Five Great Reads: the paper that caused a stir, the supposed rise of the sigma male, and chasing pleasure in Paris

<span>Patrick Bateman in American Psycho – which was supposed to be satire.</span><span>Photograph: Lions Gate/Sportsphoto/Allstar</span>
Patrick Bateman in American Psycho – which was supposed to be satire.Photograph: Lions Gate/Sportsphoto/Allstar

Hello and happy Saturday, dear readers. I’m back with some of the best things I’ve seen around the Guardian this week, for you to read over your coffee, or bookmark for later … tell us what you think: australia.newsletters@theguardian.com

Call me by my elephant name, and have a wonderful weekend.

1. Who’s afraid of an essay on the Nakba?

Palestinian human rights lawyer Rabea Eghbariah recently published an article about Palestinian life under Israeli rule. Shortly after it went up, the Columbia Law Review website was closed. As Jonathan Guyer lays out, the university’s faculty and alumni board opted to shut the whole thing down rather than publicise Eghbariah’s thinking on the issue (the site was later restored, including his article).

But why? Some could have seen it as provocative – but scholarship often is. “The board never spelled out why it pulled the piece, beyond what it called an opaque editorial process – a description the student editors disputed,” Guyer writes.

And to what end? Eghbariah himself has mixed feelings about the situation. “Now, we have to debate about my right to say what I want to say instead of debating about what I actually said,” he tells Guyer. On the other hand, he hopes the incident brings attention back to ongoing violence against Palestinians.

“There is a continuum between the material reality in Gaza and shutting down these debates,” he says. “They’re not separate issues.”

How long will it take to read: three or so minutes

Further reading: As always, you can find all our coverage on the continuing crisis in Gaza here.

2. Charli XCX is making pop fun again

The British star’s new album, Brat, is everywhere this week. Adrian Horton looks at her particular brand of “uncompromising, deadpan bravado” – which basically boils down to having a good time.

To wit: “Few artists are going to follow up a song about pondering the possibility of motherhood with one about doing coke and loving it.”

How long will it take to read: less than three minutes

Further reading: our review of Brat – “insecurity-obliterating anthems” from a visionary, per Laura Snapes. Plus, if you like, a view on another musical titan – the real Janis Joplin, by those closest to her.

3. Inside Mexico’s anti-avocado militias

This story, which first appeared on Harper’s, goes deep on the avocado wars in Mexico – where, as Alexander Sammon writes, “competition for control of the fruit, and of the resources needed to produce it, has grown increasingly violent”. He paints a vivid and fascinating picture of the people, politics and power struggles tangled around the vexed crop.

***

“It’s unclear whether the avocado can survive this changing climate. But in Michoacán, the more pressing question is whether its residents can survive the avocado” – Sammon

How long will it take to read: about 10 minutes

Further reading: Thomas Graham’s piece, written soon after the April deaths of Australian brothers Callum and Jake Robinson and their American friend, Jack Carter Rhoad, about the fragmentation of organised crime at the heart of the country’s extraordinary violence.

4. The sad, stupid rise of the sigma male

Steve Rose explains the social media phenomenon, “supposedly exemplified by characters played by the likes of Keanu Reeves, Cillian Murphy, Bryan Cranston and Christian Bale, plus the manosphere influencer Andrew Tate as well as actual, real life wolves”.

What do sigma males … do? Something about a “grindset” – early cold showers, punishing workouts, even more punishing views of social hierarchy. You get the picture.

Why should I care about this? Maybe you don’t need to. As Rose hears, a lot of people find the idea pretty corny, and have doubts about actual levels of buy-in. But it’s always interesting to consider the lure of a new “personality type” – especially, in this case, one so focused on insecurity and power.

How long will it take to read: about five minutes

5. Pursuing pleasure in Paris

Think of this one as an antidote to the last story, if you like. In August 2021, the world was emerging from the pandemic and writer Glynnis MacNichol was about to turn 47: “no partner, no children. An age and situation we are told promises little enjoyment”. But that description, she felt, didn’t really match who she was, or what she was craving – sensuality, seduction, fun.

“More than anything I have missed the contact of skin,” she writes. So she went to Paris for a month, to find it.

What happened next? Guess. (Spoiler: lots of sex.)

How long will it take to read: about four minutes

And remember, unrelatedly, if life gives you invasive crabs, you can make regional delicacies out of them.

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