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This Book Is Now a Pulitzer Prize Winner: An Excerpt from 'Toms River' by Dan Fagin

This year's Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction was awarded yesterday to Dan Fagin, an NYU science journalism professor, for Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation. According to the Pulitzer committee, Fagin's book, which chronicles the effects of chemical waste dumping on a small New Jersey community, "deftly combines investigative reporting and historical research to probe a New Jersey seashore town’s cluster of childhood cancers linked to water and air pollution." Thank you to Fagin and Bantam Books for allowing us to reprint the excerpt here.

AUTHOR:Dan Fagin
SOURCE:Longreads
PUBLISHED: April 15, 2014
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2153 words)

The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street

An adaptation from Michael Lewis's new book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, about high-frequency trading and the rigging of Wall Street:

“As the market problem got worse,” [Brad Katsuyama] says, “I started to just assume my real problem was with how bad their technology was.”

But as he talked to Wall Street investors, he came to realize that they were dealing with the same problem. He had a good friend who traded stocks at a big-time hedge fund in Stamford, Conn., called SAC Capital, which was famous (and soon to be infamous) for being one step ahead of the U.S. stock market. If anyone was going to know something about the market that Katsuyama didn’t know, he figured, it would be someone there. One spring morning, he took the train up to Stamford and spent the day watching his friend trade. Right away he saw that, even though his friend was using software supplied to him by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and the other big firms, he was experiencing exactly the same problem as RBC: He would hit a button to buy or sell a stock, and the market would move away from him. “When I see this guy trading, and he was getting screwed — I now see that it isn’t just me. My frustration is the market’s frustration. And I was like, ‘Whoa, this is serious.’ ”

PUBLISHED: March 31, 2014
LENGTH: 43 minutes (10876 words)

How We Survived Two Years of Hell As Hostages in Tehran

Three Americans recount their experience of being held captive in Iran's Evin Prison after unknowingly crossing the Iraq-Iran border while out on a hike. An excerpt from A Sliver of Light, a co-written book about their ordeal:

SHANE (October 2009)

Solitary confinement is the slow erasure of who you thought you were. You think you are still you, but you have no real way of knowing. How can you know if you have no one to reflect you back to yourself? Would I know if I was going crazy? The longer I am alone, the more my mind slows. All I want to do is to forget about everything.

But I can't do it. I am unable to keep my mind from being sharply focused on one task: forcing myself not to look at the wall behind me. I know that eventually, a tiny sliver of sunlight will spill in through the grated window and place a quarter-size dot on the wall. It's ridiculous that I'm thinking about it this early. I've been awake only 10 minutes and I should know it will be hours before it appears.

They take everything from us—breezes, eye contact, human touch, the feeling of warm wet hands from washing a sink-load of dishes, the miracle of transforming thoughts into words on paper. They leave only the pause—those moments of waiting at bus stops, of cigarette breaks. They make time the object of our hatred.

I try not to look for the light.

PUBLISHED: March 12, 2014
LENGTH: 43 minutes (10825 words)

After Action Report

This week's Longreads Member Pick is from Redeployment, a collection of short stories by Phil Klay, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer.

Thanks to Klay and Penguin Press for sharing it with the Longreads community, and special thanks to Longreads Members, who make this service possible. Join us.

AUTHOR:Phil Klay
PUBLISHED: March 11, 2014
LENGTH: 23 minutes (5940 words)

Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney

Ron Suskind explores how his autistic son Owen found a voice through the lessons and sidekicks in Disney films. The story is an excerpt from the journalist’s new book, Life, Animated:

Owen’s chosen affinity clearly opened a window to myth, fable and legend that Disney lifted and retooled, just as the Grimm Brothers did, from a vast repository of folklore. Countless cultures have told versions of “Beauty and the Beast,” which dates back 2,000 years to the Latin “Cupid and Psyche” and certainly beyond that. These are stories human beings have always told themselves to make their way in the world.

