Party in the USA
The Judge Kaplan and Roberta Kaplan of newsletters is doing our happiest dance!
What would make the perfect women’s magazine? Juicy yarns, big ideas, deeply personal examinations of women’s lives—and none of the advertiser obligations. Welcome to the Spread, where every week two editors read, listen, and watch it all, and deliver only the best to your inbox.
We say screw those dusty old Brits. This is our Coronation Day, and we crown a great American, E. Jean Carroll, who today WON her case against Donald the Troll Trump. Trump was found liable by a jury of nine (six men, three women) for sexually abusing and defaming our dearest Auntie E., to the tune of $5 million in damages.
It feels exceedingly rare in this day and age to see justice be served. But we gotta say, today was a good day.
Long Live Queen E!
With love from your loyal subjects,
Rachel & Maggie
P.S. While we’re celebrating: Congrats, Pulitzer Winners! A trio of Spread idols took home the big prize yesterday, so please pound that applause emoji for New York book critic Andrea Long Chu, Washington Post reporter Caroline Kitchener, and Atlantic staff writer Caitlin Dickerson!
P.P.S. Please also pound the heart button on this post! And if you haven’t already, the pay-to-subscribe button in this email!
The ghost speaks.
The tabloids have already seized on the takeaway that J. R. Moehringer—ghostwriter of the fastest-selling nonfiction book in history, Prince Harry’s blockbuster Spare—sometimes came to loggerheads with le petit prince during the writing of the book. But Moehringer’s lengthy New Yorker essay isn’t really about that: This is a memoir about writing other people’s memoirs. I was thisclose to spending 2023 on a ghostwriting gig until the deal fell apart; ever since, I’ve wondered if I lost out on a great opportunity or, in fact, dodged a bullet. Moehringer’s bestsellers include Andre Agassi’s bestselling Open (which as Rachel once pointed out with her usual laserlike precision bears an uncanny resemblance to Spare) and Nike founder Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog; he writes about how the hoopla around the Harry book—remember that “leak” in Spain?—unmasked him as the ghostwriter early on, to the extent that he got his own band of stalkers. Moehringer learned early in his career that he found writing under someone else’s name “hedonic—a kind of hiding and seeking….when I wrote as someone else, the words, the jokes, the patter—it didn’t stop.” But he’s only human. Heck yeah, it’s hard to watch a tennis legend with no writing ability take all the credit for the critically beloved memoir you spent years crafting. This is such a satisfying read about the art and the specific pain of being, “inherent and nowhere; vital and invisible. To borrow an image from William Gass, you’re the air in someone else’s trumpet.” It left me wondering: Could I subvert my ego and play nice long enough to play that role?—Maggie
Read it here.
Redefining “total Baldwin.”
Since the gun went off on the set of Rust in October 2021, shooting two crew members and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, you better believe every magazine out there has been angling for an up-close profile of Alec Baldwin, ideally one with access to his over-the-top, much-younger, spotlight-soaking, spawn-launching wife, Hilaria. So far, nobody has gotten it. But who really needs access brokered through publicists if you’re New York mag and you’ve got Reeves Wiedeman on your roster? Versatile and creative, Wiedeman nails his write-around of the Baldwins as a couple—a steep assignment that involves capturing two truly wild characters, the less famous of whom is a Boston native once busted for pretending to be from Spain (let’s just leave it at, “How do you say in English…cucumber?”), while taking seriously the gravity of the past year and a half: A woman has died—how could this have happened? The story is chockablock with details sad, fascinating, and juicy, synthesized from legal documents, tabloid mentions, social media posts (the Baldwins never stop giving in that department), and 40 years of interviews. I was especially struck by Alec’s perceived insecurity in the realm of finances—a feeling that most fathers of eight probably share! Baldwin, 65 and feeling every bit of it, has said—out loud—that he’d like to have even more in the bank, enough to leave $40 million to Hilaria and a $1 million trust fund to each kid. That’s New York, baby! And by that, I mean: Paging Rachel Fleishman!—Rachel
Read “Alec and Hilaria Against the World” here.
“Amy Chozick, you got rolled!”
