Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

How The Elderly Lose Their Rights by Rachel Aviv for The New Yorker.


The week's best reads, carefully curated by Don Van Natta Jr. and Jacob Feldman. This week's guest editor is Ana Menéndez.



      Brighten Our Sunday!

   SUNDAY — October 8, 2017   

EDITORS' NOTE: Happy Sunday! Today, we're excited to hand over the list duties to award-winning author Ana Menéndez. The daughter of Cuban exiles, Ana has written four books of fiction, including In Cuba I was a German Shepherd and her most recent book, Adios, Happy Homeland! She's also worked as a widely respected journalist going back 25 years. She won prizes as a columnist for The Miami Herald and spent three years writing from India. Don has been honored to call her a friend for 25 years, and now we're thrilled to have her present a superb list of stories.

P.S. Thanks to all of you who have subscribed to our podcast project and have sent us feedback. We've got a new episode this week: Jacob's debut.

OK, take it away Ana...

Another week, another calumnious “Fake News” proclamation from the Republican President. The latest rant was directed at media coverage of his disastrous tour of Puerto Rico, which began with Donald Trump telling hurricane survivors that they had put a dent in the U.S. budget and ended with him throwing paper towels at what he seemed to regard as his fawning “audience."
If you’re tempted to think this is all fun and games, consider this: as The Washington Post and PEN America reported earlier this week, Trump tweeted a call asking the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate “Fake News Networks,”—which, PEN noted drily, was presumably a reference to major news networks.” In the meantime, the Secret Service admitted that no one was keeping visitor logs at Mar-a-Lago.
These are frightening times for lovers of the truth. And yet another reason to be grateful to the thousands of men and women who work long hours for little pay to keep us informed, delighted, and, sometimes, disturbed. I am proud of my own, minor, stint as a journalist and honored to have been asked to guest edit this vital resource called The Sunday Long Read, which is run by two of our finest journalists. So thank you Jacob and Don.
I’ve just met Jacob, but I’ve known Don for some 25 years, since I was a toddler-reporter at The Miami Herald. So I’ve had many years to admire Don and his work, and (having now had a back-stage view of the work that goes into this) am even more grateful for the gift that is The Sunday Long Read.
I came to journalism in 1991 because it seemed like a good way to learn how to write stories while being paid for it. Everything I learned about writing, I learned first in The Miami Herald newsroom and then at The Orange County Register, where I was lucky to have the funniest, most dedicated colleague-teachers anyone could hope for. Daily journalism has changed since then, of course. And local papers, especially, have yet to recover financially from the digital revolution. But anyone who doubts the strength and quality of today’s journalism needs only to look at a single week of this list's offerings.
Journalists love what they do. But sometimes they must also endure days, weeks, sometimes months of boredom, stupid hours and, too often, abuse, to bring us stories that take only a few minutes to consume. Such is the inglorious calculus of creation. From those of us on the reading end, all we can say is: Please don’t stop.

Two strangers bond over country music and beer. Then the gunshots started.

By Wesley Lowery

 (~10 minutes)


This sorrowful week, the latest in a string of sorrowful weeks, began with another massacre on American soil: the 521st mass shooting in 477 days. A 64-year-old man was able to stockpile 23 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in a Las Vegas hotel suite, was even able to fit his makeshift bunker with his own security cameras—AND no one noticed anything, until 58 lay dead and nearly 500 wounded.

The stories out of Las Vegas have been gutting and infuriating. Some have also managed to inspire hope in the midst of heartbreak. Amid the hundreds of finely reported and argued pieces, this one was a stand-out, a bittersweet story of fleeting human connection, beautifully told.
The Fairy-Tale Come-up of Cardi B
By Lindsay Zoladz

 (~10 minutes)


In the days following the shooting, The Washington Post offered this glimpse of the Vegas strip, story-telling at its most powerful, with indelible detail such as this: 

“One of the security guys at the Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club, next to the Erotic Heritage Museum a couple blocks off the Strip, served in Iraq and Afghanistan. His daughter was at the concert. She called him during the shooting. He heard warfare over the phone. He got to the site in nine minutes.

“You never lose your tactical driving skills,” he said.
Long Live the Group Chat

By Aaron Edwards 

 (~15 minutes)


The Los Angeles Times began one of its reports with an unforgettable lede, and then went on to describe scenes of war-time heroics:

“The wounded poured in on trucks, in taxis, in police cars, in ambulances, some even driving themselves — 104 victims at that facility alone, the area’s only Level 1 trauma center. Staff started doing triage in the parking lot; blood was splattered across the entrance.”
We Should Have Seen Trump Coming

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

 (~20 minutes)


Ta-Nehisi Coates' latest. -30-

How Fake News Turned a Small Town Upside Down
By Caitlin Dickerson

 (~30 minutes)


While Las Vegas mourned its dead, tragedy continued to unfold across the Hurricane-battered Caribbean. Trump visited Puerto Rico, attempted some lame jokes, and threw paper towels. At that moment, I was glad to find these previously unpublished essays on freedom and revolution by the great Hannah Arendt.

