David Hill writes Fading the Vig for McSweeney’s, writes about basketball for Negative Dunkalectics, writes sketch comedy for The Charlies, and starting next month will write a monthly column for Grantland. He is on Twitter at @davehill77.
John Jeremiah Sullivan wrote many notable things in 2011. I chose to highlight this review of The Pale King for two reasons. First because everyone else has recommended the Disneyland story and the story about his house. Second because it is actually a nice bit of writing and it is fascinating in the way that it hits home how much David Foster Wallace has left an impact on a generation of writers, John Jeremiah Sullivan included. An impact that I think is perhaps both good and bad, but one that the jury will likely be out on for a long time.
I have no idea if it is possible to love this piece as much as I do if you don’t love the Knicks. I mean really love the Knicks, as in cried after Game 5 of the 1999 NBA Finals love the Knicks. What I do know is that Katie Baker loves the Knicks the way I love the Knicks and this post mortem on this past season was, in my mind, a fitting and touching tribute to the team I invested far too much emotional energy and actual time this year.
Chris Jones is the best writer in the game right now hands down. Anything he writes is worthy of a list like this. This particular piece, however, is worth your time even if you aren’t much of a boxing fan. I read a lot of boxing writing this year—a lot. This was the single standout piece of writing on boxing I read all year. It made me feel like maybe boxing has life in it still yet, and if so perhaps writers like Chris Jones have more time to carry on a tradition of beautiful boxing prose that was handed to them by writers like James Baldwin and Norman Mailer. If so I have no doubt that Chris Jones won’t let them down.
I can tell you from first-hand experience as a union organizer that this piece accurately captures the utter hopelessness, intense fear, and emotional overload that workers who try to organize unions in America today must deal with. This story was heartbreaking but also righteous and in the end I feel like she arrives at exactly the right conclusions. It isn’t just about how a generation of workers who are self-absorbed and overly concerned about their self expression are an obstacle to class consciousness. It also makes the point that whether companies like Amazon are anti-union or not is irrelevant. Companies like Amazon that fight unions do so because they are essentially anti-worker and for me at least there is no nuance or complexity to it, it is just that simple.
I discovered Elizabeth Gumport’s writing this year through a mutual friend and since have read everything she has written. She’s a wonderfully talented writer and thinker who I hope to see even more from in 2012. In this piece she looks at the life of Dawn Powell in New York City and talks about growing old in a city surrounded by the young. It is a subject I’ve thought about and talked about a lot this year as I adjust to my life as a father and try to walk in two worlds at once—that of my youth and that of my future—all the while knowing that eventually I will have to step completely over into one at the expense of the other.
Not really a longread but worth noting on this list of the best of 2011. This was the last post on Free Darko, a never-ending parade of goodbyes and thank yous and memories and glass-raising praise for the blog that was the inspiration for so many good things and the grandfather of so many great things yet to come. How we write, how we write about sports, how we think about sports, the way we write and communicate and build community on the Internet—for myself and I’d guess many other people Free Darko made a singular transformational impact.
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