The Barb & Star of newsletters is heating things up with sweet views, quack-fueled blues, and home-makeover schadenfreude.
“So are we here for the practically-no-butt-coverage swimwear trend or no?” Thank you, Cosmo UK, for tackling the big questions of our day. Yes, #freethecheeks summer—a wave that has been building for a while now—is set to crest over a beach near you. How sad that Hawaiian Tropic creator Ron Rice will not be with us to enjoy this glorious moment. (Ron’s obit is a must read: “A poor, pale mountain boy who became smitten with the beach, he mixed some ingredients in a garbage can and found his place in the sun.”) How he’d have loved the words of Lola Méndez in InStyle: Everyone should spend at least one day at the beach with their buns out, she writes. “I find that smaller cuts are actually more flattering on my curvaceous behind, while more coverage just frames it like a wide, shapeless blob.” For those seeking the smallest possible cut—more of a bolo tie for the bottom, really—Gucci has reissued Tom Ford’s famous 1997 interlocking-G-string. Now it’s a bikini. (Can someone get Celeste Barber on the line; this is not a drill.) But Cosmo UK remains a staff divided: One editor claims “less fabric = less bikini sagging, less drying time and less sand you-know-where.” Another, representing skeptics worldwide, doesn’t want that much contact with the rest of the world—and worries about the extra maintenance. Good news on that tip: This $329 at-home bikini spider-zapper is getting rave reviews from women we actually know, text with, and routinely see looking quite well-kept in swimwear. Who said the Spread wasn’t a full-service enterprise?
Also on our consumerist radar this week (summer apparently has the effect of making us want to spend, sing, and imbibe EVERYTHING):
Your Spreaditors are cautiously optimistic about Left on Friday’s “double scoop” suit in chili heat. It ain’t cheap but the British site’s mix-and-match “colours” are not to be beat, and the long-torso fit just might solve Maggie’s proportion issues!
Who What Wear cofounder Hillary Kerr recently did another deep dive on finding one perfect item in her newsletter, Hi Everyone (as you’ll recall, we directed you to her jeans binge several weeks back). This time, she’s talkin’ white tees. And in more swashbuckling service journalism, here’s how to deal when your Alison Roman Quick and Easy Ragù splatters that $90 “soft, semi-sturdy without being bulky, and preferably not transparent” white cotton shirt on day one!
The Spread declares this anthem by Glass Animals the song of the summer! Now where’s our royalty check?
There’s a new cure for motherhood: 1/3 of a gram of magic mushrooms! Who’s ready for a playdate?
And last but not least, Jeff Bridges almost died of Covid. Almost! Thankfully the Big Lebowski has lived to roll another doobie.
Oh shoot—before we could finish this newsletter without mentioning a single Kardashian or one Pete Davidson, big news broke: Kim and Pete are twinning as platinum blondes, which prompted Vogue to compare them to the golden-locked ’90s power union of Gwyneth and Brad. We’ll take it!
Rachel & Maggie
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“There were about 400,000 AR-15 style rifles in America before the assault weapons ban went into effect in 1994. Today, there are 20 million.”—stat from researcher Zusha Elinson.
Okay, okay—huffs inelegantly, catching breath—if you sense a little manic energy behind all of the rah-rah high kicks and enthusiastic! exclamation! points! that we started this week’s issue off with, it’s because, yeah, we woke up reading the same headlines you did, feeling just as sold out and beat up by the world as you do. Desperate jokes about thong bathing suits are just an attempt to boost morale when, in truth, we feel even more hopeless about elected politicians who refuse to take even basic steps to keep our children safe than we were a week ago, when we were reeling in the wake of the Uvalde massacre. In a hellscape, it’s hard to call any news “good.” But heroes have emerged this week: Angeli Rose Gomez, the mother of a second and a third grader, managed to drive 40 miles to get to the Uvalde school grounds while the massacre was in progress. Finding police still outside, she and other parents begged and yelled at officers to take out the gunman; instead, Gomez was handcuffed. She managed to convince other officers to set her loose. Then she jumped the school fence, ran inside the school building, grabbed her children, and brought them outside—safe. Also on our list: Fellow newsletter-er historian Heather Cox Richardson, who puts even the most horrific events into elegant perspective, without taking the sting out of anything, did so again this week—taking the wayback machine to the myth of the American cowboy (who technically existed for about twenty years, from 1866 to 1886, people) and why it’s so central to Republicans’ refusal to “give up their guns.” And Rachel Monroe, a Texas-based correspondent correspondent for the New Yorker—at a time when that has never been more necessary—who reported on the harrowing task of the staff of Uvalde’s local paper, covering the worst day of their lives. One reporter whose daughter was killed asked her editor if she could write her child's obituary: “She said, ‘Can I have two pictures?’ And I said, ‘You can have a full page.’”—Maggie
Read Heather Cox Richardson’s May 26 “Letters from an American” post here.
