Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

The Untold Stories of Paul McCartney by Chris Heath for GQ



The week's best reads, carefully curated by Don Van Natta Jr. and Jacob Feldman. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

EDITORS’ NOTE: We've got some fun news to share this morning. Look at our new website! We've been working with webmaster extraordinaire Ana Srikanth to rebuild our home on the internet from scratch. We hope you'll find it more streamlined, easier to navigate, and filled with fresher content. To celebrate the launch, we've got a great Original to share as well, which you can read about below. Though we couldn't wait to share the website with you, we're still putting the finishing touches on, so apologies in advice for any messy spots you run into. Please do tell us what you think!

But enough about us. Let's get to one of our most wide-ranging sets of recommendations ever.

Don and Jacob

Don's Favorites

   The Untold Stories of Paul McCartney
By Chris Heath for GQ 
 (~70 minutes)


“I never thought I would be a singer-songwriter,” Paul McCartney says. “Who dreams of that?”

Now 76 (!), McCartney tells Chris Heath why he’s just released another album and discusses long-ago acid trips and a few of the Beatles’ eyebrow-raising sexual escapades. Bonus: 46 footnotes featuring a lot of things you probably know and a few things you probably don’t.


   The Printed Word in Peril [$]
By Will Self for Harper’s
 (~30 minutes)


Next time you’re on a plane or train, walk up the aisle while peeking over the passengers’ shoulders. You’ll see most people—often, everybody—scrolling on their phones and tablets through images on Instagram and Facebook—or binge-watching the latest must-see series. With too few exceptions, everyone is luxuriating in the warm glow of video and the printed word is hard, if not impossible, to spy.

Will Self calls this phenomenon the “tyranny of the virtual.” But rather than condemn its existence, he tries, in this essay, to understand it, maybe even make peace with it. It “is my determination, as a novelist, essayist, and journalist, not to rage against the dying of literature’s light,” Self writes, “but merely to examine the great technological discontinuity of our era, as we pivot from the wave to the particle, the fractal to the fungible, and the mechanical to the computable.”

Jacob's Favorite

   Where in the World Is Larry Page?
By Mark Bergen and Austin Carr for Bloomberg Businessweek
 (~10 minutes)


People are leaving Twitter, deleting Facebook, even boycotting Amazon. But it’s hard to imagine avoiding Google—search and Gmail and Android and Maps and YouTube and … and I think that has helped it avoid scrutiny about its effect on our world. However, questions are starting to mount, which makes it all the more significant when Mark Bergen and Austin Carr find that Larry Page, the company’s co-founder and ‘de facto leader,’ is “more withdrawn than ever,” spending time on his Caribbean island thinking about self-flying vehicles rather than testifying in front of Congress.

SLR Original

   Cuban Players, Human Trafficking, and Major League Baseball
By Eddie Dominguez, with Christian Red and Teri Thompson
 (~10 minutes)


In an excerpt from Baseball Cop: The Dark Side of America's National Pastime, Eddie Dominguez, a former member of MLB's Department of Investigations, shares the inside story of how Cuban players make their way to the United States and into Major League Baseball.

   How Poetry Came to Matter Again
By Jesse Lichtenstein for The Atlantic

 (~25 minutes)

“Poetry readership doubled among 18-to-34-year-olds over the past five years.” Jesse Lichtenstein believes the resurgence—maybe even renaissance—started with the word "I."


   We asked 12 Mass Killers: ‘What Would Have Stopped You?
By Alex Hannaford for British GQ

 (~40 minutes)

British journalist Alex Hannaford, who lives in Texas with his family, wrote letters to 50 American mass killers in an attempt to get inside the minds of those responsible for mass shootings. Twelve wrote back...

Two White Moms. Six Black Kids. One Unthinkable Tragedy. A Look Inside the ‘Perfect’ Hart Family


By Meg McConahey for The Press Democrat
 (~20 minutes)

Living beneath Highway 101 in Santa Rosa, Calif., Steve Singleton and Michelle Last have survived as a homeless couple for nine years. But as they’re both struggling to overcome physical ailments, life on the streets just gets harder. A lyrical story by Meg McConahey, with phenomenal black-and-white photographs by Erik Castro.


   Can Mark Zuckerberg Fix Facebook Before It Breaks Democracy?
By Evan Osnos for The New Yorker 
 (~70 minutes)

All the instincts and impulses that helped Mark Zuckerberg build Facebook—ignore the critics, focus on turbo-charging growth, push the boundaries of privacy—have exacerbated the company’s numerous problems. Now Zuckerberg finds himself at the center of an emotional debate about the moral character of Silicon Valley and its leaders' sense of right and wrong. Does he have what it takes to fix Facebook?


