Search Results for: vanity fair

“Can I Get You a Nice Chianti?”

Anthony Hopkins & Jodie Foster during Anthony Hopkins being honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at Hollywood Blvd. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

It’s been 30 years since The Silence of the Lambs was released, a film that introduced us to Hannibal Lector,  a cannibal who became the archetype of a serial killer. The plot is based around his relationship with trainee FBI agent, Clarice Starling, sent to delve into Lecter’s mind in an attempt to find another murderer named Buffalo Bill. I rewatched it a few weeks ago, and was as gripped and chilled as the first time I saw it (as a teenager, clutching a pillow to hide behind).

In this fascinating interview with Tananarive Due for Vanity Fair the two stars — Jodi Foster and Anthony Hopkins — explain what it is that makes the film so powerful, even though “there’s really no blood and gore,” and Hopkins portrays Lecter as “a gentleman. He has finesse.” Their pride in the film is evident, and even decades later when still teased with one of the film’s most famous lines — about a certain type of wine and some liver — they don’t mind “because it’s just such a damn good movie.”

You talk about the relationship between Lecter and Clarice as a kind of courtship. One of the elements is revelation and honesty: “Okay, tell me your worst childhood story, and I’ll tell you what you want to know.”

HOPKINS: I’ve never admitted this publicly, but when I was in the Royal Academy, there was a teacher we had, a Stanislavsky method teacher, and he was lethal. He was very charismatic, and he was deadly. He would rip you apart. He would just take you apart intellectually. He’d just smirk, and he’d say, “No. Do it again.” His name is Christopher Fettes. He’s retired now. You’d do a piece, and he’d say, “Do it again. No.” I based it on him: “No, Clarice.”

This teacher had stayed in my conscience all my life. I got a phone call afterwards: “Tony, it’s a wonderful performance. Did you base that on me, by any chance?”


FOSTER: Lecter needs, wants, to be seen as human. And if you don’t see him as human, you’re going to get eaten. So I think there’s something really beautiful about the fact that they relate to each other’s humanity. When Lecter takes in Clarice’s pain, when he breathes it in, or he hears her story about the lambs, it’s not because it’s a story that’s filled with blood and gore. It’s a tiny story of pain. And to him, that’s what connection is.

HOPKINS: The only physical connection that Clarice and Lecter have is when she takes the case file and they touch fingers. That’s a talisman of some kind—of relationship, of love, romance, whatever, had it been a different world.

Read the interview

Longreads Best of 2020: Essays

All Best of Longreads illustrations by Kjell Reigstad.

All through December, we’re featuring Longreads’ Best of 2020. This year, our editors picked and featured hundreds of beautifully written and poignant essays published on the web. Because of the wide range of writing across many topics and themes, it was a challenge to sift through them all over the past several weeks to compile a definitive Best of Essays list. As I shortlisted stories, I realized there could be many different versions of this list, but, in the end, these eight reads really spoke to me.

If you like these, you can sign up to receive our weekly email every Friday.

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Mississippi: A Poem, in Days (Kiese Makeba Laymon, Vanity Fair)

Kiese Makeba Laymon was on a book tour when the pandemic hit in the U.S. In this stunner of a piece that unfolds over 14 days, the author writes on fear, racism, death, and home amid a moment of awakening. We follow along on the journey, from event to event in Ohio and West Virginia, with Laymon’s observations and thoughts interspersed with daily COVID-19 death counts and the latest words or orders from Donald Trump and Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. It’s a powerful meditation, one that will stop you in your tracks.

We are awakened, I want to believe.

75 miles from the armed confederate statue in Oxford, Emmett Till’s childish body was destroyed. 70 miles from that armed confederate statue, Fannie Lou Hamer was nearly beaten to death. 160 miles from that armed confederate statue, Medgar Evers was murdered as he enters his home. 80 miles from that armed confederate statue, Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis.

It took way too much Black death to get here.

I am wandering around the spiritual consequences of materially progressing at the expense of Black death. I want to be courageous. I wonder, though, when courage becomes contagious—when courage is credentialized, subsidized, and incentivized—if it is still courage at all.

Today, as I prepare to push send, and I lather my hands in sanitizer, it feels a bit too much like cowardice.

Maybe I’ll wait to send tomorrow. Maybe I won’t send at all.

The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors, a group of white men, unanimously vote to keep the armed confederate monument in the middle of Oxford, the town where I live, teach, and write.

Humiliation, agony, and death, are what I feel.

It could all be so much worse, is what the worst of white folks want us to recite.

Read more…

Longreads Best of 2020: All of Our No. 1 Story Picks

All Best of Longreads illustrations by Kjell Reigstad.

All through December, we’ll be featuring Longreads’ Best of 2020. Here’s a list of every story that was chosen as No. 1 in our weekly Top 5 email.

If you like these, you can sign up to receive our weekly email every Friday. Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

The Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota, one of the countrys largest known Coronavirus clusters, is seen on April 20, 2020 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Nick Roberts and Rosa Amanda Tuirán, Carroll Bogert and Lynnell Hancock, Kiese Makeba Laymon, Alicia Kennedy, and Kitty Kelley.

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1. ‘It’s a national tragedy’: What a devastating Covid-19 outbreak at a California slaughterhouse reveals about the federal government’s failed pandemic response

Nick Roberts, Rosa Amanda Tuirán | The Counter | November 24, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,691 words)

“In the face of an unprecedented public health crisis, the federal agency responsible for workplace safety has essentially allowed meatpackers to regulate themselves—leading to chaos, confusion, and fear in facilities across the country.”

2. ‘Superpredator’

Carroll Bogert, Lynnell Hancock | The Marshall Project | November 20, 2020 | 10 minutes (2,500 words)

“The media myth that demonized a generation of Black youth.”

3. Now Here We Go Again, We See the Crystal Visions

Kiese Makeba Laymon | Vanity Fair | November 19, 2020 | 6 minutes 1,565 words)

“With the help of Fleetwood Mac, the mailman, and 68 high school students, the author of Heavy finds hope for the future.”

4. Eat Your Vegetables

Alicia Kennedy | The Baffler | November 24, 2020 | 6 minutes (1,530 words)

“On Deborah Madison and the taint of vegetarianism.”

5. Death and the All-American Boy

Kitty Kelley | Washingtonian | June 1, 1974 | 18 minutes (4,728 words)

“Joe Biden was a lot more careful around the press after this 1974 profile.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Getty Images

Illustration by Glenn Harvey

Along with the Top 5 Longreads of the week, we’re proud to bring you an “Atlas of the Cosmos” by Shannon Stirone.

If you love space and exploration and maps, you’re going to enjoy Shannon’s story. She travels to Kitt Peak observatory to meet DESI, the high-powered telescope that’s working on mapping the entirety of the cosmos, one galaxy at a time. Yes, the entire cosmos.

Shannon’s written previously for us on space. Be sure to read “The Hunt for Planet Nine.”

The quest might seem a bit nonsensical. Why does it matter when or how the universe began? Why does it matter when or how it ends? It matters for the same reason your locations throughout your life carry context for who you are. We exist on a timeline together — we pop into existence and then one day we stop. It matters for the same reason one of the first questions you learn to ask in another language is, “where are you from?” To know where you are at any given time is a frame of reference in which to measure your life in some way and in many ways those locations, those slices of time, hold a great deal of meaning.

Read An Atlas of the Cosmos


This week, we’re sharing stories from Hannah Dreier, Doug Bock Clark, Samanth Subramanian, Michael Hobbes, Jonathan Cohn, Kate Sheppard, Alex Kaufman, Delphine D’Amora, Chris D’Angelo, and Emily Peck, and Kris Willcox and Michelle Ruiz.
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1. What to Do About Ahav?