Read “The Staff of the Uvalde’s Local Paper Cover the Worst Day of Their Lives” here.
Take a jab at it, for crying out loud!
Every time I take our toddler to the pediatrician—which, given that she goes to day care, is often and usually painfully early—I ask whichever doctor we’ve been assigned if they’ve seen an uptick in parental skepticism of the basic, mainstream vaccines for smallpox and measles and the like that are a cornerstone of public health in America, as a byproduct of Covid-vaccine misinformation and hesitancy. Each time, the doc has placated me (“Interesting question!”) and then shut me down: No, lady, we are not seeing this; cool your slice. Never fear—or wait, yes, do fear!—the New York Times Magazine is here with the story I’ve been dreading, full of experts and evidence and stats that say standard vaccines are down in babies and children, related to the widespread Covid-vaccine misinformation…and also of course our old friends Donald Trump, Jenny McCarthy, and Bobby Kennedy Jr. (Also: A 2000 60 Minutes piece in which one fringe scientist implied the safety of the MMR vaccine was up for debate didn’t do us any favors!)
Let this sink in: In the 2020-2021 school year, 35,000 fewer American children were vaccinated than in the previous school year. The doctors interviewed estimate that the number of parents displaying skepticism in their offices has spiked by 5 to 10 percent. Says one, “It doesn’t sound big…but it’s an awful lot of babies. That could also get you below herd immunity.” For measles! And whooping cough! And other completely preventable, potentially deadly illnesses! As Moises Velasquez-Manoff writes, these doctors fear that outbreaks of these illnesses will be here before we know it. Oh goodie, something new to worry about at night!—Rachel
Read “The Anti-Vaccine Movement’s New Frontier” here.
“The Christopher Columbus of mommy blogging.”
I am not the first to point this out, I know, but I’m starting to find the headlines of the New York Times real estate section highly triggering. A recent example: “A Second Bedroom on the Upper West Side for Under $800,000?” It’s the question mark that gets me. Maybe the Times is just acknowledging the insanity of the New York real estate market—don’t hate the player, hate the game, yada yada. Or maybe the paper of record is mocking me, and the 99 percent of us who don’t have millions to drop on 550 square-foot hovels. I know this isn’t the point of Elizabeth Weil’s satisfying, observant double-profile of Emily Gould and Keith Gessen in New York, but it’s a key takeaway: Even this media-world-famous couple is struggling to find a place to lay their heads in the wilds of Brooklyn. (Emily, Keith: Western Mass welcomes you!) That’s not the only surprisingly relatable thing Weil reveals about the domestic life of a couple for whom “words are the family business.” A refresher: Gould is the funny ex-Gawker firebrand and current novelist/Twitter font/essayist (her newsletter, Emily Gould Can’t Complain, also continues to surprise and delight); Gessen the cofounder of lit mag N+1 and author of two novels, including the love-it-or-hate it All the Sad Young Literary Men. When they met in 2007, they were a New York lit it couple; now they’re…parents, at home with two young boys ages three and six. (Emily, Keith: Ours are four and seven. When Weil says you can’t really “clean”—or write in—a home that young kids inhabit: Same!) Now the two writers are switching roles, kinda: Gessen’s third book, a memoir about parenting their firstborn, Raising Raffi: The First Five Years, veers into Gould’s hyperpersonal nonfiction territory—a style that she arguably does better than him. Are there mixed feelings about this in the Gessen-Gould household? Read Weil’s funny, true story to find out.—Maggie
Read “The Sad Young Literary Man Is Now a Middle-Aged Dad” here.
Let’s go, village people.
