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The Incredibly Happy Life of Larry David, TV’s Favorite Grouch by Brett Martin for GQ



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

Sunday, January 12, 2019

EDITORS' NOTE: Happy Sunday! We don't have much to share this week, that is except for a heaping pile of worth-your-time links. So we'll get right to them after a quick reminder to check out our Twitter and Facebook pages as well as Boston University's Power of Narrative Conference, which we're proud to support once again this year.

Don and Jacob

Don's Favorite

   The Incredibly Happy Life of Larry David, TV’s Favorite Grouch
By Brett Martin for GQ
 (~25 minutes)

Well, this week I guess I could have picked an earnest long read about the Iran crisis, the Australian inferno, the impeachment maelstrom, the lethal insouciance of Boeing or the general despair of planet Earth’s inhabitants. Instead, I chose to happily distract myself by riding shotgun and admiring the view with Larry David, America’s nitpicking kibitzer-in-chief who kicks off the tenth season of his beloved HBO series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” next Sunday, Jan. 19. Brett Martin draws us a revealing Venn diagram of Real Larry and TV Larry while prodding David to open up about “the whole happiness from the inside thing.” 

➢ Peak TV Hits a New Peak, with 532 Scripted Shows

Jacob's Favorite

   How Carlos Ghosn Became the World’s Most Famous Fugitive
By Matthew Campbell, Brian Bremner, Kae Inoue & Ania Nussbaum for Bloomberg
 (~15 minutes)

Escaping Japan for Beirut, Carlos Ghosn also seemed to become one of the world’s most profiled people this week. But Bloomberg’s ace reporting team has been on the story for a while, making their recounting of his maybe-not-so-daring departure a must read.

Become a Sunday Long Read Member!

   A World Without Pain
By Ariel Levy for The New Yorker
 (~25 minutes)

Ariel Levy—by the way, always read Ariel Levy!—calculates the cost-benefit analysis on the ability to sidestep pain and suffering.

➢ The Future of America’s Contest With China


   The Designated Mourner
By Fintan O’Toole for The New York Review of Books
 (~20 minutes)

Another powerful Biden essay—this one looking at his Kennedy obsession, his relationship with death, and his old-school Irish Catholic spirit.

 The Strangeness of Grief
 Around the Country in 17 Hours With Michael Bloomberg


   She Was a Star of New York Real Estate, but Her Life Story Was a Lie
By Julie Satow for The New York Times
 (~15 minutes)

Julie Satow wrote the obituary for larger-than-life New York real estate star Faith Hope Consolo. Then a message came in. (As Katie Rosman of the NYT tweeted, “A fabulist who lived a fabulous life makes a fabulous story.”)


   The female scientist who changed human fertility forever
By Rachel E. Gross for BBC
 (~15 minutes)

The (undertold) story of Miriam Menkin.

 The medications that change who we are


   The Dognapping of the Century
By Olivia Rutigliano for Truly Adventurous
 (~35 minutes)

We were swept up by Olivia Rutigliano’s well-told story of a ring of thieves who steal a poet’s beloved dog. And that’s all we’re going to say. This piece ricochets into all sorts of cool directions that we never saw coming.


   Lived in Bars
By Helena Fitzgerald for Good Beer Hunting
 (~5 minutes)

“Drinking is a social language for New Yorkers,” Helena Fitzgerald writes. “To be rational is to be drinking, and to have a life is to drink. Or that’s how it’s presented, anyway, with a total ubiquity that’s stunning the minute you allow yourself to look straight at it.” This is a beautiful meditation on the impact that giving up booze has on every aspect of one’s life, particularly the really fun ones.


   How New York’s Bagel Union Fought — and Beat — a Mafia Takeover
By Jason Turbow for Grub Street
 (~15 minutes)

Tough guys and deep pockets couldn’t unseat a union’s control over the production of what for a long time was an exotic bread product. But labor had no answer for the advent of preservatives. This might take the prize for most New York story of all time.

➢ Fried Chicken Sandwiches, Join the Dark Side



   Meghan and Harry’s story is quite the drama, but it’s no abdication crisis
By Marina Hyde for The Guardian
 (~10 minutes)

   Why the Queen Must FIRE Their Royal Hustlers
By Piers Morgan for the Daily Mail
 (~10 minutes)

Marina Hyde and Piers Morgan dissect Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s stunning announcement last week that they’ll “step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family.” As Hyde observes, “This feels very middle-management speak.” And Morgan says the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have reached new levels of royal “arrogance, entitlement, greed and wilful disrespect” or, in other words, they’ve lost the plot. Both cheeky takes have a laugh at practically everyone’s expense (except the Queen who was reportedly gob-smacked by the news). And, obviously, we all can’t wait for this episode in season six of “The Crown.”


   Did Twitter Help Stop War With Iran?
By Garrett M. Graff for WIRED
 (~5 minutes)

Diplomacy in the age of DMs.


