Evan Kindley: My Top 5 Longreads of 2011

Evan Kindley is the managing editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books.

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Ariel Levy, “Basta Bunga Bunga” (June 6, 2011) – The New Yorker

A great piece about what proved to be the Last Days of Berlusconi’s Italy, with all the virtues of the typical artfully triangulated New Yorker profile (as recently codified by John McPhee) plus a refreshing willingness to let Levy herself play a crucial role.  (Difficult to avoid, perhaps, when the people you interview say things like “I see you are a girl—I want to kiss you! … This is nature.”)

Adam Plunkett, “King of the Ghosts” (October 7, 2011)  – n+1

Moving, passionate, yet determinedly unsentimental remembrance of David Foster Wallace by one of his students at Pomona that doubles as a review — the best I’ve seen — of his frustrating posthumous semi-opus The Pale King.  Whether or not you care a whit about Wallace, there’s a lot to be learned here about the anguish of mentorship: “He expressed some of the most meaningful things he said to me in some of his sentences most likely to seem meaningless. ‘It means a lot that it means a lot,’ ‘I feel for you.’”

Drake Bennett, “David Graeber, the Anti-Leader of Occupy Wall Street” (October 26, 2011) – Bloomberg Businessweek

“David Graeber likes to say that he had three goals for the year: promote his book, learn to drive, and launch a worldwide revolution. The first is going well, the second has proven challenging, and the third is looking up.” I, too, have failed to learn to drive in 2011.

Rob Horning, “The Failure Addict” (November 18, 2011) – The New Inquiry

I’m not sure I buy Horning’s fundamental premise, that “Papa” John Phillips was “a harbinger of what microcelebrity may do to the rest of us,” but the two halves of this neatly turned essay — a knowledgeable account of Phillips’s sordid solo career and a lucid analysis of how an increasing amount of our (increasingly internet-dependent) sociality is getting redefined as “sharing” (“It’s sharing when we confess something; it’s sharing when we link to someone else’s work; it’s sharing when we simply express approval for something; it’s sharing when a social-media service automatically announces some action we took”) — are each worth the price of admission.

Sy Montgomery, “Deep Intellect: Inside the Mind of an Octopus” (November/December 2011) – Orion Magazine

My nickname around the Los Angeles Review of Books office is “the Octopus.”  Read this and draw your own conclusions.

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