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Substack Reads: The most influential “scammer,” summer pasta salad, and the memory of places
Hello and welcome to another Substack Reads weekend digest. This week, summer nostalgia for Pulp gigs of the ’90s from author Sophie Heawood, the memory of place by mnemonist Ronald Johnson, and the sweet memories conjured by a summer pasta salad, from Meryl Feinstein. We hope there is something for everyone in each edition of Reads—or let us know what we may have missed, in the comments below!
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In her first Substack interview, influencer and “scammer” Caroline Calloway talks about sobriety, the power of anger, and her debut memoir with writer Sarah Levy
You may remember Caroline as the influencer who blew up on Instagram in 2014 as an American student studying at Cambridge University. Her social media posts depicted her life abroad like something out of a fairy tale: she attended literal galas, frolicked in castles, and had a string of handsome love interests. She wrote longform captions about her life and amassed an engaged audience of readers, eventually leveraging her Internet fame into a $500,000 book deal for School Girl, which she later renamed And We Were Like.
But Caroline says she wasn’t entirely honest with her publisher or herself when she sold School Girl. Still in the throes of an Adderall addiction and struggling with her mental health, Caroline was ultimately unable to deliver the book that she promised. And although she eventually paid back the $100,000 she spent from her advance, she was publicly stamped with a scarlet S for Scammer.
In this first episode of a new podcast, The Studies Show, Tom Chivers and Stuart Ritchie discuss the new wave of weight-loss drugs and the offbeat arguments that people make against them
“New, effective drugs will help people lose lots of weight and this is a good thing” doesn’t sound like it should be a controversial statement, but as this episode shows, it really is.
Places can have memories too, says mnemonist Ronald Johnson
You may be asking, “What has walking or sidewalks to do with memory?” I believe there are some interesting parallels between urban planning and mnemonics. It is through repetition of contact that familiarity of place begins to bud. Behold the schoolchild repeat the alphabet, the pianist repeat his scales, the monk repeat the Psalter, the polyglot repeat his conjugations, the ballerina repeat her pose, and the actor repeat his lines. These are the feet of recalling, the slow rhythms of the non-trivial. As the feet in walking, there is the “to and fro” of tongue, heart, and hand.
I am reminded of the Italian word for “review”, ripassare, which is comprised of two words: ri—“again”—and passare—“to pass” or “to cross.” It conveys the idea of passing through or crossing paths again. So, when I hear the word “review” in the context of mnemonics, I tend to think of movement, a type of walking. Similarly, the mnemonist walks “to and fro” his constructed memory palace and becomes familiar with the treasures stored inside. It is through these many, many contacts with mental-place that a long-term memory is formed.
Scotland is home to the world’s biggest newspaper printing press. Veteran photojournalist Kenny Farquharson was given exclusive access for a photo essay
—in , recommended by
I trained as a cub reporter on the Coventry Evening Telegraph in the English Midlands, a textbook example of a 20th-century city newspaper housed in a handsome 1950s brick building that included its own printing presses. A fleet of liveried vans idled in the yard, ready to take still-warm bundles to newsagents and street sellers throughout the afternoon.
Every day we produced seven editions. Three were for the city itself, published at lunchtime, mid-afternoon and teatime. This last edition was the City Final. Another four were for Coventry’s satellite towns: Rugby, Bedworth, Warwick and Leamington Spa, each with their own masthead and local stories.
This made for a busy day. I recall sitting at my typewriter, feeling the rumble of the presses through the soles of my feet, writing the splash of an edition that was already in the process of being printed. A copy boy was at hand to take away each paragraph as I wrote it. As I hit the final full stop, the intro was already being typeset.
Michael Easter shares a story of his ancestral pioneer Nellie Unthank, and how her perseverance is a key lesson for a more modern approach to health and happiness
In chapter four of The Comfort Crisis, I wrote about an idea called “Prevalence-Induced Concept Change.” Harvard psychologists discovered it in a series of studies in 2018. You can think of it as “problem creep.”
It explains that as we experience fewer problems, we don’t become more satisfied. We just lower our threshold for what we consider a problem.
We end up with the same number of troubles. Except our new problems are progressively more hollow. It’s why we can often find an issue in nearly any situation, no matter how good we can have it relative to the grand sweep of humanity.
We are always moving the goalpost. There is, quite literally, a scientific basis for first-world problems.
Pasta lover Meryl Feinstein offers sweet corn and sweet memories
On December 7, 2018, I found out I was moving to Alabama. I remember the date because it was the day after I worked my first shift making pasta at Misi. My husband had a prestigious job interview in Birmingham, so we flew down together to get a sense of the place in the event he got the gig.
I didn’t have any particular expectations of Birmingham. Although I had traveled extensively across the U.S. as a teenager, I really didn’t know the first thing about the south. And while my husband spent hours in the interview hotseat, I spent most of that trip watching Food Network reruns at a Westin tucked under a highway overpass (honestly, it was great). Most of the trip—but not all of it. My husband received the job offer on the spot, so to celebrate, we spent the evening at what was, at the time, Birmingham’s best restaurant: Highlands Bar & Grill.
Perhaps we all need a Saturday-night-till-Tuesday carte blanche to forget we ever knew the smell of chlorine, writes Sophie Heawood
“You had a baby!” my friend said to him, having probably seen his life-changing news on a little photo on a little screen, pressed the heart button, and typed the word congrats. That thing that we are compelled to do, even if this friend is someone we met in a smoking area one random night seven years ago and who has played a relentless role in our internet ever since. Even if we care not, truly, for their lickle baby.
“Yeah,” he said, looking a bit over-energised, “yeah, yeah I took her, the baby yeah, I took her to the swimming pool today!”
“What, and just left her there?” I asked, forgetting this man was not familiar with my ideas around humour.
“No, no,” he started, looking at my face with some concern, or as close as he could get to my face, as close as he could get to concern, “my partner, my wife, she, we took her home, home, it’s…” He was sweating now; he was anxious, “cos my partner’s actually given me carte blanche to go for it tonight, stay out. I’m off the clock until Tuesday,” he continued, “so I’ve put two pills up my arse.”
New writing from the Orwell Youth Fellows. Section: 1985. Warning: Do Not Disseminate
—Cerys Shanks ofin
He stands, unknowingly in sync with thousands, to do just that—begin the day and complete the cycle. His Breakfast Can is waiting for him, sitting idly at the counter as it gathers perspiration. The logo faces outwards, turned to his entry like a quiet, conciliatory ‘good morning.’ He makes a humming noise, almost a returned greeting, and grasps it. Pops the tab open even as he raises it. The angle makes a few drops spill prematurely onto his shirt instead of his latching mouth.
One gulp. One gulp. One gulp.
The energy fizzles through his bones, the drink settling into its new container with the same ease and fickleness as any normal liquid. It wraps a hand around his heart and helps it beat. The aches and twinges of humanity are cast off, swept away with artificial adrenaline, and sweet satisfaction. Fleeting, but oh how fulfilling. A cornucopia of action, spilling out onto him, anointing him in preparation for another day.
Congratulations to the following writers celebrating publication.
Congratulations to, who shared news of her book deal with subscribers: is celebrating publication day: starts her tour to promote Prom Mom, which went on sale this week:, who writes , reaches a publishing anniversary.
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Substack Reads is a weekly roundup of writing, ideas, art, and audio from the world of Substack. Posts are recommended by staff and readers, and curated and edited from Substack’s U.K. outpost by Hannah Ray.
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