Last year Nicholas Shaxson published a Vanity Fair article, "A Tale of Two Londons," that described the residents of one of London’s most exclusive addresses—One Hyde Park—and the accounting acrobatics they had performed to get there.
Shaxson’s piece was one of the best long-form pieces I read last year (I did in fact believe this before I met him, but you can take that with a grain of salt if you’d like), and last week I asked Shaxson to sit down with me for a proper conversation about how the story came about and whether it achieved what he wanted.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 12, 2014
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1938 words)
Not everyone is into sports, but as Michael Hobbes writes, "that doesn’t mean, as it turns out, that stories about sports can’t be fascinating. The economics! The moral gray areas! The egos! It’s like a reality show in there."
This reading list includes stories about Janet Cooke, who made up a story about an eight-year-old heroin addict, Jayson Blair, who fabricated stories at The New York Times, Stephen Glass, and more.
How a colleague’s death affects an office:
Story after story, they’re all like this, proximity aspiring to intimacy, and it’s clear that no one here knew him, not the people in his department, not his managers, not the people he had lunch with and traveled with. They talk about his cluttered desk, his e-mail forwards, his cocktails at the Christmas party. They try to pull a person out of the time he spent here and they can’t.
“I always said hi to Colin when I passed him in the hall,” says someone on the video.
Naomi stops crying. She makes a little sound like she’s surprised, like she’s discovered the exact borders of her compassion. She takes a shallow breath, puts her purse on her lap, starts looking through it for tissues.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 21, 2013
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2566 words)
Zambia has no dictators, child soldiers, nor widespread occurrences of crime or violence, yet more than half its population lives on $1 per day. Why? An international development NGO worker examines the various economic drivers that is keeping Zambia poor:
"Just when you think you’ve got the right narrative, another one comes bursting out of the footnotes. It’s the informality. No, it’s the taxes. No, it’s the mining companies. No, it’s the regulators.
"And that’s what makes fixing it so difficult. Does Zambia need better schools? Debt relief? Microfinance? Nicer mining companies? Better laws? Stronger enforcement? Yes. All of them. And all at the same time."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 12, 2013
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7478 words)
A writer recalls being 14 and in the closet in 1995:
"I had never been more proud of myself. I decided to notice you so no one would notice me, and now I was not only assumed straight, but assumed worthy of conversation. I just had to keep broadcasting straightness loud enough to drown out the gay humming underneath.
"Despite having two classes together, I had still barely met you. Ms. Hughes’s class was divided into fifteen tables, each with two students. She had already changed the seating arrangement twice. We couldn’t tell if this was a deliberate strategy on her part—obedience through churn—or if she just couldn’t decide how she’d like us arranged. Each time, you and I had ended up at different ends of the class.
"‘Table six,’ she was saying as we waited near the door, ‘Michael Hobbes and Tracy Dolan.’
"The class, as one, made a kind of awwwww sound, like the studio audience on ‘Full House’."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 23 minutes (5791 words)
Two friends meet up in Bangkok and talk about what became of their childhood friends from the wealthy Seattle neighborhood where they grew up:
"Tim keeps naming mutual acquaintances, and they keep having the same dire fates. There’s Pete Stanton, who in seventh grade had a mustache and was the biggest 13-year-old on the planet. When he was a sophomore at Grant, Pete stabbed a homeless guy under a bridge in a Seattle park, and is serving a life sentence.
"‘I guess he said in court that the homeless guy owed him money,’ Tim says. ‘Even at 15, we were like, damn, this fool needs to rethink his business plan.’
"Then there’s Chaewon. I don’t know his last name and I don’t even know if that’s the right way to spell his first name. He had a face that looked like he was being hung from the ceiling by his hair, and he was always smiling a gummy smile, even when he was slamming his chest up against yours or calling you a faggot. He was always surrounded by five or six other kids our age who looked so similar to each other they can only be called henchmen.
"Chaewon’s in jail now too."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 12, 2012
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3447 words)
A writer recalls being employed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board as a teenage informant who bought cigarettes and alcohol without an ID:
"The convenience store was on a suburban street in West Seattle. Kelly parked in the front, in view of the counter, instead of around the corner like she usually did. I went inside, where a clerk who didn’t look much older than I was sold me a Bud Light. I walked back to the car, gave it to Kelly and waited in the car for her to return.
"I could see her through the window, showing the clerk her badge. As they spoke, a man in his mid-40s came out of the store’s back room, walked past Kelly and came, furious, toward the car.
"I checked to make sure the windows were rolled up and the doors were locked. He clawed at the door handle.
"‘Get out of the car!’ he shouted.
"‘I said, get the fuck out of the car!’ He kicked the window. I scrambled for the driver’s seat.
"‘If I ever see you again I’ll fucking kill you!’ he shouted, finally loud enough for Kelly to hear. ‘You better never come here again!’"
PUBLISHED: Aug. 10, 2012
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2933 words)