Kathryn Schulz may wish that Condé Nast hadn’t been so savvy about securing its cut of journalists’ film deals, because her latest New Yorker piece has the makings of a blockbuster disaster movie. Schulz describes in nightmarish detail what will happen when, quite possibly in the next few decades, a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the (woefully underprepared) Pacific Northwest. People can’t stop talking about the piece this week. Vox provided numbers and graphics and timelines, while Seattle’s The Stranger picked out for its readers the five scariest bits (on that front, this paragraph seems hard to beat: “A grown man is knocked over by ankle-deep water moving at 6.7 miles an hour. The tsunami will be moving more than twice that fast when it arrives. . . . It will look like the whole ocean, elevated, overtaking land. Nor will it be made only of water—not once it reaches the shore. It will be a five-story deluge of pickup trucks and doorframes and cinder blocks and fishing boats and utility poles and everything else that once constituted the coastal towns of the Pacific Northwest.”) Earthquake experts weighed in on Reddit and elsewhere, and someone even asked celebrity physicist Michio Kaku for his take. But perhaps the most heartwarming response came from Schulz’s former colleagues at the Grist in Seattle, who made a list of all the potential benefits should the big quake finally hit. No more gentrification, no more traffic, Amazon will suffer, and then of course there’s this: “You know who’s going to get it worse than Seattle? Portland!”
Over in D.C., the National Journal is giving up on print altogether.
Always good to bring out the big guns in a slanging match: on Facebook, Cornel West objected to those comparing Ta-Nehisi Coates (whose book just came out early) to James Baldwin. While “we all hunger for the literary genius and political engagement of Baldwin,” West writes, Coates is simply “a clever wordsmith with journalistic talent who avoids any critique of the Black president in power.” (While patently unfair, West’s is probably not the oddest response to Coates you’ll read this week.) Reached for comment by the Observer, Michael Eric Dyson, calling the Facebook post an “acrimonious dirge,” saw West’s James Baldwin and raised him “the great Ludwig Wittgenstein”: Whereof West cannot speak, thereof he must be silent.
If you’ve now had more than enough Harper Lee for one lifetime, the New Republic reckons it won’t be hard to find the next “lost” masterwork by J. D. Salinger, Joan Didion, Marilynne Robinson (who hates her own early unpublished novel “as if worms had popped out of it”), or really almost any writer you care to name: We can start opening those drawers any time.