Installation 9: June 26, 2020
Greetings from my couch, where I’m sitting “recovering” from having my TDAP vaccine updated so I don’t give our baby––due any day now––whooping cough.
New bylines, old bylines:
1) My recent New York Review of Books piece––on Laurence Ralph’s The Torture Letters, Chicago police torture, and the ethical quandaries of writing about brutality––is now available online for all readers, whether or not they’re subscribers. Not sure how long that will be the case, so click today!
As many of you know, I’ve been writing about torture in general and Chicago police torture specifically for a while now. In the NYRB piece I reference my 2019 story on Chicago’s local torture reparations initiative, which remains the work that I’m proudest of.
When I moved to New York in 2007, I’d never heard of the New York Review. But my landlord––who gave me a great deal on the condition that I not move any of his stuff––had a teetering stack of issues from the late Seventies sitting by the bathroom. All through the fall of 2007, I read my way through the stack. By the time I was done, I knew I wanted to have a piece in its pages someday. Seeing my name on the cover was surreal.
2) On a lighter note, I have a New Yorker piece up about my favorite cultural production of the quarantine era: Instagram livestreams of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy playing music at home with his kids. (I’ve written about the Tweedys before, too, in this 2017 piece about their collaboration with Daniel Johnston.)
3) More quarantine-era musical content: back in May, I wrote a short New Yorker piece about the musician Drew Daniel (of the electronic duo Matmos) soliciting “sounds of quarantine” from around the world and stitching the submissions together into a 15-minute audio collage..
“We Can’t Go Back to Normal,” my quick-turnaround Guardian piece about how thinkers of crisis and change were processing the outbreak, continues its amazing journey through the world. Last I heard from my Guardian editor, it was the paper’s second-most-read “long read” of all time. It’s now also available as a podcast, and has been translated into German, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from and corresponding with readers from all over the world about their hopes and fears about the future.
Perhaps the most rewarding message I got came from EMERGE(ncy) PARTY, a group helping young people use writing and art to think through the COVID-19 crisis and the world they want. In the project’s first week, they used my piece as the prompt for their first round of projects.
Here’s one of my favorites, a drawing by 13-year-old Evie capturing the “eye-opening” effect of the piece for her:
And here’s another: 13-year-old Daisy’s umbrella against the encroaching surveillance state:
I can’t imagine more delightful responses to my writing.
Hope you’re all well. Please write back when you get a chance. If you know anyone who might want to get these emails, send them my way: petercbaker.substack.com
Thanks for reading, —Peter