Weekend Reading: Donald Trump's January 6th, the Pacific Northwest Heat Wave, Making It in Tennis, and More

The best reporting and writing from the past week, and context to understand it.

Welcome to Weekend Reading.

This recurring feature on The Postscript is designed to help you catch up on the week. In one email, you’ll get links to stories that you’ve maybe heard about in passing or saw all over your Twitter feed but didn’t have time to sit down to read. 

Even when you’ve had a chance to read some of the stories rounded up for a given week, there’s always something more to expand your understanding, to give you a different point of view or a different medium for diving deeper into the topic.

When curated stories like these are brought to your attention, there’s an impulse to share what you’ve seen. You can forward the newsletter, or an individual article, or maybe you simply describe the stories through conversation in the break room at work, on a Zoom call with friends, or over drinks on a first date.

Weekend Reading will inform you with the week’s biggest news, entertain you with its best writing, and, most of all, make you one of the most interesting and well-read people around, all because you opened your email.

We’re betting you won’t keep what you read here to yourself.

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Britney Spears’ Conservatorship Nightmare
Ronan Farrow & Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker

As a New Yorker editor pointed out on Twitter, a shared byline is not a common occurrence in the magazine. This particular pairing between Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino is a perfect combination for this honestly harrowing story of Britney Spears’ battle with her family over a conservatorship that renders her powerless over the basic affairs of her daily life. Farrow’s background as a lawyer is on display in the story’s coverage of the complicated and murky world of conservatorships, and Tolentino’s mastery of online culture becomes more and more apparent as the story catches up to the present and so much of the pop star’s dramatic circumstances are speculated over by her legion of fans online.

  • 🎥 Framing Britney Spears — The New York Times & FX: Spears’ story was in the news in February with this documentary produced by the New York Times that aired on FX and Hulu.

Donald Trump’s January 6
Michael Wolff, New York

This past week, the country celebrated not only its 245th birthday, but also the six-month anniversary since the U.S. Capitol was overrun by a mob of President Donald Trump supporters literally trying to stop democracy in its tracks. New York’s cover story is an excerpt from Michael Wolff’s third book on the Trump administration. The excerpt focuses on January 6th, and Trump’s response to what was happening. It has some truly shocking revelations, but few of them truly shock after four years of the same.

  • 📖 The Secret History of Gavin McInnes — Adam Leith Gollner, Vanity Fair: A revealing interview with the founder of the Proud Boys, a far-right group that played a key role in the attacks on the Capitol.

  • 🎥 Day of Rage: An In-Depth Look at the Mob that Stormed the Capitol — Dmitriy Khavin, Haley Willis, Evan Hill, Natalie Reneau, Drew Jordan, Cora Engelbrecht, Christiaan Triebert, Stella Cooper, Malachy Browne & David Botti, The New York Times: A great use of found footage to demonstrate the gravity of events on January 6th, and a stunning piece of documentary journalism.

Pacific Northwest Heat Wave Was ‘Virtually Impossible’ Without Climate Change, Scientists Find
Matthew Cappucci, The Washington Post

The recent heat wave in the Pacific Northwest set all-time record high temperatures in roughly 175 different locations in northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. It was the hottest June on record in North America. Scientists were able to firmly and convincingly attribute those high temperatures to climate change.

  • 🖥️ The Climate Crisis Haunts Chicago’s Future — Dan Egan, The New York Times: Chicago should be safe from the extremes of climate change, but that basic assumption is wrong. A wonderful piece of digital journalism, reminiscent of Snowfall, which is nearing its 10th anniversary, when the Times mastered the multimedia storytelling concept better than any outlet had done it at the time.

  • ✉️ We Are Not Ready — Charlie Warzel, Galaxy Brain: Warzel talks about how climate change is the perfect “hyperobject,” “a concept so all-encompassing that it resists specific description.”

  • ✉️ Things Get HEATED on CNN — Emily Atkin, Heated: Atkin’s great newsletter on climate change got a national cable audience when she visited Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources, where she said she was able to make two out of her three intended points. The first of those points was perhaps the most important: All reporters should be climate reporters.

  • 📖 What Do We Hope to Find When We Look for a Snow Leopard? — Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker: There’s a bit of “one of these is not like the rest” energy to this selection, but it’s an absolutely stunning piece that looks at two books with startling similarities despite more than 20 years separating them. “Together, they raise that age-old question of how we are supposed to relate to nature. But they also suggest a more recent problem: As the wilderness grows ever more endangered and impoverished, in what ways, and to what ends, are we supposed to write about it?”

