Search Results for: Barry-Bearak

'He Opened My Eyes to the Idea that Running Is Humankind's First Fine Art'

In 2006, Christopher McDougall set off on an adventure in search of the Tarahumara Indians, a reclusive running tribe in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. On that journey, later to be chronicled in McDougall’s book, Born to Run (and also later documented in a 2012 New York Times story by Barry Bearak), McDougall befriended the Caballo Blanco—real name: Micah True—a nomadic ultrarunner living among them. Several years later, after hearing the Caballo had disappeared in the Gila National Forest, he and other runners embark on a quest to find their friend:

Caballo was the first runner I’d ever seen who busted out big miles in skimpy sandals, and he opened my eyes to the idea that distance running is humankind’s first fine art; for most of our existence, it was the one natural weapon we had in a world dominated by creatures who could out-swim, out-sprint, out-climb, and out-fight us. I was certain when I went down to the Copper Canyons that I really had nothing to learn: I figured the Tarahumara were genetic freaks and my own running days were over due to chronic injuries. Then I meet Caballo, my eerie astral twin: we were the same height, the same shoe size, and the same age when we first encountered the Tarahumara, and he’d also struggled with broken-down legs. He took me into the hills, showed me a few things, and sent me home with the idea that maybe, just maybe, the Tarahumara were custodians of a transferable skill that even an overweight mope like me could master.

That’s why he has fans all over the world. But right when the rest of us were catching up to him, Caballo disappeared.

Read the story

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 Photo: doloripsum

Longreads Best of 2012: Michael Kruse

Michael Kruse, an award-winning staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times who also contributes to ESPN’s Grantland, this year gave a TEDx talk and had a story make the anthology Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists.  

1. Chris Jones on the animals in Ohio. What a way to start: The horses knew first. And want to know how to make people keep reading? End paragraphs and sections with sentences like this: He saw what was unmistakably a bear, giving chase. And: Then Kopchak saw the lion. And: Next she called 911. And: … and they knew that they didn’t have enough time or tranquilizers to stop what was coming.

2. Michael Mooney’s Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever. Because of the question. Will he or won’t he? I had to know. But also because Mooney made me care about Bill Fong. He could’ve taken me anywhere. I would’ve read forever. And because come on—who doesn’t love a well-told tale with a twist at the end?

3. Kelley Benham’s Never Let Go. Granted, Kelley’s cubicle’s not too far from my cubicle, so maybe I’m not too impartial, but I feel like this is a fact: This story is one of the best things that ran in a newspaper in America in the last 12 months. Three parts. One miracle. Life.

4. Caballo Blanco’s Last Run by Barry Bearak. Classic quest story. Looking for True. Also, in print, it was beautifully designed. Which matters.

5. Patrick Radden Keefe’s Cocaine Incorporated. Details. Details like the ghostwriter composing letters to the mistress. Like the dope-stuffed submersibles floating down the Amazon. The Sinaloa pot farm … on U.S. National Forest land … in the remote North Woods of Wisconsin … surrounded by Mexican farmers with AK-47’s. The catapult! The chili-pepper business! The air-conditioned tunnels with trolley lines! Surprises are such intoxicants. Oh, and this sentence: In the trippy semiotics of the drug war, the cops dress like bandits, and the bandits dress like cops.

Read more guest picks from Longreads Best of 2012.

[Not single-page] Brigitte Harris was sexually abused by her father for years, before she decided to stop him from ever doing it to anyone again. She’s now in prison for second degree manslaughter, with a parole hearing this week:

The first thing she learned was that it could be done. ‘Everyone always focuses on Lorena Bobbitt because it’s the most popular. But each and every case I researched, no one died.’ She read about cases in China and in Europe. ‘And I start seeing how to do it without actually killing him.’ On June 26, she bought a package of 50 scalpels on eBay for $6.83, including shipping.

On July 25, Harris had her final argument with Carleen. On her home video, titled ‘My Reasons,’ she mentions Carleen’s children explicitly. ‘We both know what he wants to do with them.’ She talks about what she’s about to do. ‘Somebody’s got to do something,’ she says on the video.

“A Daughter’s Revenge.” — Robert Kolker, New York magazine

See also: “The Living Nightmare.” Barry Bearak, New York Times, Feb. 13, 2012

Quanitta Underwood and her sister suffered years of sexual abuse from their father. She’s now an Olympic contender in boxing, and a public voice for other survivors:

Underwood, of course, covets a gold medal and the fame that would come with it. “I want to take that ride,” she says. “I want to be a household name.”

But beyond that, she wants to be a symbol of hope to anyone who has ever been sexually abused, though to do so requires something harder for her than a thousand hours of hitting the heavy bag. She has to talk about what happened.

