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Our Longreads Member Pick: The Prophet, by Luke Dittrich and Esquire

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For this week’s Member Pick, we’re excited to share “The Prophet,” the much-talked-about new story from Luke Dittrich and Esquire magazine investigating the claims made by Dr. Eben Alexander in the best-selling book Proof of Heaven, about Alexander’s own near-death experience.

Dittrich, a contributing editor at Esquire since 2008, has been featured on Longreads many times in the past and his work has appeared in anthologies including The Best American Crime WritingThe Best American Travel Writing, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and his article about a group of strangers who sheltered together during a devastating tornado won the 2012 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing. He is currently writing a book for Random House about his neurosurgeon grandfather’s most famous patient, Henry Molaison, an amnesiac from whom medical science learned most of what it knows about how memory works.

Read an excerpt here. 

Become a Longreads Member to receive the full ebook. 

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Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Our Longreads Member Pick: The Prophet, by Luke Dittrich and Esquire

Longreads Pick

For this week’s Member Pick, we’re excited to share “The Prophet,” the much-talked-about new story from Luke Dittrich and Esquire magazine investigating the claims made by Dr. Eben Alexander in the best-selling book Proof of Heaven, about Alexander’s own near-death experience.

Dittrich, a contributing editor at Esquire since 2008, has been featured on Longreads many times in the past and his work has appeared in anthologies including The Best American Crime WritingThe Best American Travel Writing, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and his article about a group of strangers who sheltered together during a devastating tornado won the 2012 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing. He is currently writing a book for Random House about his neurosurgeon grandfather’s most famous patient, Henry Molaison, an amnesiac from whom medical science learned most of what it knows about how memory works.

Read an excerpt here. 

Become a Longreads Member to receive the full ebook. 

Source: Esquire
Published: Jul 23, 2013
Length: 42 minutes (10,525 words)

Longreads Best of 2012: Esquire's Chris Jones

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Chris Jones is a writer for Esquire and ESPN and the winner of two National Magazine Awards.

Favorite new writer discovery of 2012

I’m always scared of making lists like this, because a year is a long time, and I read a lot, and invariably I’ll forget writers and pieces that I liked very much. But this category is easy for me: Michael J. Mooney. He wrote back-to-back stories for D Magazine this summer that are so different but the same in that they both knocked me on my ass. First he wrote about a brutal rape in “When Lois Pearson Started Fighting Back.” (It is a difficult read, but the ending is more than worth it.) And then he wrote the most amazing bowling story ever in “The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever.” Plus, he’s a straight-up good dude. Love this guy so much.

Best election story

I’m going to seem like a homer here, but I don’t care: Charlie Pierce did journalism on Esquire.com during this entire election cycle that bordered on heroic—and I don’t use that word lightly. In its ideas, in its language, in its sheer volume, his account of this election, taken as a whole, is humbling and inspiring at the same time. Start with the end, “The Greatness of Barack Obama is Our Great Project” and go back from there.

Best personal blog post/essay

I’m going to pick two stories here, both sports stories. Writers hate hearing athletes say, “You never played the game,” but it’s hard to deny that former athletes understand the games they played better than most of us do. Just the other day, The Classical posted a meditation by former basketball player Flinder Boyd about Ricky Rubio, “The Ricky Rubio Experience.” I’m not sure I can say why, exactly, but I was really moved by this story. Some of The Classical guys can be snide little shits, far too Internet cool, but Boyd wrote with real heart here. I love this story.

The second is by one of my most favorite friends, Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN. He wrote about the death of a semi-pro football player in a story called “Games of chance.” Kevin played college football at the University of Montana, and he writes beautifully about the pull of the game as well as the charge that comes from hitting and with being hit. Sometimes the first person interrupts; here it informs.

Best crime story

I see the great David Grann has already picked this one, but I’ll echo his pick, because it was that good: Pamela Colloff’s “The Innocent Man” for Texas Monthly is an epic, immersive, amazing story. And full credit to the gang down in Austin for committing so completely to longform journalism. That this story even exists makes me hopeful about so many things.

