paper trail

Sigrid Nunez on Jhumpa Lahiri’s new novel; Olivia Messer writes about the psychological toll of covering COVID-19

Jhumpa Lahiri. Photo: Elena Seibert

Eileen Myles considers a new book published by Mack that pairs the photographs of Moyra Davey with those of the late Peter Hujar. Writing about Hujar’s 1978 photo, Wave-Sperlonga, Myles observes: “I look at his oily dark surface, his haptic black sea I don’t think ‘immersive’ like Moyra’s. It’s the Hudson in the seventies. Dirty as fuck.”

For Defector, The Believer’s features editor Camille Bromley discusses the LA Times’s flawed framing of a story that downplayed the harm done by former Believer editor in chief Joshua Wolf Shenk when he exposed himself during an all-staff Zoom meeting. According to Bromley, who spoke as a source to LA Times reporter Dorany Pineda, Pineda and her editors decided not to include staff perspectives because they felt readers would understand how “absurd” Shenk’s own account was. “Relying on the public to see through the narrative offered by your own article strikes me as an odd strategy,” writes Bromley. The fact that staffers resorted to publishing an open letter on Monday this week—months after the incident occurred—also points to larger issues: “Standard journalistic protocol dictates that vulnerable sources expose themselves to the public to gain a level of credibility that is automatically extended to those in positions of power.”

Sigrid Nunez reviews Jhumpa Lahiri’s new novel Whereabouts, which she wrote in Italian, for the New York Review of Books. Nunez finds the novel a convincing portrait of chronic depression, and admires Lahiri’s commitment to her own strictures—its “simple structure and limited scope of its subject matter.” A key moment: “Mending a broken dish one day, she has a mishap with some superglue. Seeing her glue-covered self in the mirror, she says, ‘After a long time, or maybe for the first time, I burst out laughing.’ I had to read it twice. The first time—ever? In her whole life? One hopes this is a wild exaggeration but fears it is not.”

At Study Hall, Olivia Messer writes about the trauma and despair experienced by reporters who have covered the COVID-19 pandemic. Messer, who covered the crisis for the Daily Beast, quit her job and tweeted her reasons: exhaustion, lack of support, and grief. When she received a flood of replies from journalists affirming that they felt the same way, she stared interviewing them: “Many of them told me they do not feel supported by newsroom leaders; that they do not have the tools they need to handle the trauma they are absorbing; and that most of their bosses don’t seem to care about how bad it has gotten.”

In the new episode of Artforum and Bookforum’s Artists On Writers | Writers On Artists video series, Wayne Koestenbuam—whose new book The Cheerful Scapegoat was just published—talks with countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo.