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Sitdown Sunday 7 deadly reads

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair. We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. My debt to Ireland
American essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan on travelling to Ireland after decades away, and what it taught him (New York Times).

It was hard to see why the government would allow the ruination of so much open land, which is one of Ireland’s principal commodities, namely the “unspoiled” landscape. People go to Ireland for all sorts of reasons, but they mainly go there because it’s pretty, because it’s “not all built up.”

2. What makes the perfect spy?
Former agent Jeff Stein looks back at a career in espionage, and what it means for those involved (Washington Post).

Espionage training, it turned out, was a gas — a boy’s life, really, what with running around Baltimore planting “dead drops” under park benches, eluding spy catchers, practicing “brush passes” on city streets, writing messages in “invisible ink.” We learned how to send an agent behind the Iron Curtain and get him back out.

3. ‘I want my father to die’
Sandra Tsing Loh on the pressures of caring for her ageing father, and how the problem will only get worse (The Atlantic).

What I mean, Rob, is that even if, while howling like a banshee, I tore my 91-year-old father limb from limb with my own hands in the town square, I believe no jury of my peers would convict me. Indeed, if they knew all the facts, I believe any group of sensible, sane individuals would actually roll up their shirtsleeves and pitch in.

4. Shark in the kiddie pool
Ned Zeman on the story of Nick Roses, an agent of child stars and “the most hated 21-year-old in Hollywood” (Vanity Fair).

“He was a very take-charge type of child,” his mother says. “When he wanted something, he would go after it. It was difficult, because he wasn’t the normal child. You’d see other kids playing sports, and Nick with his little briefcase, trying to make deals happen.”

5. What I learned couchsurfing across America
Tim Murphy on his strange journey through the States using (Mother Jones).

Bill, our host in Duluth, described himself in his profile as a Zamboni operator and freelance detective. In reality, he manned the graveyard shift at an assisted living facility and supplemented his income by donating plasma on the weekends. With the decline of the Iron Range, he explained, blood was now the city’s largest export. This was also false.

6. The genius of ‘attack ads’
Jane Mayer on the role in the US presidential campaign of Larry McCarthy, a master of the negative TV ad (New Yorker).

McCarthy’s ads often have the crude look of a hastily assembled PowerPoint presentation. They feature hokey graphics—key criticisms are highlighted with neon-yellow stripes—and a heavy-handed use of black-and-white to lend a sinister cast to images. The ads are the political equivalent of a supermarket tabloid.


In March 2007, CJ Chivers wrote for Esquire about what it was like being in the school when Chechen terrorists struck the town of Beslan.

It was a simple device, a plastic bucket packed with explosive paste, nails, and small metal balls. It weighed perhaps eight pounds. The existence of this bomb had become a central focus of his life. If it exploded, Kazbek knew, it would blast shrapnel into the heads of his wife and two sons, and into him as well, killing them all.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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