This week, we’re sharing stories from Emily Bazelon, Alex Ronan, Justine Harman, Emily Harnett, and Sam Leith.
The #longreads hashtag on Twitter is filled with great story recommendations from people around the world. Pravesh Bhardwaj is a longtime contributor — throughout the year he posts his favorite short stories, and then in January we’re lucky enough to get a list of his favorites to enjoy in the year ahead.
For many years now, I’ve been posting short stories on Twitter. It’s a habit now: Before sitting down to write — my Hindi language ten-part Audible Original Thriller Factory is up and running, written and directed under series director and presenter Anurag Kashyap’s stewardship with narrators including Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Tabu — I look around for a story, read it, then share it. I end up reading almost every day, irrespective of whether I am able to write something or not.
Anonymous | Longreads | January 2020 | 20 minutes (4,879 words)
“I’m Nobody! Who are you?/Are you — Nobody — too?”” — Emily Dickinson, 1891
“I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” — Virginia Woolf, 1929
“No name? Well, the roads are full of nameless girls.” — George RR Martin, Feast of Crows.
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Years back, on a summer night in Oregon’s high desert, I was riding in a car with three other people. There were two women asleep in the backseat, leaning in opposite directions. I was in the front on the passenger’s side, and a man was driving. Somebody had put Rod Stewart’s Storyteller: The Complete Anthology, blaring and loud, on the car’s sound system, and though I wouldn’t have considered myself a fan, the heartfelt crooning was as seemingly endless and beautiful as the desert around us. We were wrapped in a velvet night, under a star-filled sky, headlights cutting through the dark. We were writers, carpooling back from a rare weekend retreat. A cool wind found its way in through a narrow slice of open window and whipped the driver’s shaggy hair into a minor frenzy. Over the sound of Rod Stewart’s mandolin, this driver scratched mosquito bites and told me about a woman writer he’d once known. “She was so talented,” he said, in admiration.
I envisioned a passive, classical sculpture of a beautiful woman being physically hoisted onto a pedestal.
“She was an awesome writer. Really, amazing.” Wistfully he added, “She got married. I’ve never seen her writing again.”
End of story.
This week, we’re sharing stories from Elizabeth Wurtzel, Nick Martin, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, David Wolman, and Jason Turbow.
By the autumn of 1977, new bands were popping up all the time. Seemingly every week, someone who had been in the audience the week before was now onstage in their own band. The Masque reopened in mid-October with a gig featuring a band called the Controllers. The Controllers weren’t really a new band, in fact they had been one of the first bands to rehearse and play at the Masque from its inception, but they had never had a proper coming-out show, so I think of their October 15th show as their debut. Their music was tight, fast, and melodic, and some of their songs were almost poppy which was nicely balanced by the imposing figures of Johnny Stingray and Kidd Spike, who sang up front and played with a ferocity curiously incongruous with their lighthearted lyrics. The band would evolve and get even better over the next several months, with the addition of an old friend of mine named Karla Maddog on drums.
When punk came along, it was just the perfect vehicle to express who I was as an individual. It was something completely new and wide open. Just a couple of years later, that would change, and people would have to fit into preconceived notions of what punk rock was or wasn’t, but the early scene had no such limitations, because we were the ones creating and defining it. If you had been at the Masque in 1977, you would have seen very eclectic shows, ranging from the Screamers to Arthur J. and the Goldcups, from Backstage Pass to the Controllers. There was no clearly defined punk sound, no dress code; all you had to do was show up and make your presence known. The movement was one of individuals and individual expression, each of us bringing our heritage and formative experiences with us in an organic and, in my case, unplanned way.
When my mother first came to America, she wore a pink coat with a rounded collar and four beveled black buttons. A farewell present from her parents and by far the most expensive garment she’d ever owned, the coat was wool, custom-made, and heavy enough to withstand the winters of Boston. It was March 1959; she was 22 and had never been outside of Japan or on a plane, and she’d not seen my father, Shoichi, for a year, but she wasn’t nervous, at least not much, or at least less nervous than excited. In her carry-on was a copy of A Little Princess, a pocket Japanese-English dictionary, and a daikon, a Japanese turnip, that she planned to grate, douse with soy sauce, and share with Shoichi for their first meal together in America.
The story of the eighteen months that followed, when my mother lived with my father in Boston, also sounded like a fairy tale.
Our most popular exclusive stories of 2019. If you like these, you can sign up to receive our weekly email every Friday.
Laura Lippman | Longreads | November 2019 | 17 minutes (4,147 words)
Laura Lippman, admittedly a rotten friend, is bummed by the ways in which friendships end as one gets older.
Rebecca McCarthy | Longreads | February 2019 | 14 minutes (3,579 words)
There’s no doubt that Atlantic City is going under. The only question left is: Can an entire city donate its body to science? Read more…
American farmland has long been the largest market for genetically engineered seeds and the glyphosate herbicides used on them, but the United States is by no means the only country to have adopted the new technology with open arms. Farmers in Argentina started using genetically engineered seeds about the same time farmers in the United States did, after regulators in Argentina approved Monsanto Company’s Roundup Ready soybeans in 1996. Soy production soared over the next decade as farmers who previously had been tending to grass-fed cattle, growing rice and potatoes, or running dairy farms shifted their focus to growing soybeans. Many farmers plowed up pastures to become part of what was billed as a biotech revolution. Because the beans tolerated direct sprays of glyphosate herbicide, controlling weeds was easier than ever, and, like the Americans, Argentine farmers quickly became eager buyers of both the specialty seeds and the glyphosate chemicals. The timing was perfect. Rising demand for protein — translation: meat — was fueling strong global demand for soy needed to feed livestock that would end up on dinner plates around the world. Argentina soon became the world’s third-largest soybean supplier, and genetically modified soybeans became Argentina’s most important export. Argentine farmers adopted biotech cotton and corn as well, with roughly 24 million acres of the nation’s farmland planted with biotech seeds by 2014, most of which were designed to be sprayed with glyphosate.
As in the United States, aggressive use of glyphosate year after year on farm fields led to a rise in glyphosate-resistant weeds, spurring many farmers to use more and more of the herbicide, often alongside other chemicals, to fight back. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, total pesticide use in Argentina rose by 90 percent between 1997, when the country was beginning to adopt the new type of farming, and 2011, when it was well established. Use of herbicides, including glyphosate, rose by 185 percent during that time frame. And, just as in the United States, concerns for human health and for the environment have emerged.
This week, we’re sharing stories from Elizabeth Van Brocklin, Brian Merchant, Christine Fennessy, Peter Schjeldahl, and Gabriella Paiella.
In this week’s episode of the Longreads Podcast, the last editors’ roundtable of 2019, Head of Audience Catherine Cusick, Head of Fact-Checking Matt Giles, and writer Nick Chrastil share what they’ve been reading and working on.
1:01 “Your Honor, Can I Tell The Whole Story?” (Nick Chrastil, December 2019, The Atavist and The Lens)
8:15 “Your Judge Is Your Destiny” (Gabriel Thompson, July 2019, Topic)
19:36 “Inside Wayne LaPierre’s Battle for the N.R.A.” (Danny Hakim, December 18, 2019, The New York Times Magazine)
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