Volume 3, Issue 43: Kingpin

"Statue of Liberty play: It only works once, don't throw it away."

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This is the last newsletter of 2020. We actually made it. This year has taken a lot out of all of us—it’s sure taken a lot out of me. I just feel heavier at the end of this year. I don’t think I’ve gained any appreciable weight during the pandemic, but the cumulative effect of this year has made me feel as if gravity has become unnaturally powerful, as if every part of my body has weights on it, pulling me down to earth. I’m graying faster, I’m moving slower … I just feel lumbering. It’s difficult to be light of spirit. It has been that sort of year.

I have written before about the illusion of New Years, how the idea that the next year will be better with this one is not rooted with any singular year being particularly difficult and more in the fact that every year that just ended always feels a little unsatisfying because life is a little unsatisfying. From my big piece on that:

The end of every year allows us the persistent illusion that things are terrible now but both: a) were better in the past and b) are bound to improve. This year was bad — unusually bad — but next year, next year we’re going to get it right.

I still believe this theory of mine, but must nevertheless grant that 2020 was a special circumstance. I feel comfortable saying that 2020 was the worst year I’ve personally experienced … and I say that knowing full well that it could have been worse, that I haven’t lost anyone close to me, that I’ve been able to stay employed, that Donald Trump still lost, that we still got him out of there. 2020 has brought out the worst in people, and it has done damage to all of us that it’ll take decades to unwrap. (The Pandemic Generation is not one I’m all that excited that my boys will be joining.) I do not know what 2021 will bring. But I believe that it will have to bring some hope. I feel as it if already has.

Ordinarily the final newsletter of the year is a bit of a breather for me: I just reveal my top 10 movies of the year (as discussed on the Grierson & Leitch podcast) and wish everybody happy holidays. But this year was so overwhelming, and seemingly infinite, that I thought I might use this, the last newsletter of 2020, as a look back at 2020 through the eyes of this newsletter. Which is a long-winded way of saying this week’s newsletter is going to be a glorified Clip Show. If you only started subscribing to this newsletter in the last year—and there are thousands of you that have—you might have missed some of the best stuff we made around these parts in 2020. So here’s a month-by-month look back at the highlights and lowlights. And a dream that 2021 will be better. Or at least not this.

This newsletter is going to be very long, by the way, perhaps so long that it’s cut off in your email. (That’s what Substack appears to be warning me about, anyway.) So, as always, you can find this and all of these newsletters right here.

JANUARY

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FEBRUARY

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MARCH

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APRIL

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MAY

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Also, I finally sold that darned novel in May.

JUNE

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JULY

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AUGUST

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SEPTEMBER

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OCTOBER

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NOVEMBER

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DECEMBER

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All right, so maybe we hold the top 10 movies for next week.

Honestly: This newsletter is my favorite thing I get to do, and I have you to thank for it. So thank you. You got me through this year. I will repay you by spending most of 2021 desperately trying to get you to buy my book.

But yeah: 2020 is almost over. We made it. Barely.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality.

  1. Ten Ways 2020 Changed Sports Forever, New York. This piece is probably the one piece this week that I’ve been thinking about all year. (No offense to George Clooney.)

  2. George Clooney Movies, Ranked, Vulture. One final big Grierson & Leitch joint to finish out the year.

  3. Ten Things That Happened in January and February This Year That You’ve Already Forgotten About, Medium. I’m a terrible citizen, but I had completely lost the thread on the whole Iranian Guard thing.

  4. Year in Review: Five Players Who Rebounded in 2020, MLB.com. I actually love writing end of year content. I think years should end all the time! (Especially this one.)

  5. Pixar Movies, Ranked and Updated, Vulture. With Soul.

  6. The Final Five People Who Made 2020 Tolerable, Medium. The last one of these. Rubrics!

  7. The Thirty: One Holiday Wish For All 30 Teams, MLB.com. An obvious end-of-year bit here.

PODCASTS

Grierson & Leitch, a big podcast week, the biggest really. Three shows. The first, we discuss (deep breath) Wonder Woman 1984, Soul, The Father, News of the World, Promising Young Woman, One Night in Miami, Small Axe: Education and The Midnight Sky. Then I had my big yearly conversation with Tommy Craggs. But the big one was Dorkfest 2020, our now nearly 30-year tradition of going through our Top Ten Movies of the Year. That show is good for the soul.

People Still Read Books, no new show this week, but you should still listen to David Wallace-Wells about his groundbreaking book The Uninhabitable Earth.

Waitin' Since Last Saturday, no show this week.

LONG STORY YOU SHOULD READ THIS MORNING … OF THE WEEK

“Who Did J.K. Rowling Become?” Molly Fischer, New York. I have been waiting for a deep dive about what exactly happened to J.K. Rowling. This is the story I was waiting for.

ARBITRARY THINGS RANKED, WITHOUT COMMENT, FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON

Beginning of Decade Years of My Life, Ranked

  1. 2010

  2. 1980

  3. 2000

  4. 1990

  5. 2020

ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!

The upcoming week is probably the slowest of my entire year, so the time to get a rapid response is right now. Write me at:

Will Leitch
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO

“Shameika,” Fiona Apple. Craig Jenkins, along with Steven Hyden my favorite music critic, wrote thatFetch the Bolt Cutters supposes life is the summation of the sweets and the bitters and scatters both into the same dish.” That is exactly right. Also, I love the story behind this song, and the story that resulted from it.

Remember to listen to The Official Will Leitch Newsletter Spotify Playlist, featuring every song ever mentioned in this section.

This is one of the last photos I took before the pandemic hit.

We will be there again. Be safe, everyone. I’ll see you in 2021.

Best,
Will