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The Things In Our Diaries: A Reading List

This week's picks from Emily includes stories from The Georgia Review, Buzzfeed, and Sady Doyle.
SOURCE:Longreads
PUBLISHED: April 6, 2014

He Remade Our World

A series of decisions, made more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, still shape the world we live in today:

In the end, perhaps inevitably, Bush would disappoint Cheney, bowing, in the steely unforgiving view of the older man, to the shoddy demands of politics and the fear of “negative press stories.” As Cheney describes the end of the Stellar Wind confrontation in his memoirs, one can almost hear the condescending disappointment in the former vice-president’s voice:

“Faced with threats of resignation, the president decided to alter the NSA program, even though he and his advisors were confident of his constitutional authority to continue the program unchanged.”

PUBLISHED: March 27, 2014
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4186 words)

The Interpreters We Left Behind

The difficult process of finding asylum for fixers, translators and other allies in Iraq and Afghanistan whose lives are now threatened for working with the U.S.:

"We were told it would take a while, but it's been more than three years, and we can't even get an update on his status," says Kinsella, a Princeton grad who's now at Berkeley Law School, preparing to become a Marine judge advocate. He decided to be a lawyer after his 2010 Afghan tour, at least partly to guide Mohammad and others like him through the visa process, which he describes as Kafkaesque. "First, 'terps need a mentor, an officer they work for, to go out and spend months getting letters of recommendation, and logging every death threat they get," Kinsella says. Then, if the officer is still in-country when the application is completed, they need him to bird-dog its progress at the embassy, lest it languish on someone's desk or be dismissed by one of the clerks. If it passes muster there, it goes to Washington, D.C., for a months-long crawl at the National Visa Center, then an endless and redundant series of background checks by the CIA, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security, any of which can, and do, spike the application for a misspelled name or wrong date. When, or if, it finally runs the gauntlet there, it bounces back to Kabul for further review, including cross-examinations of the applicant and his family. "It's completely insane – these guys get constantly vetted while they're working for us," says Kinsella. "They're given counter-intelligence tests every few months to keep their security clearance. Also, they've had years to kill Americans on base, and not one of them ever has."

PUBLISHED: March 27, 2014
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5297 words)

Certifiable

How a squad of self-appointed experts quietly took over the billion-dollar autograph industry:

Today, few autographs are bought or sold without the blessing of either Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) or its competitor, James Spence Authentication (JSA). The two companies have come to dominate the market, verifying hundreds of thousands of signatures each year.

Business is so good that they use garbage cans to hold the cash they collect from reviews at hobby conventions. EBay, the world's largest facilitator of memorabilia auctions, endorses both companies to its customers. Nothing seems beyond the scope of their expertise, from Frank Sinatra's scrawl to baseballs defaced by Mickey Mantle.

PUBLISHED: March 27, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4661 words)

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our favorite stories of the week, featuring Mother Jones, Fast Company, The Georgia Review, Pacific Standard, and The Boston Globe.
AUTHOR:Editors
SOURCE:Longreads
PUBLISHED: March 21, 2014

Stories About Ghosts: A Reading List

This week's picks from Emily include stories from Pacific Standard, Esquire, London Review of Books, and Bitch Magazine.
SOURCE:Longreads
PUBLISHED: March 16, 2014

The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul

How the College Board revolutionized the most controversial exam in America:

When the Scholastic Aptitude Test was created in 1926, it was promoted as a tool to create a classless, Jeffersonian-style meritocracy. The exam, which purported to measure innate intelligence, was originally adapted from the World War I Army I.Q. test and served as a scholarship screening device for about a dozen selective colleges throughout the 1930s. It was assumed that there was no way to effectively prep for a test geared to inborn intelligence, but as early as 1938, Stanley Kaplan began offering classes that promised higher scores. Today the company Kaplan founded and its main competitor, the Princeton Review, are joined by innumerable boutique firms (not to mention high-priced private tutors), all part of a $4.5-billion-a-year industry that caters largely to the worried wealthy in America who feel that the test can be gamed and that their children need to pay to learn the strategies.

AUTHOR:TODD BALF
PUBLISHED: March 6, 2014
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7380 words)

Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our favorite stories of the week, featuring the London Review of Books, New York magazine, Medium, Texas Monthly, and the Morning News.
AUTHOR:Editors
SOURCE:Longreads
PUBLISHED: March 1, 2014

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)