Intimacy, Rebel Librarians, Murder, Eugenics, Vincent D’Onofrio,

A weekly selection of fine writing from Conked.


Update from Rand

This week I was interviewed for a podcast series on people inspiring people in which I spoke at length about my near-death experiences and the various methods I’ve used to combat the situations I found myself in. At the end of the session, one of my interviewers said he’d love to see a tip sheet from me on how to deal with near-death experiences.

It felt like a great idea so off the top of my head here are a few top tips I’d recommend keeping in your arsenal for dealing with unexpected life-threatening situations:
1. Flow: getting into a state of flow can allow your subconscious to kick in and help steer you out of tricky situations;
2. Vagal breathing: a form of yogic breathing this helps to regulate your heart rate and reduce anxiety;
3. Visualization: an element of manifestation, visualization is a very powerful body-mind healing method.

Additionally, I'd like to congratulate the On Deck team on their recent $20m capital raise.

As we move into the Easter period, I will be taking a break from the weekly updates. I would love to hear from YOU, our subscribers, to know what you would like to see more of in this newsletter. As you will see, this week’s update contains more Conks about books and writing. Would you like to see more of this kind of content? Email me at - I would love to hear from you.

Episode 3: Novels and Intimacy

Garth Greenwell & Daniel Wright | Public Books | 22 March 2021

In this podcast - with transcript available - novelist Garth Greenwell, scholar Daniel Wright and host, Nicholas Dames debate intimacy in the digital age. They discuss how novels assist us to think about sex and intimacy and how that experience differs from visual art, pornography or film and TV shows. They debate genres and how to classify auto-fiction, consent, meta-fiction and can literature "intervene in representations of sex" in this era where we are constantly exposed to images of sex and sexualised bodies. They use The Gift by Barbara Browning as a point of reference to debate these points and consider the value of novels for readers when so many competing media exist. (10,083 words)

Hunting for books in the ruins: how Syria's rebel librarians found hope

Delphine Minoui | The Guardian | 16 March 2021

In the middle of a war and under siege from Assad's regime in Syria, a young rebel, Muaddamani, was intent on exposing the reality of life to an international audience when foreign media could not access the area. In 2013 he was asked an unlikely favour - to save books in a bombed house owned by a school director who had fled. Incredulous initially, as soon as he picked up a book, he understood the freedom and information that books contained. Around 40 volunteers salvaged books from ruins and considered how to store and protect them. It was agreed that they would create a secret underground library. "Books were helping transport these young Syrians somewhere else." (4,262 words)

Not only the stranger

Alicia Foster | Aeon | 22 March 2021

As a child, the author grew up in the shadow of danger - The Yorkshire Ripper, threatening local boys, a philandering and menacing father - and developed obsessive behaviours checking locks seven times to keep her family safe. The case of Peter Sutcliffe affected not only his victims but tens of thousands of women who changed their behaviour to stay safe from his murderous spree. Let's not forget the horrific actions of Jimmy Saville - a so-called safe entertainer. Yet the danger was also within homes as women and children lived with fear, as did the author, of violence "from the darkness that is inside."(2,963 words)

How This Writer Got a Book Deal From Her Narratively Story about the Socialite who Sterilized Her Daughter

Julia Métraux | Narratively | 22 March 2021

Audrey Clare Farley highlighted the sad story in an article in Narratively of a forcibly sterilized socialite, Ann Cooper Hewitt, in the 1930s. It was a viral hit in 2019 and now her book "The Unfit Heiress: The Tragic Life and Scandalous Sterilization of Ann Cooper Hewitt tells Ann’s story in the context of the eugenics movement prior to World War II." When the article became the most-read piece of a year, a reader shared it with someone now her agent. The writing involved huge amounts of archival research as well as studying eugenics, sex, race and women's history. As the family was well-known, there was a lot of newspaper and tabloid coverage available to her. (1,006 words)

Vincent D’Onofrio wrote a book, and it looks insane and wonderful

Dan Sheehan | Literary Hub | 23 March 2021

The celebrated character actor Vincent D'Onofrio is releasing his first book next month, Mutha: Stuff + Things. The article shows the actor leafing through his book and it looks beautifully designed with amazing cover art and containing his thoughts and images. Humorous, honest, abundant, raw and unfiltered - "His words are, in the purest sense, ideas that fall unexpectedly upon his head, “like an apple from a tree—dropping all at once,” though less about gravity and Newton’s apples, and more about levity." A book not to be missed! (301 words)


“Books don’t set limits; they set us free. They don’t mutilate; they restore. Reading helps me think positively, chase away negative ideas. And that’s what we need most right now."
Ahmad Muaddamani, The Guardian, Hunting for books in the ruins: how Syria's rebel librarians found hope.

This post is only for subscribers of Conked, but please feel free forward it to any friends who deserve some entertainment today, especially if you think they might be interested in becoming Conked subscribers in the future.

Rand Leeb-du Toit, Conkerer

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