From September 1957 to December 1958, Martin Luther King Jr. penned a monthly advice column for Ebony magazine. The “Advice for Living” column addressed a wide array of subjects, from race relations to interpersonal relationships. Below is an excerpt from the September 1957 issue of Ebony: Read more…
At age 89, after 70 years as a jazz saxophonist who played with John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Charlie Parker (to name just a few), Sonny Rollins quietly gave up playing in 2014 due to pulmonary fibrosis. At The New York Times Magazine, David Marchese talks to Rollins about why he decided not to publish his ideas on saxophone technique and harmony, and his distinct lack of nostalgia for jazz days gone by.
When I had to stop playing it was quite traumatic. But I realized that instead of lamenting and crying, I should be grateful for the fact that I was able to do music all of my life. So I had that realization, plus my spiritual beliefs, which I’ve been cultivating for many years. All that work went into my accepting the fact that I couldn’t play my horn.
Does believing in the transience of life mean you’re not nostalgic for jazz’s past? Or your own life in jazz? Wayne Shorter’s still here, but Miles is not here. Max Roach is not here. Trane is not here. Monk is not here. Do I feel nostalgic about that? No. These guys are alive to me. I hear their music. OK, Charlie Parker is not in his body, but everything about Charlie Parker is here to me in spirit. Any time of day, any time of night, I might think of Miles, and the spirit is there. Occasionally I go, Gee, I can’t hang out with Dizzy Gillespie or Clifford Brown after a gig. I think about that, but it’s receding. Those guys — I don’t worry about them not being here in the flesh. I’m not going to be in the flesh, either. You’re not going to be in the flesh, either, David. So what? It’s OK.
As more publications pursue blockbuster stories with film and television potential, producers in Hollywood and the magazine industry are taking their inspiration from successful article-to-film adaptations of the past that have achieved box office success.
Here are 25 gold-standard film adaptations of magazine articles, published over the course of half a century as cover stories, features, or breaking news, as well as direct links to read all 25 stories online.
Legacy magazines with well-known print editions dominate this list, as do the nonfiction writers that legacy magazines accept and champion. Many of these writers’ names will be familiar to readers, as will the majority of the magazines and films themselves, in many cases because celebrated journalists inspired these major motion pictures at the peak of their careers as writers and reporters. Name recognition in one industry reinforces name recognition in another, and — despite the incredible diversity of feature-length nonfiction being published today by new voices most mainstream audiences have yet to discover — institutional support still tends to elevate known veterans.
While the talents of all of the writers on this list are undeniable, there are also well-documented structural biases that account for why so many of the writers represented here are overwhelmingly male, white, or Susan Orlean. These stories belong on any narrative nonfiction syllabus on their own merit, but I hope these samples are still just the beginning, and that new filmmakers and magazine writers can start to work together far more often on a greater breadth of material, with sufficient editorial guidance and studio backing to support them.
This list is by no means exhaustive. I’ve limited this roundup to favor adaptations (loosely defined) based primarily on magazine-style features, including only a couple of films based on award-winning newspaper investigations. The list of new film and television adaptations based on popular books or podcasts, let alone reporting that has helped support the explosion in streaming documentary formats, would run even longer.
It takes time, access, imagination, and resources to be able to realize ambitious true stories like these in their original form as narrative magazine features. It would be a welcome change to see greater diversity in the production pipeline in the coming years: in the subjects of narrative stories, in the publications considered for exclusive source material, in the creative teams that are given studio support, in the agencies brokering deals, in the awards and recognition that elevate new work, and in the storytellers who are given the resources to write long.
Writers are the lifeblood of all of these industries, and will always play a pivotal role in any production that is based on a true story.
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Once upon a time, a man named Fred Rogers decided that he wanted to live in heaven. Heaven is the place where good people go when they die, but this man, Fred Rogers, didn’t want to go to heaven; he wanted to live in heaven, here, now, in this world, and so one day, when he was talking about all the people he had loved in this life, he looked at me and said, “The connections we make in the course of a life—maybe that’s what heaven is, Tom. We make so many connections here on earth. Look at us—I’ve just met you, but I’m investing in who you are and who you will be, and I can’t help it.”
While evolutionary theory and The Bachelor would suggest that a room full of women hoping to attract the attention of a few men would be cutthroat-competitive, it’s actually better for strippers to work together, because while most men might be able keep their wits, and their wallets, around one scantily clad, sweet-smelling sylph, they tend to lose their grip around three or four. Which is why at Hustler, as elsewhere, the dancers worked in groups.
Beautiful Boy (2018)
Nick now claims that he was searching for methamphetamine for his entire life, and when he tried it for the first time, as he says, “That was that.” It would have been no easier to see him strung out on heroin or cocaine, but as every parent of a methamphetamine addict comes to learn, this drug has a unique, horrific quality. In an interview, Stephan Jenkins, the singer in the band Third Eye Blind, said that methamphetamine makes you feel “bright and shiny.” It also makes you paranoid, incoherent and both destructive and pathetically and relentlessly self-destructive. Then you will do unconscionable things in order to feel bright and shiny again. Nick had always been a sensitive, sagacious, joyful and exceptionally bright child, but on meth he became unrecognizable.