The Polar Expedition That Went Berserk
By Blair Braverman

 (~10 minutes)


Tired of all the lies coming out of this administration? Imagine how a fact checker feels. Well, you don't have to imagine. In this lively and interesting piece from last year, the Washington correspondent for Canada's Toronto Star newspaper recounted his efforts to produce a daily tally of "every false claim the Republican presidential candidate has uttered in a speech or interview." Daniel Dale tells us what it's like to be fact-obsessed in the age of Trump:

“What we’re experiencing from Trump is a daily avalanche of wrongness. The essential truth of this election cannot be conveyed with an examination of any one particular chunk of ice. The story is the massive accumulation of nonsense, big stuff and little stuff alike, day after day.”

Read and weep.
The Male Model Who Lost His Hair

By Lauren Larson

 (~30 minutes)


Life changed for model Justin Hopwood after he was diagnosed with alopecia. What do you do when you lose your money-maker? Especially when that money-maker is a perfect head of hair. A fabulous piece by Lauren Larson
Why Do Bobbleheads Usually Look So Terrible?

By Joon Lee

 (~10 minutes)


Even This Data Guru is Creeped Out by What Anonymous Location Data Reveals About Us

By DJ Pangburn 

 (~15 minutes)


Nothing boring about this former sportsman. Introducing Jerry Rice, NFL Hall of Famer, and wedding crasher. An absolutely delightful read.
The History of Sears Predicts Nearly Everything Amazon Is Doing

By Derek Thompson

 (~5 minutes)


Gloria Alfred's Crusade

By Jia Tolentino

 (~40 minutes)


On Twitter, Jia Tolentino introduced this story like this: “Here is my first-ever magazine feature, a profile of the little-known attorney Gloria Allred!”

The Kardashians' Greatest Trick
By Zan Romanoff

 (~30 minutes)


A wide-ranging look inside Kardashian Inc., a big money conglomerate hard-wired to pricey beauty products that they sell (and sell and sell). The ecosystem of brands (some Kardashian-owned, others Kardashian-partnered, and still others Kardashian-endorsed) shows that a lot of people are making big money from their association with the world-famous sisters.
"Super Awesome Sylvia Was a Role Model to Girls in Science. Then He Realized He Was a Boy

By Avi Selk

 (~15 minutes)


Here is the story of the famous female genius named Super Awesome and the rather regular male Zephrus Todd, and how they’re the same person, but not really.
Police Responded to His 911 Call for Help. He died. What happened to Tony Timpa?

By Cary Aspinwall

 (~20 minutes)


Is there a little jar of lavender oil in your house? Tea tree? Can the right oil cure a broken heart? Autism? ADHD? Cancer? A fascinating history of the multi-level marketing empire of essential oils and the dodgy business of ministering to modern anxieties A one-year project by investigative reporter Cary Aspinwall, from a tip she received in August 2016. The tip was simply that a man named Tody had died in mysterious circumstances. But Aspinwall’s piece sets out to answer this question: Did Tony Timpa die at the hands of Dallas police, after he called 911 for help?
The Curses

By John Jeremiah Sullivan

 (~35 minutes)


In part one of a multiple-part essay, John Jeremiah Sullivan explores the history of the “blues.”
How One Syrian Fought to the Death for a Free Internet

By Alice Su

 (~20 minutes)


Basel Khartabil attempted to create an open internet culture in Syria. The government executed him. Then thousands of other Syrians disappeared.





   New York Magazine
The Emperor Miramaximus (2001)

By David Carr

 (~35 minutes) 


My favorite David Carr piece pits him against another macher, Miramax's Harvey Weinstein who the New York Times pilloried this week for his never ending acts of sexual harassment. My favorite line of description: "The neck is inferred, not seen." (See the Times piece by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey here.)

Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.



   The Atlantic
Trans-National America (1916)

By Randolph S. Bourne

 (~35 minutes) 

A 100-year-old defense of a “transnational America."


Who Goes Nazi? (1941)

By Dorothy Thompson

 (~15 minutes) 


How to recognize a fascist part one; by Dorothy Thompson, first published in 1941: “I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis.”


   The New York Review of Books
Ur-Fascism (1995)

By Umberto Eco

 (~25 minutes) 


How to recognize a fascist part two: Umberto Eco weighed in 20 years ago: “…behind a regime and its ideology there is always a way of thinking and feeling, a group of cultural habits, of obscure instincts and unfathomable drives.”


   The Economist
Whataboutism (2008)

 (~5 minutes) 


And, what’s all this about whataboutism? Maybe you’ve caught some of your friends indulging in some old communist tricks.