   A Warning from Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come
By Anne Applebaum for The Atlantic
 (~45 minutes)

Europeans are very familiar with all the trendlines in the United States—intensifying polarization, conspiracy theories, attacks on the free press, loyalty obsession. A brilliant essay by Anne Applebaum.

America Is Living James Madison’s Nightmare


    Lady Gaga Opens Up About A Star Is Born, MeToo, and a Decade in Pop
By Jonathan Van Meter for Vogue
 (~20 minutes)


Hanging out with Lady Gaga in Malibu.

The Billion-Dollar Mystery Man and the Wildest Party Vegas Ever Saw [$]


   Finally, A Cure for Insomnia?
By Simon Parkin for The Guardian
 (~25 minutes)


For some, sleep diaries, a steady routine, and some CBT can unlock the key to a good night’s sleep.


   Fidget Spinners, Weighted Blankets and the Rise of Anxiety Consumerism
By Rebecca Jennings for The Goods by Vox
 (~15 minutes)

How and why products designed to calm us down go viral. A story by Rebecca Jennings for the new site, “The Goods,” led by our friend and SLR contributing editor Julia Rubin, at Vox.

“CrossFit is my church” 


   The Suicide Clusters That Threaten Mountain Towns
By Kate Siber for Outside 
 (~20 minutes)


In 2016 and 2017, 32 residents of Durango, Colorado, committed suicide. As Kate Siber, a Durango resident for 13 years, reports, town leaders fought back, committed to finding creative ways to try to reduce a suicide rate three times the national average. What they have already accomplished might help other Rocky Mountain towns erase the grim “suicide belt” label.

Disaster in the Alps


By Doreen St. Felix for The New Yorker
 (~5 minutes)


“As he evolved—and he never stopped evolving,” Doreen St. Felix writes, “he became a bard of post-adolescent rootlessness, comfortable in a tense, liminal space between fear and awe.”

The Magnetic Charm of Mac Miller


   Play Like a Girl
By Britni de la Cretaz for Lenny Letter
 (~25 minutes)


Two all-girls baseball teams talk about the place of girls in the male-dominated sport during the year's most important tournament: the annual Baseball for All (BFA) national tournament in Rockford, Illinois. 


   The Time a Bitter Rival Stole a Manuscript From William H. Gass
By Nick Ripatrazone for Literary Hub
 (~5 minutes)


The moral of this story: Never trust a man named “Edward Drogo Mork.”


   THE SUNDAY ORAL HISTORY: Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs: An Oral History of Frasier
By Marc Freeman for Vanity Fair  
 (~30 minutes)


We’re listening.


   Death on the Dakota Access
By Antonia Juhasz for Pacific Standard
 (~45 minutes)


A riveting investigative study of the occupational hazards of building oil and gas pipelines. Antonia Juhasz relies on analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics embedded in a gripping narrative of the final hours of two men who died building the Dakota Access Pipeline.


   Culture Shock
By Scott Korb for Oxford American
 (~20 minutes)


From Starke, Florida, Scott Korb writes a penetrating essay on his white privilege and the racist history of the state of Florida, where his father was killed by a drunk driver in May 1982, when Korb was just five years old.


   Who Killed Lorenzen Wright?
By Nathan Fenno for the LA Times 
 (~20 minutes)


He was a first-round draft pick in the NBA. Fourteen years later, he was found dead. Who killed Lorenzen Wright? 


   The Age of Primal Rage
By Umair Haque for Eudaimonia & Co.
 (~10 minutes)


“The world appears to be losing its mind, my friends,” writes Umair Haque. 

Last Week's Most Read

   Ten Things I Never Knew About Las Vegas Until I Ran a High-Roller Suite
By Brandon Presser for Bloomberg

   Runs in the Family
By Sarah Spain for ESPN

   Watch What You Say 
By Jonathan Mahler for The New York Times Magazine


Lede of the Week

Sherra Wright guided the silver Cadillac SUV through the darkness on a mild night, seven years after search and rescue dogs found her ex-husband’s body in a Memphis field.


Quotation of the Week

   Can Mark Zuckerberg fix Facebook before it breaks democracy?

“I think Augustus is one of the most fascinating. Basically, through a really harsh approach, he established two hundred years of world peace.”

-Mark Zuckerberg

The SLR Podcast

   Elaina Plott (iTunes)

“It seemed like everyone knew what to think but me.”

