Kevin Sampsell | Longreads | February 2018 | 18 minutes (4,605 words)
The last time I cried about a football game was in 2009.
When I was a kid, though — oh man! The waterworks from the coiled frustration and utter heartbreak of losing a game, or ending a season with a sad thud, was often too much for me. I’m not sure what is considered normal blood pressure for junior high and high school dudes, but mine was probably pretty high.
If you’re a sports fan, you don’t need me to tell you that watching a game can elicit conflicting emotions. Some times it’s dull, others, exhilarating. It can run the gamut from mildly stressful to utterly exasperating. We tell ourselves it’s fun to watch games — whether it’s the lightning-fast college basketball Final Four, a tense knuckle-biting World Series, or even the high drama of an Olympics figure skating face-off. But is it really fun? Is watching a game, especially football with its rash of injuries and hyper-macho façade, truly enjoyable in the moment? Or do we just endure it so we can process the positive highlights later?
As a sports kid who eventually blossomed into a book nerd, I surprise a lot of people with my unflagging loyalty to a game that is often seen as barbaric, anti-intellectual, and sponsored by horrible right-wing corporations. For a long time, whenever I’d meet someone new, I wouldn’t reveal the fact that I’m a football fan right away. It was like a weird secret. I’d talk about more “intellectual” subjects: poetry, indie films, twee British music, or collage art. Often I would be looking for clues in these conversations, maybe a word or a name mentioned that would reveal that they knew what a linebacker was, or an onside kick. If I found out someone was a football fan, they would often become my new best friend, at least for a while.
I find it utterly refreshing to meet another man or woman “of arts and letters” who admires the sport like I do, and I glow inside with that feeling of camaraderie. Often though, if I slip up and admit that many of my Sundays are spent worshipping guys in full pads and helmets groping and tackling each other while rich old men tally their bank accounts in their executive suites, I am met with pained expressions and confusion. I counter that surprise by trying to illuminate my humanistic connection to the game — my love for discovering the players’ personal stories of overcoming adversity; the bonding community of fandom; the sheer unpredictable nature of all sports; and yes, indeed, the amazing beauty and skill of what these players are able to do on the field. I can still remember plays that happened decades ago and recall them as precisely as my favorite songs.
Judith Freeman | Pantheon Books | December 2007 | 38 minutes (9603 words)
Judith Freeman traces Raymond Chandler’s early days in Los Angeles and his introduction to Cissy Pascal, the much older, very beautiful woman who would later become his wife. This chapter is excerpted from Freeman’s 2007 book The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved, which Janet Fitch described as “part biography, part detective story, part love story, and part séance.” Freeman’s next book—a memoir called The Latter Days—will be published by Pantheon in June 2016.
Journalist Mike Sager originally wrote this article in 1999 as a long project for Rolling Stone. When the magazine killed the story for lack of page space ─ not an uncommon practice in magazine publishing ─ Sager published it in his first collection Scary Monsters and Super Freaks. “In a world of subjective editors,” Sager wrote via email, “it’s a good lesson for all freelance writers, one that continues to give me strength as I enter the 40th year of my journey along this beloved but difficult career path.” Our thanks to Mike Sager and Thunder’s Mouth Press for allowing us to reprint the story here, which comes recommended by Longreads contributor Aaron Gilbreath.
* * * Read more…
Jessica Gross | Longreads | February 2015 | 17 minutes (4,283 words)
The Irish writer Colm Tóibín has written eight novels, two books of short stories, and multiple works of nonfiction. His latest novel, Nora Webster, follows a widow in 1970s Ireland as she moves through her mourning toward a new life. That book was almost 15 years in the making, and Tóibín’s previous novel, Brooklyn, which centers on an Irish immigrant to the United States, grew out of Nora Webster’s early pages. Both novels—like all of Tóibín’s work—subtly portray their characters’ complex inner lives, the details accruing slowly to finally reveal an indelible portrait. I spoke with Tóibín, who splits his time between Dublin and New York, by phone about the protagonists he’s compelled to write about and how he goes about creating their worlds. Read more…
Four years of covering Cuomo as a reporter have put me at his side day after day, week after week, from the Soviet Union to Canada, from San Francisco to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We’ve drunk vodka together at backyard cookouts and in a Leningrad hotel. (Often after a few vodkas, and in other times of reflection, he dwells not on moments of glory but on those of defeat, especially the bitter 1977 New York City mayoral race he lost to Edward I. Koch.) He has fallen asleep next to me on the red-eye flight out of Los Angeles. (He snores.) He has threatened to ruin me for articles he perceived as negative. (”I could end your career. Your publisher doesn’t even know who you are.”) He has offered to have the state police bring me chicken soup when I was home with the flu.
