Desire, At Length: Love, Rings, and Startups

Each Sunday for five weeks, we’re sharing a collection of posts by writers on Substack. “Desire” is issue #3 in a 5-part series.

This series, called At Length, will recommend pieces that we think are not only worth reading, but worth returning to again and again. Our goal is to shine a spotlight on emerging writers and introduce readers to more independent writers who are hiding in plain sight. Each week, we’ll pick a theme and surface a few posts that speak to that theme in a memorable way.

Our theme this week is Desire, At Length. “Desire” at its base level simply means to want something, but where do these wants come from and how do we express them? The writers featured this week explore the desire for love, for family, for success – and even for what someone else has – and how to navigate and understand these phenomena in the world today.

Monica McLaughlin

Antique betrothal rings, the Dancing Marquess and some octopus spoons

Love comes in many shapes and sizes. For writer and antique enthusiast Monica McLaughlin, it comes in the form of fede/gimmel betrothal rings from the 16th century. Let McLaughlin show you the way! Read more.

Max Nussenbaum

In Startups and in Love, You Know When It’s Working

Drawing from his experiences in relationships and in work, Max Nussenbaum extends the old adage, “You know when you know,” from love to startups. Read more.

Luke Burgis

What People Are Really Doing When They Play Hard to Get

Luke Burgis continues his study of mimetic desire through the idea of “playing hard to get.” An age-old idea, Burgis unpacks the motivations and effects behind it, as well as its more vulnerable opposite act: love. Read more.

Andrew Chapman

The trials of Thomas Turner (1754-65)

Enter rural 18th-century English life through the eyes of Thomas Turner’s diary. A figure that even caught the eye of Charles Dickens, Turner records his first marriage, its trials, his widowhood, and subsequent second marriage. As distant as Turner’s era may seem from our own, his experiences are recognizable even today. Read more.

Jerrold McGrath

What is algorithmic culture?

While the rise in AI technology has led to much good, Jerrold McGrath warns that our increasing reliance on algorithms that feed our desire for validation and comfort can at the same time rob us of truth and beauty. Read more.

Crystal Jackson

Reasons to Write a Love Letter

Crystal Jackson reflects on the most classic display of love: a love letter. Though seen as sappy or out-of-date today, Jackson rejects the ephemeral mediums of modern romance like text messages in favor of a more lasting, heartfelt act. Read more.


This is issue #3 in a 5-part series. Read issue #1 “Making” and issue #2 “Retelling” here.

Have you read a post by a fellow Substack writer recently that you enjoyed? Let us know!