“Quanitta Underwood: A Contender for Olympic Gold and a Survivor.” — Barry Bearak, New York Times

New York Times Magazine Staff: Our Top Longreads of 2011

These were the results of a poll of all New York Times Magazine staff—edit, art, photo & production. We decided to do two lists: ‘Them’ and ‘Us,’ and hopefully that doesn’t get us in trouble with the Longreads governing body. 


These were the consensus picks of the staff, with only a little executive tampering. Such as: We decided at the last moment to semi-cheat and put Amy Harmon on the list. Though she is an “us” and not a “them,” we didn’t know a thing about her story until we read it in the newspaper, just like everybody else, and it was too good to leave off a year-end list. You will notice that Paul Ford’s essay fills the “our list is not the same as every other list” slot, but that is not, we swear, the reason it made the cut. It probably provoked as much conversation in our office as any single story this year. It is pure pleasure to read. By the way, we loved a lot from The New Yorker, and we could have justifiably filled all 5 slots with their stories. Though, of course, we would never do that. Also, there will be one staff member made very upset by the exclusion of “Travis the Menace,” by Dan P. Lee in New York magazine. Sorry, pal.

• “A Murder Foretold,” by David Grann, The New Yorker

• “Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World,” by Amy Harmon, New York Times

• “The Glory of Oprah,” By Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic

• “The Man Who Sailed His House,” By Michael Paterniti, GQ

• “The Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” by Paul Ford, The Morning News



This is also the result of a poll of all magazine staff:

• “Qaddafi’s Never-Never Land,” by Robert Worth

• “You Blow My Mind. Hey, Mickey!” by John Jeremiah Sullivan

• “Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind?” by Susan Dominus

“Murder of an Innocent Man,” by Barry Bearak

• “What Happened to Air France Flight 447?” by Wil S. Hylton


See more lists from our Top 5 Longreads of 2011 >

Share your own Top 5 Longreads of 2011, all through December. Just tag it #longreads on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook. 

Nieman Storyboard's Andrea Pitzer: My Top 5 Longreads of 2011

Andrea Pitzer (@andreapitzer) is the founder of Nieman Storyboard. She is also writing what she hopes will be a very surprising book about Vladimir Nabokov.


I’m contrary by nature. So when I sat down to pick my Longreads for 2011, I reviewed the lists that Mark had published to date and decided not to include a single story that had already been chosen. Which meant some obvious candidates were off the table from the beginning: no Lawrence Wright on Scientology, no Keith Gessen on Kazakhstan. No Allie Broshie. No John Jeremiah Sullivan. But see for yourself—the following pieces shine just as brightly.

The People v. Football” by Jeanne Marie Laskas for GQ

Autopsies on the brains of hockey and football players have been making big news lately. But here, Laskas checks in on the life of a former NFL linebacker to see what it’s like for mentally-impaired players who are still alive. Welcome to Dementia—it’s a funny, terrifying place.

Watching the Murder of an Innocent Man” by Barry Bearak for the New York Times

A vigilante murder launches this story, and the reporter’s investigation of it spirals into a tale of cowardice and cruelty. “He was a wayward teenager, a bad boy wanting to become a worse boy,” Bearak writes of one character, plunging into everything that follows. Race, xenophobia, money, and history make themselves felt in a way that never dulls the humanity—beautiful or horrifying—of the people Bearak portrays.

“Taste Has Never Met Shame: I Love You, Conor Oberst!” by Ben Dolnick for the Awl

One of the biggest joys of running a music store in Washington, DC, during my college years was that my co-workers were gloriously unembarrassed. Want to groove to Pet Shop Boys and Black Flag? No problem. Asking for that promo copy of A Tribe Called Quest to take home with the k.d. lang you bought today? Go for it. I had a saying then: “You love what you love,” which is insipid. But this article is what I meant. So short it has to stand on tiptoe to be a Longreads, Dolnick’s piece contains perhaps the most honest sentence ever written by a critic: “Taste doesn’t work for reason; reason is a skinny underpaid clerk in the office of taste.”

“It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s…Some Dude?!” by Jon Ronson for GQ

Ronson motors along, encouraging you to snicker at a cavalcade of real-world wannabe superheroes headed up by Seattle’s Phoenix Jones. Then the story takes a hairpin turn, and you can’t imagine what happens next.

A Brevard Woman Disappeared But Never Left Home” by Michael Kruse for the St. Petersburg Times

What if you died alone and miserable, and no one even noticed?


See more lists from our Top 5 Longreads of 2011 >

Share your own Top 5 Longreads of 2011, all through December. Just tag it #longreads on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook. 

Gangrey: Our Top 5 Longreads of 2011 is a site dedicated to the practice of great newspaper and magazine storytelling. 

