Tell Me a Story

On April 29, 2020, The Week published an article I wrote about how the audiobook is a medium unique to the 21st century because it merges the millennia-old practice of building community through storytelling with the solitary listening that we engage in everyday on our mobile devices. Mark Athitakis wrote a similar perspective in The Washington Post recently, where he points out that reading in solitude is a perfect way to practice social distancing, but reading alone is a very late development in how humans relate to stories.

Athitakis wrote his piece to address how reading can be a way to handle the isolation we are all in right now, even if this means reading books we have already read several times. My point is similar to his but it works at a more aggregate level, addressing how listening to stories connects us to our own humanity and the humanity of those who came before us, sometimes several thousand years in the past.

Enjoy!

Tell Me a Story

woman sitting on window reading book

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

Society tends to be divided about the merit of audiobooks. Some argue they’re no different than physical books. Others are staunch opponents to them, even going so far as to suggest they’re linked to a decline in literacy. And even if you’re not opposed to books on tape, you likely harbor a quiet assumption that listening to a story is, well, lazy. But audiobooks are just a modern incarnation of a tradition that’s older than civilization itself: the act of listening to the voice of another human telling us a story.

We may think reading is the purest form of engaging with a story, but in reality, humans were listening to stories long before we were reading them.

Take, for example, The Iliad and The Odyssey, the two works considered the fountainheads of our literary tradition.

If you wish to read the article in its entirety, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

 

Monarchies Are Gradually Disappearing

On February 3, 2020, The Week published an article I had written for them about the slow demise of the monarchy as a system of government. The monarchy is the oldest system of government that we have, and in an increasingly democratic world (yes, believe it or not), countries are more likely to declare themselves a republic than a monarchy.

Enjoy!

Monarchies Are Gradually Disappearing

When Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced their decision to step away as senior royals and strike out on their own, the British royal family joined the ranks of other royal families facing a changing reality. Months before Harry and Meghan reached their compromise with Queen Elizabeth II, the Swedish royal family had stripped certain family members of royal titles and cut them from the royal payroll. Meanwhile in Spain, members of the royal family have been removed from the succession after receiving prison sentences for corruption and tax fraud. And in Japan, the future of the royal family is in peril because of outdated succession laws that discriminate against its female members.

Forty-four of the world’s 195 countries are monarchies. As a result of how the British Empire dissolved itself, 16 of these 44 have Queen Elizabeth II as their Head of State. With the exceptions of Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Oman, Eswatini, and the Vatican, all monarchies are constitutional monarchies, which means that the sovereign is a figurehead with limited political influence and power. During the 20th century, a newly created country could become either a republic or a monarchy. Israel, Lebanon, and Poland are examples of the former. Norway, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Spain are examples of the latter. At the same time, old monarchies became republics, often by force, with Cambodia bucking the trend and reinstating its monarchy in 1993. Two decades into the 21st century, the idea of a country declaring itself to be a monarchy seems almost alien. Has the monarchy as a system of government become obsolete?

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

What Happens when Women Translate the Classics

On January 14, 2020, The Week published this article that I had written for them. I’m really happy that this idea found a place at The Week. It seems as if the readers of The Week were happy too, at least judging by the amount of shares and likes that this article received on Facebook and Twitter. Enjoy!

What Happens when Women Translate the Classics

What Happens When Women Translate the Classics | The Week.com | The Boomerang

“Tell me about a complicated man.” This first line of Emily Wilson’s translation of the Ancient Greek epic poem The Odyssey raised a lot of eyebrows when it was published in 2017. The translation reinvigorated the interest in the story of Odysseus and his 10-year struggle to return home to his wife Penelope and their son Telemachos on the island of Ithaca, after having fought in the Trojan War. Wilson is so far the only woman to publish a translation of The Odyssey in English, a translation considered by many as groundbreaking.

Wilson might be the first woman to translate The Odyssey into English, but she’s not the first woman to translate an Ancient Greek text into a contemporary language. With her translation, Wilson joins the ranks of women who have broken gender barriers to give their voices to the Classics. Does the translator’s gender influence the interpretation of a text?

Please click here to read the article in its entirety.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

How Cleopatra Became a Canvas for Society’s Anxieties

One more article for The Week ends 2019 for me, a year that has been something of a roller coaster ride. This year I decided to become more serious about freelance writing, and these articles that I have been writing for The Week is the result of that decision.

Please enjoy this investigation into how and why Cleopatra continues to intrigue us more than 2,000 years after she died.

Happy New Year!

How Cleopatra Became a Canvas for Society’s Anxieties.

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Two-thousand years after her death, Cleopatra continues to enthrall us. Earlier this year, the British tabloid The Daily Star reported that a new movie about this last Pharaoh of Egypt was in the works. According to an anonymous source, the movie will be “a dirty, bloody, political thriller told from a feminist perspective,” as opposed to the movie Cleopatra of 1963 starring Elizabeth Taylor, which had been a historical epic.

Our fascination with Cleopatra endures because we know surprisingly little about her. And what we do know is based purely on speculation. This lack of information makes Cleopatra the perfect canvas onto which…

Please click here if you wish to read the entire article.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

What the Moomins Can Tell Us About Fighting Climate Despair

On November 29, 2019, I published the following piece for The Week. I honestly didn’t expect editor Jessica Hullinger to choose this topic out of the several pitches I sent her, because Moomins are a bit obscure in the US. But I am very happy that she saw the appeal in this alternative reading of the first two books about the Moomins that Tove Jansson ever wrote. Enjoy!

What the Moomins Can Tell Us About Fighting Climate Despair.

What the Moomins Can Tell Us about Fighting Climate Despair | The Week.com | The Boomerang

Climate change is real, no matter what some would have us believe. In this past summer’s heat wave over Europe, the Arctic region of Scandinavia experienced temperatures up to 101 degrees, while the ice cap of Greenland is melting at the rate projected for the year 2070. Meanwhile, Australia is experiencing yet another year of unprecedented drought, at the same time as the American Midwest has been fighting against the overflowing Mississippi River after too much rain. It is becoming increasingly clear that climate change is not a problem we will need to deal with sometime in the future. It is happening now.

Grappling with the magnitude of climate change causes what is known as climate despair, which is the overwhelming sense that…

Please click here if you’d like to read the article in its entirety.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.