Aaron Gilbreath| Longreads | December 2018 | 25 minutes (6,357 words)
When other writers and I get together, we sometimes mourn the state of music writing. Not its quality — the music section of any good indie bookstore offers proof of its vigor — but what seems like the reduced number of publications running longer music stories. Read more…
Agnès Poirier | Excerpt adapted from Left Bank: Art, Passion, and the Rebirth of Paris, 1940-50 | Henry Holt and Co. | February 2018 | 20 minutes 5,275 words)
In September 1945, together with their band of students and friends, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre were working night and day finalizing the first issue of their journal Les Temps modernes. They had launched the idea at the end of 1944, choosing the title as a tribute to Chaplin’s Modern Times, and, apart from Camus who was too busy editing Combat, they could rely on almost everyone else to write for them — Communists, Catholics, Gaullists, and Socialists: their schoolmate and liberal philosopher friend Raymond Aron, the Marxist phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty, the anthropologist and art critic Michel Leiris, the Gallimard supremo Jean Paulhan, and even Picasso, who had agreed to design the cover and logo, along with a new generation of writers who were submitting articles and ideas such as Jacques-Laurent Bost. The British writer Philip Toynbee would contribute a Letter from London, while novels and essays the committee particularly liked would be serialized prior to their publication or with a view to attracting a potential publisher. Les Temps modernes would be a laboratory of new ideas and a talent scout rolled into one. Simone de Beauvoir had personally approached the minister of information, the Gaullist and résistant Jacques Soustelle, to ask for an allocation of paper.
Gallimard had agreed to finance the journal and to give the team a little office where they could hold their editorial meetings. The first issue was planned for October 1, 1945. Jean-Paul Sartre was made the head of the publication, “Monsieur le Directeur,” and he thought it important to make himself available to everyone. This would be democracy and public debate in action. He committed to receiving anyone who asked to see him at the magazine’s office at 5 rue Sébastien Bottin every Tuesday and Friday afternoon between five thirty and seven thirty. This commitment was printed at the beginning of the magazine, along with the telephone number Littré 28-91, where they could be reached. Sartre had decided to dedicate the first issue of Les Temps modernes “To Dolorès,” in all simplicity. Simone did not blink an eye.
In the first issue, Sartre announced loud and clear what Les Temps modernes stood for. It was to be the megaphone that would carry their thoughts far and wide.
Every writer of bourgeois origin has known the temptation of irresponsibility. I personally hold Flaubert personally responsible for the repression that followed the Commune because he did not write a line to try to stop it. It was not his business, people will perhaps say. Was the Calas trial Voltaire’s business? Was Dreyfus’s condemnation Zola’s business? We at Les Temps modernes do not want to miss a beat on the times we live in. Our intention is to influence the society we live in. Les Temps modernes will take sides.
The tone was set, the thinking promised to be muscular and the writing fearless.
International best-seller Haruki Murakami has a new short story collection out, entitled Men Without Women. To celebrate, here is an excerpt from his essay “So What Shall I Write About?” published in the Japanese literary magazine Monkey Business. In it, Murakami muses on what it takes to become a novelist by analyzing his own methods and experience, and he gives us a glimpse into his creative process. Although Murakami has published numerous essay collections in Japanese, little of his short nonfiction is available in English. This essay was translated by Ted Goosesen, and it, and this issue of Monkey Business, are a treat.
We are─or at least I am─equipped with this expansive mental chest of drawers. Each drawer is packed with memories, or information. There are big drawers and small ones. A few have secret compartments, where information can be hidden. When I am writing, I can open them, extract the material I need and add it to my story. Their numbers are countless, but when I am focused on my writing I know without thinking exactly which drawer holds what and can immediately put my hands on what I am looking for. Memories I could never recall otherwise come naturally to me. It’s a great feeling to enter into this elastic, unrestrained state, as if my imagination had pulled free from my thinking mind to function as an autonomous, independent entity. Needless to say, for a novelist like me the information stored in my “chest” is a rich and irreplaceable resource.
…Remember that scene in Steven Spielberg’s film E.T. where E.T. assembles a transmitting device from the junk he pulls out of his garage? There’s an umbrella, a floor lamp, pots and pans, a record player─it’s been a long time since I saw the movie, so I can’t recall everything, but he manages to throw all those household items together in such a way that the contraption works well enough to communicate with his home planet thousands of light years away. I got a big kick out of that scene when I saw it in a movie theater, but it strikes me now that putting together a good novel is much the same thing. The key component is not the quality of the materials─what’s needed is magic. If that magic is present, the most basic daily matters and the plainest language can be turned into a device of surprising sophistication.
First and foremost, though, is what’s packed away in your garage. Magic can’t work if your garage is empty. You’ve got to stash away a lot of junk to use if and when E.T. comes calling!
Julie Beck talks to Heather Havrilesky about her new book How to Be a Person in the World: Ask Polly’s Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life, a collection of her “Ask Polly” advice columns on New York Magazine‘s The Cut blog (originally at The Awl) plus some that haven’t been published before.
Last year, I became an advice columnist. This is my only qualification for being an advice columnist, as I am quite literally just some guy. “Noted some guy Mallory Ortberg.” Here are a few of my favorite advice columns:
1. “The Monty Hall Problem” (Marilyn vos Savant, Parade Magazine)
Priceonomics describes this column thusly:
When vos Savant politely responded to a reader’s inquiry on the Monty Hall Problem, a then-relatively-unknown probability puzzle, she never could’ve imagined what would unfold: though her answer was correct, she received over 10,000 letters, many from noted scholars and Ph.Ds, informing her that she was a hare-brained idiot.
What ensued for vos Savant was a nightmarish journey, rife with name-calling, gender-based assumptions, and academic persecution.
Last year, Longreads published a list with behind-the-scenes stories about magazines. Last week, Anne Helen Petersen published an article about the state of Tiger Beat for BuzzFeed News. Inspired, I decided to create an addendum to Making the Magazine. This reading list includes bigger names, like an archived examination of Ms. and Petersen’s update regarding Tiger Beat; a feminist-food magazine; a defunct magazine for sex workers and their supporters; and a lesbian/queer magazine for denizens of D.C. and beyond. Read more…