Elaina Plott landed not one but two stories in the newsletter last week. The first was a cover story for Pacific Standard about the residents of Tangier Island, Virginia, and their unique relationship with God, Trump, and climate change, which scientists say is likely to wipe their island from the map within the next 25 years. Her second story was a personal reflection on gun violence for The Atlantic, where she is a staff writer. In this week's episode, Elaina and Jacob discuss the details of both stories, the intersections of personal and political discourse, the way Elaina (an Alabaman who went to Yale and works in D.C.) approaches her work, and more.
[1:35]: The Country's First Climate Change Casualties
[18:00]: Bullet in My Arm
[28:20]: A Love Letter to the Upper West Side essay/A Teenage Ann Coulter Fangirl essay
[43:20]: Elaina breaks news on Scott Pruitt

Subscribe today!

The Classic Read
from Jack Shafer

   The Deadly Choices at Memorial (2009)

By Sheri Fink for The New York Times Magazine

 (~65 minutes)

"The smell of death was overpowering the moment a relief worker cracked open one of the hospital chapel’s wooden doors. Inside, more than a dozen bodies lay motionless on low cots and on the ground, shrouded in white sheets. Here, a wisp of gray hair peeked out. There, a knee was flung akimbo. A pallid hand reached across a blue gown." 

Why were more than a dozen patients killed by doctors and nurses at New Orleans' Memorial hospital after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city? Sheri Fink's masterpiece. 

Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

The Sunday Still
from Patrick Farrell


With images of downed trees and flooded streets dominating Hurricane Florence coverage, this photo by Andrew Carter of The News & Observer captured the exhausting anxiety of evacuation – should I stay or should I go? – and the relief of rescue in the expressions of Robert Simmons Jr. and his shoulder-riding kitten, named Survivor. Carter, a multi-tasking reporter for the Raleigh newspaper, wisely framed his subjects off-center. The flooded street is layered in the background for context. At first glance, viewers are drawn to the weary face of Simmons, whose eyes then direct you to his clinging companion and the floodwater beyond the small jon boat.  The accompanying video by visual journalist Travis Long documents the rescue boat’s efforts in New Bern, N.C., but it’s the single world-stopping still image, which went viral, that tugs at hearts and sums up the storm’s emotional and physical impact. 


Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he has worked since 1987. He is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Management at the University of Miami School of Communication.

The Sunday Pod
from Jody Avirgan

   Third Coast: 2018 Winners

Third Coast is the most prestigious audio prize around, and each year they put together a playlist of their winners - everything from short news pieces to long investigative series. CBC, Ear Hustle, The NYT, Reveal… lots of the best shops in radio are represented here. Fire up the playlist, get inspired.

Sunday Pod curator Jody Avirgan is the host of FiveThirtyEight's politics podcast and is heading up the new "30 for 30" podcast documentary series from ESPN.

The Fan Letter
from Jason Parham


One of our favorite new shows this year—OK, it’s our favorite show, slightly edging out “Succession”—is HBO’s “Barry,” a very funny but also deadly serious 30-minutes romp, starring (and co-created by) “Renaissance Man” Bill Hader, formerly of “Saturday Night Live.” The show has a cool Elmore Leonard vibe while teeming with empathy. Don’t just take our word for it. Check out this salute from “Barry” superfan Jason Parham, who writes, “It’s a show that squarely asks: Can a person actually remake himself?”

The Long View
from Justine Gubar

   Mousetrap | This is What It's Really Like to Work for Disneyland
By Armando Aparicio and David Zlutnick (directors), and producer Leighton Woodhouse (producer) for L.A. Taco Docs 


L.A. Tacos Docs presents a haunting look at the life of low paid workers at Disneyland and the battle to rectify this sobering situation.

The Long View curator Justine Gubar is a former Vice President, News Narratives at Fusion and the author of Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan. Reach out to Justine at if you have a suggestion for next week's long view.

The Sunday Cover
from Étienne Lajoie

   How Michael Che and Colin Jost Are Fighting to Get Viewers Back to the Emmys
By Brian Steinberg
Photo by Art Streiber 

Étienne Lajoie, the curator of The Sunday Cover, is a journalist based in Montreal.

