference room looked like the United Nations as depicted in ’60s spy movies: windowless, with curved banks of seats, and a microphone before each chair. All that was missing was the name cards. I took a seat at the back (in what would have been “Togo” or “Benin”) next to a man who resembled a Biblical prophet as drawn by Robert Crumb. He had a long, grey beard and eyes like hot coals, and was with a woman whom he introduced as an “illustrator”—which word required him to relate the entire plot of William Gaddis’s The Recognitions. As he talked, and talked, I looked around the quickly filling room. Of the fifty or so people, most were middle-aged white males. It occurred to me that a) I had never met a woman who said she loved Thomas Pynchon and that b) while not a virgin, I was, at the age of 36, very far from married. I hoped these two facts were unrelated.

Letting Go,” by Atul Gawande from The New Yorker. This is a similar take on end-of-life care as The New York Times piece by Katy Butler that we recently selected as a Notable Narrative. Butler’s story was a first-person piece from the vantage point of someone whose family felt victimized by modern medicine’s default setting favoring life-prolonging protocols. Here, Gawande, a doctor, identifies himself as an enabler of perpetual intervention.

…I sat with her sisters in the I.C.U. family room to talk about whether we should proceed with the amputation and the tracheotomy. “Is she dying?” one of the sisters asked me. I didn’t know how to answer the question. I wasn’t even sure what the word “dying” meant anymore. In the past few decades, medical science has rendered obsolete centuries of experience, tradition, and language about our mortality, and created a new difficulty for mankind: how to die.

Cancer victim tried to pack a lifetime of mothering into two years,” by Jamie Thompson for The Dallas Morning News

By dawn, the first of hundreds of responses began pouring in to her website and onto her Facebook page. The family was overwhelmed by the tender eulogies-before-the-fact. People from across the globe – as far away as Egypt and Israel – sent messages that could instantly be read aloud to Leah as she lay dying in her hospital bed. This was death in the age of the Internet.

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