Toast Points for the Week of September 4th

I had the best time chatting with Celeste Ng about, well, everything. One more time: if you’ve not yet read Everything I Never Told You, I hope you do, and then I hope you talk to me about it. That novel meant so much to me, and it was a joy to get to talk with Celeste!

Siobhan Phillips wrote this terrific essay for us on women and the history of gin.

Mallory’s convert interview series continued with Aadita Chaudhury.

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Cocktail Hour: Open Thread

The Bartender is doing all fun things in the next few days (seeing dearest friends! Family! Steaks! Wave Hill! Cloisters! More fun things!) and spirits are high. Also The Bartender’s mom made the cookies pictured above (all made by her including the apricot and sour cherry jam) and The Bartender ate them ALL.

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The Meaning of Literary Pilgrimages

The Toast’s literary pilgrimages archive can be found here.

When you live across the ocean from where your favourite stories are set, Europe can seem nearly as imaginary as Middle Earth. London and Paris are real, but in my mind they exist as an amalgam of stories. Pure text doesn’t provide the sensory cues of visual media, so it demands that readers participate in creating the world of the story. It’s an intimate act of collaboration, a subjective and often meaningful experience, reading a book and imagining its setting.

For bookworms, the only way to bring our experiences with a text into the real world is through a literary pilgrimage. The actual location may never replace the image in a reader’s mind, but the experience in a real space can lend concreteness to the text. After we mentally inhabit a story, does visiting a tangible space feel more real than the story, the inner lives of the characters? Can seeing a writer’s desk give us as much insight into their mind as the words they wrote, even if they haven’t sat at that desk in a hundred years or more? If not — if the places we imagine will always be more vivid than the ones we see and later remember — why are literary pilgrimages so alluring?

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Voicemails I Imagine Multimillionaire Megastar Leonardo DiCaprio Has Left With His Former Costars From TV’s Growing Pains

“You’ve reached Kirk Cameron. Leave me a message. God bless.” 

Show me that smile again
(Oh, show me that smile)
Don’t waste another minute on your cryin’
We’re nowhere near the end
(We’re nowhere near)
The best is ready to begin
As long as we got each other
We got the world spinnin’ right in our hands
Baby, you and me
We gotta be
The luckiest dreamers who never quit dreamin’
As long as we keep on givin’
We can take anything that comes our way
Baby, rain or shine
All the time
We got each other
Sharin’ the laughter and love

Hey, Kirk [heavy sigh] It’s Leo again. Nardo. From television. Haha, remember that song? Sound familiar? Remember how when they played that song, there’d be, like, paintings of everyone in the family, and they’d sort of melt into one another, and it was like this cascade, this…just this continuous wash of family? Just connection, after connection, after connection, and we’d see everyone get a little older, so it was like we were growing up with each other…seeing ourselves in the future, kind of, but always anchored in the past, too. Like nothing could ever set anyone adrift.

Anyhow, I’m on a yacht right now, but I don’t know whose yacht it is.

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Link Roundup!

I’ve been thinking a bunch about this Sady Doyle piece, which is just chock-full of horrible stuff you might not want to know about, but also has some interesting nuance on being wrong and trying to fix things, and how best to facilitate that as a society and as a person:

Horovitz explained it pretty clearly, in the context of a song he wrote against street harassment: “Sexism is deeply rooted in our history and society that waking up and stepping outside of it is like I’m watching ‘Night of the Living Dead Part Two’ all day every day. Listening to the lyrics of this song, one might say that the Beastie Boy ‘Fight for Your Right to Party’ guy is a hypocrite. Well, maybe; but in this fucked up world all you can hope for is change, and I’d rather be a hypocrite to you than a zombie forever.’”

In other words: They made the joke because they didn’t know, at the time, that it was a bad joke. They were just wrong.


Canadians are raised to think that the word “Eskimo” is a slur (having been used as a kind of blanket pejorative for ages), so it’s weird for me to see it used here, but the internet reveals that the usage is viewed quite differently in Alaska, and life is a rich tapestry. NOW THE IMPORTANT PART:

Obama met two Husky puppies, Feather and Moose, who are roughly three months old. He grabbed Feather — dubbed that because the dog is smaller than all the others in the litter — and murmured, “Sweetie, you’re okay, sweetie.”


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Notes on a New Age Childhood

Felix Kent’s previous work for The Toast can be found here.

When I was applying to colleges a lifetime ago, my atheist father suggested I write my application essays about Sai Baba. He said there were lots of smart kids more or less like me applying to college — this part of my life set me apart. It was good advice, perhaps. I didn’t follow it.

Sathya Sai Baba, who died in 2011, was a small man with a large puff of very curly black hair. Baba wore, almost always, an orange-red robe. Sometimes a white one. He lived in Puttaparthi, India, near where he was born, but there were Sathya Sai Baba Centers in 114 countries. Baba’s obituary in the Telegraph put the number of people who believed him to be an incarnation of God at around 3 million. My mother is one of those people, and from ages 11 to 15 so was I.

This is how my mother came to Sai Baba: one day, she picked me up from my babysitter’s. There was, in her telling, an entirely new feeling in the small apartment, a feeling of peace and cleanliness and expansion. “What happened?” my mother asked. My babysitter told her about Sathya Sai Baba. And told her again, and asked my mother to come to the Baba Center, and told her again, and asked her again. My mother loved my babysitter, knew her to be smart and serious and trustworthy, and so after six months my mother finally gave in and went. When she walked in, they were singing a song to Ganesh, and, she says, she immediately felt a terrifying conviction that she’d met something real.

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It’s Fun When There’s Good News About Publishing: Nobody Doesn’t Like Graywolf Press

Everyone can feel good about this! Non-profiteers, lyric essayists, essayed lyricists, people who care about publishing but don’t live in New York City, New Yorkers (you can afford to be magnanimous! You have all the stuff New York has in it!), everyone who’s mad at Amazon, punching enthusiasts, 41-year-olds, Minnesotans, the scrappy, award winners, and so on:

Graywolf Press, a nonprofit outfit in St. Paul, Minnesota…has been winning for a while. Over the past few years, as publishing conglomerates merged, restructured, and grappled with Amazon, a midwestern press snuck in and found a genuinely new way forward for nonfiction. Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams entered the Times best-seller list at No. 11, while Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, a half-versified meditation on racism, stormed post-Ferguson America. Each has sold more than 60,000 copies, putting them in Graywolf’s all-time top five. Citizen just went back to press for a tenth time, putting it close to having 100,000 copies in print. That hardly puts Graywolf in league with Penguin Random House, but neither is it just a scrappy little press punching above its weight. It’s a scrappy little press that harnessed and to some extent generated a revolution in nonfiction, turning the previously unprepossessing genre of the “lyric essay” into a major cultural force.

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