Picks this week from Mother Jones, Slate, Grantland, The Washington Post, Film Comment, The Paris Review, and a guest pick by The Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes.
[Three-part series] The firsthand account of a prisoner detained in Guantánamo:
"Suddenly a commando team of three soldiers and a German shepherd broke into our interrogation room. [ ] punched me violently, which made me fall face down on the floor, and the second guy kept punching me everywhere, mainly on my face and my ribs. Both were masked from head to toe."
"'Motherfucker, I told you, you're gone!' said [ ]. His partner kept punching me without saying a word; he didn’t want to be recognized. The third man was not masked, he stayed at the door holding the dog collar, ready to release it on me.
"'Who told you to do that? You're hurting the detainee,' screamed [ ], who was no less terrified than I was."
PUBLISHED: April 30, 2013
LENGTH: 63 minutes (15890 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)
Recounting the life of Aaron Swartz:
"Eight or nine months before he died, Swartz became fixated on Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace’s massive, byzantine novel. Swartz believed he could unwind the book’s threads and assemble them into a coherent, easily parsed whole. This was a hard problem, but he thought it could be solved. As his friend Seth Schoen wrote after his death, Swartz believed it was possible to 'fix the world mainly by carefully explaining it to people.'
"It wasn’t that Swartz was smarter than everyone else, says Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman—he just asked better questions. In project after project, he would probe and tinker until he’d teased out the answers he was looking for. But in the end, he was faced with a problem he couldn’t solve, a system that didn’t make sense."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 8, 2013
LENGTH: 58 minutes (14749 words)
Meet the families who have moved from America to West Bank settlements:
"In 2010, 269 Jews moved from America to West Bank settlements, many of which are marketed as 'bedroom communities' to families and white-collar professionals in the US. The migration is called 'making aliyah,' which translates roughly from the Hebrew as 'movin’ on up.' Never mind that it’s a violation of the Geneva Conventions for Israel, as an occupying power, to install civilians in the West Bank, one-fifth of which, according to the Oslo Accords, falls under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.
"To encourage Jews to illegally settle there, the Israeli government subsidizes home purchases and offers reduced rates for leasing land, in addition to the perks all new Israeli citizens get such as free health care, upward of a 90 percent reduction in property taxes, tuition waivers for earning advanced degrees, and a payment of about $14,000 spending money for a family of five. The first installment is paid on arrival at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport—in cash."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 22, 2013
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2202 words)
A political journalist comes home from the campaign trail and reacquaints himself with his children:
"During my absence, I left express instructions that my son was not to approach puberty, but as I tie his tie I am met by his deodorant. He's wearing something called Axe. They use it to repel rioting crowds, I believe. Once this gets up your nose, it’s like having a Billy Joel song stuck in your head. You can’t get it out. Working too hard can give you a heart-attack-ack-ack-ack.
"My son also now has a 'walk,' the careful way the preadolescent boy carries himself to look like he doesn't give a damn. His variation is somewhere between shuffling to arraignment and the bob you see from middle-aged men grooving to Billy Joel while stopped at a traffic light."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 14, 2013
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2566 words)
How an editor and writer work together:
"Ward: A lot of people say to me, 'God, it must be so fun to work with George Saunders. Do you even have to edit him at all?' And they say it like they assume you shun all editing, or don’t allow editing, which is always really funny to me, because you are a person who craves feedback, who wants to be pushed and challenged and sent off in new directions. This all sounds self-serving, I realize, so I should add: Of course, at this stage, you don’t need an editor. But you want an editor. Why?
"Saunders: No, I definitely need and enjoy having an editor, and for the exact reasons you state. There’s a really nice moment in the life of a piece of writing where the writer starts to get a feeling of it outgrowing him—or he starts to see it having a life of its own that doesn’t have anything to do with his ego or his desire to 'be a good writer.' It’s almost like an animal starts to appear in the stone and then it starts to move, and you, the writer, are rooting for it so hard—but may not be able to see everything clearly after working on that stone for so long."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 9, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2939 words)
How a nine-person video game company is bringing little known Japanese games to the U.S.:
"If you play video games, you've probably played something that came out of Japan. Many of gaming's biggest and brightest series—Mario, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil—were developed by Eastern companies, then translated and programmed for North American or European machines.
"But for every Japanese game you've seen on U.S. store shelves, there are 10 more that never made it over here. Two particularly infamous examples are Nintendo's Mother 3 and Square Enix's Final Fantasy Type-0. The list goes on and on.
"So why do so many games seem to slip through the cracks? While it's tempting to imagine a world where one finger snap can turn a Japanese game English, the process of bringing a Japanese game to the West—a process known as localization—is timely and expensive. Not only do games have to be translated, they often have to be rewritten entirely for English cadence and Western sensibilities. The best translators are creative writers as well, adding a dash of their own humor and charm to replace all the Japanese puns that might get lost in translation."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 28, 2012
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3975 words)