Jessica Pressler is a writer for New York Magazine. See her recent stories here. (Pictured above, inexplicably, with New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in 2010.)
Ok, so: There are no New York magazine articles in this Top Five, because I work there, and letting them in would clog up the list and might make for awkwardness at the office Christmas party, which is awkward enough already. None of these are by my friends, although Sarah Miller is a friend of a friend, John Jeremiah Sullivan and I once had an email correspondence that consisted entirely of sending each other links about animal attacks, and I profiled Michael Lewis this year, although I never heard from him after so maybe we’re enemies. Also, I limited myself to just one New Yorker article, because those people get enough attention.
There’s really no one other than Michael Lewis who can turn 13,000 words on the European debt crisis into an enjoyable read (If he doesn’t say so himself, ahem). He has an amazing ability to sort of ground these these ginormous, abstract events (Ireland somehow lost $34 billion Euros???) in reality and to bring characters to life, like with his description of the Irish chief regulator’s “insecure little mustache.”
Paul Haggis, what a badass. And Lawrence Wright, of course. You have to just sort of bow down to the reporting and the writing in this story, the image of the New Yorker fact checkers facing off against the Scientology bigwigs with their binders is just as awesome for me as the one of a group Scientologists ripping each other apart during a sick game of musical chairs.
Sarah Leal is the “hot-tub worthy” chick Ashton Kutcher hooked up with in San Diego and ultimately the first domino in the collapse of his marriage to Demi Moore, but that’s not why this Q&A with her is interesting. The interviewer manages to extract from her the details of the night she spent with Ashton in minute detail (“Then I had to pee..”) and it doesn’t feel airbrushed the way it can when a celebrity magazine has made promises to publicists or the subject. There’s enough moments of weird hilarity (WHY is the bodyguard wearing a priest outfit?) to kind of balance out the tawdriness, and there’s even an unexpectedly touching moment when Ashton described his life as “90% fake.” I feel like I learned more about him and his weird, lonely life than I would from a magazine profile of the man himself.
As a childless person living in the Smug Parent Capital of the World, I’m still nodding and laughing at this.
I guess it’s because of his book, but this year it kind of felt like everyone discovered the greatness of John Jeremiah Sullivan, because suddenly he is everywhere, and I think I speak for a lot of magazine writers when I say it kind of feels like your favorite indie band has become super-popular. Everyone went nuts over his Disney World story in the Times, but I’m picking the B-Side, which is a classic JJS, a 6,000 word piece that is kind of about nothing and everything all at once.