Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

What Happened to American Childhood? by Kate Julian for The Atlantic 



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

Sunday, April 19, 2020 — Issue #253

EDITORS' NOTE: We've made it to another Sunday in this neverending month. This week was especially painful for the SLR team, as it marks one year since the writing world lost rising star (and SLR contributor) Lyra McKee.

Inspiringly, the writers of the world continue to produce masterful stories—so many this week that we found ourselves with an overflowing list. Monday, we'll share another batch of picks with our SLR members. You can join them, and support us, to get that edition.

Be well,
Don and Jacob

Don's Favorite

   The Lawyer Whose Clients Didn't Exist
By Francesca Mari for The Atlantic
 (~30 minutes)

Theoretically, mass torts seeking damages for thousands of people who can’t afford to sue on their own that are paid for by third parties should help hold corporations accountable. Theoretically.
But in this messy but riveting tale from the bayou, Francesca Mari explains how a powerful plaintiff’s lawyer known for fighting for “the little guy” swept in after the BP oil spill to represent 40,000 hard-hit Gulf Coast seafood-industry workers, most of them Vietnamese.
A $2 billion settlement was landed. There was just one problem...

Jacob's Favorite

   America’s Other Epidemic
By Beth Macy for The Atlantic
 (~25 minutes)

(Yes, another story from The Atlantic, which has shined during the pandemic.)

With this human-centered, moving story from Kentucky, Beth Macy reminds us that, when one crisis emerges, the others don’t disappear. In fact, many are only made worse by the pandemic. But when it comes to the country’s opioid epidemic, encouragingly, there are reasons for hope. Please let Macy introduce you to Nikki King.

Become a Sunday Long Read Member!

SLR Syllabus: The Coronavirus Crisis


   I'm an E.R. Doctor in New York. None of Us Will Ever Be the Same
By Helen Ouyang for The New York Times Magazine
 (~50 minutes)

We’ve already highlighted many heart-wrenching but essential Covid diaries. This one, by an E.R. doctor detailing how the pandemic has overwhelmed our hospitals, is the one to read if you haven’t read any previous diary or if you can bear to read only one more.


   What Was Carnival Thinking?
By Austin Carr and Chris Palmeri for Bloomberg
 (~20 minutes)

A devastating look at Carnival’s slow response to COVID-19, but also the world’s slow response—plus the passengers willing to cruise again.

WIRED: An Oral History of Faith Amid the Pandemic
➢ Politico: Donald Trump's Greatest Escape
➢ The Guardian: 'It will disappear': the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus
➢ Bloomberg: The Covid Test Lab That Could Save America
➢ Nature: Social-media companies must flatten the curve of misinformation
The Ringer: "Everyone Is So Afraid": COVID-19's Impact on the American Restaurant Industry
➢ The Atlantic: The Exquisite Pain of Reading in Quarantine
➢ The Wall Street Journal: Dr. Fauci Was a Basketball Captain. Now He's America's Point Guard [$]
➢ The New York Times: Why Am I Having Weird Dreams Lately?

   How Mitch McConnell Became Trump's Enabler-In-Chief
By Jane Mayer for The New Yorker
 (~55 minutes)

“Give up,” someone close to Mitch McConnell told Jane Mayer when she showed interest in trying to understand the Senate Majority Leader’s larger principles. “You can look and look for something more in him, but it isn’t there. I wish I could tell you that there is some secret thing that he really believes in, but he doesn’t.”
Jane Mayer never gives up. (For more on McConnell’s backstory, we recommend NPR’s Embedded podcast.)

➢ The New York Times: The Foreign Correspondents Explaining America to the World


   The Devastating Decline of a Brilliant Young Coder
By Sandra Upson for WIRED
 (~35 minutes)

More a story about biology than technology, Sandra Upson tells the complex yet haunting story of a Silicon Valley star cut down by a rare neurological disease.

Bloomberg: Zuckerberg's Jealousy Held Back Instagram and Drove Off Founders


   The Woman on the Bridge
By Sarah Weinman for The Cut
 (~20 minutes)

This twisty story starts out as a failed romance and becomes one of fake names, failed spys, and a despised figure fighting for Jewish nationalism.


   What Happened to American Childhood?
By Kate Julian for The Atlantic
 (~45 minutes)

A rigorously reported, deeply personal look at children with anxiety, and how parents can find the tools to help. 

