Editor's Note — April 12, 2018, 5:58 pm

Inside the May Issue

Rebecca Solnit, Rick Moody, Rachel Cusk, Jonathan Dee, and more

Mike Pence has never soft-pedaled his religious affiliation. Indeed, he has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” which suggests that he answers to a considerably higher power than Donald Trump. Yet his faith shouldn’t be mistaken for the folksy creed of, say, Mike Huckabee, let alone George W. Bush’s brand of Methodist uplift. In “Exiled,” Meghan O’Gieblyn takes a close look at Pence’s evangelicalism. The vice president and his coreligionists view modern life through the Old Testament narrative of the Babylonian exile, during which the Jews spent seventy years in virtual bondage, mourning the destruction of Jerusalem. Pence, too, considers himself part of an embattled minority—a strange view, perhaps, in a country that is approximately 70 percent Christian. This theology of banishment and persecution shapes every aspect of Pence’s life, and may be ever more pertinent as he inches closer to the Oval Office.

In her latest Easy Chair column, Rebecca Solnit peers at the contagion of our profoundly wired world and wonders whether it’s time to disconnect. On a similar note, Rick Moody recounts “Seven Years of Identify Theft,” during which Nigerian hackers stole his money, his good name, and his very sense of self. His remedy, too, is to take a huge step back from the digital abyss: “Better the human interaction, with all its morbid and fleshy complexities, than the perfect fantasy of the fleshless and fungible and shadowy life of the web.” In “The Pictures,” Stephen Koch writes about the photographer Peter Hujar, whose postmortem reputation was resurrected by the author, and whose images—of plants, animals, and supremely idiosyncratic human beings—are, in Koch’s words, “whole, beautiful, and his own.” There is also a shrewd, funny look by Will Ford at resistance in Tibet, in which Buddhist monks push back against the Chinese occupiers by the worldliest of tactics: building a hotel.

Elsewhere in the magazine, we have “Nothing But,” in which Geoff Dyer examines the pitfalls and potholes of memory, and a long poem by Juliana Spahr, “A Destruction Story.” In Readings, Jacqueline Rose plumbs the myth of motherhood, Rachel Cusk takes us to a fictional dinner party, and we learn some of the shapes of UFOs spotted by Americans over the past two decades (including Chevron, Boomerang, Teardrop, and the terribly old-school Blimp). Last but not least, we have brainy reviews by Lidija Haas, Jonathan Dee, and Elizabeth Lowry, plus a sharp and surprising work of fiction by Souvankham Thammavongsa. It’s another corker, folks—have at it!

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More from James Marcus:

Editor's Note March 19, 2018, 12:18 pm

Inside the April Issue

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Secrets and Lies·

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In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”

“He played it as a joke, but I was completely at his mercy,” Singer recalled. For the rest of his time at Yeshiva, Singer would often wear his tzitzit on the outside of his shirt—though this was regarded as rebellious—for fear that Finkelstein might find an excuse to assault him again.

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Out of sight on Leros, the island of the damned

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Reflections on harm in language and the trouble with Whitman

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About fifteen years ago, my roommate and I developed a classification system for TV and movies. Each title was slotted into one of four categories: Good-Good; Bad-Good; Good-Bad; Bad-Bad. The first qualifier was qualitative, while the second represented a high-low binary, the title’s aspiration toward capital-A Art or lack thereof.

Some taxonomies were inarguable. The O.C., a Fox series about California rich kids and their beautiful swimming pools, was delightfully Good-Bad. Paul Haggis’s heavy-handed morality play, Crash, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, was gallingly Bad-Good. The films of Francois Truffaut, Good-Good; the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, Bad-Bad.

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For time ylost, this know ye,
By no way may recovered be.
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I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

A solid-gold toilet named “America” was stolen from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, in Oxfordshire, England.

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