And how. In the most perplexing piece of journalism in recent memory, this weekend’s New York Times gave convicted fraudster Elizabeth Holmes…a glow-up? I suspect writer Amy Chozick’s account of three days spent chomping croissants and visiting the zoo alongside Holmes and her insta-family1 (whose domesticity comes across as strangely blissful, even on the eve of Holmes’s incarceration) was meant to be ironic. Chozick uses her own gullibility as a device to illustrate the effect that Holmes’s “modest but mesmerizing” mojo can have, even on a journalist—and to thereby explain what is, to me, the biggest mystery of all: how this woman’s tractor-beam pull once hoodwinked wizened elders from Larry Ellison to Henry Kissinger. The woman Chozick meets is “Liz,” a scrubbed-face, rape-crisis-center volunteer who would like to blot out the old Elizabeth. She has ditched the lipstick, the Steve Jobs turtlenecks, and the deep voice, and now calmly dismisses her old self—who, I feel compelled to say again, is a CONVICTED CRIMINAL SENTENCED TO 11.25 YEARS IN THE SLAMMER—as “a character I created.” Chozick nods at the surrealness, but she also skims ever so lightly over Holmes’s crimes, giving Holmes and her cute new hubby plenty of space in which to reiterate, point by point, their defense strategy (nutshell: “Sunny made me do it.”). I actually gasped when Chozick writes that she tried to ask Holmes the million-dollar question—“How do I believe you when you’ve been convicted of (basically) lying?”—yet, somehow, can’t bring herself to do it? “How could I ask someone who was nursing her 11-day-old baby on a white sofa two feet away if she was actually conning me?” Is Chozick’s intention here to acknowledge that this may be exactly why this child even exists—as a beatific, jail-delaying beard for a sociopathic mother? If so, she never quite lands the point. Which makes it all too easy for it to appear that the paper of record is going easy on a blond, blue-eyed white lady whose race, class, and diabolical ability to lie to people’s faces helped her land her astronomical funding and dupe the ole white-hairs in the first place, and may yet again help her re-enter society as a victim, not a perpetrator.—Maggie
Read it here.
My 13-hour flirtation with woo.
Yesterday morning, someone suggested I go see this great guy—a biodynamic craniosacral therapist who specializes in trauma-informed astrology. He could help me, she said. Hey, I do like help! He would scan my body energy and tell me how I process stress, maybe even locate my psychological hot spots, she said. He had sized this woman up, and correctly extrapolated that she has trouble saying no. Yes, that’s an affliction shared by most women I know. No, this would not be covered by insurance. But 2023 is supposed to be my year of open-mindedness, right?! Then yesterday evening, I cozied up to the new Vanity Fair. In “The Medical Medium and the True Believer,” writer Dan Adler spins a devastating tale of the obsessive, unregulated Wild West of Woo. Ten years ago, Anthony William, a healer beloved by Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian, and Kate Hudson (you know Kate loves being in that lineup), took on a client named Stephanie Tisone. William’s forte was, through energy, locating ailments and illnesses and recommending natural remedies like teas and supplements and massage oils to heal them. Tisone, who later worked for William part-time, became so “empowered”—so entranced—by the healer that, when she found a lump in her breast, she eschewed the medical establishment altogether. What’s interesting is that, strictly speaking, this wasn’t William’s fault: Eventually, even he tells her to see a doctor. But by then Tisone is too far gone in her belief in the magic of woo. A year and a half later, when Tisone’s family finally took her in for a biopsy, her lump was not a detox-inflamed lymph node—it was Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. I think I’ll leave the biodynamic astrologer for the next gal.—Rachel
Read it here.
The Lukas Matsson of “quiet luxury.”