Hannah Dreier | The Washington Post | October 24, 2020 | 18 minutes (4,600 words)

“A mother’s fight to save a Black, mentally ill 11-year-old boy in a time of a pandemic and rising racial unrest.”

2. Arrested, Tortured, Imprisoned: The U.S. Contractors Abandoned in Kuwait

Doug Bock Clark | The New York Times Magazine | October 28, 2020 | 34 minutes (8,500 words)

“Dozens of military contractors, most of them Black, have been jailed in the emirate—some on trumped-up drug charges. Why has the American government failed to help them?”

3. Data Disappeared

Samanth Subramanian, Michael Hobbes, Jonathan Cohn, Kate Sheppard, Alex Kaufman, Delphine D’Amora, Chris D’Angelo, Emily Peck | HuffPost Highline | October 29, 2020 | 46 minutes (11,700 words)

Over nearly four years, the Trump administration has “defunded, buried, and constrained dozens of federal research and data collection projects across multiple agencies and spheres of policy: environment, agriculture, labor, health, immigration, energy, the census.” This is an accounting of the damage.

4. The Alhambra

Kris Willcox | Kenyon Review | October 28, 2020 | 14 minutes (3,639 words)

“A long time ago, I took a vacation because I thought I was irreparably broken, when, in fact, I was simply normal. Lonely, and waiting for the future. In other words, alive.”

5. AOC’s Next Four Years

Michelle Ruiz | Vanity Fair | October 28, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,611 words)

“The history-making congresswoman addresses her biggest critics, the challenges that loom no matter who wins, and what she’s taking on next.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

This week, we’re sharing stories from Rukmini Callimachi, Annie Waldman and Joshua Kaplan, Jesmyn Ward, Hillery Stone, and Alice Driver.

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1. Breonna Taylor’s Life Was Changing. Then the Police Came to Her Door.

Rukmini Callimachi | The New York Times | September 3, 2020 | 26 minutes (6,500 words)

Two months before she was killed in her home in Louisville, Breonna Taylor tweeted triumphantly, “2020 deff gonna be my year WATCH!”

2. Sent Home to Die

Annie Waldman, Joshua Kaplan | ProPublica | September 2, 2020 | 28 minutes (7,029 words)

In New Orleans, hospitals sent infected COVID patients into hospice facilities or back home to die — to family members untrained and unprepared to care for them — and in some cases discontinuing treatment against the family’s wishes.

3. On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed By Pandemic

Jesmyn Ward | Vanity Fair | September 1, 2020 | 8 minutes (2,146 words)

“The acclaimed novelist lost her beloved husband—the father of her children—as COVID-19 swept across the country. She writes through their story, and her grief.”

4. Fever in the Woods

Hillery Stone | Guernica Magazine | August 26, 2020 | 14 minutes (3,691 words)

“Tucked far away with my children, this is where I feel safest and most afraid.”

5. Back to the Land

Alice Driver | Oxford American | August 25, 2020 | 8 minutes (1,914 words)

Alice Driver shares the story of her dad’s wish to build his own tomb on his own land. “He wanted his death, like his life, to be a work of art—a tomb he designed and filled with ceramics—and one that would allow him to define death on his own terms.”

A Lover’s Blues: The Unforgettable Voice of Margie Hendrix

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty / Design by Katie Kosma

Tarisai Ngangura | Longreads | September 2020 |14 minutes (3,715 words)


Hive is a series about women and the music that has influenced them, edited by Danielle A. Jackson. Read more at Longreads and The Believer


