Long Reads: Van Gogh, nationalism, Ferguson riots

The mind of van Gogh, a Romanian trying to escape stereotype and the cop who sparked the Ferguson riots, in this week’s Long Reads from Rich Jackson.


Selfie with ‘Sunflowers’ – Julian Barnes (London Review of Books)

It’s difficult to imagine Van Gogh outside of the context that we, the public, think of him: this genre-defying and changing artist. So to read about his anger, despondency and bitterness towards his lack of success is actually quite humanising. In a strange way it’s refreshing to read of this distant, almost mythology modern day figure, struggling and riddled with self-loathing and personal imperfections. It’s also important to know that brilliance, if that is what he had or even is, isn’t earned easily – he obsessed over it endlessly.


The last European: Romanian driver navigates the soul of the EU – Juan Moreno (Spiegel Online)

I don’t really get patriotism or nationalism. I mean, how can you be proud of something you never earned? Big whoop, you’re Australian or French…so what, you were just born somewhere? Let me just tell you something about Romanians in Ireland. There is a general anger against them and throughout Europe, a stereotype driven by populism: “always got their hands out”. So it’s important to read these sorts of articles to understand why immigrants or refugees travel great distance or risk their lives to cross borders. They do it because they want to better themselves, because they are desperate. There is a reason that in this article the author makes allusions to the central figure, a people smuggler, being a hero. Because, to many, he is.


The cop – Jake Halpern (The New Yorker)

The cop: Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed African-American 18-year-old man, Michael Brown (convention forces the conversation to say “man”; he was a child). Brown’s death triggered the riots in Ferguson, Missouri and helped ignite the social movement “black lives matter”. With all this context and emotion, it’s difficult to read this story with a sober mind – or maybe it’s cause I’m kinda drunk right now – but no matter where the truth lies, it’s difficult to read Wilson’s voice.


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