Hannah Pearson
By on June 21, 2014 in Recommended
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The thinking drone’s pick of longform: June 21

This week, we’ve found top longreads on the web from Disney’s lady animators to the CIA using Dr Zhivago as propaganda in Russia, comforting news for late blooming creatives to a rail journey in Italy and Liberia’s prostitution problem.

1. The secret life of Disney’s women animators

Coloring the Kingdom – Vanity Fair – March 2010 – Patricia Zohn

Much has been written about the prodigiously talented men who brought Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, and Dumbo to the screen. But if behind every good man stands a good woman, behind Walt Disney and his “boys”—the all-male assembly line—once stood 100. Walt was the impresario of a troop of young women, most under 25—a casting director’s dream of all-American acolytes—who made the screen light up, not with feathered swan dives or the perfect tip-tap of a patent-leather heel, but by making water shimmer or a tail wag just so.

2. Cultural engineering through literature

Is Literature ‘the Most Important Weapon of Propaganda’? – The Atlantic – 17 June 2014 – Nick Romeo

Stalin’s sentiments regarding literature may seem like the deranged delusions of a dictator. But consider a similar Cold War-era comment by the CIA’s then-chief of covert action: “Books differ from all other propaganda media primarily because one single book can significantly change the reader’s attitude and action to an extent unmatched by the impact of any other single medium.” 

3. Experimental genius vs. precocity

Late Bloomers – The New Yorker – 20 October 2008 – Malcolm Gladwell

Late bloomers’ stories are invariably love stories, and this may be why we have such difficulty with them. We’d like to think that mundane matters like loyalty, steadfastness, and the willingness to keep writing checks to support what looks like failure have nothing to do with something as rarefied as genius. But sometimes genius is anything but rarefied; sometimes it’s just the thing that emerges after twenty years of working at your kitchen table.

4. A rail journey of beauty

Ventimiglia – Granta Magazine – 18 June 2014 – Joanna Walsh

Nowhere is so beautiful as when it’s left; the beauty is part of the leaving. Leavers miss what they’ve left but there are always new vistas, making leaving a joy in itself. You were the one who left. You took that privilege. No one is so beautiful as when they are leaving, no one so ready to be left as the one who stays. If only I could always be leaving, I’d never miss anyone.

5. Liberia’s underage prostitution

Liberia | Short Time Girls – The Caravan – 1 June 2014 – Clair Macdougall

There is no reliable count of underage prostitutes such as Jatu in Monrovia, but the police say the number of these “short-time” girls is rising. Unlike in many developing countries, where children are trafficked and forced into sex work by crime syndicates, many Liberian girls are encouraged to cut jopu by their families and friends, among whom their work is an open but largely unspoken secret.

Add your favourite longreads of the week to the comments below.