The story that made me feel the most awesome about just about everything

I’ve always been an optimist about writing, or at least I’ve always tried to be an optimist about writing, and 2012, for me, has been filled with reasons for optimism (like Pamela Colloff’s story above, which is really a multi-layered testament to the power of belief). Yes, this business remains in flux, and yes, many good writers continue to put more love into their writing than their writing returns to them. But I still feel like we live in a golden age, filled with possibility. One of the stories that most made me feel that way—both because of the story itself, and because of its subject—was “How One Response to a Reddit Query Became a Big-Budget Flick” by Jason Fagone in Wired. The title describes the tale exactly, and it’s just as improbable and fun and crazy as it sounds. I feel like this story sums up the modern writing business as well as any: There’s still plenty of lightning out there, and there are still lots of bottles, and every now and then, someone still catches one with the other.

Read more guest picks from Longreads Best of 2012.

Longreads Best of 2012: Esquire’s Chris Jones

Longreads Pick

Chris Jones is a writer for Esquire and ESPN and the winner of two National Magazine Awards.

Read more guest picks from Longreads Best of 2012.

Source: Longreads
Published: Dec 11, 2012
Length: 2 minutes (648 words)

Not All Smurfs and Sunshine: Profile of Esquire's Chris Jones

Not All Smurfs and Sunshine: Profile of Esquire’s Chris Jones

Not All Smurfs and Sunshine: Profile of Esquire’s Chris Jones

Longreads Pick

“I wanted to do right by Joey,” Chris Jones now says of “The Things That Carried Him” which Esquire published in May 2008. In 17,000 words, he told the story of one soldier’s return home, structured backward from his funeral to the moment an IED broke his body. He sprinkled details—a girl in a flowered dress and the two yellow ribbons tied to a tree on Elm Street—that act as emotional cues and lend lyricism to the writing. The piece won the 2009 National Magazine Award for feature writing.

Published: Dec 16, 2010
Length: 16 minutes (4,062 words)

Tim Pawlenty: The Esquire Interview

Longreads Pick

The Minnesota governor, whom many expect to run for president in 2012, on bailouts, health care, whether Obama is a socialist, and where Republicans go from here

Source: Esquire
Published: Mar 1, 2010
Length: 35 minutes (8,854 words)

Bill Clinton, Then and Now: The Esquire Interview

Longreads Pick

In a sprawling discussion of his past and our common future, the former president compares his administration’s early years with Obama’s and talks about what he believes — in health care and next year’s midterms — is about to happen

Source: Esquire
Published: Sep 1, 2009
Length: 51 minutes (12,949 words)

Robert Caro on Understanding a President Through the Rooms He Occupied

Photo: AP Images

There are facts in journalism, but there are other truths hidden in the room. In this 2016 Paris Review interview with James Santel, Robert Caro, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson, gives a masterclass on how to report on a subject’s behavior, his environment, his breath, and the cushiness of his couch:

There is no one truth, but there are an awful lot of objective facts. The more facts you get, the more facts you collect, the closer you come to whatever truth there is. The base of biography has to be facts.

That’s especially true when it comes to describing Johnson, whom I met only once, only very briefly. With Johnson, if you went around on my interviews with me, in every interview probably, I’m asking—let’s say Joe Califano, one of Johnson’s aides—So if I were standing next to you in this scene in the Oval Office, Joe, what would I see? They never understand. They kind of hesitate—they don’t know what I mean. And I would say, Was he sitting behind the desk or was he getting up to walk around? And they might say—and this actually happened—Well, he jumped up from that desk all the time because he had the wire tickers over there. He had these three wire tickers, and he’d go over to them every few minutes to look.

So I would ask, But what were you seeing? How would he look at the wire tickers?

“Well, you know, it was interesting, it was like he couldn’t wait for the next lines to come, so he’d open the lid, and he’d grab the paper with two hands, as if he was trying to pull it out of the machine.”

So you keep saying, What would I see? Sometimes these people get ­angry because I’m asking the same question over and over again.

If you just keep doing it, it’s amazing what comes out of people. Eventually, a lot of people tell you about his bad breath. And the couches—if he wanted something from you in the Senate cloakroom, Johnson would take you over to sit on the couches. So I’d ask, What was it like sitting on those couches? And people would say something like, He’d be towering over you, leaning over you.

Read the interview

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