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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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
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.
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?
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.)
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
😀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.
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: SundayLongRead.com. Help pick next week's selections by tweeting us your favorite stories with #SundayLR.