Tag Archives: essay

Not For the Paint of Heart

Mystery brunette and GQ correspondent Taffy Brodesser-Akner rented and rented, until a bad experience with a New Jersey landlord and a fit of financial security convinced her and her husband it was time to commit to homeownership. Now for the hard part: Choosing paint colors without having a complete existential breakdown. Akner details her taupe night of the soul at Curbed:

The only positive experience I can drum up in service of paint colors involves a hotel in Palm Springs. It was called the Saguaro, and outside and inside it was painted in the most pleasing lollipop colors: lavender, purple, lime, orange, yellow. Claude and I sat at the pool and looked up at the colors and I felt them infiltrate my cornea, then my retina, then my brain, then my soul. These were the colors I wanted to look at, but I didn’t think that my house should be a day care center, like my sister said. I couldn’t remember any house where I’d ever noticed the colors, and I didn’t know if that meant that you weren’t supposed to notice the colors, or if it was yet another symptom of how damaged I was, that I couldn’t see the details of what surrounded me when my actual trade was to see the details of what surrounded me. Willful blindness, it’s called, maybe. But maybe it’s just self-protection. I guess that was the toughest part: Was I supposed to have been planning this my whole life?

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The Day My Brother Took a Life and Changed Mine Forever

Issac Bailey | The Marshall Project | June 2016 | 22 minutes (5,496 words)

The Marshall ProjectThis story was co-published with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system. Sign up for their newsletter, or follow The Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.

Drive the backroads of South Carolina to the small town of Ridgeville, and you’ll be greeted by a large, handmade sign reading “Your sins killed Jesus” amid the pine forests and small barns. I grew up traveling those roads but only recently noticed the sign, long after I had stopped caring about sin and consequence or what either of those things means.

Because on April 27, 1982, while I was asleep in a room with a couple of wooden bunk beds, blankets on the floor, and too many brothers, Herbert “Moochie” Bailey Jr. was killing a man named James Bunch a few miles away. Moochie was 22 years old at the time. I was only 9. Read more…

Longreads Best of 2015: Essays & Criticism

We asked a few writers and editors to choose some of their favorite stories of the year in specific categories. Here, the best in essays and criticism. Read more…

The Answer Is Never

Sabine Heinlein | Longreads | April 2015 | 16 minutes (3,886 words)


One time, when I was in my early twenties, I shared a hospital room with a mother of many. I had a skin infection that wouldn’t respond to oral medication, and the 50-something-year-old woman had severe, inexplicable hives. Our main topic of conversation revolved around neither of our ailments. It was about my not wanting to have children. She was insistent, which seemed ironic considering her hives flared up whenever her family visited her on Sundays. I eventually compromised with the woman. Okay, I said, I will put off my decision until I reach my thirties. “You are starry-eyed,” she huffed. “You young women want it all. But you can’t have it all!” Maybe, I thought, some of us don’t want it all. Read more…

Think of This as a Window: Remembering the Life and Work of Maggie Estep

Sari Botton | Longreads | February 2015


A year ago this month the world lost an incredible talent. Maggie Estep, a great writer—and before that, slam poet/performance artist—died suddenly, a month shy of 51.

The loss has hit me hard, even though I had been just getting to know Maggie personally. She was someone I’d idolized from the time we were both in our twenties, she a couple of years older than I. I’d see her stomping around the East Village, where I lived, too, in a black dress with fishnets and a combat boots, utterly self-possessed and unconcerned with what you thought of her. Read more…

#Nightshift: Excerpts from an Instagram Essay

Jeff Sharlet | Longreads | September 2014 | 12 minutes (2,802 words)

1. Snapshots

Dunkin Donuts, West Lebanon, New Hampshire

Processed with VSCOcam with b4 preset

The night shift, for me, is a luxury, the freedom to indulge my insomnia by writing at a Dunkin Donuts, one of the only places up here open at midnight. But lately my insomnia doesn’t feel like such a gift. Too much to think about. So click, click, goes the camera—the phone—looking for other people’s stories. This is Mike’s: He’s 34, he’s been a night baker for a year, and tonight is his last shift. Come 6 a.m., “no more uniform.” He decided to start early. He’s going to be a painter. “What kind?” I ask. “Well, I’m painting a church…” He started that early, too. “So I’m working, like, eighty hour days.” He means weeks, but who cares? The man is tired. He doesn’t like baking. Rotten pay, rotten hours, rotten work. “You don’t think. It’s just repetition.” Painting, you pay attention. “You can’t be afraid up there.” He means the ladder, the roof. “I’m not afraid,” he says. He’s a carpenter’s helper. “I can do anything.” He says he could be a carpenter. “But it hasn’t happened.” Why bake? “Couldn’t get a job.” Work’s like that, he says, there are bad times. Everything’s like that, he says. There are bad times. “Who’s the tear for?” The tattoo by his right eye. “For my son,” he says. “Who died when he was two months old.” That’s all he’ll say about that. “This next job will be better,” he says. Read more…

My Tears See More Than My Eyes: My Son’s Depression and the Power of Art

Alan Shapiro | Virginia Quarterly Review| Fall 2006 | 20 minutes (4,928 words)

Alan Shapiro published two books in January 2012: Broadway Baby, a novel, from Algonquin Books, and Night of the Republic, poetry, from Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt. This essay first appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review (subscribe here). Our thanks to Shapiro for allowing us to reprint it here, and for sharing an update on Nat’s life (see the postscript below).


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What It's Like to Have a Transient Ischemic Attack

Recently, I suffered a brain attack—a few, in fact; so stealthy, they’re called transient. I’ve dropped stroke from my vocabulary, since it is too soft and soothing a word for an event that often goes unnoticed until it has choked your words and energy right out of you. A brain attack happens silently, and can be as shocking and devastating, or as deadly, as a heart attack. This is a comparison I wish I did not know how to make (since my heart launched an offensive of its own a few months after my brain attacked). Instead of the noun stroke, shouldn’t the verb form be used, as in my brain struck? Or if a noun, then why not a brain strike? Now, a few months of rehab and a stainless steel implantable cardiac device later, my heart is efficient and fortified. And I’m taking it on a test-drive this morning. My first real run since the repairs and the rehab and the recovery.

I try to concentrate on the beauty all around me instead of worrying about the mess inside me. I want to outrun my fears—baseless, according to my cardiologist—that my brain will slap me down again, harder than before.

In Ploughshares, Mary Winsor recalls an Easter weekend with her family after recovering from health issues. Read more about health.


Photo: Laszlo

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