“Decades after her mother was killed, Regina Alexander reached out to the son of the people who did it.”
If you’re a sucker for hearing how great journalists report and structure their work — and who isn’t? — this Q&A with New Yorker write-around specialist Patrick Radden Keefe makes for a perfect Monday read.
It’s always the same: It starts with a series of big beats. If it’s an article, it starts with eight beats on the back of an envelope, so I’ll know where the piece starts, I’ll know where I want the transition after the first section to be, and even if I’m feeling my way, I’ll know where the big moments are later on. The reason it’s useful to do the outline on the back of an envelope is that I naturally gravitate to complicated stories — and I like the complication — but I think you need to back away from that and be able to see the topography of the story.
Anna Wiener’s article will make you consider the sounds of the mundane. They are beautiful.
During the spring, as I spoke with Foley artists and watched them at work, I grew increasingly attuned to the various elements of soundscapes around me: the clicking scramble of gravel, the thud of a bag of frozen strawberries, the soft shuffle of a pregnant friend, the syncopated hop of a three-legged bichon frise.
In Guayaquil, on any given day before the pandemic, there might have been thirty to fifty people whose deaths had to be accounted for, whose bodies had to be embalmed, moved to a grave site, mourned, and buried. During that hellish stretch from late March to mid-April of 2020, hundreds were dying each day. For more than a week in early April, the number was around seven hundred. No system in the world could have absorbed this many excess deaths, every day for weeks, without collapsing. Social media was awash with macabre images of bodies on sidewalks. The whole city had become a cemetery, a spectacle for all the world to see.
For The New Yorker, Anna Wiener explores the cuisine-real-estate business model and traces the rise of Tartine, the artisanal San Francisco bakery known for its delicious breads and pastries and hip, airy spaces. How did this beloved spot in the Mission become a world-renowned brand? And is this food empire really what it seems?
Certain gentrifiers, who consider themselves culturally savvy, “don’t want Le Bernardin, or some four-star restaurant, moving into their neighborhood, because that would ruin the charm,” Sharon Zukin, a sociologist and urbanist at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center, told me. “That would ruin the ‘authenticity.’ They might have a lot of economic capital, but they still want to have that authentic cultural capital that Roberta’s, or Tartine, signifies. Now, for me, and maybe also you, we’re asking: How can something still be artisanal if it has six branches in Seoul?”
“We’re perceived to be something bigger than what we are,” she told me. “There is no there there. It’s a water sandwich.”
According to Prueitt, Tartine is in debt and struggling not to sink further. Still, outside the Bay Area, it continues to grow.
Short fiction? Yes! We’re trying an experiment. Read more stories.
Reading The Falls, a short story by George Saunders at The New Yorker, you’re privy to the self-centered thinking of two very different men on separate strolls around town. Morse is riddled with anxiety; a married father of two who second-guesses his parenting skills, his marriage, and every other thought. Cummings’ interior reel focuses on his as-yet-undiscovered greatness and the shock his family and local residents will feel when his greatness is finally revealed to all. But which of the two will rouse from their reverie to act when two young girls paddling in a canoe suddenly face danger? You’ll need to read the story to find out.
Morse was tall and thin and as gray and sepulchral as a church about to be condemned. His pants were too short, and his face periodically broke into a tense, involuntary grin that quickly receded, as if he had just suffered a sharp pain. At work he was known to punctuate his conversations with brief wild laughs and gusts of inchoate enthusiasm and subsequent embarrassment, expressed by a sudden plunging of his hands into his pockets, after which he would yank his hands out of his pockets, too ashamed of his own shame to stand there merely grimacing for even an instant longer.
…Morse, ha, Cummings thought, I’m glad I’m not Morse, a dullard in corporate pants trudging home to his threadbare brats in the gathering loam, born, like the rest of his ilk with their feet of clay thrust down the maw of conventionality, content to cheerfully work lemminglike in moribund cubicles while comparing their stocks and bonds between bouts of tedious lawnmowing, then chortling while holding their suckling brats to the Nintendo breast.
“As RHDV2 is poised to become endemic in the United States, the vaccine, which is the one thing that might stop it, is now caught up in the contradictions of rabbits.” The latest New Yorker feature from Susan Orlean tracks a highly contagious, deadly virus among rabbits.
This week, we’re sharing stories from Anand Gopal, Óscar Martínez, Erica Lenti, T.J. Quinn, and Matt Zoller Seitz.
Anand Gopal | The New Yorker | September 6, 2021 | 9,900 words
“In the countryside, the endless killing of civilians turned women against the occupiers who claimed to be helping them.”
Óscar Martínez | El Faro | August 27, 2021 | 7,800
“New York was one of the states hit hardest by the pandemic in the United States. The hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants who live there suffered both the virus and its ravages: mass graves, widespread contagion, hunger, debt, overcrowded housing, unemployment—just some of the legacies of 2020. After years of struggle, many must start all over again.”
3. Cases of Missing Trans People Are Rarely Solved. A Married Pair of Forensic Genealogists Is Hoping to Change That.
Erica Lenti | Xtra Magazine | September 1, 2021 | 3,645 words
“Resolving any Doe case is, at its core, about restoring dignity to the dead. But that is especially pertinent in cases of trans and gender nonconforming people, who are routinely harassed, sexualized, overpoliced and dehumanized. The TDTF’s work is also about restoration, righting the historical wrongs of institutions that have overlooked trans people. It is not easy work, but the Redgraves consider it necessary. If we want to begin the process of undoing decades of harm that systemic transphobia has caused, they say, this is one painful but crucial place to begin.”
T.J. Quinn | ESPN | August 16, 2021 | 6,670 words
“From our first conversation, we connected about what it was like to suddenly no longer be yourself, and the constant self-doubt that came with it. If we can’t do the things we used to do, then who are we?”
Matt Zoller Seitz | Vulture | September 7, 2021 | 3,450 words
“Rare is the actor who can locate the specific in the universal and vice versa. Michael K. Williams was that actor.”
On our September 6, 2019 roundtable episode of the Longreads Podcast, Head of Audience Catherine Cusick, Head of Fact-Checking Matt Giles, and Contributing Editor Danielle Jackson share what they’ve been reading and nominate stories for the Weekly Top 5 Longreads.
This week, the editors discuss stories in Miami New Times, The New Yorker, Longreads, 5280 Magazine, and The Believer.
1:12 The Nightmare in the Bahamas Is Far From Over (Zachary Fagenson, October 1, 2019, Miami New Times)
3:38 Hurricane Dorian Was a Climate Injustice (Bernard Ferguson, September 12, 2019, The New Yorker)
10:43 Climate Messaging: A Case for Negativity (Rebecca McCarthy, September 2019, Longreads)
12:41 The Balloon Boy Hoax—Solved! (Robert Sanchez, October 2019, 5280 Magazine)
19:12 The Music of “Hustlers” and the Soaring, Stupid National Mood Circa 2008 (Jia Tolentino, September 27, 2019, The New Yorker)
22:33 Place: The Loop, Houston (Bryan Washington, October 1, 2019, The Believer)
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