Longform You Have to Read: Kathleen Hale’s Macabre Essays


In a world where you have more options for satisfying longform reading than ever, your friends here at Flavorwire are taking the time once a week to highlight some of the best that journalism and longform has to offer. Whether they’re unified by topic, publication, writer, being classic pieces of work, or just by a general feeling, these articles all have one thing in common: they’re essential reading. This week, we’re looking at the essays of Kathleen Hale.

It’s a fun process to fall for a byline; to read something and to know that it’s good, to look at the author’s name and think, who wrote that and what else can I read? Over the past year, I’ve been more and more obsessed with the work of Kathleen Hale. An author (of the book No One Else Can Have You and its upcoming sequel) and essayist who’s mostly based in Brooklyn, she has one of my favorite essays in the new book Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for New York. While that essay isn’t online yet, here’s a list of some of Hale’s best stuff to slake your thirst.

I Met My Straight Fiancé in a Gay and Lesbian Studies Class,” by Kathleen Hale, Swimmingly, May 2014

A very funny, short essay about what it’s like to fall for a person, no matter what your expectations are of them. This cute meeting has Hale and her fiancé (Google or a recent Hairpin article will tell you it’s noted funny writer Simon Rich) bonding with their minds over an overrated book that is, in essence: “Really, really stupid. Truly dumb.”

A Young Adult Author’s Fantastic Crusade to Defend Literature’s Most Maligned Genre,” by Kathleen Hale, Nerve, June 2014

Remember when Ruth Graham wrote Against YA at Slate and we all got pretty indignant? Well, Hale satirizes everything, but especially hoary YA tropes, in this funny fantasia about what it’s like to road trip with Graham: “We were dying anyway so we didn’t even talk about condoms. The ensuing sex was perfect and involved no bodily fluids. She took off my glasses and I became beautiful.”

Desperately Seeking Psychics,” by Kathleen Hale, Elle, August 2014

Hale goes to psychic school in this piece, in order to try to talk to a ghost. The Montclair Psychic School, however, is not the land of signs and whispers that it pretends to be. It’s a funny piece.

Dress Your Family in Your Lover’s Shoes,” by Kathleen Hale, The Hairpin, September 2014

This is about traveling to Ireland to spend a winter break with her then-boyfriend’s artistic family, but the results are really strange. Hale’s talent for novelistic description paints a vivid portrait in a short amount of time.

Prey,” by Kathleen Hale, originally published in Hazlitt, June 2014

This is a harrowing essay about rape. Hale was assaulted by a massage parlor owner at the beginning of her college career. She’s honest on the subject of the trauma that she felt afterwards, and how the trial affected her. Just go read this piece right now.