EDITORS' NOTE: Happy Sunday! Or something. It's been quite a week, and at the end of it, we hope today's list offers the right mix of camaraderie, perspective, and escapism. If there's one thing we can rely on in these uncertain times, it's that our great writers will rise to the moment, and we've got plenty of proof of that below. In an attempt to strike the right balance, we've included our crop of pandemic-related picks at the top in an edition of our SLR Syllabus. Let us know what you think—do you want more COVID coverage in the SLR, or less? We always love to hear from you, now in this time of social distancing more than ever.
Two more notes: firstly, we're proud to unveil a new header logo today. Many thanks to Ken Yotsukura for the inspiration and the execution. Secondly, we've added a one-time donation option to our Membership Page, for those who have graciously inquired about supporting us that way. Thanks again to all our members for helping to keep our lights on. Nobody knows what the next few days and weeks and months have in store for us, but we're fortunate, as always, to be sharing these moments with you.
With the world on perpetual lock-down—for complete Coronavirus Crisis coverage, see our SLR Syllabus below—I was tempted to pick a piece that might help us forget, even for a moment, the fact that the apocalypse is trending worldwide. Perhaps the Colin Jost high school commute story (linked below) or even our top Last Laugh choice, a pitch-perfect parody of F. Scott Fitzgerald writing a dreary letter as he rides out the Spanish Flu pandemic stocked with all the booze flavors.
But this Mark O’Connell piece, excerpted from his forthcoming book, seemed not only custom-built for the moment but it’s also a helluva read: Trek into the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota and meet the peddlers of the doomsday preparedness space. That’s right—ready-made bunkers and turnkey safe zones, fortified by reinforced concrete and steel, where you can securely ride out the End of the World As We Know It.
Maybe, surveying my options for this week’s top story, this one rose to the top because I read it in the “before” time, and it reminded me of those simpler days. I savored the journey Sabrina Weiss takes the reader on, deep into Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park, where “the trees are alive with sound” and baboons watch from a safe distance.
But re-reading the piece after our lives have been turned inside out (well, more in than out), it resonated in new ways. Weiss came to the park to learn about new efforts to repopulate it with the carnivores who were killed off as the land became a battlefield during the country’s extended civil war. It turns out, there is great power in restoring normalcy after catastrophe—or at least in trying.
This list of stories—science pieces, profiles, business journalism, cultural reporting—exemplifies the work writers have produced while handling an ongoing global health crisis that appears to be intensifying by the hour. And itcouldbemanytimeslonger.
A horrifying essay about hustling through a hyper-competitive academic job market and landing that dream job offer (complete with dreams of a lovely Craftsman bungalow in Ann Arbor) while your life is suddenly attacked by a rival who diabolically weaponizes Title IX through cyber fraud. All this ugliness was endured by Sarah Viren and her wife and yet Viren manages to write beautifully about the torrent of damnable lies.
U.S. Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr dumped nearly $2 million worth of stock while receiving daily briefings that the Coronavirus threat was much worse than publicly known. At the same time, NPR reported that Burr was making public statements about the virus that were considerably less dire than what he was privately telling "well-connected constituents." He's now requesting an ethics investigation. And The Daily Beast discovered that Sen. Kenny Loeffler dumped millions in stock after receiving a similar alarming Coronavirus briefing (here's her response). These stories—and others about briefed senators dumping stock before the stock market tanked—outraged millions of Americans.
We’re guessing there will be plenty more Bernie Sanders think pieces in the coming days, but this one—nearly all-encompassing in its discussion of the man, his ideology, and his place in American politics—will be hard to top.
Colin Jost, the co-host of SNL’s Weekend Update, explains his 90-minute, each-way commute to elite Regis High School, in Manhattan—by land, sea, and underground rocket toilet. This essay is as funny as it is fun.
Sinead O’Connor is 53. It’s been a long time since her life blew up after she ripped up a photograph of the Pope on “SNL.” Now, as SLR contributor Geoff Edgers explains from Ireland, O’Connor just wants to make music.
He was jailed for killing her daughter. Then she feared the police had the wrong man.
Lovesick By Janet Malcolm for The New York Review of Books (~10 minutes)
A group photograph of 17 boys and girls, taken a long time ago, ferries Janet Malcolm back to her 17-year-old self. She begins this beguiling meditation on “the habit of love we form in childhood, the virus of lovesickness that lodges itself within us, for which there is no vaccine. We never rid ourselves of the disease.”
This profile of a man “authentic in his quest for authenticity” is unafraid to start a section by asking “how do you know who you really are?” and intent on tracing people, a company, and a culture over a decade—you should know by now whether it's for you or not.
It was weird that no one had heard from Jake Millison in a few days.
Maybe someone who didn’t know him, an outsider to Gunnison, a small Colorado town on the western slope of the Rockies, might assume he was flaky or unreliable. At 29, Jake still lived with his mom and spent most nights at the local drive bar, the Alamo. But Jake’s friends knew he was deliberate, a creature of routine. If you had plans to go to the movies on Saturday, he’d text you on Wednesday: What time should I pick you up? And then again on Thursday and Friday just to confirm. On a motorcycle trip to California, Jake was the one who brought traps and first-aid kids. He definitely wasn’t the fall-off-the-face-of-the-Earth type.
Nature designed us to live in a toxic, germ- and virus-filled environment. But the design was not perfect, as Richard Preston notes while he gives us a tour of one of the hottest contagions known to science, Ebola.
Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.
