The New Yorker – August 2, 2021

Flight Plan, by Ann Patchett

作者以第一人称回顾了丈夫Karl的飞行史,作为一名业余飞行爱好者,对此一窍不通也毫无热爱可言的她从和Karl谈恋爱开始到步入婚姻殿堂,都伴随着飞行。在刚认识不到一年的时候两人曾去阿拉斯加旅行,在那以前,“我”还不能完全理解飞行之于他生命的重要意义。旅程第五天,Karl建议取消钓鱼计划而改为飞行,“我”在后座看着他戴着耳机和飞行员相谈甚欢的样子,开始明白飞行对他意味着什么,对“我们”的关系和未来的婚姻又意味着什么。

飞行伴随着的不确定性让“我”经常生活在提心吊胆中,有一次Karl比原计划晚了几个小时到家,其间联系中断,让“我”一度以为他发生了意外。当Karl终于走进家门,“I wanted to kill him because he had not been killed“,他冷静地给“我”叙述了经过,还安慰“我”说,要是真出了意外,应急电台(ELT)会主动联系家属的。还有一次,飞行结束后他异常平静地跟“我”说除了引擎坏掉了之外,一切正常。同一个屋檐下生活的两个人,对生命重量的感知竟如此不同,不过随着时间流逝,“我”渐渐开始习惯。

Karl对待飞行很专注,他迟迟不去考取驾照不是因为没有时间,而是一心想拿满分。他换座驾的时候从不考虑新飞机而是专挑便宜货,因为他觉得从折扣品里挑到物超所值的好货是才是这项爱好的最大乐趣。相处久了,“我”逐渐放下起初的敏感和担惊受怕,开始清楚意识到这个男人身上的勇敢和冒险精神才是自己真正想要的,而且有了飞行,“我”就有更多时间和Karl在一起。有很长一段时间Karl戒掉了飞行,后来重新拾回爱好后“我们”两人都十分开心,他自然是因为能够回到驾驶舱,“…and I was happy because we were together in the plane. I understood that I had no influence on the safety of the flight, but I was with him, and when I was with him I didn’t worry about it. If something happened, it would happen to both of us.”

那次从密西西比母亲家飞回纳什维尔的旅程让“我”终身难忘,原因是“我”竟然莫名其妙地在起飞之前忘了关舱门,当然在Karl的冷静操作下“我们”最终安然无恙。“我”一度以为因为自己的疏忽会赔上两条命,Karl则不以为然地解释道这根本不会发生。在“我们”降落后从机场开车回家的路上,他甚至兴致勃勃地开始给“我”讲述伯努利原理,解释为什么门因为气压关系会一直开着,“我”一个字都听不进去。“I understood none of it. What I understood was that there was no keeping anyone safe–one person remembers to tip the nose up for the landing, while the other person forgets to latch the door, and , in the end, it probably won’t be the nose tip or the door. It won’t be the nose tip or the door. It will be something infinitely more mundane. It will be life and time, the things that come for us all.”

Queenside, by Louisa Thomas

女子国际象棋世界冠军侯逸凡在与男子选手竞技时亦不落下风,本文由此展开介绍了在这个仍以男选手为主导的竞技领域女子选手的生存状况。其实对于众多参与女子比赛的选手来说,她们并不认为专门为女选手设置比赛有什么问题,恰恰相反,有了专门为她们举办的比赛和头衔,反倒能够促进和鼓励她们坚持在专业棋手这条路上走下去,有了更多人参与,彼此才能不断提高。

关于性别差异对棋艺水平影响的讨论从未停止过,很多人认为,男女大脑之间的差异确实对下棋有影响,前者更有能力保持长时间专注和在极端情况下思考,但是也有研究表明,男女性别内部的个体差异足以抵消性别差异带来的影响,而且后天训练和经验的作用也不能忽视。和女选手对话之后作者发现,她们中很多人对这个领域里男性的天生优势持默认态度,侯逸凡被问及这个问题时虽然没有直接肯定,但也指出对男孩女孩教育方法上的差异是一大因素,“Most girls are told at an early age that there’s a kind of gender distinction, and they should just try their best in the girls’ section and be happy with that.”