The Sunday Esoterica
from Ryan Rodenberg

   The Challenge of Reforming Nutritional Epidemiologic Research


On August 23, 2018, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), published a 'viewpoint' by John Ioannidis entitled "The Challenge of Reforming Nutritional Epidemiologic Research."  Dr. Ioannidis—a researcher at Stanford—found that the field of nutrition research "needs radical reform." In support of his view, the author cites prior studies about the health effects of consuming bacon, eggs, coffee, hazelnuts, and mandarin oranges. ​

Sunday Esoterica curator Ryan Rodenberg works as a professor at Florida State University, where he teaches research methods and sports law.  He writes a lot of academic articles and some mainstream pieces too.

The Sunday Long Play
from Kelly Dearmore

"Singles" Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (iTunes | Spotify)


Thanks to Nirvana's landmark 1991 album, Nevermind, the Grunge-era was in full-on steamroll mode by the time "Singles," directed by former Rolling Stone writer Cameron Crowe, hit theaters on this week in 1992.

Starring Matt Dillon and Bridget Fonda, the Seattle-based, flannel-plastered love story featured cameos by burgeoning alt-rock icons Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and the late leader of Soundgarden, Chris Cornell. But more important than their brief appearances in the film, their signature voices made a powerful impact on the movie's soundtrack. 

Featuring songs from not only Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, this expertly selected collection boasts an emphasis on Seattle-bred talent but doesn't stop there. Gems from new (at the time) acts including Screaming Trees, Smashing Pumpkins and Alice in Chains, mingled with legends Paul Westerberg and Jimi Hendrix make this the rare, dust-resistant time capsule jewel that's aged far better than the soul patch Dillon sported in the movie.

Long Play curator Kelly Dearmore is the Music Critic for the Dallas Morning News. Yes, he's heard your son's demo tape, and he thinks it's fantastic. 

The Su♬day Sou♬dtrack
from The Editors 

Baby, You're a Rich Man
By The Beatles

The Sunday LimeRick
from Tim Torkildson

The Wall Street Journal: "Food manufacturers are combining advances in laser vision with artificial-intelligence software so that automated arms can carry out more-complex tasks, such as slicing chicken cutlets precisely or inspecting toppings on machine-made pizzas. At a sausage factory, more-powerful cameras and quicker processors enable robots to detect the twisted point between two cylindrical wieners fast enough that they can be cut apart at the rate of 200 a minute." 


No robot ever made a meal
that had a lot of taste appeal.
They may be swift and quite precise,
but noshers pay an awful price
when automated butchers reign
and algorithms cook our grain;
'Spaghetti a la Fortran' reeks
of pasta bland served up by geeks.
And when my steak is android grilled
I do not think I'll be too thrilled.
I'm going to the woods to hunt
my venison, to be upfront;
so when I carve a joint or two
I'll know I will not find a screw.

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

The Sund&y Ampers&nd
from Nick Aster

The Sunday Ampersand is chosen by Nick Aster. Nick most recently served as founder of, a leading publication focused on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

The Last Laugh
from The Editors

   A Fuckbonnet For Our Time.

By David Simon for The Audacity of Despair

 (~10 minutes)

Hey, @jack. 

   If the Most Interesting Man in the World Were a Woman

By Kira Jane Buxton for The New Yorker

 (~5 minutes)

“She’s won the Academy Award for best director, in her mind!”

Read Later

Founder, Curator: Don Van Natta Jr.
Producer, Curator: Jacob Feldman
Producer, Curator: Étienne Lajoie
Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer
Senior Long View Editor: Justine Gubar
Senior Photo Editor: Patrick Farrell
Senior Music Editor: Kelly Dearmore
Senior Limerick Editor: Tim Torkildson
Senior Podcast Editor: Jody Avirgan
Senior Editor of Esoterica: Ryan M. Rodenberg

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

Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Nick Aster, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Jonathan Bernstein, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Maria Bustillos, Chris Cillizza, Anna Katherine Clemmons, Rich Cohen, Pam Colloff, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Hadley Freeman, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, 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, Chris Lehmann, Will Leitch, Glynnis MacNicol, Drew Magary, Erik Malinowski, Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin, Ana Menendez, Kevin Merida, Heidi N. Moore, Eric Neel, Joe Nocera, Ashley R. Parker, Anne Helen Petersen, Jo Piazza, Joe Posnanski, S.L. Price, Jennifer Romolini, Julia Rubin, Albert Samaha, Bruce Schoenfeld, Michael Schur, Joe Sexton, Jacqui Shine, Rachel Sklar, Dan Shanoff, Ben Smith, Adam Sternbergh, Matt Sullivan, Wright Thompson, Pablo Torre, Kevin Van Valkenburg, John A. Walsh, Seth Wickersham and Karen Wickre.

Header Image: Collier Schorr

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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