The voice of Margie Hendrix on “Night Time is The Right Time” comes at you out of nowhere, like an explosive, thunderous crack in the sky after a period of steady rain. Long after the song is over, it’s her words that stay ringing in your ear. You’ll belt out, “Babyyyyyyy!” in the shower, while out for a jog, or when giving your friends a hard time as they share their most trying relationship conundrum. On The Cosby Show, it’s her part that is most memorable when reenacted by adorable, pig-tailed Rudy, played by Keshia Knight Pulliam. In the 2004 biopic Ray, it was future Academy Award winner Regina King who played the role of Hendrix. King spoke of the difficulty in channeling the musician, as few references, visual or text, were available to use as inspiration for the role: “There isn’t a lot of information out there on Margie, so I had to rely on her voice to guide me.” The kind to stop you in your tracks, Hendrix’s voice remained unchanging, and from her earliest solo releases to her final years, it was an infallible offering from an artist who was moved to sing.

I stared at a blank page for days trying to figure out how best to begin my story on Hendrix, but nothing felt appropriate, fitting enough for the woman who had outsung Ray Charles. I’ve thought about her regularly for years, wondering how a woman with that voice could disappear from the public eye so easily, after making such an unforgettable appearance. It’s a thought that’s stayed with me, because it carries the sobering reality that someone can be incredibly talented — phenomenal even — and still find themselves omitted by history. It could happen to anybody, but it seems to happen most often to talented Black women who are bold enough to chase their dreams, then fall apart from the sheer pressure of it all. Women who are public but invisible and who are noticed without really being seen. Women like Margie Hendrix.

I stared at a blank page for days trying to figure out how best to begin my story on Hendrix, but nothing felt appropriate, fitting enough for the woman who had outsung Ray Charles.

She didn’t look like the performers most record producers wanted Black women to be. She was too dark, had a gap between her two front teeth and was a Southern girl with none of that Northern polish and glam. The music industry of today is incredibly corrosive and toxic, but it was even more so for Black musicians in the middle of the twentieth century, who dealt with nothing but no-good managers, unfair contracts, and stolen music credits. Anti-black racism and its social realities make it astounding that artists emerged who weathered through even when it seemed like everyone at some point or another crumbled, with many never making it back.  The argument could be made that had Hendrix managed to stay far from the drugs that would ravage her body, and kicked those bad habits, she would have lasted longer and achieved success rivaling that of her still living peers from that “golden” era. Yet the number of Black women uncounted and unnamed in music history makes it clear that this wasn’t only a question of sobriety. It was also about opportunity, and a perverse lack of care for the artists whose mental and physical health were secondary so long as money continued to be made. Hendrix’s death and eventual erasure from the mainstream were not simply tragic turns in a complicated life, but the outcome of a series of events that befell a woman unloved by those she committed herself to, and unprotected by those whose coffers she filled. 

Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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This week, we’re sharing stories from Ta-Nehisi Coates, Katie Engelhart, Katy Vine, Zach Baron, and Colin Dickey.

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1. The Life Breonna Taylor Lived, in the Words of Her Mother

Ta-Nehisi Coates | Vanity Fair | August 24, 2020 | 26 minutes (6,720 words)

“She started walking early—like at nine months, so she was just a little person early. I always say she had an old soul. She liked listening to the blues with my mother. She would sing me the blues. It was hilarious. She used to sing ‘Last Two Dollars.’ That was her song.”

2. What Happened In Room 10?

Katie Engelhart | The California Sunday Magazine | August 23, 2020 | 64 minutes (16,178 words)

“The Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, was the first COVID hot spot in the U.S. Forty-six people associated with the nursing home died, exposing how ill-prepared we were for the pandemic — and how we take care of our elderly.”

3. The Wildest Insurance Fraud Scheme Texas Has Ever Seen

Katy Vine | Texas Monthly | August 19, 2020 | 26 minutes (6,633 words)

“Over a decade, Theodore Robert Wright III destroyed cars, yachts, and planes. That was only the half of it.”

4. The Conscience of Silicon Valley

Zach Baron | GQ | August 24, 2020 | 20 minutes (5100 words)

“Tech oracle Jaron Lanier warned us all about the evils of social media. Too few of us listened. Now, in the most chaotic of moments, his fears—and his bighearted solutions—are more urgent than ever.”

