Elmo Keep: My Top 5 Longreads of 2011

Elmo Keep is a writer who has written for The Hairpin, and other places.

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The Tetris Effect — Justin Wolfe, The Awl

There really isn’t a way to talk about this without spoiling the reveals. Just read it, whether you understand gaming or not, it doesn’t matter: If you don’t, you will come away curious, and if you do, you will have your mind blown it’s just so clever and moving and wonderful. The narrative structure of this piece is so satisfyingly interwoven and then resolved, it’s one of those stories that makes for a totally different experience on the second reading. This is the kind of enthralling, super-long writing that I love the Internet for making space for. 

Joan — Sara Davidson, ByLiner Original

This was a beautiful companion to Blue Nights, Didion’s most recent memoir. In that book, she is very adept as all memoirists are, at revealing only what she chooses to while weaving the illusion of revealing everything. Sara Davidson has known Didion for forty years and the portrait that she paints of her very affectionately is in a lot of ways more complete than the image that Didion presents of herself. A must for Joan Didion tragics like me, especially for the glimpses of her life with John Gregory Dunne written from an outsider’s perspective peppered throughout. 

Blindsight — Chris Colin, The Atavist

The Atavist have really pioneered what is the logical evolution of longform writing for the web, integrating everything about the medium into tablet-only experiences that truly immerse you in a world. In this story the writer finds ways to let us experience what is happening to the protagonist — a man who has suffered an horrific brain injury — so vividly that we can for a moment inhabit is mind, a place where memory and time have been shattered and distorted. You also get the sense throughout of how much the writer cared for his subject and the result is a humane and profound portrait of resilience. 

What Makes A Great Critic? — Maria Bustillos, The Awl

The Internet has been wonderful for writing for so many reasons, but also, terrible! For others! Particularly when it comes to cultural criticism (pop culture especially). In this piece Maria Bustillos does everyone a favour by pointing out that recaps are not reviews and takes a long, considered look at what makes criticism valuable when the writer really, really cares about the subject. This piece goes a long way to settling the “criticism vs review” debate and is a must read for all aspiring critics and an excellent brush-up for any working critic who might have let complacency slip in. 

The Quaid Conspiracy — Nancy Jo Sales, Vanity Fair

I loved this inversion of a celebrity profile, especially in Vanity Fair to read about people on the fringes of that machine. Not even the writer is certain what’s true and what isn’t in this caper — which is really what it reads like; being dragged along on a wildly tangential ride rife with drugs and paranoia. 

The By Far Funnest Read of the Year — American Marvel — Edith Zimmerman, GQ

This gets so much love because it is *fucking awesome*, that’s why. It’s also been widely derided by old people, which is again a tick in its favour in my view. This is the exact kind of celebrity profile you want to read: It’s a publicist’s nightmare, which again, is why it’s so great. Read it! Read them all!

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