Some of these picks make it seem like we like each other. We do, most of the time. But we’re also intense critics. We get together in the woods in Georgia one weekend each year to tear one another apart. Physical combat is not rare. It’s in that spirit that you’ll find some cross pollination in the picks below. You’ll also see some good stuff that hasn’t shown up on the Top 5 lists so far. That’s on purpose. Hope you enjoy, and please know you’re welcome to come join us for last call over at Drinks are on Wright.


Wright Thompson

Thompson is a senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine, and he lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

“A Brevard Woman Disappeared, But Never Left Home,” Michael Kruse, St. Petersburg Times

“You Blow My Mind. Hey, Mickey!” John Jeremiah Sullivan, New York Times Magazine

“The View From Within,” Seth Wickersham, ESPN The Magazine

“Why Does Roger Ailes Hate America?” Tom Junod, Esquire

“The Real Lesson of the Tucson Tragedy,” David Von Drehle, Time


Justin Heckert

Heckert is a writer living in Atlanta. 

“The Apostate” by Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker

 ”The Bomb That Didn’t Go Off,” Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

“Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind?” Susan Dominus, New York Times Magazine

“A Brevard Woman Disappeared, but Never Left Home”, by Michael Kruse, St. Petersburg Times

“Staying the Course”, Wright Thompson, ESPN 


Thomas Lake

Lake is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated living in Atlanta.

 “A Brevard Woman Disappeared, But Never Left Home,” Michael Kruse, St. Petersburg Times

“True Grits,” Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker (sub. required)

“Diving Headlong Into A Sunny Paradise,” Lane DeGregory, St. Petersburg Times

“Could This Be Happening? A Man’s Nightmare Made Real,” Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times

“When A Diver Goes Missing, A Deep Cave Is Scene Of A Deeper Mystery,” Ben Montgomery, St. Petersburg Times

“The Beards Are A Joke,” Justin Heckert, Atlanta Magazine, April 2011


Mark Johnson

Johnson is a 2010 Pulitzer winner who covers health and science for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and once played guitar for a Rockford, Ill., grunge band called The Bloody Stumps.

“Watching the Murder of an Innocent Man,” Barry Bearak, New York Times Magazine

“Punched Out,” John Branch, New York Times

“The Incredible True Story of the Collar Bomb Heist,” Rich Schapiro, Wired

“Imminent Danger,” Meg Kissinger, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Diving headlong into a sunny paradise,” Lane DeGregory, St. Petersburg Times


Michael Kruse

Kruse, a staff writer at the St. Petersburg Times and contributing writer to ESPN’s Grantland, won this year’s ASNE award for distinguished non-deadline writing.

“The Lost Boys” Skip Hollandsworth, Texas Monthly

The easiest-to-read hardest thing I read this year.

“The Lazarus File,” Matthew McGough, The Atlantic

Simple: suspense and surprise.

“You Blow My Mind. Hey, Mickey!” John Jeremiah Sullivan, The New York Times Magazine

My first reaction when I read this? Jealousy and awe. And when I read it a second time? And a third? Same.

“A man’s nightmare made real,” Chris Goffard, the Los Angeles Times

Riveting. The work of a master.

“God’s Away on Business,” Spencer Hall, Every Day Should Be Saturday

George Teague, college football and big thoughts.


Ben Montgomery

Montgomery is an enterprise reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, and he lives in Tampa.

“If I Die Young,” Lane DeGregory, St. Petersburg Times

“The Guiltless Pleasure,” Rick Bragg, Gourmet

“A Lot To Lose,” Tony Rehagen, Indianapolis Monthly

“The Shepard’s Lamb,” Danielle Paquette, Indiana University Daily Student

“Voice of America,” by Coozledad, rurritable


See more lists from our Top 5 Longreads of 2011 >

Share your own Top 5 Longreads of 2011, all through December. Just tag it #longreads on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook. 

Writer Andrew Rice: My Top Longreads of 2011

Andrew Rice is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and the author of The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda. (See recent longreads by Rice.)


Selected according to a complicated (read: entirely arbitrary) judgment of their degree of difficulty and technical execution, and listed in no particular order. Full disclosure: I’ve written for several of the publications cited on this list, but I’ve excluded from consideration any writer with whom I’m personally acquainted.


