The Tower

In an epic seven-part piece, Andrew O’Hagan writes on the harrowing Grenfell Tower fire that took place in London, England on June 14th, 2017. Telling dozens of individual stories of survivors and victims of the catastrophe, his essay posits that shoddy renovations and a poorly managed fire response that urged residents to “stay put” and wait for rescue — a policy only rescinded until it was too late for residents on the upper floors to evacuate — cost 72 people their lives.

Published: Jun 4, 2018
Length: 240 minutes (60,028 words)

Imaginary Spaces

A profile of Es Devlin, a highly in-demand stage designer who has worked with rock stars, playwrights, and fashion designers.

Source: The New Yorker
Published: Mar 21, 2016
Length: 27 minutes (6,804 words)

Ghosting: Confessions of a WikiLeaks Ghostwriter

Andrew O’Hagan, in the London Review of Books, recounts the disastrous experience of trying to ghostwrite the autobiography of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (The publisher later released an unauthorized early draft of the book):

I wrote through the night to assemble what we had. The thinness could become a kind of statement, I asserted; it could become a modernist autobiography. But the jokes wouldn’t hold and Julian, despite promising his publishers and me that he’d produce pages, paragraphs, even notes towards his book, produced nothing in all the months I was there. Not a single written sentence came from him in all that time. But at the end, from all those exhausting late night interviews, we assembled a rough draft of 70,000 words. It wasn’t by any means great, but it had a voice, a reasonable, even-tempered, slightly amused but moral voice, which was as invented as anything I’d ever produced in fiction. Yet it hadn’t felt like creating a character in a novel, so much as writing a voiceover for a real person who isn’t quite real. His vanity and the organisation’s need for money couldn’t resist the project, but he never really considered the outcome, that I’d be there, making marks on a page that would in some way represent this process. The issue of control never became real to Julian. He should have felt worried about what he was supplying, but he never did – he had in this, as in everything, a broad illusion of control. Only once did he turn to me and show a glint of understanding. ‘People think you’re helping me write my book,’ he said, ‘but actually I’m helping you write your novel.’

Published: Feb 23, 2014
Length: 105 minutes (26,390 words)

Cartwheels Over Broken Glass

That is the essence of Morrissey: his brand of loneliness and longing and hopelessness (all the stuff he sings about) is that of a person who finds it natural to have relationships with the unreachable – that’s to say, with images and works rather than people. Nostalgia is the be-all-and-end-all of pop, and Morrissey is the king of all that, so when he became a star himself (and began featuring his own mug on his record sleeves) he had succeeded in creating an audience literally after his own image, a tribe inured to the modes and manners of heightened fandom.

Published: Mar 4, 2004
Length: 16 minutes (4,127 words)