The second dispatch of the Cut’s new and excellently named parenting column/newsletter, Brooding, by Kathryn Jezer-Morton, got my attention this week despite its opaque headline: “Oxygenate the Family Unit.” This has nothing to do with botany. Jezer-Morton’s point is that children benefit from being around adults who are not their own parents; exposure to different ways of speaking and just doing things in general can make kids’ worlds bigger; and rubbing elbows with grown-ups who respect them as humans but don’t love them unconditionally will make them check themselves and come out the other side as less annoying individuals. It all seems like common sense, right? Also: Flat-out desirable after spending literal years of the pandemic at home with our immediate families! But this takes-a-village approach doesn’t totally jibe with the all-the-rage “gentle-parenting” movement, which leans on affirmation as the key to unlocking independence. “The gentle-parenting movement would seem to argue that children are so intelligent, so intuitive, that to diminish them in any way would be unfair. But what if their intelligence can be encouraged in other ways, such as observing their communities buzzing around them and having to figure out, by trial and error, how to find their place within them?” she writes. “Climate disasters and workplace exploitation honor no one’s individuality. Our kids will need the support of their communities to agitate for system change. Raising them as the emotional navels of their households is not likely to prepare them for that work.” I’m persuaded. Now who wants to do a kids swap!?—Rachel
Read “Oxygenate the Family Unit” here.
You had me at hello.
I’ve long been of the opinion that even a shitty rom-com is an enjoyable experience. Failure to Launch? How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days? I’m all in. Thus, over the weekend I talked three innocent people into watching this year’s Sandra Bullock/Channing Tatum flick The Lost City. This movie may have killed my love of the genre and my three-decades-long affection for Sandra, a fellow Bullock! Poor Brad Pitt is in it too, and I really hope he fired his agent. But then a friend sent me the “Rom-Com” episode of This American Life, and told me to dial into Act Four, moment 43:30. She was right, the episode restores my faith in all the clichés: The meet-cute, the running after cabs, the nerve that is touched because, as Ira says, in his infinite wisdom, we do all need someone to see us in a way we are not seen, even by ourselves. The final story, about the initial hookup of two actors, Jillian and Geoffrey, is as satisfying as anything in the Sandra/Reese/Julia/Kate cannon, veering from hot—the makeout sesh in the back of a cab; his ability to unlock his door without removing his lips from hers—to hilariously gross. Even the police are involved! Save yourself the $5.99 Lost Brain Cell download and revel in this audio romp instead.—Maggie
Listen to This American Life episode 638: Rom-Com here.
One-way ticket to Splitsville.
Smithsonian’s got an adaptation of April White’s new book, The Divorce Colony, about women’s quest to legally sever their marriages at the turn of the 20th century, and it has make-me-a-movie written all over it: Our imperfect and ultra-charismatic heroine, who takes the train from New York City to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to get a divorce is named Blanche Chesebrough Molineux—and the fact that she’s 5’10”, the height of both of your Spreaditors, made me love her from the start. But the tale gets twistier. For starters, the husband she’s divorcing may or may not have poisoned her true soulmate. By the end she’s married to a different guy (which one will surprise you). Let’s cast Olivia Cooke (The Sound of Metal) as our Blanche and give Timothée Chalamet a chance to flex his sinister side for once as maybe-murderer Molineux. Blanche’s ill-fated lover Barney is Paul Mescal, natch (start working on your Gilded Age accent, buddy!). Greta Gerwig will write and direct, once she wraps the Barbie movie.—Rachel
Read “Escape From the Gilded Cage” here.
Gone Girl forever!
Ten years ago last week, Gone Girl arrived in bookstores and changed…the world! Or the fiction-to-movie world, at least. And, shortly thereafter, gave EmRata’s breasts their first speaking role. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The sophisticated, spiky marital thriller by former Entertainment Weekly staff writer Gillian Flynn wasn’t just a best seller. It was the big bang that created an entire genre of twisty, woman-led fiction. In Esquire, critic Maris Kreizman masterfully boils down the Gone Girl phenomena—critical and commercial—reminding us how even the genre’s most respected male writers fell all over themselves to heap praise on Flynn—Rachel
“In his list of best books of 2012 in Entertainment Weekly, [Stephen King says'] that Gone Girl is “a plot Agatha Christie could have conceived; what elevates it is the clarity of Flynn’s observation and the Franzen-like richness of her prose.” Franzen-like prose! How many humble beach reads boast such a pedigree? Stephen King would later go on to tweet recommendations of books that reminded him of Gone Girl…“Catriona Ward's THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET is real. It's a true nerve-shredder that keeps its mind-blowing secrets to the very end. Haven't read anything this exciting since GONE GIRL,” he wrote. “If you liked GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, you might want to pick up THE WIDOW, by Fiona Barton,” he went on. “The first great thriller of 2017 is almost here: FINAL GIRLS, by Riley Sager. If you liked GONE GIRL, you'll like this.”
