How "revenge edits" and the case of a Wikipedia editor named "Qworty" raise questions about how much we should trust the site:
"In the wee hours of the morning of January 27, 2013, a Wikipedia editor named 'Qworty' made a series of 14 separate edits to the Wikipedia page for the late writer Barry Hannah, a well-regarded Southern writer with a taste for the Gothic and absurd.
"Qworty cut paragraphs that included quotes from Hannah’s work. He removed 20 links to interviews, obituaries and reminiscences concerning Hannah. He cut out a list of literary prizes Hannah had won.
"Two edits stand out. Qworty excised the phrase 'and was regarded as a good mentor' from a sentence that started: 'Hannah taught creative writing for 28 years at the University of Mississippi, where he was director of its M.F.A. program …' And he changed the cause of Hannah’s death from 'natural causes' to 'alcoholism.'"
PUBLISHED: May 18, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5224 words)
A brief history of the rock legend's style and fashions:
"Bowie’s image was as carefully contrived for album covers as for the actual musical performances: Sukita Masayoshi’s black-and-white photograph of Bowie posing like a mannequin doll on the cover of 'Heroes' (1977), or Bowie stretched out on a blue velvet sofa like a Pre-Raphaelite pinup in a long satin dress designed by Mr. Fish for The Man Who Sold the World (1971), or Guy Peellaert’s lurid drawing of Bowie as a 1920s carnival freak for Diamond Dogs (1974).
"All these images were created by Bowie himself, in collaboration with other artists. He drew his inspiration from anything that happened to catch his fancy: Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin of the 1930s, Hollywood divas of the 1940s, Kabuki theater, William Burroughs, English mummers, Jean Cocteau, Andy Warhol, French chansons, Buñuel’s surrealism, and Stanley Kubrick’s movies, especially A Clockwork Orange, whose mixture of high culture, science fiction, and lurking menace suited Bowie to the ground. Artists and filmmakers have often created interesting results by refining popular culture into high art. Bowie did the opposite: he would, as he once explained in an interview, plunder high art and take it down to the street; that was his brand of rock-and-roll theater."
PUBLISHED: May 7, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3932 words)
This week's Member Pick comes from Antonia Crane
, the Los Angeles-based writer whose work for The Rumpus
has been featured on Longreads in the past. We're excited to feature "Yellow," a story about her relationship with her mother, about stripping, and about loss. The piece will be published in Black Clock #17
, due out this summer, and it's adapted from her forthcoming book Spent
. Thanks to Antonia and Black Clock for letting us share this story with our members.
Support Longreads—and get more stories like this—by becoming a member for just $3 per month.
PUBLISHED: April 18, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2959 words)
Why do some people react so negatively to the idea of "extreme morality"? An interview with The New Yorker's Larissa MacFarquhar, whose latest book project examines the selfless acts of others:
"If the suspicion is hypocrisy, I think we underestimate the sort of people I’m writing about—it’s entirely possible to live an extremely ethical life without being hypocritical. But besides that, I think people overvalue certain kinds of sins. For instance, many people have said to me, when they hear who I’m writing about, ‘Well, don’t they just act morally to make themselves feel better? Don’t they get all self-righteous and overly proud of themselves?’ I think that pride and self-righteousness are far less important than most people seem to think they are. I think that if you’re doing something that’s hard to do and good to do, and that makes you feel proud, I just don’t see why that’s so terrible. One kidney donor told me that his donation made him feel better about himself—that it was one really good thing he’d done in his life, which he had otherwise made a pretty complete mess of. Some psychologists think you shouldn't donate in order to feel better about yourself, but it strikes me as an excellent reason!"
PUBLISHED: April 18, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3357 words)
The dead body of 55-year-old Greg Fleniken is found in a hotel room, and with no clear motive, detectives are left trying to answer the all-important question: Why?