Surfside Death Toll at 64, as Authorities Pledge Recovery Continues ‘With Urgency’
Marie-Rise Sheinerman, Martin Vassolo & Bianca Padró Ocasio, The Miami Herald

Thursday marked two weeks since the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside. It was also the first day of the shift from search-and-rescue operations to search-and-recovery efforts. Four more victims were found on that first day of search and recovery. The remaining structure was brought down in a controlled demolition on Sunday, which had to be a moment of unbearable conflict for the families of the missing. The harsh reality that the world continued on around the search-and-rescue crews was evident as Tropical Storm Elsa forced the demolition perhaps sooner than would have been preferred. Now, families and friends are coping with the official resignation of hope of finding survivors. Now, all they can hope for is a miracle.

  • 📖 The Horror of Surfside — Tom Scocca, Slate: A simple, short essay about the cruel reality of randomness and the thin line that separates those who survive from those who die.

  • 📖 ‘Ambiguous Loss’ From Miami-Area Condo Collapse Makes Grieving Harder — Katherine Harmon Courage, Scientific American: Not knowing is the worst part. That’s the driving force of the concept of “ambiguous loss,” the “emotional purgatory” where “people have a sense of potential loss — but without the certainty that would allow them to begin grieving and recovering.”

  • 📖 Sifting Silently Through Surfside’s Rubble — Stephania Taladrid, The New Yorker: Among the terrible images conjured throughout the whole thing, there was a line that struck home in the Miami Herald story: “Aiding their efforts now, however, are dogs that look for the dead — not the living.” What a subtle but huge difference. What a difference in mindset that must take hold when dogs trained to find dead bodies arrive on the scene. The New Yorker talked to a rescue worker who still had the hope of working with a dog trained to find the living.

  • 📖 Condo Buildings Are at Risk. So Is All Real Estate — Matthew Gordon Lasner, The Atlantic: Questions still outnumber answers when it comes to how and why the Champlain Towers South collapsed. This article zooms out even farther from the specifics of this tragedy and questions whether the whole concept of condos is a problematic one.

A Few Tennis Pros Make a Fortune. Most Barely Scrape By.
Michael Steinberger, The New York Times Magazine

ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson once said that, when it comes to writing about sports, the smaller the ball, the better the writing. It was in reference to Thompson’s golf writing, but it applies equally as well to a sport with a slightly larger ball: tennis. This weekend marks the finals of Wimbledon, a perfect excuse to round up some aces of tennis writing. In this New York Times Magazine piece, the chasm between elite pros and those grinding at the lower levels of success. A startling fact was that, at the U.S. Open, this country’s biggest and most prestigious tournament, the prize money is roughly 14 percent of gross revenues, compared to roughly 50 percent in the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. A new players’ association might just be the answer.

  • 📖 Naomi Osaka Is Talking to the Media Again, but on Her Own Terms — Ben Smith, The New York Times: Smith’s weekly media column tackled the conundrum posed by the tennis star’s refusal to do mandated press conferences last month at the French Open. She ended up withdrawing from the tournament all together, and that was after being forced to pay a $15,000 fine for skipping the presser. Smith wrestles with the reality that athletes don’t need the press, at least not the ones at Osaka’s level of fame, and he highlights a quarterly publication, Racquet, trying to be a newer, better solution.

  • 📖 It’s OK Not to Be OK — Naomi Osaka, Time: Osaka defends her views on the antiquated notions of press conferences while pressing for granting professional athletes breaks from media scrutiny in this essay that’s Time’s most recent cover story.

  • 🗄️ From 2006: Roger Federer as Religious Experience — David Foster Wallace, The New York Times: No words on tennis have ever matched Foster Wallace’s article on Federer at Wimbledon in 2006, and there is no finer time to highlight the piece than on the final weekend of a Wimbledon tournament after he played what might very well be his last match there. (For what it’s worth, the second-best piece of tennis writing might also come from Wallace in the form of his 1996 Esquire profile of Michael Joyce, which, much like the New York Times Magazine piece, focused on the chasm between the great and the merely good.)

More of Our Favorites From the Past Week

You Really Need to Quit Twitter — Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic

The Invisible Addiction: Is It Time to Give Up Caffeine? — Michael Pollan, The Guardian

Unpunished Evil: When Neo-Noirs Took Over the ’90s — Brian Raftery, The Ringer

The Sound of My Inbox — Molly Fischer, The Cut

“Cat Person” and Me — Alexis Nowicki, Slate

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The Postscript

This week, elsewhere on The Postscript.

The Essential Janet Malcolm

Every word the famously concise New Yorker staff writer wrote was essential, of course, but here is where to begin.

Stories That Matter: How the Los Angeles Times Brought Down the Golden Globes

A six-month investigation by Stacy Perman and Josh Rottenberg unearthed the corruption and racism behind the glitz and glamour of one of Hollywood's premiere awards ceremonies.

Welcome to The Postscript

An experiment, and a place where we can all share and learn from some of the best reporting and writing being done today — and the people and places doing it.