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Lauren Simkin Berke

Lauren Simkin Berke is a Brooklyn-based artist and illustrator who occasionally publishes art books and zines under the name Captain Sears Press. Working primarily in ink on paper, they draw for clients such as the New York Times, the Paris Review, Smithsonian, Simon & Schuster, and Schwartz & Wade Books

Illustrator

Illustration by Lauren Simkin Berke

Mountains and Hills (and Molehills)

Spring 2019 | Essays

Is Mount Everest the tallest mountain on Earth? It would certainly seem to qualify. Chinese geographers tell us that it measures 29,017 feet, while Nepali geographers make it a skosh short of 29,029 feet. The National Geographic Society adds another six feet to the count, a figure the Encyclopaedia Britannica endorses, following measurements taken by an American expedition twenty years ago.

Illustration by Lauren Simkin Berke

Lies, White Lies, Fibs, and Other Fictions

Winter 2018 | Essays

A quarter century ago, a presidential candidate, responding to a reporter’s question, admitted that he had used marijuana. But, he added, he did not inhale. Everyone got a good laugh over what seemed an absurdity, but a medieval scholastic would have taken the point: He had worked the edges of the mendacium but not the falsiloquium, for in strictest terms Bill Clinton was speaking the truth while intending to mislead. That he did not inhale did not foreclose the possibility that he had scarfed down mountains of hash brownies.

Illustration by Lauren Simkin Berke

Civility vs. Decency

Fall 2018 | Essays

A spokesperson for a divisive president is turned away from a restaurant. That president delights in dog-whistle insults that fall just short of outright ethnic slurs—usually. A white woman calls the police on a black child selling water on a city street on a beastly hot day. A patron who hasn’t been turned away from a restaurant leaves a note for the server, who bears an Arabic name, saying, “We don’t tip terrorist [sic].”

Illustration by Lauren Simkin Berke

Of Epics and Sagas

Summer 2018 | Essays

“Sing to me, O Muse, of that versatile man…” So opens that grandest of Greek epic poems, The Odyssey, 12,000-plus lines of splendidly messy glory, a hodgepodge of textual interpretations, interpolations, and other intrusions on a song that dates back nearly thirty centuries.

Culture vs. Civilization

Spring 2018 | Essays

You and I are members of a culture. Likely we are members of different cultures. Mine—one of mine, anyway—is South by Southwestern folded up into a Jesuitical Irishness tempered with first-generation punk rock. Yours may be Puritan, or Huguenot, or heavy metal. Whatever it is, it holds deep meaning—for culture, in the classic anthropological definition, is the sum of a set of beliefs and practices that go into making you and me part of the world, and sometimes very different worlds.

Is It Just, or Is It Fair?

Fall 2017 | Articles

The book of Kings tells that the mothers of two newborns approached Solomon, that wise ruler, to settle a dispute. One of the babies had died, and each woman insisted that she was the mother of the survivor.

Illustration by Lauren Simkin Berke

Sport vs. Game

Summer 2017 | Essays

Toward the end of the film version of Peter Gent’s corrosively sarcastic football yarn North Dallas Forty, a lineman played by real-life gridiron hero John Matuszak throws a fit upon hearing one more you’re-not-worthy upbraiding from a sniveling, corporate-minded coach. “To you it’s just a business, but to us it’s still gotta be a sport,” he shouts. “Every time I call it a game you call it a business, and every time I call it a business you call it a game!”