The Atlantic: Millennials Don't Stand a Chance


   The incredible and (mostly) true story of Bruce and Michael Buffer
By Devin Gordon for ESPN
 (~35 minutes)

As ESPN deputy editor Ryan Hockensmith put it on Twitter, this story is “not quite Tiger King... but the story of the Buffer brothers has guns, shocking family secrets, Tom Brady, Donald Trump, a life-changing episode of Friends and a whole lot more.”

espnW: Pulled apart by the coronavirus, together we dance on our own
The New York Times: Whoosh! That Car That Just Soared by Might Be Heading for the Coast


   Why Do We Even Listen to New Music?
By Jeremy D. Larson for Pitchfork
 (~10 minutes)

“The choice to listen to new music prioritizes, if for one listen only, the artist over you,” writes Jeremy D. Larson. You’ll remember this period like you remember your first love. Why not attach music to it? 

Smithsonian Magazine: The Charming Story Of George Harrison's Vacation in Small Town America 


   Zoom-Bombs, Bad Passwords, and a Big Target: Why NFL Draft Season Is Ripe to Be Hacked
By Gary Gramling for Sports Illustrated
 (~20 minutes)

Gary Gramling does everything but guess Dave Gettleman’s password in this fun and informative look at this week’s NFL draft, held completely online for the first (and hopefully last) time. 

 The Wall Street Journal: The 49ers Lost the Super Bowl and May Have Saved Lives [$]


    Neutrinos may help us understand how matter prevailed over antimatter
By John Timmer for Ars Technica
 (~5 minutes)

Want to get your mind off the Coronavirus for a bit? Why not try to understand how the Big Bang didn’t destroy everything? We might have answers soon (as in, like, a decade from now).


    The Sunday Q&A: Allow Fiona Apple to Reintroduce Herself
By Rachel Handler for Vulture
(~35 minutes)

Cue up Fetch the Bolt Cutters and dive in.

➢ Vanity FairPrincess Anne Opens Up About Her Lifetime as a Royal
➢ Vulture79 Comedians to Check Out Based on Ones You Already Like


   The Times Took 19 Days to Report an Accusation Against Biden. Here's Why.
By Ben Smith for The New York Times
 (~10 minutes)

NYT media columnist (and SLR contributing editor) Ben Smith asks his boss, NYT executive editor Dean Baquet, why the Times didn’t immediately write about a sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden. Baquet’s answers have triggered further questions and discussion.

➢ Politico: My Wild, Totally Surreal Experience Covering a Trump Coronavirus Briefing
➢ NPRBloomberg News Killed Investigation, Fired Reporter, Then Sought To Silence His Wife
➢ Deadline: Esteemed THR Lead Film Critic Todd McCarthy Writes About His Abrupt Firing
➢ The Wall Street Journal: The Cure for News Burnout [$]


   The Woman Who Is Remaking AMC
By Sophie Gilbert for The Atlantic
 (~10 minutes)

“As a curator of quality programming, (Sarah) Barnett has the impeccable credentials of being British, having been an art-history major, and having spent the first 12 years of her career working for the BBC in London,” Sophie Gilbert writes. She also orders tequila on the rocks, “explaining that straight alcohol gives her fewer hangovers.” What we’re saying is, we’d binge a Barnett biopic, if she ever runs out of other ideas. 

➢ ProPublica: The Hate Store: Amazon’s Self-Publishing Arm Is a Haven for White Supremacists 
➢ onEarth: As Sea Level Rise Threatens Their Ancestral Village, a Louisiana Tribe Fights to Stay Put

   My Mother Thinks Bill Gates Is Trying to Kill Us All
By Shannon Ashley for Honestly Yours
 (~10 minutes)

Poor Bill Gates. 


   My Body Is Not a Temple
By Soraya Roberts for Longreads
 (~10 minutes)

Back away from the bread starter.

➢ Town & Country: The Shocking and Violent Crime That Rocked Mount Holyoke


   Confederacy in the 'hood
By Deirdre Mask for 1843
 (~20 minutes)

One man’s quest to reform Hollywood, Florida. 

Last Week's Most Read

   The #SundayLR List: What to Stream: 40 of the Best Movies on Netflix Right Now
By Richard Brody for The New Yorker

   Inside the Strip Clubs of Instagram
By Taylor Lorenz for The New York Times

   'The impossible has already happened': what coronavirus can teach us about hope
By Rebecca Solnit for The Guardian


Lede of the Week

   The Woman on the Bridge, by Sarah Weinman

On July 30, 1966, two days before she expected to be married, Estelle Evans received a letter from her lover. She was 22, fairly fresh to New York, sharing an apartment near Columbus Circle with her roommate, Laura (last name withheld for privacy reasons), and trying to earn some kind of coin as a model. Michael was nearly 34 and claimed to be a reporter investigating some secret government operation in war-torn Vietnam.

