Dispatches on writing, reading, and most places in-between

Some Things I've Read This Year

A thank you to writers

People pick up a pen for a number of reasons. Some do it professionally; others do it for a sense of accomplishment or to work through their own thoughts. One constant is the nagging sense that the story you just sent off is trash (if you don’t have an editor, right after you’ve clicked WordPress’s ‘publish’ button). I couldn’t tell you the psychology behind this phenomenon: it’s likely some combination of how writers’ brains work alongside the loss of total control over a story.

For that reason, I always try to mention it to someone when I’ve enjoyed their work. Considering few writers make enough to survive just on the pages they’ve written, those thoughts can make the difference between someone continuing their brilliant work and setting it down. There are likely others I’ll add to this list via social media, but here are a few of the stories and books I’ve enjoyed over the course of the year. Thank you all.

A.D.

Stories and Essays

“How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet,” Bill McKibben, The New Yorker

For the past few years, a tide of optimistic thinking has held that conditions for human beings around the globe have been improving. Wars are scarcer, poverty and hunger are less severe, and there are better prospects for wide-scale literacy and education. But there are newer signs that human progress has begun to flag. In the face of our environmental deterioration, it’s now reasonable to ask whether the human game has begun to falter—perhaps even to play itself out. 

“The Future of Aging Just Might Be in Margaritaville,” Kim Tingley, New York Times Magazine

Outside, under an endless blue sky, a parade of trucks bore the trappings of former homes from as far away as Hawaii, Canada and El Salvador to sorbet-colored dwellings with emerald green lawns. At the entrance to the gated enclave, past a “Barkaritaville” dog park, beeping excavators moved dirt around what would soon be a town-square for concerts and dancing, surrounded by a state-of-the-art workout center, a restaurant and a walk-in pool with cabanas and a bar. It was impossible to stand on their cement foundations — which I had, in fact, done that morning — and not see a frontier settlement being carved into an expanse of subtropical wetland. The real frontier here, though, was not the surrounding wilderness but a hitherto uncolonized stretch of time: the multiple decades that more and more Americans can expect to live in better and better health after they retire.

“The Biggest Secret,” James Risen, The Intercept

Once it became known that you were covering this shadowy world, sources would sometimes appear in mysterious ways. In one case, I received an anonymous phone call from someone with highly sensitive information who had read other stories I had written. The information from this new source was very detailed and valuable, but the person refused to reveal her identity and simply said she would call back. The source called back several days later with even more information, and after several calls, I was able to convince her to call at a regular time so I would be prepared to talk.

“How I Accidentally Wound Up Running an Outlaw Biker Gang in Ohio,” Mike Kessler, Medium

When the doors were closed, Beard reached into his coat pocket. I thought to myself, Is this guy about to off me in a Mickey D’s parking lot? My pistol was tucked into the right-side waistband of my jeans and covered by my old Carhartt work coat. I watched Beard’s hands and leaned toward him a bit in case I needed to draw my gun.

But I didn’t. Beard pulled out a small envelope that I noticed was addressed to the Lake East chapter of the Hells Angels — Beard’s chapter. He handed it to me and said, “Take a look.”

“Barbearians at the Gate,” Mathew Hongoltz-Hetling, The Atavist

Franz’s anti-bear arsenal included firecrackers. “I also think we should get bottle rockets,” he said one day, talking loudly to be heard over the constant buzz of a generator. Guns were a given; they were as much a staple in Grafton as picket fences are in the suburbs. Franz had recently traded his .357 Magnum for a Taurus Judge .410. The Magnum was more accurate, the owner of his favorite gun store had told him, but if a bear got too close for comfort, the Judge would do more damage. Though it looked like a six-shooter, its bullets were so big that it held only five.

Books

My Struggle, Karl Ove Knausgaard

The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst

The Summer Book, Tove Jansson

The Givenness of Things, Marilynne Robinson

Life on Mars, Tracy K. Smith

Remembrance of Earth’s Past Trilogy, Cixin Liu

That Thing I Hinted at Earlier


A new newsletter

And some news

Hi Folks,

If you’re receiving this, you signed up for a long-lost newsletter of mine via TinyLetter. Or perhaps you came to my website over the past few days. Regardless, thanks for signing up. And actually opening the thing.

First and foremost, I suppose I should tell you why you should open the next newsletter when it arrives. And the one following that. No guarantees after those two. I plan on using these for a couple things. First, I’ll use it to collect my writing and others I’ve enjoyed. It’s surprisingly difficult to stay on top of what work people are putting out into the world, even if you follow them reasonably closely, so I hope this will minimize some of the legwork for you.

Second, I’ll use this to share essays, thoughts, photos, etc. you won’t find on my other platforms. I’ve gradually retreated from Twitter and other forms of social media anyway, but they don’t handle those written things particularly well. Instead, those longer, in-depth memos will be found here. I have some travel and diverse stories coming up in the next six to twelve months, so I promise most won’t be dispatches from wintery New York City. If I find I’m spending significant time on those, or there’s interest for more, in-depth essays, I’ll likely start opening up the pay subscription system this platform makes space for. But I don’t plan on implementing that in the next few months, at least.

That travel brings me to an announcement, and the thing driving this newsletter. Earlier this year, while conducting research for a novel, I stumbled on an event I knew took place, in theory, but had few details of what it looked like. The event was the 1919 Tour de France, the second longest Tour in history and one of its most grueling iterations. Nearly everything that defined that race came about from its close proximity to the “War to End All Wars,” which ended just months before the race began. I immediately knew there was a story there so I began research with the aim of putting together a book proposal. After months developing and refining it with my agent, the proposal was bought by Little A earlier this month. In other words, Sprinting Through No Man’s Land is in the process of being made. You’re going to have to wait a couple years before you can get a physical copy in your hands, but I do plan on sharing some of the research finds and the like with you all here as an incentive and thank you.

More soon.

- Adin

Coming soon

I don’t care much for newsletters. On occasion, they’re useful. More often, they’re not. Sometimes I use them to follow the work of others who are otherwise off my radar (even prolific Twitterers manage to publish things that slip past my eyes and ears). Other times, if I’m lucky, the person will include things on the newsletter I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Tiny dispatches from the road, threads of thought that didn’t make it onto the page. The latter is what I hope to do here. In addition to my freelance writing which has wound down temporarily in recent months on account of grad school, I have a book in the works (more on that soon).

Hope to see you all around.

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