5. How the Spirit Mediums of New York Are Dealing with Mass Death

Colin Dickey | The End of the World Review | August 24, 2020 | 8 minutes (2,025 words)

“A few months into the pandemic, I started contacting spiritual mediums….As we go forward attempting to rebuild our country and our communities in the wake of this destruction, that will not just involve burying the dead—it will involve finding the means and the rituals to make sense of this loss.”

The Power and Business of Hip-Hop: A Reading List on an American Art Form

De La Soul, Posdnuos, Torhout/Werchter Festival, Werchter, Belgium, 1990. Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

Ever since Black and Latino Americans created hip-hop at south Bronx block parties during the 1970s, this highly original, uniquely American music has continued to evolve, while simultaneously taking root in countless countries throughout the world.

As cultural critic Harry Allen once said: “hip hop is the new jazz.” But like jazz, hip-hop is more than music. It’s a culture. “’Hip-hop,’ once a noun,“ Kelefa Sanneh wrote in The New Yorker, “has become an adjective, constantly invoked, if rarely defined; people talk about hip-hop fashion and hip-hop novels, hip-hop movies and hip-hop basketball. Like rock and roll in the nineteen-sixties, hip-hop is both a movement and a marketing ploy, and the word is used to describe almost anything that’s supposed to appeal to young people.“ Beyond marketing and corporatization, hip-hop culture has always included dance, rap, fashion, design, stretching language, reclaiming public spaces, and its creative, genre-spanning approach has allowed artists to represent their lives in a world that often ignores or misrepresents them. In the San Francisco Gate in 2003, Adam Mansbach, author of Go the F**k To Sleep described hip-hop culture as “assembled from spare parts, ingeniously and in public. Paint cans refitted with oven-cleaner nozzles transformed subway trains into mobile art galleries. Playgrounds and parks became nightclubs; turntables and records became instruments. Scraps of linoleum and cardboard became dance floors. Verbal and manual dexterity turned kids into stars, and today’s artists grew up listening to the first strains of the musical form.” As Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, put it, hip-hop culture is “naturally interdisciplinary” and composed of “mix signifiers, we break everything down to bits and bytes and rebuild something new.” I love the description.
Read more…

Queens of Infamy: Lucrezia Borgia

Lucrezia Borgia
Illustration by Louise Pomeroy

Anne Thériault | Longreads | May 2020 | 33 minutes (8,371 words)

From the notorious to the half-forgotten, Queens of Infamy, a Longreads series by Anne Thériault, focuses on world-historical women of centuries past.

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Mention the Medieval period and people free-associate themselves right into visions of plague, violence, and shit-covered peasants. The term “Renaissance,” on the other hand, conjures up stuff like humanism, science, and paintings of people that actually look like people. But late 14th-, 15th-, and 16th-century Italy consisted of more than just painters with Ninja Turtle names wanking their way from one Tuscan villa to another; it was also full of intrigue, murder, and complex intergenerational family drama. If there was one family that featured heavily in some of the most violent and licentious stories of the period, it was the Borgias — even today their name is a by-word for depravity. And at the center of many of the wildest Borgia stories was the beautiful, wily, thrice-wed Lucrezia.

Looking for a Queens of Infamy t-shirt or tote bag? Choose yours here.

People have called Lucrezia many things over the years: seductress, murderess, femme fatale of the Borgia cabal. The attributes assigned to her didn’t come out of nowhere; as we shall see — and as Lucrezia noted herself — many of the men around her came to unfortunate ends. In portrayals where she escapes the villainess role, she’s often made out to be another hapless aristocratic daughter traded off into various political marriages, someone with no agency or ambitions of her own. The reality, of course, is much more nuanced. While Lucrezia was indeed married off several times to further her family’s agenda, as an adult she proved herself to be a skilled ruler loved and respected by her subjects.

Read more…