Borges and $: The Parable of the Literary Master and the Coin

The role of money plays a two-sided role in Borges’ artistic life. On one side of the coin’s face, Borges was blessed with the most privileged, ideal life for a burgeoning literary genius. Educated in Europe, raised by his father to become a serious writer, Borges devoted his entire life to literature. He did not take a full-time job for nearly 40 years. But on the coin’s reverse side, we see that young Georgie Borges did not actually write his great fictions until after his family lost their money.

How Chicago House Got Its Groove Back

A look at Chicago’s DJ culture in the ’90s.

One day in 1997, Sneak promised his friend and fellow Chicago DJ Derrick Carter a new 12-inch for Carter's label Classic, then spent hours fruitlessly laboring over a basic, bustling four-four beat. Finally, Sneak gave in and smoked the J he'd had stashed for later in the day. When he came back inside, he carelessly dropped the needle onto a Teddy Pendergrass LP, heard the word "Well . . . ," and realized, "That's the sample, right there." He threaded Pendergrass's 20-year-old disco hit "You Can't Hide From Yourself" through a low-pass filter to give it the effect of going in and out of aural focus, creating one of the definitive Chicago house singles.

Pandemic Time: A Distributed Doomsday Clock

Even within a single apartment building, neighbors experience different temporalities. In one unit, we have a single extrovert experiencing the acute trauma of being forced to work alone from home. Next door, we have parents suddenly juggling childcare and work. At the end of the hall is an immigrant using WhatsApp to track the fate of family members on the other side of the globe who are suddenly physically unreachable due to travel bans. Even members of a single household experience pandemic time differently.

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Rao on the Longform Podcast

Numbering the Dead

A hundred and fifty years ago, slightly more, a strange notion: the dead could be counted. In the Civil War, in the lush fields of the South, Americans first, as a culture, began to imagine death in numbers. Rosters of soldiers, as well as lists of war casualties, were not common practice in the mid-nineteenth century. Many officials feared responsibility for the dead by numbering or naming them, and military leaders felt an accurate count might embolden their enemies.