Magazine nerds, here we go: A starter collection of behind-the-scenes stories from some of your most beloved magazines, including The New Yorker, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair and the New York Review of Books, plus now-defunct publications like Might, George, Sassy and Wigwag. Share your favorite behind-the-magazine stories with us on Twitter or Facebook: #longreads. Read more…
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s most recent history, The Bully Pulpit, chronicles the intertwined lives of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, often in excruciating detail, from Roosevelt’s struggles with the bosses of his Republican party to the fungal infections that plagued Taft’s groin. But the most illuminating aspect of Pulpit is the spotlight it shines on the muckraking journalism of the early 20th century, particularly as practiced by a monthly magazine called McClure’s. There, writers such as Ida Tarbell, Ray Baker, and Lincoln Steffens held the feet of the powerful to the fire. In one landmark issue, January 1903, articles by all three were featured, including the third installment of Tarbell’s 12-part exposé of Standard Oil and Baker’s counter-intuitive, sympathetic portrait of coal miners, whose dire circumstances had forced them to cross picket lines. Read more…
Every week, Syracuse University professor Aileen Gallagher helps Longreads highlight the best of college journalism. Here’s this week’s pick:
For readers, summer travel offers a chance to discover a new bookstore or read a magazine you’ve never encountered before. This week’s College Longreads selection takes us to City Newsstand in Chicago, a magazine store that carries many titles you’ve heard of (The Economist) and several thousand you haven’t (RubberStampMadness). Nolan Feeney, a recent graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School, used City Newsstand as a backdrop for a bigger story about changes in the business of magazines. Feeney wrote this story for class last fall, and NewCity Lit, a digital supplement to the Chicago magazine, picked it up in the spring. Today, Feeney covers pop culture and Internet culture for Forbes.com.
Nolan Feeney | NewCity Lit | March 2013 | 12 minutes (2,995 words)
Professors and students: Share your favorite stories by tagging them with #college #longreads on Twitter, or email links to email@example.com.
Poetry magazine started in Chicago in 1912, and during the ensuing century, the magazine’s history and the history of American poetry often were joined at the hip. It published an unknown T.S. Eliot, gave early support to Langston Hughes, discovered Wallace Stevens, James Merrill, Gwendolyn Brooks. What Poetry rarely had was a history of picking fights, rising blood pressures or heated controversies. Until the money arrived.
Preppers are, not surprisingly, a paranoid bunch. Locating people willing to speak with me about their habits was more challenging than finding vegans at a gun range. After emailing a dozen members of Northern Illinois Preppers, a Meetup online community whose membership has grown from about 110 to more than 150 in the past six months, I received two responses. One was from someone who told me to take a hike (“I have no interest in being involved in your article. I also do NOT give you permission to quote me,” he wrote, which was perplexing, considering that no interview had been conducted). The other was delivered via a peer-to-peer encrypted email service:
“Due to OPSEC (operational security) and PERSEC (personal security) you’ll never see my stored materials. Though I personally take no offense at your question due to the nature of this interview the question itself is exceptionally rude in prepping circles. By way of analogy it’s the equivalent of my coming over to your home for the first time and, in front of your wife or girlfriend, telling you I think she’s hot and I’d like to see her without clothes. It’s simply not done. Any prepper who would be willing to show you their stocks, anonymously or otherwise, has violated so many rules they may as well just put their stocks on the curb for all to see and take.”
—Rod O’Connor writing in Chicago Magazine about suburban survivalists.
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How the Obama Commerce Secretary’s early family tragedies shaped her path to business and political success:
Earlier this year her youngest brother, J.B., told Chicago magazine of his mother’s battles with alcohol and how the children were often left to fend for themselves. As the oldest, Penny says, she stepped in to take care of her brothers, especially J.B., who was only 7 when their dad died. “I tried to be positive and hold us together as a family,” she says. But she remains protective of her mother’s legacy. For all her troubles, Sue was a mother who instilled in her daughter the confidence to take risks. “She believed I could do everything,” Penny says.
Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.
Jane R. LeBlanc is a freelance journalist who writes for the Dallas Observer where she covers the local comedy scene and anything strange and interesting. She has written for Denton Live, Mayborn magazine, Spirit magazine and the Denton Record-Chronicle. She has a humor blog, Everyone Hates You, where she pontificates about everyday life. You can find her online.
Inspired by a single black and white photograph from the mid-20th century, Robert Kurson explores the short life of Robert Earl Hughes, a young man born in 1926 with a youthful face, a steel-trap mind and a disposition that drew people in. He was also a Guinness World Record holder weighing more than half a ton by his late 20s. Staring at the photograph for much of the day, one thought repeated in Kurson’s head — ‘I knew the heavy man was lonely.’
In ‘Heavy,’ which appeared in Chicago Magazine in 2001, Kurson not only tells Hughes’ story, but that of his own father, a man he worshiped as a young boy and whose weight caused a young Kurson to worry that a ‘person could get lonely being fat in America.’ Through interviews with Hughes’ friends and family members, Kurson lifts Hughes from the pages of yellowed newspaper clippings and into the living, breathing world once more. He finds that ‘it is in the crevices of their memories, where details drop almost accidentally, that their recollections resonate.’ The author’s own memories take us into the mind of a son who was acutely observant of the world that surrounded him and his father. Kurson offers a revealing look into the lives of these two men, who are connected despite the separation of time and circumstances, and takes us into the hearts of those who loved them most.