   The Remembrance: Elizabeth Wurtzel and the Illusion of Gen-X Success
By Ginia Bellafante for The New York Times
 (~5 minutes)

The arrival in 1994 of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s memoir Prozac Nation seemed to signal a limitless future for young creatives. It was actually the beginning of the end. Wurtzel died last week at the age of 52. Also worth your time: ‘I Believe in Love’: Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Final Year, In Her Own Words. And we love her 2013 essay, “Elizabeth Wurtzel Confronts Her One-Night Stand of a Life.”


   Who Really Killed Jimmy Hoffa?
By Errol Morris for Air Mail
 (~15 minutes)

This one—from late December, published by Graydon Carter’s weekly globe-trotting newsletter—is weird, part Q&A, part conspiracy theory, heavily featuring a frozen salmon. Whether or not you made it through The Irishman, it’s worth a read.


   The Year in Pivoting to Video
By David Roth for Hazlitt
 (~10 minutes)

There’s only so much you can control at any job, writes David Roth in another piece from late December (by the way, Roth is so damn good, every damn time, that it’s just sort of aggravating). The limited job-control thing especially applies to the chore of making online videos. “Doing the videos seemed, then as now, more or less the same as not doing them.”


   How Dog Parks Took Over the Urban Landscape
By Alissa Greenberg for Smithsonian Magazine
 (~10 minutes)

Created in the 1960s in Berkeley, Calif., the pet playground has embedded itself in urban America as an invaluable stomping ground and social center. In the dog park where it all began, millennials use strollers to roll in their sweater-clad doggos in style.


   When the Party’s Over: Washington’s Premier Social Connector Fades From View [$]
By Brody Mullins for The Wall Street Journal
 (~10 minutes)

The fall of DC’s top social connector Jim Courtovich, whose extravagant parties attracted influential guests.


   What Traveling With an Anxious Child Has Taught Me
By Ann Shields for AFAR
 (~10 minutes)

Travel editor Ann Shields’ smart, useful guidebook on how to travel with a child who is diagnosed with anxiety.

➢ How ‘dark patterns’ influence travel bookings


   Aaron Paul Is Finally Breaking Big
By Amy Spencer for Men’s Journal 
 (~15 minutes)

Fans of the very-chill Aaron Paul (and “Breaking Bad”) will find much to cheer about in Amy Spencer’s profile.

John Mulaney Is Not So Square


   How the Texas Legislature saved billionaire John Paul DeJoria $123 million
By Emma Platoff for The Texas Tribune
 (~20 minutes)

Another fine piece we had overlooked over the holidays break: Texas billionaire John Paul DeJoria tried to get a Federal court judge to throw out a mammoth judgment won against him in Morocco. Ah, but the law went against him so... what’s a billionaire to do? Get your pals in the Texas legislature to change the law.


   Can Artificial Intelligence Help Us Understand Racial Bias in Sports?
By C. Brandon Ogbunu for The Undefeated
 (~10 minutes)

Using artificial intelligence and “big data” analytics, computer scientists were able to demonstrate bias in how sports commentators discuss athletes.

➢ Deep Water: Death of Olympic hopeful Jack Hatton still bewilders friends


   Who was I in college?
By Wright Thompson for Mizzou News
 (~10 minutes)

Sunday Long Read contributing editor Wright Thompson reminisces about his college days during a visit to the University of Missouri. 

"Sometimes it feels like we spend 45 percent of our lives trying to be something, 10 percent of our lives being it and 45 percent having been it."

Last Week's Most Read

   The War Vet, the Dating Site, and the Phone Call From Hell
By Vince Beiser for WIRED

   I asked my students to turn in their cell phones and write about living without them
By Ron Srigley for MIT Technology Review

   Don’t Marry the Nice Guy
By Emily Kingsley for Medium 


Lede of the Week

   A World Without Pain, by Ariel Levy

We like to think that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, or more resilient, or… something. Deeper. Wiser. Enlarged. There is “glory in our sufferings,” the Bible promises. “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” In this equation, no pain is too great to be good. “The darker the night, the brighter the stars,” Dostoyevsky wrote. “The deeper the grief, the closer is God!” We atheists get in on the action by insisting that the agony of loss elucidates the worth of love. The hours spent staring into the dark, looping around our own personal grand prix of anxieties, are not a waste of time but a fundamental expression of our humanity. And so on. To be a person is to suffer.


Quotation of the Week

   The female scientist who changed human fertility forever, by Rachel E. Gross

“I must admit that my success, after nearly six years of failure, was due – not to a stroke of genius – but simply to cat-napping on the job!"

Miriam Menkin

The Classic Read
from Jack Shafer

   Who Is David Byrne? What Is David Byrne? Does David Byrne Matter? Yes. (1986)
By James Kaplan for Esquire
 (~35 minutes)

Some feature writers have the human decency to write a paragraph that your lazy Classic Read curator can instantly repurpose as an appetizer for the piece itself. James Kaplan is such a writer and here is the paragraph that teases and sells his delightful profile of David Byrne, vintage 1986, as he prepares to film his movie True Stories

"There was something strange, too, about his carriage: he seemed simultaneously loose and stiff. When he leaned over to get a closer look at something I was writing, he bent from the waist, his neck rigid, like a curious bird. The conversation, also, felt jerky, fractionated. There were long silences. He laughed from time to time, crooked-toothed, but it was as if something were being wrenched from him. Yet I did manage to find out something interesting that night: he had been born in Scotland. It seemed along the way toward explaining something. In a way, he really was alien Old World: courteous, watchful, removed. "

Thank you, Mr. Kaplan, great doing business with you.


Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

The Long View
from The Editors

   Dave Chapelle: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize

“It’s very rare that you get to get together with everybody—and nothing’s wrong,” Dave Chapelle muses in his limo taking him to the Kennedy Center to receive the 22nd Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Featuring very funny tributes from a star-studded group of comedians/pals (including Sarah Silverman and Jon Stewart), this is a wonderful 90-minute tribute to America’s best (by far) stand-up comedian. And Chappelle’s acceptance speech is perfection.

The Sunday Still
from Patrick Farrell

A Winter's Day

As parts of the country braced for severe storms, life in South Florida was as balmy as ever on Jan. 9, when Miami Beach-based freelance photographer Scott McIntyre took a break from shooting for The New York Times, ESPN and The New Yorker and posted this storytelling image on his Instagram account. One of the most challenging assignments as a photojournalist is the “CLO,” a Cutline Only photograph that conveys a story in a single glance. McIntyre nails it. Talk about layering. The foreground of young men exploring the rocks is plenty to occupy your eye, but then there’s the man walking obliviously along the top where the rocks bisect the frame and the action on the beach, which is bisected again by the ocean waves then the cloudy, multi-colored sky. Wow. So many horizons and so many infinite scenes to examine. What a slice-of-life. What a winter’s day.

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.

The Kix Picks
from Paul Kix



I watched the movie a few days before the Golden Globes and while Renée Zellweger deserved the award for best actress—she'll probably win the Oscar, too—I loved the film's story. It observes Judy Garland across six months of her life, when she's broke, tired of her addiction to pills, at a remove from her kids and singing in a London night club because she needs the money. The story weaves in the pain of Garland's failed marriages and the cynicism that arises from the entertainment industry's promises. Mostly the movie's about ambition. Garland's striving for an ever-larger audience has left her isolated, surrounding by strangers who adore but don't love her while she is a literal ocean away from the only people she loves: her children. The Judy Garland of the film, like the Garland of real life, is tragic, and it is the story's tight focus that makes the melancholy film something close to perfect.

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.

The Sunday Cover
from Étienne Lajoie

   The New Yorker
Cover illustration by Pascal Campion

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

The Sunday Esoterica
from Ryan Rodenberg

   “Dirty” Relationships – An Argument for Criminalizing Improper Corporate Influence in Academic Research

In a recent 26-page academic article, author Michael Dohn "argues in favor of subjecting certain corporate influence of academic research to criminal liability."  Using a recent EPA-related issue as a case study, Dohn posits that "harm to public health and safety should be required for criminal liability to attach."

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 Su♬day Sou♬dtrack
from The Editors

Can You Tell
By Ra Ra Riot

The Sunday Comix
from Alex Segura

   How Batman’s grief helped me with my own
By Mike Avila for SYFY Wire
 (~5 minutes)

I should preface this with a brief personal note—Mike Avila is a friend. We both grew up in Miami and both spent the better part of the last 15 years working in comics and entertainment. We bonded early over a shared background and have been good pals since. This is a tough blurb to write, though not nearly as hard as it was for Mike to craft the original story.

Just a little before Christmas last year, Mike learned that his mother was hit by a car and died. He was in complete shock, understandably. It’s the kind of sudden tragedy we never recover from. Mike turned to the place he’d always found solace and humanity—comics. Particularly, the current run on DC’s Batman series, which features the Dark Knight Detective dealing with his own major loss. I won’t spoil it here. Mike discusses how reading the story—written by Tom King, with art by Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire—helped him through those initial stages of shock and grief. It’s a heartfelt and intensely personal story that’s well worth your time - and drives to the heart of why so many of us have made reading comics a lifelong passion.

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

The Sunday Long Thread
from @michaelharriot

"When @realDonaldTrump says 'Make America Great Again' a lot of people wonder what he's talking about. But using my detective skills and looking through history, I believe I've finally narrowed down the exact day Donald Trump thinks America was 'great.'"...

Read the whole thread here

The Sund&y Ampers&nd
from The Editors
The Last Laugh
from The Editors

   Brad Pitt, Leave Us In Peace
By Staff for The Cut
 (~5 minutes)

W magazine just dropped a five-minute video of Brad Pitt discussing his first kiss, early crushes, ’80s dance moves, and some other fluff. The clip triggered all sorts of emotions and confessions from the staff of The Cut.

   People are seeing ‘Cats’ while high out of their minds. These are their stories.
By Maura Judkis for The Washington Post
 (~5 minutes)

Forget hate-watching “Cats.” Try high-watching “Cats.”

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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


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, Doug Bock ClarkAnna 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, Heidi N. Moore, Kim Morgan, Eric Neel, Joe Nocera, Ashley R. Parker, Anne Helen Petersen, Jo Piazza, 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: Jason Nocito

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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