At First, They Thought It Was Fireworks—But It Wasn't

Pop pop pop pop pop. As bullets rained onto the crowd gathered on the Strip for three days of country music, Travis Phippen’s training kicked in.
The off-duty emergency medical technician crawled from one victim to another, more than a dozen in all. They lay helpless and bleeding among the cowboy hats and plastic beer cups that concertgoers had dropped in panic when the shooting started.
Phippen plugged wounds with clothing. As he worked, a woman next to him was shot in the head.
He crawled to his next patient, a 240-pound man, and rolled him over.
It was his father.


The Impotence of Blaming 'Evil'

“For all its use, 'thoughts and prayers' doesn’t appear to have produced a quantifiable reduction in the rates of gun violence.”

—James Hamblin


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By Jon Pareles

 (~10 minutes)


Tom Petty, a true American original, died last week at the age of 66. "Mr. Petty wrote pithy, hardheaded songs that gave a contemporary clarity to 1960s roots," Pareles writes.


By Mark Mooney

 (~5 minutes)


Beloved reporter/editor Mark Mooney died Friday at the age of 66 of prostate cancer. He wrote his own obit—briefly, bravely and beautifully.

North Korea's Deadly Dictator

By Frontline

 (~55 minutes)


“Who killed Kim Jong-un’s half brother, Kim Jong-nam, and what does the murder reveal about the North Korean leader and his regime?” A spell-binding report that offers a rare inside look into a country where politics “is a blood sport.”


By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
 (~20 minutes)


What can be better than this? The Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie interviews Ta-Nehisi Coates who starts off the conversation by saying, “Be gentle, be gentle." A wonderful discussion between friends about writing, success, truth and, yes, love.


From The New York Times:

Emojis, colorful and playful pictograms that are available on a range of devices, have altered the way humans communicate with one other and have become a powerful force in pop culture, both online and off.


From Tim: 

😀Welcome to Emoji-Land, we hope that🕷 you enjoy😂
😋The symbols and the faces😘 and will with them always toy.
The use of words is fading as these hieroglyphic doodles📣
😎Give us all a break🎂 from using any of our noodles.🤔

😇The Smiley Face triumphant is our flag of victory;󾓦
No need to teach your children ✏any A or B or C!🐕🐒
What🐮 need is there for books when an emoji tells the 🐷tale?
🚰Why bother with discussion when you💠 can text a whale?🌋

We say “I heart New York” 😍and other emoji-centric drivel;😈👽
No wonder our vocabulary now begins to💣💥 shrivel.
🈵🈺㊙Ideograms have conquered Western thought to such extent
That speeches and debates🗽 will soon become a nonevent.🎪⛄ 

Tim Torkildson is a retired circus clown who fiddles with rhyme. All his verses can be found at Tim's Clown Alley.

Theresa May, Coughing and Caught By a Prankster, Endures a Speech To Forget

By Stephen Castle

 (~5 minutes)


Theresa May was having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And then the letters started falling.

Rex Tillerson Says He Remains Fully Committed to Moron's Agenda

By Andy Borowitz

 (~5 minutes)


What would we do without Andy Borowitz?

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers - Letting You Go

Rolling Stone's List of Petty's Greatest Music Videos

And we end with a shout-out to the superb Largehearted Boy, the literature and music website run by the generous and incomparable David Gutowski. Every day, his Daily Downloads offers free downloads and Tuesday, he brought us the gift of Tom Petty.

But love is a long long road
Yeah love is a long long road

Read Later

Founder, Curator: Don Van Natta Jr.
Producer, Curator: Jacob Feldman
Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer
Senior Limerick Editor: Tim Torkildson
Senior Podcast Editor: Jody Avirgan

Header Image: Illustration by Anna Parini

Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Chris Cillizza, Rich Cohen, Pam Colloff, Maureen Dowd, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, Maggie Haberman, Reyhan Harmanci, Virginia Heffernan, Matthew Hiltzik, Jena Janovy, Bomani Jones, Peter Kafka, Mina Kimes, Peter King, Tom Lamont, Chris Lehmann, Glynnis MacNicol, Drew Magary, Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin, Ana Menendez, Kevin Merida, Eric Neel, Joe Nocera, Lizzie O'Leary, Ashley R. Parker, Anne Helen Petersen, Joe Posnanski, S.L. Price, Julia Rubin, Albert Samaha, Bruce Schoenfeld, Joe Sexton, Jacqui Shine, Rachel Sklar, Dan Shanoff, Ben Smith, Matt Sullivan, Wright Thompson, Pablo Torre, Kevin Van Valkenburg, John A. Walsh, and Seth Wickersham

You can read more about our staff, and contact us (we'd love to hear from you!) on our website: Help pick next week's selections by tweeting us your favorite stories with #SundayLR.

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