"There are not that many murders in Beaumont. Greg’s was one of 10 that year, which was about average. Most are not mysterious. Detective work was usually a matter of doing the obvious—interviewing the drunk boyfriend with gunpowder on his hands, or finding the neighborhood drug dealer who was owed money. A case like this was a once-in-a-career event. If you enjoy working a stubborn whodunit, which Apple does, then this one was an exciting challenge. But the problem with the hard cases is that they are indeed hard. Over the next weeks and months Apple chased down every angle he could imagine to explain the death of Greg Fleniken. But about six months into it, he was stuck."
PUBLISHED: April 11, 2013
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8189 words)
The author on writing nonfiction and fiction, and the current state of criticism:
"BLVR: There has been a lot of talk recently about the rules of criticism. When is it too mean? When is it too nice? The internet makes it so that you’re very much aware of the human you’re writing about—you don’t want to see them in pain. It’s good for the critic’s psychology, but maybe not so great for criticism.
"RA: Well, it used to be one way a young writer made it in New York. He would attack, in a small obscure publication, someone very strong, highly regarded, whom a few people may already have hated. Then the young writer might gain a small following. When he looked for a job, an assignment, and an editor asked, 'What have you published?' he could reply, 'Well, this piece.' The editor might say, 'Oh, yeah, that was met with a lot of consternation.' And a portfolio began. This isn’t the way it goes now. More like a race to join the herd of received ideas and agreement."
PUBLISHED: April 10, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3161 words)
In the summer of 2012, a homeless man named William Greer Jr. was bludgeoned to death in a park in Austin, Texas. Greer's case remains unsolved, and his daughter is determined to find answers:
"In the weeks that followed her dad's death, Tangie drove to Austin three times: once to speak to police, once to speak to reporters, and once to commemorate what would have been Greer's 50th birthday on July 29. On one of those visits, Tangie went to the spot where her father lost his life. She spoke to a transient named Chris who sleeps nearby and asked him if he had seen anything the night of the murder. She knew detectives had already questioned him—and eliminated him from their investigation—but maybe he had forgotten to tell them something that could prove crucial. 'I was playing detective in a way,' Tangie told me.
"Chris told her he didn't remember her dad, but that he did recall another transient sleeping at the same spot before Greer's murder, and afterward. He gave her a description of the man, and Tangie relayed the information to detectives. But she says they told her Chris wasn't reliable. 'If you interviewed him eight times, you'll get eight different answers,' a detective said."
PUBLISHED: April 2, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3209 words)
How the last king of Rwanda ended up living on public assistance in Virginia:
"In 1990, under Western pressure, Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu who had ruled with an iron first for nearly two decades, agreed to share power with other parties. Seeing its chance, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the militant group of Tutsi exiles in Uganda, invaded, igniting long-dormant tensions between Hutu and Tutsi.
"Kigeli refused to endorse the RPF's violent tactics, but a Rwandan journalist who interviewed him in Kenya was arrested upon his return to Rwanda on charges of harming state security. Kenya's then-president, Daniel Arap Moi, had close ties to Habyarimana, and Kigeli and Benzinge began to fear for their security.
"The United States wouldn't just be safer, they thought; its freedoms of speech would allow them to broadcast Rwanda's plight to the world. They picked up the phone and called the one American they knew: Bill Fisher."
PUBLISHED: March 27, 2013
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6984 words)
What happened when the author re-reported Bob Woodward's book on John Belushi:
"Of all the people I interviewed, SNL writer and current Sen. Al Franken, referencing his late comedy partner Tom Davis, offered the most apt description of Woodward’s one-sided approach to the drug use in Belushi’s story: 'Tom Davis said the best thing about Wired,' Franken told me. 'He said it’s as if someone wrote a book about your college years and called it Puked. And all it was about was who puked, when they puked, what they ate before they puked and what they puked up. No one read Dostoevsky, no one studied math, no one fell in love, and nothing happened but people puking.'"
PUBLISHED: March 12, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3279 words)