Read “The Legacy of Gone Girl” here.
Once upon a time in—you guessed it—Hollywood.
The story of Dennis Hopper’s tumultuous marriage to actress Brooke Hayward—subject of Mark Rozzo’s new book, Everybody Thought We Were Crazy—has two major pluses in the Maggie column. A) It further proves that ’60s Hollywood was exactly as I’ve always imagined it to be, one big, chic, juicy crockpot in which everybody knew everybody and slept with everybody, sharing pills and powders and babes and art and films; i.e., the opposite of everything about my current reality, and therefore catnip to me now. Through the ’60s, the reckless, neurotic, handsome young Hopper (her first impression: He had the profile of a Greek statue) and the blue-blooded, Vassar-educated, Vogue cover girl Hayward (whose childhood best friend was Jane Fonda) were more or less riding “a straight line from youthful, if uneasy, semi-bliss to abusive, drug-stoked disaster in one long stride,” writes novelist Matthew Specktor in the Atlantic’s review. They were also the epicenter of a scene that included everyone from Miles Davis to Bob Dylan. B) This is also a story of home-decor porn: At 1712 North Crescent Heights, the house the Hopper-Haywards moved into after the cataclysmic Bel Air fire of 1961, his epic Pop Art collection (he was the first to purchase a Warhol Soup Can—for $100—and also picked up Lichtensteins, Kellys, Ruschas) and her collection of ephemera and antiques—and the tiling she did herself, in bikini and pearls (movie star DIY!). This house was camp before camp! When Rozzo asked Michael Nesmith, a Monkee, about his memory of the place, he replied: “Well, I would hardly classify it a ‘recollection.’ It was a tattoo. I mean, it just burned into my mind. I walked into that house and I thought, Holy moly! Where have I landed?” Yaaaas. I want to go to there. —Maggie
Read “They Were Reckless and in Love, and They Were the New Hollywood” in the Atlantic here.
Read Rozzo’s 2018 interview in Vanity Fair with Hayward, with photos (!!) of 1712 North Crescent Heights here.
A deal with the open floor-plan devil.
How many times have you dipped in for a little HGTV and found yourself sneering indignantly at the preposterously low renovation costs its guest stars pay for a full-on house transformation? Seriously, who can transform a crumbling ranch into an only slightly cheesy, fully landscaped mid-century modern-inspired showstopper with a guest studio and a pool for $85,000? Well, according to the New York Times, you (allegedly) can’t! Not without shoddy construction and serious code violations that could run you in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair. In this weekend’s Real Estate section—Maggie’s favorite!—Debra Kamin reported on a slew of couples who went on the show and, according to them and their lawyers, ended up screwed. Most have settled with the production companies responsible, or are still in legal turmoil with them, so there isn’t a ton of on-the-record airing of juicy grievances. But there’s a gem about couples entering their made-over homes for the final reveal and immediately spot major red flags. Which meant they had to reshoot the scene again and again, forced by their contracts to pretend to be over the moon. How’s that for a big reveal?—Rachel
Read “What Goes On Behind the Cameras at Home Makeover Shows?” here.
Dancing, without the revolution.
As Ellen DeGeneres’s once-groundbreaking talk show took its final bow last week, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times delivered pieces on the cultural significance of her downfall. I say go for the L.A. Times. TV editor Matt Brennan does a fantastic, searing but still generous job of putting DeGeneres into sociopolitical context, from her time as a fresh-faced stand-up and primetime lightning rod, out in the mid ’90s; to her years as a force for kindness and understanding—the only LGBTQ person many Americans “knew”—via her talk show in the Obama years; to her era as a rich celebrity reputed to be an out-of-touch meanie at a moment when the stakes for queer Americans are higher than ever (that would be now). Brennan writes, “For those of us frightened by the change she once represented being so swiftly rolled back, DeGeneres’ fumbling attempt to keep her distance turns out to be the one choice we couldn’t forgive, and will not forget.”—Rachel
Read “Commentary: How Ellen DeGeneres won, and then lost, a generation of viewers” here.