But what draws kids like Owen to these movies is something even more elemental. Walt Disney told his early animators that the characters and the scenes should be so vivid and clear that they could be understood with the sound turned off. Inadvertently, this creates a dream portal for those who struggle with auditory processing, especially, in recent decades, when the films can be rewound and replayed many times.
PUBLISHED: March 9, 2014
LENGTH: 36 minutes (9118 words)

How Much My Novel Cost Me

Writer Emily Gould on writing books, going into debt and navigating relationships. An excerpt from MFA VS NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction:

It was more like the failure occurred in tiny increments over the course of two years, after which it was too late to develop a solid Plan B.

I spent some of the advance on clothes that no longer fit my body/life, but mostly I spent it on taxes—New York even has a city tax, on top of the state and federal kind—and rent. I lived alone for three years in Brooklyn, paying $1,700 a month ($61,200 all told) for a pretty but small one-bedroom within eyeshot of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway. I also spent $400 a month on health insurance. At one point I thought I would find another full-time job after finishing the book, but then I must have convinced myself that teaching yoga part time would better enable my writing. I also thought that I would immediately start another book, which I would sell, like the first, before I’d written half of it. In order to believe this I had to cut myself off from all kinds of practical realities; considering these realities seemed like planning for failure. In retrospect it seems clear that I should never have bought health insurance, nor lived by myself.

SOURCE:Medium
PUBLISHED: Feb. 24, 2014
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5586 words)

Ghosting: Confessions of a WikiLeaks Ghostwriter

Andrew O’Hagan, in the London Review of Books, recounts the disastrous experience of trying to ghostwrite the autobiography of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (The publisher later released an unauthorized early draft of the book):

I wrote through the night to assemble what we had. The thinness could become a kind of statement, I asserted; it could become a modernist autobiography. But the jokes wouldn’t hold and Julian, despite promising his publishers and me that he’d produce pages, paragraphs, even notes towards his book, produced nothing in all the months I was there. Not a single written sentence came from him in all that time. But at the end, from all those exhausting late night interviews, we assembled a rough draft of 70,000 words. It wasn’t by any means great, but it had a voice, a reasonable, even-tempered, slightly amused but moral voice, which was as invented as anything I’d ever produced in fiction. Yet it hadn’t felt like creating a character in a novel, so much as writing a voiceover for a real person who isn’t quite real. His vanity and the organisation’s need for money couldn’t resist the project, but he never really considered the outcome, that I’d be there, making marks on a page that would in some way represent this process. The issue of control never became real to Julian. He should have felt worried about what he was supplying, but he never did – he had in this, as in everything, a broad illusion of control. Only once did he turn to me and show a glint of understanding. ‘People think you’re helping me write my book,’ he said, ‘but actually I’m helping you write your novel.’

PUBLISHED: Feb. 23, 2014
LENGTH: 105 minutes (26390 words)

Swiping Right in the 1700s: The Evolution of Personal Ads

Our latest Longreads Member Pick, by Noga Arikha, author of Passions and Tempers, on the the history of personal ads. The essay was first published in Lapham’s Quarterly.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 21, 2014
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3200 words)

1% Jokes and Plutocrats In Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society

While reporting for The New York Times, Kevin Roose went undercover and snuck into an exclusive annual dinner party for Kappa Beta Phi, Wall Street's Secret Society. [Excerpted from Roose's book, Young Money]:

Bill Mulrow, a top executive at the Blackstone Group (who was later appointed chairman of the New York State Housing Finance Agency), and Emil Henry, a hedge fund manager with Tiger Infrastructure Partners and former assistant secretary of the Treasury, performed a bizarre two-man comedy skit. Mulrow was dressed in raggedy, tie-dye clothes to play the part of a liberal radical, and Henry was playing the part of a wealthy baron. They exchanged lines as if staging a debate between the 99 percent and the 1 percent. (“Bill, look at you! You’re pathetic, you liberal! You need a bath!” Henry shouted. “My God, you callow, insensitive Republican! Don’t you know what we need to do? We need to create jobs,” Mulrow shot back.)

PUBLISHED: Feb. 18, 2014
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2258 words)