‘Now Reading’ is a collection and sharing of online stories and is meant for minimal consumption by the few readers of this blog. Topics include books, food, culture, photography, media and technology … there are no rules. Have a story to add? Share it in the comments.
Ariel Levy has an incredible piece in The New Yorker about experiencing adventure and heartbreak over a Thanksgiving in Mongolia. It ran online a few days ago and is in print this week, I believe.
I won’t give away what happens in the story – but it does contain a lot of blood on the bathroom floor of a Mongolian hotel – but rather I wanted to highlight Ariel’s yearning for adventure and how she transfers that to the page in a barrage of heavy emotion and punchy detail.
She writes, “There’s nothing I love more than travelling to a place where I know nobody, and where everything will be a surprise, and then writing about it.” Extreme adventures resonate with a wide audience for an obvious reason: They are fantasies many dream of doing but would never, because of means or responsibilities or fear or otherwise, do themselves. So they live out their wildest adventures through people like Ariel.
They make for great stories, these foreign tales of discovery. But, for me anyway, the “adventure” provides the surface-level enjoyment. It makes me begin the story and keep reading. The “experience” of that adventure is what makes me remember it. What’s the difference?
Change the people, the place, the emotions, the circumstances – change everything – and you have a new adventure. But it wasn’t Mongolia or its foreign foods or the idea of this woman – with a certain unnamed condition – boarding a plane and flying to, as she refers to it, “the edge of the earth,” that made this story incredible, in my opinion (although those things ARE incredible). It was my connection with what Ariel experienced.
I could sense her vulnerability (although I couldn’t directly relate to it). I could feel the escalation of her anxiety and desperation when the Circumstances That Shall Not Be Ruined For You unfolded. More than all of that, I could share her greatest joy and pain likewise. Ariel made me understand what it meant to be a human being trapped inside the concrete walls of this … Thing (I said I’m not ruining it! Read the story!)
This, to me, is the fundamental difference between an entertaining adventure and a shared experience, and it’s the latter that I think we should always strive for in pieces varying wildly across the full spectrum of magnitude and intensity.
Here is Eli Saslow’s latest in The Washington Post, his fifth story in a series on the U.S. food stamp program.
It’s about a South Texas town caught in a paradox: The food stamps aren’t enough to satisfy its residents’ hunger and the food that they do provide is awful, thus resulting in rocketing obesity rates. It’s important journalism on a debilitating topic.
Interesting column from Danielle Ofri in The New York Times on why doctors generally do not take sick days. In case you’re wondering, doctors are, indeed, human beings like the rest of us, susceptible to illnesses and viruses, some of which are highly contagious. Only instead of staying home, doctors work through them.
Danielle, a physician and an associate professor of medicine at NYU, among other things, says a big part of it is the issues it creates when a doctor has to bail on his or her patients. It dumps those appointments on other already-busy doctors, and it’s the patients, who’ve often endured a substantial waiting period to secure an appointment, who suffer the most.
It’s obviously not in the best interest of a sick doctor to be around people looking to improve their health, and Danielle offers a window into this dilemma.
Liz Alderman had a tremendous piece in the NYT ‘Europe’ section a few days ago about young, educated people who can’t find work in their native countries. Many of them are forced to choose between leaving their families and going to countries where they can build a life or staying and facing a foreseeable future of poverty.
It’s a story worth reading, and despite the seriousness and depravity of the circumstances, I was warmed by the spirit of one subject in particular who says, “I need to keep dancing.”
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