1. For New York, Lisa Miller explored the peril and promise of estrogen’s role in women’s mental health (“Listening to Estrogen,” December 24, 2018–January 6, 2019). The novelist Ayelet Waldman called it “a must read if you know any woman in her 40s or 50s.” Rutgers sociologist Norah MacKendrick wrote, “This article is mind-blowing. It tells of new science but is ultimately an old story — how science and medicine can fail to take women’s health seriously.” But Louise Newman of Australia’s Royal Women’s Hospital cautioned, “Be careful of reducing women’s mental distress and mental illness to hormones alone. This continues the myth of estrogen-driven instability of women.” James Woods, a gynecology professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, responded, “Your important cover article brings attention to the rise of schizophrenia in women in the menopause transition. Fortunately, schizophrenia affects less than one percent of the population. Yet this type of public awareness — that mental health can be significantly altered by shifts in estrogen — underscores a much broader challenge for women. The common goal among all women entering menopause is to maintain a certain quality of life. Good mental health is critical to that goal. Perhaps articles like this one will initiate a public conversation between care providers and their patients about the important role of hormones in mental health.”
2. For the first time, one of America’s most prolific serial killers, Samuel Little, shared his story with journalist Jillian Lauren, who recounted what she learned about his decades of murder in New York (“The Serial Killer and the ‘Less Dead,’ ” December 24, 2018–January 6, 2019). Brian Zygo wrote, “A very great read, and props to Jillian for enduring all of that to get that monster to open up.” Dean A. Haycock, the author of Murderous Minds, responded, “Lauren’s revealing piece ends appropriately with the journalist and Samuel Little both expressing a desire to understand why anyone would commit such horrendous crimes. Unfortunately, they are not alone. Modern medicine cannot explain the cause of sexual sadism disorder, for example, and though there are multiple theories, answers to the questions of why and how such behaviors develop remain sadly incomplete.” And Tamsin Higgs of the International Centre for Comparative Criminology at the Université de Montréal wrote, “Jillian Lauren draws out the discordance between the popular portrayal of the cunning and seductive psychopath or the psychotic killer and the more typical reality of a life spent in the margins of society. Notable in this case is how Little, although a known offender, remained relatively unnoticed until he was finally exposed thanks to genetic evidence. Perhaps there is a lesson here for preventing others following a similar path to Little, but foremost, it is a tragedy that his victims were eventually so many.”
3. “It turns out that the man I have spent 50 years believing to be my father is not my father,” revealed Prozac Nation author Elizabeth Wurtzel (“Bastard,” December 24, 2018–January 6, 2019). @ChroMaria tweeted, “Shame, vulnerability, and truth, all in one story. If it was a book, I wouldn’t be able to put it down.” Wurtzel’s distinctive voice and writing style polarized many readers. Darley Stewart tweeted, “It’s raw, but the sentences are so sharp. Very difficult to read. And beautiful.” Anna Graham Hunter dissented: “I started the Elizabeth Wurtzel piece and couldn’t finish … It’s exhaustion without insight. Or, as Vivian Gornick said, it’s the situation but not the story.” Stylistic objections notwithstanding, many readers were captivated. Reader Dave Aldridge called it “simply stupendous. I can’t remember reading anything lately that had such blazing and heartbreaking honesty … Thank you for your raw courage and indomitable spirit.”
4. In Max Read’s latest column, he asked “How Much of the Internet Is Fake?” (December 24, 2018–January 6, 2019). Turns out, a lot of it. Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao replied, “It’s all true: Everything is fake. Also mobile user counts are fake … Every time someone switches cell towers, it looks like another user and inflates company user metrics.” Axios tech editor Scott Rosenberg responded with some perspective: “Fake metrics have always been with us — from print circulation figures, which were always inflated, to the infamously unreliable Nielsen box. Fake is cheaper than ever online so there’s more of it, but so much of it is a shadow-puppet play being performed in the ad marketplace with very little actual impact on users. (But lots on businesses.)” Meanwhile, Michael Andor Brodeur at the Boston Globe chimed in, “In 2019, I resolve to go full Blade Runner and assume everything I encounter is a highly sophisticated fraud. That might sound cynical, but it will actually make me glad to encounter real people online.”
*This article appears in the January 7, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!