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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Editor's Note February 12, 2018, 11:15 am

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Editor's Note December 22, 2017, 1:26 pm

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Five years ago, Jean-Sebastien Hertsens Zune went looking for his parents. He already had one set, a Belgian church organist and his wife, who adopted him as a baby from Guatemala and later moved the family to France. But he wanted to find his birth mother and father. When Zune was a teenager, his Belgian parents gave him his adoption file, holding back only receipts showing how much the process had cost. Most people pay little attention to their birth certificates, but for adoptees, these documents, along with notes about their relinquishment, tell an often patchy origin story.

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Alex and Wendy love culture. It’s how they spend their free time. It’s what they talk about at dinner parties. When they go jogging or to the gym, they listen to podcasts on their phones. On Sunday nights they watch their favorite new shows. They go to the movies sometimes, but they were bummed out when ­MoviePass went south, so now they mostly stream things. They belong to book clubs that meet every couple of weeks. Alex and Wendy work hard at their jobs, but they always have a bit of time to check their feeds at work. What’s in their feeds? Their feeds tell them about culture. Their feeds are a form of comfort. Their feeds explain things to them that they already understand. Their feeds tell them that everyone else is watching, reading, listening to the same things. Their feeds tell them about the people who make their culture, people who aren’t so different from them, just maybe a bit more glistening. Alex and Wendy’s feeds assure them that they aren’t lonely. Their feeds give them permission to like what they already like. Their feeds let them know that their culture is winning.

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Once, in an exuberant state, feeling filled with the muse, I told another writer: When I write, I know everything. Everything about the characters? she asked. No, I said, everything about the world, the universe. Every. Fucking. Thing. I was being preposterous, of course, but I was also trying to explain the feeling I got, deep inside writing a first draft, that I was listening and receiving, listening some more and receiving, from a place that was far enough away from my daily life, from all of my reading, from everything.

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“I can’t take chances with my life.”

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All his life he lived on hatred.

He was a solitary man who hoarded gloom. At night a thick smell filled his bachelor’s room on the edge of the kibbutz. His sunken, severe eyes saw shapes in the dark. The hater and his hatred fed on each other. So it has ever been. A solitary, huddled man, if he does not shed tears or play the violin, if he does not fasten his claws in other people, experiences over the years a constantly mounting pressure, until he faces a choice between lunacy and suicide. And those who live around him breathe a sigh of relief.

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.

In California, a 78-year-old patient and his family were informed that he would die within days from a doctor who was communicating via video call on a screen mounted to a robot on wheels.

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