What Happened at Slate This Week?

Marie Kondo isn’t a tedious fad, Tristram Shandy isn’t a short book, and everything’s more complicated than you think. 

Gabe Roth.

Image by Slate. Portrait by Charlie Powell.

Hi! I’m Slate Plus editorial director Gabriel Roth, commandeering the newsletter at the end of a busy week for our membership program. Thanks to you, we’ve sent Seth Stevenson to Daytona Beach to report his dream story: a trip to the Wendelstedt School for Umpires. He’ll be keeping members updated on his reporting through next week.

And our second Slate Academy series, A Year of Great Books, launched in earnest with the announcement of our first pick: Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. (I voted for it.) Start with Laura Miller’s introduction to the book, then grab a copy, read along with Laura and Will Oremus, and discuss it with your fellow members in our private Facebook group.

Speaking of Laura Miller, she filed one of my favorite stories of the week, a lovely, moving meditation on Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and its sequel, finding genuine pathos in what I’d thought was a tedious fad. And speaking of Will Oremus, he filed a deeply researched explanation of Facebook’s News Feed, the invisible product that’s fast becoming the only place the world gets its information, then turned around a quick analysis of Twitter’s next move as if he wasn’t tired at all. Then he started reading Tristram Shandy.

While you wait for your copy to arrive, here are the stories I most enjoyed in Slate this week.

On the politics desk, three of my favorite writers turned in arguments of a kind I always look to Slate for: the It’s More Complicated Than You Think piece. Michelle Goldberg’s careful personal take on a political controversy helped me understand what Hillary Clinton means to my female peers. Jim Newell’s close reading of Donald Trump’s recent strike against Ted Cruz demonstrated that Trump is a much subtler operator than he’s given credit for. And Fred Kaplan argued that yes, North Korea’s recent nuclear test is frightening, but only if you understand a bit about North Korea’s history and the regional politics of East Asia.

Meanwhile, in the arts section, Ruth Graham pointed out how weird it is that we subject real-life murder cases to the entertainment-oriented dictates of “spoiler culture.” Slate’s critical round tables are always my favorite year-in-review features, and this year’s Movie Club is especially good, with Dana Stevens both praising and attacking Pixar, Mark Harris being amusingly grouchy about blockbuster culture, and Dan Kois countering with the surprising greatness of Mad Max: Fury Road. Finally, I enjoyed Shon Arieh-Lerer’s review of a critical biography of Groucho Marx, a book the great man “would have found both deeply validating and kind of annoying.”

I’ll end this email before you start to find it both deeply validating and kind of annoying but: if you’re in or near New York on Jan. 15, come hang out with Mike Pesca, host of The Gist podcast, at a special happy hour for Slate Plus members only. Fun fact about Pesca: He’s exactly the same in real life. Meanwhile, thanks for your Slate Plus membership, which makes it possible for my colleagues to produce the kind of thoughtful work I’ve pointed to above. Everyone here appreciates it.