Canada’s magazine industry recently threw its biggest party of the year: the National Magazine Awards. The Canadian event differs from the American Ellies, with more categories and more nominees per category: this year’s awards were up for grabs among 326 nominees from 80 publications, spread across 43 categories. “Gold” and “silver” winners get awards, and the balance of the nominees receive honorable mentions. That spawns the occasional joke about how in Canadian magazines, everyone gets a medal for participation, but—go ahead, call me biased (I was a nominee/honorable mention in the “society” category, for “The Forgotten Internment”)—I like the way our format lets us celebrate many different sorts of work, not just the “biggest,” most ambitious features.
Here are a few of my favorites from among this year’s winners: Read more…
Yes, we’re all connected now. We can tweet a revolution in the streets or chronicle achievements large and small. But we’re also caught in a feedback loop of defame and shame, one in which we have become both perps and victims. We may not have become a crueler society—although it sure feels as if we have—but the Internet has seismically shifted the tone of our interactions. The ease, the speed, and the distance that our electronic devices afford us can also make us colder, more glib, and less concerned about the consequences of our pranks and prejudice. Having lived humiliation in the most intimate possible way, I marvel at how willingly we have all signed on to this new way of being.
In my own case, each easy click of that YouTube link reinforces the archetype, despite my efforts to parry it away: Me, America’s B.J. Queen. That Intern. That Vixen. Or, in the inescapable phrase of our 42nd president, “That Woman.”
It may surprise you to learn that I’m actually a person.
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.
America is not kind to the heir. He is a stereotypical figure in our literature, and not an appealing one at that. He tends to be depicted as weak, pampered, flawed, a diluted strain of the hardy founding stock. America celebrates the self-made. Unless an heir veers sharply from his father’s path, he is not taken seriously. Even in middle age he seems costumed, a pretender draped in oversize clothes, a boy who has raided his father’s closet. The depiction may be unfair, but it is what it is.
But Arthur wasn’t just born to his position—the story is more complicated. He may have been the firstborn son in the line of succession, but he also staked his claim to the crown deliberately and dramatically, when he was only 14 years old. His mother, Barbara Grant, and Punch Sulzberger divorced when Arthur was just five. He lived throughout his early childhood on the Upper East Side with his mother and her new husband, David Christy, a warm and supportive stepfather. Punch is nominally Jewish, although not at all religious, while his son was raised Episcopalian. Arthur senior and Arthur junior were not close: Punch was generally aloof, even when Arthur was around. Yet, understanding what his famous name meant, and who his distant father actually was in the world, he packed up his things and moved himself the half-mile to his father’s home on Fifth Avenue, to live with Punch and his stepmother and their daughters. He was not pulled by any strong emotional connection. It seemed more like a career move. His biological father and his stepmother were wealthy, socially connected, and powerful; his biological mother and his stepfather were not. Arthur opted for privilege and opportunity. That his stepmother, Carol Sulzberger, despised Arthur—she would stick out her tongue at pictures of him—did not seem to matter. He was Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., and showing up on his father’s doorstep was a way of asserting, consciously or not, that when Punch changed wives he had not washed his hands of an obligation to his son. While the inheritance was his by birth, it was also very much Arthur’s choice.
THE TOMB IS DRY AND HOT. Opposite looms the gowned shape of Hawass, who is scrutinizing Gad’s every move; squeezed into the corner is Discovery’s film crew. Gad tries to hide his nerves. He knows that the others doubt his ability, and for good reason: he has little practice working with mummies. Back in his Cairo lab, he has always been supervised by a foreign tutor. But his very first day pulling DNA without his teacher will be watched by the world, and his subject is the incalculably precious mummy of Tutankhamun.
Insha’Allah, he thinks.
With God’s will.
—Jo Marchant, writing in Matter, on the 2008 effort, led by Egyptian geneticist Yehia Gad, to pull the DNA from the mummy of Tutankhamun. Since archaeologist Howard Carter’s discovery of the pharaoh’s tomb, researchers have viewed Tutankhamun as the key to Egypt’s ancient history, with numerous players—from the Mormons to major media—wanting a piece of the pharaoh. With work still left to do, and an Egypt currently focused on other priorities, the answers to questions about these ancient kings remain buried.
Just the other day, I received an e-mail from a photographer looking for an internship. His short note almost brought me to tears: “I come from Sarajevo, Bosnia, and my life has put me though many challenges. I am saying this because I have had the chance to see the worst in humans and was lucky enough to survive it. Since then, I have made it my goal to help people record their happiest moments, because those moments are rare and precious, and one never has too many of them.”
I’m reasonably certain that John Ashcroft didn’t recognize himself disguised as the evil high school guidance counselor in one of my novels. But like so much else, this thorny matter requires consideration on a case-by-case basis. In Mary McCarthy’s story “The Cicerone,” Peggy Guggenheim, the important collector of modern art, appears as Polly Grabbe, an aging, spoiled expatriate slut who collects garden statuary. Guggenheim did recognize herself and was definitely not flattered; it took years before the two women were friends again. Write what you want — but be prepared for the consequences.
The web of lies that various parts of the United Nations has woven about Darfur is vast. Orwellian doublespeak deliberately disguises reality and distorts words. U.N. reports on the region, for instance, typically and euphemistically use “air strikes” for indiscriminate bombing of civilians, “sporadic clashes” for continuous war, and “sexual and gender-based violence” for systematic rape. As for their references to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s “regular forces,” I often wondered how there could be anything “regular” about the hordes of fighters who operate lawlessly and jointly with the Janjaweed death squads. They make no distinction between civilians and combatants, bomb children and terrorize adults, rape women, and loot and burn everything they find to the ground.
“Recipes I’ve seen suggest it was about 0.01 grams of cocaine used in fountain sodas. That’s about a tenth of a line of coke,” he says. “It’s hard to be sure, but I don’t think it would’ve given people a massive high. It would definitely be enough to have some kind of effect, probably stronger than coffee.” While the dosages were small, they were certainly habit-forming, and soda fountains stood to profit from such consistent customers.
Soon “it became obvious to the medical profession that there weren’t any health benefits to carbonated water on its own, so people started selling it as a treat,” says Funderburg. “It’s hard to put our heads around how much of a treat cold fizzy water was back then. People didn’t have mechanical refrigeration, so to have a cold drink was a big deal.”