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Jack Shafer's Classic Read of the Week: Hearst, The Man of Mystery (1906). (The American Magazine)

The very best long reads of the week
Chosen by Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) and Jacob Feldman (@JacobFeldman4)


My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward
Pacific Standard
Mark Lukach

The finest stories lure readers into a world they likely won’t forget. You likely won’t forget this beautifully written, personal essay by Mark Lukach about his young wife's plunge into depression and psychosis and how, through the combined power of will and love, they are trying, together, to persevere. Many sentences rocked me, but none more than the last one.

No. 2Trial by Ebola: Dallas' Heroic Response to the Health Crisis
Vanity Fair
Bryan Burrough

Bryan Burrough always writes the definitive story (or book) about whatever subject piques his interest. This is a detail-rich, tick-tock account of how a group of Dallas public officials heroically navigated a major – and potentially disastrous – public health crisis despite having no training on how to deal with Ebola.

No. 3: Hotter Than Lava
Pro Publica

Julia Angwin and Abbie Nehring

If the opening example of a couple woken up by a bomb in their bedroom does not grab you, wait until you hear about the baby that had a hole blown in his chest and will require reconstructive surgeries every two years for the next 20 after a flashbang was used during a SWAT raid on his home.

No. 4: My Nurses Are Dead, and I Don't Know If I'm Already Infected

Joshua Hammer

Our second Ebola-related piece this week, this story looks at the crisis from another angle -- how it forced families apart and ultimately took the life of a doctor dedicated to fighting the virus. The scenes in which Dr. Khan contracts the disease and later is denied experimental treatment are as devastating as any I've encountered in any medium recently.

No. 5: We Know How You Feel
New Yorker

Raffi Khatchadourian

Raffi Khatchadourian tells about the marvel of face-reading technology and its many uses for – surprise! – mammoth profits for big corporations.

No. 6: Cicada: Solving the Web's Deepest Mystery
Rolling Stone

David Kushner

I dare you to read David Kushner’s first four paragraphs -- about a skinny, bespectacled 15-year-old named Marcus -- and try to stop reading. Impossible.

No. 7: The Man Behind the Swag
Sports Illustrated

Lee Jenkins

Lee Jenkins has written over 100 features for Sports Illustrated and more for The New York Times before that, but I'm not sure he has ever covered someone as eccentric as Nick "Swaggy P" Young (Young has two "shoe keepers" for his 500 pairs of sneakers, for context).

No. 8: How to Succeed in Television: The Rise & Rise of ABC's Ben Sherwood
New York Magazine

Andrew Goldman

A fascinating portrait of Ben Sherwood’s unorthodox, meteoric rise at ABC.

No. 9: The Inside Info That Could Have Stopped 9/11

Jeff Stein

At The New York Times, I covered counter-terrorism for years and now rarely find myself drawn to stories about what the authorities could have or should have done to stop 9/11. Been there, done that. But I learned so much from Jeff Stein’s rigorously reported and wonderfully told piece.

No. 10: The Definition of a Dictionary

Stefan Fatsis

I met Stefan in the summer of 1985 when we were both interns at The Miami Herald. Damn, was that 30 years ago? Since then, Stefan has astonished me with his smarts, great reporting chops and authoritative, irresistible writing style on a wide array of cool subjects. His latest big piece, about whether it’s even worth reinventing the trusty old dictionary for the digital age, is fantastic.

No. 11: This is What Happens When We Lock Children in Solitary Confinement
Mother Jones

Dana Liebelson

Juvenile punishment is a complicated issue involving few easy decisions, but Dana Liebelson explains why solitary confinement might often be the wrong choice. The young writer employs both chilling human stories and clearly explained expert research to state her case.

No. 12: Motley Crew: The Incredible Story of the Dirty Dozen Rowing Club
Fox Sports

Erik Malinowski

Back in 1983, these guys from Oakland, California, set out to form a world-class rowing squad, qualify for the Summer Olympics and bring home the gold. Here’s the problem: None of these guys knew how to row. A fantastic piece by Erik Malinowski.

No. 13: How Lego Became the Apple of Toys
Fast Company

Jonathan Ringen

Jonathan Ringen shows how Lego has made every right move in the last decade to become a juggernaut that can be legitimately compared to Apple (and, by the way, Lego deserved to have its namesake film nominated for an Oscar—a travesty of justice).

No. 14: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
Mark Manson's Blog

Mark Manson

With that title, how can you resist? Trust me: You won’t regret it.


Hearst, The Man of Mystery (1906)

The American Magazine
Lincoln Steffens

In 1906, two journalistic titans squared off in the pages of The American Magazine. Lincoln Steffens, the celebrated progressive muckraker, had been assigned by the magazine to profile yellow-journalism pioneer William Randolph Hearst, the Rupert Murdoch of his age. (Hearst preferred the adjective "striking" to "yellow" and “sensationalist” to describe his brand of journalism.) Press-shy and reserved, Hearst granted a series of extended interviews to Steffens in hopes that the publicity would advance his presidential ambitions. He must obviously have assumed that Steffens would cut him up, which he does. But Steffens also gives the press baron his due, announcing that he will clear his mind "of all predispositions, then go to all the enemies and friends of [his] subject." 

This profile reads as contemporary as anything you might consume in today's New York Times Magazine or Esquire. There may be earlier examples of the political profile, but I’ll bet there are few better. Steffens jousts and jousts again, Hearst rope-a-dopes, and both men are revealed. Here's the piece's nut graf, capturing Hearst in miniature, commanding you to read on.

"Mr. Hearst does not want to win you. He is not in the least magnetic or kind; he is generous, yes, but with his money and power, not with interest, confidences or affection. And he is most loyal to his own; but there is no warmth. And the reason there is no warmth seems to be that there is no sense of need of friends. Mr. Hearst is not only a silent, he is a lonely soul. ... Soft-voiced, slow-minded, lenient morally, about details and cold-tempered—this man has a will. His very ability seems to be that of will, rather than of mind."
As a Google Books document, this piece is best read on a tablet or big monitor. I invite you to read it twice.

IT WAS JUST BEFORE DAWN when 18 police officers poured out of an armored truck and an unmarked white van at the Laurel Park apartment complex on the outskirts of Atlanta. A few days earlier, a confidential informant reported seeing “a brown skinned black male” with “a small quantity of a green leafy substance.” The 22-year-old suspect, paroled for forging a check, lived in a small ground floor apartment with easy access. But the police didn’t plan on taking any chances.

Jason Ward and his high-school sweetheart Treneshia Dukes were asleep, naked, in the apartment when an explosion went off and their bedroom window shattered. Ward leapt up toward the broken glass. Dukes started running. In the dark, she crashed into a closet door before stumbling into the bathroom and balling up in the tub. “I just started crying and I’m praying like, ‘I’m not going to die like this, this is not how I want to die,’” she later testified. Seconds later, a man wearing a mask stormed the bathroom and held a gun to her face, instructing her to lie on the floor. “If you move I’m going to blow your fucking brains out,’” Dukes recalled him saying. It was then she noticed skin hanging off her arm and blistering patches of pink flesh on her brown legs.

Hotter Than Lava by Julia Angwin and Abbie Nehring.

“I'm not even like that, for real. I'm a good person. That place mentally messed me up.... I thought I was going to end up killing somebody or something.”

-Kenny on the effects of solitary confinement, in This is What Happens When We Lock Children in Solitary Confinement by Dana Liebelson
The top Sunday long reads are selected with care by ESPN Senior Writer and NYT bestselling author Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) and Jacob Feldman (@JacobFeldman4), a senior at Harvard College.

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