The four years are a roller-coaster ride of images:
Cuomo pacing in his office: ”Lincoln. Lincoln had bad press, too. He wasn’t appreciated until after he was gone.”
Cuomo backstage in seclusion after one of his major speeches, bent over, breathless and spent, like an athlete who has just finished a race.
Cuomo, the lawyer and student of the Vincentians, playing his favorite role, part Socrates and part Clarence S. Darrow, grilling a 10-year-old boy in the halls of the State Capitol: ”And how do you know you’re 10 years old? Your daddy says so? How do you know your daddy’s right?”
Cuomo, at the age of 55, still wearing on his right hand his St. John’s University ring, so deep is his gratitude to the college that transformed a son of poor Italian immigrants into a member of the professional class.
Cuomo, the Roman Catholic and the quick wit, remaining calm as some around him panicked when one of the two engines on his state plane failed: ”What’s the matter? Aren’t you in a state of grace?”
Cuomo making his own coffee in the kitchen of the Executive Mansion on a Saturday morning, then walking through the residence pointing out the nicks in the woodwork left by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wheelchair.
—Jeffrey Schmalz, writing in the New York Times Magazine, May 15 1988.
Geronilla is mercurial. Mussed hair, holes in his sweatshirt, shattered iPhone. He listens to the xx on vinyl and shares his bedroom with two brothers, one of whom has enlisted in the Army. The room is lined with cameras, including a Red Epic digital, and videotapes of “Dr. Zhivago” and “Some Like it Hot.” He sleeps on a roll-up futon, edits and shoots commercials and music videos. Aside from the two other scripts he’s working on, he’s writing a thriller set in an auto shop that he estimates will cost $500,000 to make, or “maybe $100,000 can still make it look good.”
Hoston is slender and her hair falls deep south of her shoulders. Glasses perched on her nose, she likes precision; a quiet presence who on-screen can glow bright as a filament. She has a quick laugh and on most days is bigger than her doubts. On her way to a recent acting class, she worked on “not smooshing words together” when reading lines. She has a new agent and manager and head shot photos for pilot season. She’s been told to edit her demo reel down to 40 seconds. “How can I show them who I am in that time?” she agonizes.
In the Los Angeles Times, Jeffrey Fleishman turns the camera on two young Angelenos trying to establish careers in show biz, showing that, despite the seductive shimmer of La La Land, the industry is just as likely to break you as ever. Better have a Plan B, C and D.
Bullies, teachers, classmates—it’s time to head back to school with these six stories from the Chronicle of Higher Education, Los Angeles Times and more.
1. “Twice Exceptional.” (Hana Schank, The Big Roundtable, July 2015)
Hana Schank navigates a disturbingly complex bureaucracy to advocate for her four-year-old daughter, Nora, who is exceptionally bright and low-vision. Read more…
The Pulitzer Prizes winners have been announced: Bloomberg News’s Zachary R. Mider was awarded a prize for explanatory reporting on corporate tax dodgers. Carol D. Leonnig of The Washington Post was awarded a national reporting award for her coverage of security lapses in the Secret Service. The New York Times won an international reporting award for its coverage of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle was given the award for commentary for her columns about grand jury abuses. Mary McNamara, a TV critic for the Los Angeles Times, was awarded a prize for criticism. A list of the all the winners and finalists can be found here. Below is a short list of other books and features that were honored.
Public Service: “Till Death Do Us Part” (The Post and Courier)
* * *
Breaking News Reporting: “Snohomish County Landslide” (The Seattle Times)
* * *
* * *
Investigative Reporting: “Courting Favor” (Eric Lipton, New York Times) and “Medicare Unmasked” (The Wall Street Journal)
* * *
* * *
* * *
* * *
Biography: The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, David I. Kertzer
* * *