I am not known for my timing, but somehow the fact that my book’s pub date was pushed back roughly 27 times—allowing it to collide with a sweet lil cultural trend, Quiet Luxury—has really paid off. This weekend in the Washington Post, newly appointed fashion writer Rachel Tashjian quoted me in her piece about how the rich really dress, officially entering The Kingdom of Prep into the Succession chat. (My cup overfloweth.) The Roys would never stoop to J.Crew but I have no doubt that a striving, pre-Shiv young Tom Wambsgams had a closet crammed with rollnecks and barn jackets. Still, if anybody understands how the rich really dress today, it is Lukas Matsson, aka that umlauted Viking Alexander Skarsgård. In a GQ blurb that proves mysteriously un-Googleable (we have the screenshot receipts to back it up, thank god!) he described the “casual peacocking” of the sort of overprivileged tech genius who strolls onto your private jet barefoot, and baby, it clicks: “When you first see him, it might look like it’s like laundry day and he wears sweatpants, but then when you look closer, it’s actually like he’s wearing some ugly Crocs, but they are designer, limited-edition from Japan $20,000 Crocs, and his worn, old T-shirt is actually made of hair of infant babies, humans.”—Maggie
Read “The Rich Don’t Dress Like You Think They Do” here.
Oh, you were wondering how you could order Maggie’s oh-so-timely book? Let us make it easy for you here.
Our house is a very, very, very fine house.
What is the lasting psychological impact on a three-year-old girl of her favorite TV show being the home video of her own birth, complete with audio of her mother caterwauling? Not a very Terry Gross question, but it’s the one she leads with in her Fresh Air interview of Alexandra Auder, whose memoir, Don’t Call Me Home, details a childhood partially spent in NYC’s legendary/notorious Chelsea Hotel—home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, and Bob Dylan, among others. Auder’s mother is Warhol acolyte Viva; her father is a former heroin addict; Auder practically raised her own baby sister, actor Gaby Hoffmann—toting her around in a baby carrier and even, on one occasion, carting baby Gaby along to a sleepover (the host sent them home in a taxi when Gaby wouldn’t stop crying; ah, the good ole days!). People spend decades in therapy processing “normal” childhoods. Yet Auder seems wise and clear-eyed, and can somehow acknowledge her parents’, uh, questionable decisions without placing blame or feeling sorry for herself. Huh!—Maggie
Read about Auder in the New York Times here.
Listen to her on Fresh Air here.
Order Don’t Call Me Home in the Spread’s Bookshop here.
The Laura Wassers of memoir/poetry and Substack.
In addition to being wise and important and gorgeous (I hear—I have two babies and read the entire internet every week for this newsletter, OK?), poet Maggie Smith’s recent memoir, You Could Make This Place Beautiful, has been a great excuse for the media to run stories and packages about a topic midlifers apparently have a real appetite for, go figure: Divorce! (All this coming from a Major Media Organization, the Spread, that itself covers divorce early and often is very meta, I realize.) Over the weekend, the New York Times ran an essay by Smith, with very OG O Magazine vibes (huge compliment), about how her female friends got her through the worst, bumpiest year of her life. (Fist bump to the Times, which was able to check the hot-right-now essays-on-midlife-friendships box as well as the divorce-content box.) Further proof that all of us—happily married, unmarried, divorced, you name it—want a peek inside Splitsville: Colleen Crivello’s new Substack, Double Take, dedicated to the subject of divorce (including her own) launched just last month…and already has 20,000+ subscribers. Sample text: “Going from the safety of a twosome to the reality of a onesome was terrifying. What happens now? Where do I begin? What would I do? Where would I live? How much money would I need?” Inquiring minds want to know. Mazel tov, Colleen, and welcome to the ’Stack.
Meanwhile, Slate and the Atlantic have recently and more optimistically tackled the topic of matrimony from the starting line instead of the finish, with Slate serving up a delicious package on the state of the American wedding and the Atlantic’s Kelly Conaboy—herself a bride to be—staring into the abyss that is wedding-branded swag: a line item that, it turns out, no one really wants? Maggie, you still use the ultra-chic plastic cups emblazoned with my wedding logo that we bestowed upon you seven years ago, right??—Rachel
Read “During My Divorce, Close Friends Became a Parachute” here.
Sign up for Double Take here.
Read Slate’s “Say Yes to the Mess” package here.
Read “The Wedding Trend Couples Love and Guests Hate” in the Atlantichere.
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Holmes’s new baby girl is named Invicta, which may be Latin for “invincible” but sounds to our ear more like…convicted?