No earth-shattering pieces in this issue, but still several stories that engrossed me from beginning to end:
* Peter Hessler’s “Letter from Cairo,” which describes the many way that the Muslim Brotherhood has betrayed its promises and generated a lot of distrust and opposition among Egyptian citizens after the ouster of Mubarak;
* the ever-amusing Patricia Marx’s consumer report on Taskrabbit and similar apps that allow you to outsource mundane tasks;
* Rachel Aviv’s substantial and thought-provoking article, “The Science of Sex Abuse,” that focuses on laws that treat possession of child pornography as crimes equivalent to molesting children, keeping men in prison under civil commitment provisions who have never acted on their fantasies of sex with underage humans;
* John McPhee’s essay on structure, in “The Writing Life” — I’m not a big McPhee fan (who has time for a 90,000 word piece about sand?) but I was delighted to know that there are times when even he finds himself squirming on the floor in tears unable to get going with a writing task;
* “Semi-Charmed Life,” Nathan Heller’s essay about several books about contemporary twentysomethings, which ultimately I found annoying; and
* Joan Acocella’s essay about St. Francis of Assisi, triggered by two recent books about him. Acocella’s choices of subject frequently surprise me, and her plain, direct, commonsense style often cracks me up. “Francis was very ill,” she writes, for the last six years of his life. “He returned from Egypt not just with malaria but with trachoma, a searingly painful eye infection. Also, it is said, he vomited blood, which suggests a gastric ulcer. When he finally allowed himself to be examined, the doctor decided to cauterize Francis’s face from the jaw to the temple, to stop the discharge from his eyes. ..The treatment did no good, so it was decided to pierce his eardrums. That had no effect, either. This part of the story is very hard to read.”
I’ve recently subscribed to the New Yorker Out Loud podcast, which turns out to be a great way to hear what various New Yorker writers and editors sound like. Rachel Aviv, for instance, is this week’s guest. You can subscribe via the iTunes Store.