世界排名第一的芒努斯·卡尔森在小时候和姐姐一起学棋,起初芒努斯对国际象棋一点都不感兴趣,反倒是姐姐一开始学得很快。但是他们的父亲回忆道,芒努斯的特别之处在于可以专注做一件事很长时间,他在四岁的时候可以一连坐着六个小时拼乐高,而姐姐艾伦则经常把兴趣点移至别处。艾伦一度也是一名出色的俱乐部选手,但最终决定退出,“…she tired of the attention that came with being one of the few women in chess, …It made her anxious, she said, to see the best players in a hall gathered around her board, studying her moves”,外界对优秀女选手投来的目光反倒成为她们继续前进的阻力。

和以往投身专业道路的女选手不同,侯逸凡在拿到世界冠军后决定继续在大学深造,尽管她深知如果想要继续进步(比如达到世界前二十的水平),放弃学业是唯一的一条路。前世界冠军波尔加也同样认为,在顶尖比赛上很少看见女选手并不是因为女孩子比男孩子差,而是她们到头来没有那么多时间。侯逸凡看得很开,她既没有把国际象棋看作是自己生命中的唯一,也认为下棋和参加比赛并不是她参与的唯一方式。“There is something to be said of using chess to enrich one’s life instead of using one’s life to master chess”,而且,”Addressing the gender disparity at the top comes from addressing the disparity at the bottom”,通过自身的努力让更多女孩子接触并喜欢上国际象棋,在她看来同样十分有意义。

The Diversity Verdict, by Nicholas Lemann

本文详细梳理了黑人平权运动在大学录取层面的历史和近况。上世纪三四十年代的哈佛校长科南特通过推出标准化测试,试图将不同背景的学生拉回同一起跑线,“But Conant was mistaken in believing that he could use the SAT as a way to create a classless society”,黑人学者和人类学家埃利森·戴维斯就强烈反对这一政策,他认为SAT考试是对中上层阶级家庭孩子教育资源丰富“科学化”的认可,标准化分数的使用,把本就处在社会底层的黑人学生进一步定义为在科学公平的机会面前表现相对逊色的那一群人,“…standard tests complicated their commitments. Testing made it possible to create a numerical ranking of all applicants…”

一直以来,多样性在很多人眼中是黑人平权运动的法理基础,通过政策让更多的黑人学生加入大学校园,丰富学生群体的多样性,在人们看来是有必要去做的事情。但也有人同时认为,如果仅从多样性的角度去看待这件事情,“[it] appears to regard greater numbers of Black students on campus primarily a way to broaden the experience of white students, and it fails to recognize the historical debt the country owes to Black people”,与此同时,过度强调多样性也会让人们忽略其他关键因素,比如融入(integration)。某种程度上,录取更多黑人学生之所以成为各大学乐意去做的事情,正因为它的可操作性而不是别的,在完成了多样性这个”指标“之后,他们有充足的理由把解决种族不平等的问题转嫁给他人。

Coda, by Tessa Hadley

新冠隔离期间,作者和母亲生活在小镇上,两人均孤身一人,生活的钟摆在某一时刻甚至完全停了下来,直到特蕾莎的出现……

– Every place, even if it’s not at all glamorous, has its own secrets and seductions. The most glamorous places may be the least secretive, the most blank.

– She took a sharp interest in current affairs and insisted on watching the news, although she did get muddled about the facts; even when she was younger she hadn’t been all that strong on facts.

– You may be thinking that I was pretty self-sacrificing, giving up my own life to come down to the seaside during lockdown to look after my aging mother, to sort out her bills and her mail, cook her meals, sit with her every evening in front of the telly turned up very loud with the subtitles on. But the fact was that at that point my own life wasn’t much to write home about.

– When a man was unfaithful, the disgrace of it was somehow with the woman who’d failed to hang on to him.

– I remember from my time at school how little it took to set a day apart, surround it with happiness; perhaps one of the girls I worshipped gave me a biscuit left over from her break, or asked if she could copy my Latin homework. It was only later, when I transferred my worship to men, that everything grew complicated.

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