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Sunday, May 9, 2021

The New Yorker Calls ‘Abstinence’ An ‘Accidental Dis-honorable Walk’

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The Abstainer, a short novella by Emma Straub, made the final cut for The New Yorker’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century list. It tells the story of an angry mob — and a novelist.

Published in 1974, the book was one of America’s first anthologies of fictions featuring memorable characters, one of whom was a naïve law student named Emily Vashti. In the story, Vashti falls for a handsome stranger while trying to win a scholarship to help support her abusive and alcoholic father. Her quest appears to have worked: She accepted a prestigious law fellowship, and was able to complete her master’s degree and strike out on her own.

However, Vashti discovers that her father may not be as mentally disturbed as she once thought. The novel follows Vashti as she tries to help her father become well enough to leave their hated neighborhood and start a new life. But it doesn’t go as smoothly as Vashti had hoped.

Abstinence: It only took real-life politicians 41 years to adopt the label as a political strategy. The idea is simple — vote yourself in front of the camera or newspaper because it’s what politicians are doing on TV. And politicians never retract the suggestion.

Abstinence is now popular among fringe candidates. Some Democrats, Republicans and progressives support the idea.

Dr. Dre and Suge Knight called themselves “The Abstainers” in 2005. They ran for state senate in Sacramento.

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