“The Romney Economy,” Benjamin Wallace-Wells, New York, 10/23/11

When it comes to degree of difficulty, delivering an interesting Mitt Romney profile is like nailing a reverse four-and-a-half somersault. But this story succeeded—not the least of which due to its brilliant packaging, which included a now-infamous cover photo of Romney with cash coming out of his suit pockets and the accompanying headline: “Mitt Romney and the 1% Economy.” Written without the (perhaps dubious) benefit of an interview with Romney, the story nonetheless managed to summon up the Republican candidate’s history of creative destruction, and tied that to the big story of the moment, the Occupy Wall Street protests. If Romney ends up becoming the Republican nominee, as still seems likely, the themes of Wallace-Wells’ profile will likely define the coming political year.

“How to be Good,” Larissa MacFarquhar, The New Yorker, 9/5/11 (sub. req.)

Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit argues, MacFarquhar writes, that “personal identity is not what matters.” But a profile is, by definition, an evocation of a person’s identity. How do you fulfill the requirements of the form on Parfit’s own, rather forbidding, terms? MacFarquhar didn’t make use of any scenes, or quotes of the traditional “he said” variety, conveying Parfit as a sort of disembodied intelligence. By all rights, this experiment should have been about as interesting to read as, well, a philosophy textbook. But the power of Parfit’s ideas about the nature of consciousness and ethics—and MacFarquhar’s skill at conveying them colloquially—made the piece sing to me.

“The God Clause,” Brendan Greeley, Bloomberg Businessweek, 9/1/11

Are you interested in reading about a shadowy industry that attempts to predict and profit from gigantic, multibillion-dollar disasters? Great—me too. Now that I’ve got you interested, I will disclose that this article is actually about the reinsurance industry. This is the bait-and-switch trick that Greeley pulls off admirably in this piece. This was the cover story for Businessweek’s 9-11 anniversary issue, and aided by some very good cover art—something the magazine has been justly praised for lately—the piece managed to tell its readers a story that touched on the past while telling them something new.

“Where’s Earl?” Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker, 5/23/11 (sub. req.)

A detective story masquerading as a celebrity profile—or maybe it’s the other way around?—this was in an issue that kind of hung around on my endtable for a few months before I got around to sticking it into my bag for a long plane flight. Then it completely sucked me into its world. I won’t even pretend that I’m young enough to care about the rap collective Odd Future, or the fate of its missing member Earl Sweatshirt, but the outcome of this story, which I won’t spoil, offered an (ahem) oddly plaintive reminder that so many of our musical idols are, after all, just kids.

“Watching the Murder of an Innocent Man,” Barry Bearak, New York Times Magazine, 6/2/11

This was my absolute favorite story of the year. Journalism from Africa often conveys the continent in broadly collective terms: tribes rival with one another, rebels fight the government, the downtrodden suffer or rise up. Bearak, who used to be stationed in the Times’ Johannesburg bureau, took one of those distressing mass phenomena that fill the inside pages of every day’s newspaper—an outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa’s township slums—and gave the story a terrible specificity. I particularly admired the way Bearak dissected the chance intersections and misunderstandings that led to a lynching, and dispassionately explained the cosmological worldview of the victim’s family about his death. In the end, Bearak resists the natural tendency to isolate a single villain and hold that person up to condemnation, despite the murky evidence, because that’s what the mob did, albeit in an incomparably more brutal fashion.

Bonus: Longreads Logrolling List

I’m lucky enough to be friends with a bunch of really talented writers, and it seems a shame to exclude them simply on the grounds of our acquaintance. So, here’s a list of really great articles written this year by people that I happen to know and like. You can take these endorsements with a grain of salt, of course, but I urge you to click and judge for yourself.

“Getting Bin Laden,” Nicholas Schmidle, The New Yorker, 8/8/11

The best account, so far, of the most stunning news event of this year.

“The Neverending Nightmare of Amanda Knox,” Nathaniel Rich, Rolling Stone, 6/24/11

I was fascinated by this lurid miscarriage of justice. This story went way beyond the tabloid narrative of the persecuted innocent abroad.

“The Idealist,” Jason Zengerle, The New Republic, 1/13/11

A rising Democratic star finds his life derailed when he gets enmeshed in a bizarre political dirty tricks plot.

“Cheating, Incorporated,” Sheelah Kolhatkar, Bloomberg Businessweek, 2/10/11

The real, profitable and Canadian (!) company behind those lubricious Ashley Madison TV ads.

“The King of All Vegas Real Estate Scams”, Felix Gillette, Bloomberg Businessweek, 12/8/11; “The Casino Next Door”, Felix Gillette, Bloomberg Businessweek, 4/21/11

These two stories made me ache with jealousy.

“The Gulf War,” Raffi Khatchadourian, The New Yorker, 3/14/11

The Gulf oil spill turned out to be less overwhelmingly catastrophic than some doomsayers predicted, but it still left behind some troubling lessons. This is the story of a disaster that happened beneath the surface, and in conveying that narrative with great depth and nuance, the story pulls off a truly difficult feat.


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