Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 3 October, 2023
Matt Sayles/AP/Press Association Images
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. The men who pull the levers of Rihanna
John Seabrook on the anonymous team of songwriters behind the world’s biggest stars – and the tricks of their trade (New Yorker).

Everyone was giddy, like children on Christmas morning. Blacksmith and Danny D came into the control room and listened to the playback, whooping raucously at the choruses, perhaps the very first of countless revellers who would bounce to the song. Dean danced. Delaine bobbed his head and smiled. When it was over, everyone cheered.

2. From Reddit to Hollywood
Jason Fagone on how one man posted a comment on Reddit about Romans, and found himself with a movie deal (Wired).

Within an hour, he was an online celebrity. Within three hours, a film producer had reached out to him. Within two weeks, he was offered a deal to write a movie based on his Reddit comments. Within two months, he had taken a leave from his job to become a full-time Hollywood screenwriter.

3. Escaping a North Korean prison camp
Blaine Harden on how Shin In Geun grew up in a brutal prison camp the size of a city – then one day made it out (Guardian).

He would listen to a guard telling the crowd that the prisoner about to die had been offered “redemption” through hard labour, but had rejected the generosity of the North Korean government. Guards stuffed pebbles into the prisoner’s mouth, covered his head with a hood and shot him.

4. The rich, rich art world
Alice Gregory on her time as a junior at the world’s biggest art auction house, and what she learned (n+1).

Likewise, almost all interactions between employees and clients were inflected with an “Oh, you stop it now!” sort of kittenishness or a steely tough love. Telephone conversations with cold callers included some of the most retrograde propositions I’ve heard outside of Mad Men.

5. How women won the Libyan rebellion
Joshua Hammer on how Libya’s women smuggled arms and spied for rebel forces during the uprising (Smithsonian).

Inas Fathy’s transformation into a secret agent for the rebels began weeks before the first shots were fired in the Libyan uprising that erupted in February 2011. Inspired by the revolution in neighboring Tunisia, she clandestinely distributed anti-Qaddafi leaflets in Souq al-Juma, a working-class neighborhood of Tripoli.

6. Nature takes over an American city
Nathaniel Rich on the neighbourhoods of New Orleans left abandoned after Katrina, and what happens in them now (New York Times).

Nobody knew how long the car had been there; it was concealed from the closest house, half a block away, by 12-foot-high grass. That entire stretch of Choctaw Street, for that matter, was no longer visible. It had been devoured by forest.


In 2001, Blaine Harden (see #2 above) wrote for the New York Times about coltan – the mineral that makes our mobile phones possible – and the prostitutes in the mud-hole where it is mined.

The miner’s ”temporary wife” would cook his food, haul his water and share his bed in a shack made of sticks and leaves. In return, he would give her enough coltan to keep her in cosmetics, clothes and beer. If a miner decided that he wanted a prettier young woman to haul his water, he had to pay Mama Doudou another kilo of coltan.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

The Sports Pages – the best sports writing collected every week by>