Award-winning photojournalist Yunghi Kim went underground to document New York City getting sicker in a three-day series of masterful black-and-white photos published in Rolling Stone on March 17. Her 14 images depict life changing for the millions of New Yorkers who rely on the city’s subway system. The first photo of a man asleep with a surgical mask in an unusually empty car near 34th Street inserts us into the moment, seemingly unaware that a photographer has brought us there. The best documentary-style photos make you wonder, “Where is the photographer? How did she do that?” Kim and her camera are unobtrusive, invisible. She has turned us into eyewitnesses as life swirls around us. Kim, who has covered conflicts and in-depth stories around the world for 34 years, started the “Trailblazers of Light” website earlier this year to recognize the work of pioneering female photojournalists. This photo story demonstrates why she’s made her mark in the field.
Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he worked from 1987 to 2019. He is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Management at the University of Miami School of Communication.
In the week since I've been working from home, it's the one thing this stir-crazy guy looks forward to: Pacing the empty streets, no cell phone in my pocket, alone with my thoughts. I walk for a half-hour some days, an hour if I have the time. A couple of days I've taken two walks. Every one loosens my tense back, which doesn't like how much I'm sitting. (I have a standing desk at work.) A good walk fills me with gratitude for what I have when I might otherwise worry about all I could lose. A good walk opens me to birdsong, the smell of budding spring, the beauty of dusk on a shaded suburban street.
A few walks my wife has come along. We've waved at neighbors, close friends of ours, having dinner. They've waved back and from the look on their faces wished they could have invited us inside. Still, it was good to see them. Necessary even.
I keep my distance when I come across other people out for their walks, and our nods to each other as we pass share how essential this daily stroll has become.
Paul Kix is a best-selling author, an editor, and the host of the podcast, Now That's a Great Story, where novelists, journalists, screenwriters and songwriters talk about their favorite work, the one that reveals their artistic worldview. For insights from writers that go beyond what's covered in the podcast, like the entry above, please sign up for Paul's newsletter.
When thinking about the most successful publishers in comics, would Line Webtoon come to mind?
Well, investigative journalist David Harper posits, maybe they should. The site and app boasts 15 million readers daily and 100 billion views a year in over 60 countries. Truly mind-boggling stats, to be sure. But the company also offers something many publishers can’t or won’t—complete creative freedom and a simple, easy-to-navigate platform that makes reading their comics immediate, uncomplicated, and fun.
Harper does a nice job of giving an overview of not only the company’s business model, but their creative strategy as well—which hinges on the aforementioned freedom and diversity of content. A nice, meaty look at an aspect of comics many people don’t think of immediately—but probably should.
Alex Segura is an acclaimed author, a comic book writer written various comic books, including The Archies, Archie Meets Ramones, and Archie Meets KISS. He is also the co-creator and co-writer of the Lethal Lit podcast from iHeart Radio, which was named one of the Five Best Podcasts of 2018 by The New York Times. By day, Alex is Co-President of Archie Comics. You can find him at www.alexsegura.com.
We can now read the Imperial College report on COVID-19 that led to the extreme measures we've seen in the US this week. Read it; it's terrifying. I'll offer a summary in this thread; please correct me if I've gotten it wrong.
“Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin and lord, if we need it, brandy,” Fitzgerald writes from his dreary Spanish Flu quarantine in this pitch-perfect parody (a note warns the gullible among us—including me—that this is not an actual letter written by Fitzgerald). “Please pray for us.”
Founder, Editor: Don Van Natta Jr. Producer, Editor: Jacob Feldman Producer, Junior Editor: Étienne Lajoie Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer Senior Photo Editor: Patrick Farrell Senior Music Editor: Kelly Dearmore Senior Podcast Editor: Jody Avirgan Senior Editor of Esoterica: Ryan M. Rodenberg Senior Originals Editor: Peter Bailey-Wells Sunday Comics Editor: Alex Segura
Digital Team: Nation Hahn, Nickolaus Hines, Megan McDonell, Alexa Steinberg Podcast Team: Peter Bailey-Wells, Cary Barbor, Julian McKenzie, Jonathan Yales Webmaster: Ana Srikanth Campus Editor: Peter Warren Junior Producers: Joe Levin and Emma Peaslee
Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Nick Aster, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Jonathan Bernstein, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Maria Bustillos, Kyle Chayka, Chris Cillizza, Doug Bock Clark, Anna Katherine Clemmons, Stephanie Clifford,Rich Cohen, Jessica Contrera, Jonathan Coleman, Pam Colloff, Bryan Curtis, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Jodi Mailander Farrell, Hadley Freeman, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, Megan Greenwell, Justine Gubar, Maggie Haberman, Reyhan Harmanci, Virginia Heffernan, Matthew Hiltzik, Jena Janovy, Bomani Jones, Chris Jones, Peter Kafka, Paul Kix, Mina Kimes, Peter King, Michael Kruse, Tom Lamont, Edmund Lee, Chris Lehmann, Will Leitch, Jon Mackenzie, Glynnis MacNicol, Drew Magary, Erik Malinowski, Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin, Jeff Maysh, Jack McCallum, Susan McPherson, Ana Menendez, Kevin Merida, Katherine Miller, Heidi N. Moore, Kim Morgan, Eric Neel, Joe Nocera, Ashley R. Parker, Anne Helen Petersen, Jo Piazza, Elaina Plott, Joe Posnanski, S.L. Price, Jennifer Romolini, Julia Rubin, Albert Samaha, Bob Sassone, Bruce Schoenfeld, Michael Schur, Joe Sexton, Ramona Shelburne, Jacqui Shine, Alexandra Sifferlin, Rachel Sklar, Dan Shanoff, Ben Smith, Adam Sternbergh,Matt Sullivan, Wright Thompson, Pablo Torre, Kevin Van Valkenburg, Nikki Waller, John A. Walsh, Seth Wickersham, Karen Wickre and Dave Zirin.
Contributor in memoriam: Lyra McKee 1990-2019
Header Image: Eduardo Palma
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.