Quotation of the Week

   The Lawyer Whose Clients Didn’t Exist, by Francesca Mari

 “I didn’t give two shits about the criminal-justice system before this happened, but I am morally outraged by what I’ve learned.”

— Mikal Watts

The Classic Read
from Jack Shafer

   Up and Then Down (2008)
By Nick Paumgarten for The New Yorker
 (~35 minutes)

Everybody's elevator nightmare. Trapped. Nobody hears your screams. Time dilates as there is no watch or phone available to count the seconds, minutes, and hours. You've got to piss, so you piss. You pass the time by inspecting the contents of your wallet, noting the differences between an old $20 bill and a new one. You become delirious from dehydration and imagine quite rationally that you'll never be rescued. This disturbing feature by Nick Paumgarten about Nicholas White's urban nightmare makes your quarantine look like a stroll in a meadow.  


Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

The Sunday Long Pod
from Jody Avirgan

   Every Little Thing: Essential Workers Call In (Apple | Spotify)

There’s been lots of great reporting about the new economic reality (Planet Money comes to mind) but this episode contained the most heart about what it’s like for the part of America that is keeping things running. Funny and sad and informative, it’ll help you understand this moment.

Jody Avirgan is a podcast host and producer. His newest show, is This Day in Esoteric Political History.

The Sunday Surreal
from @jessica_salfia

This poem is called “First lines of emails I’ve received while quarantining.”

The Sunday Still
from Patrick Farrell

The Living and the Dead

Coffins stored in parking garages. Parks turned into morgues. Unclaimed bodies stacked in mass graves. As covid-19 coverage shifts from overwhelmed health systems to the rising death toll, the images have become jarring. Shooting for AP in Spain last week, award-winning, Brazilian-born photojournalist Felipe Dana covered overwhelmed Barcelona funeral homes tasked with the disposal of infected corpses. The saddest statement: Dana’s April 14 photograph of a covid-19 victim, wrapped, sealed and strapped to a gurney, awaiting cremation in a hallway next to a bicycle. Dana’s choice to include the two-wheeled symbol of life and movement next to the anonymous lifeless body on four wheels is a jolting juxtaposition. Set against the backdrop of a blank concrete wall, the photo conveys the stark line between the living and the dead in a country reeling from the world’s highest coronavirus death rate. 

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

Lagavulin Single-Malt Scotch

I tend to like the smoothness of the Scotches from the "Glen" family: Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Glendronach if you can find it. Lagavulin by contrast is super peaty, and I don't like peaty. But I do like Lagavulin. I got a 16-year-old bottle as a gift from my wife for Christmas and even though it smells like gasoline when you splash a pour over ice, Lagavulin finishes well. It doesn't scorch the throat. I had a glass last night for a digital happy hour—which should be its own recommendation—and will have it again tonight when I FaceTime with another friend.  

Here's to good conversations and new whiskeys.

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

Cover photo by Evy Mages

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

The Su♬day Sou♬dtrack
from The Editors

Domestic Scene
By The Radio Dept.

The Sunday Comix
from Alex Segura

   Censorship warped how DC and Marvel dealt with Heaven, Hell, and Jesus
By Alan Kistler for Polygon
 (~10 minutes)

Mainstream comic’s relationship with Heaven and Hell has been, unsurprisingly, convoluted—and dictated by societal trends and controversies. In this neat overview, a comic book historian takes a look at how the medium evolved in terms of its treatment of not only the Almighty, but the dark underworld—including factors like the introduction of the Comics Code Authority (and its many levels of influence), and today’s more freewheeling approach. A fun dose of off-kilter history.

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 @stevebraband

What VERY SPECIFIC thing do you miss about sports the most? Be as specific as possible.

Read the whole thread here

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

   Coronavirus Has Us Doing Chain Letters for Recipes Like It’s the Damn ’90s
By Jaya Saxena for Eater
 (~5 minutes)


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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
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, Steve Caruso, Kyle Chayka, Chris Cillizza, Doug Bock ClarkAnna Katherine Clemmons, Stephanie Clifford, Rich Cohen, Jessica Contrera, Jonathan Coleman, Pam Colloff, Bryan Curtis, Seyward Darby, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Jodi Mailander Farrell, Hadley Freeman, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, Megan Greenwell, Bill Grueskin, Justine Gubar, Maggie Haberman, Reyhan Harmanci, Virginia Heffernan, Matthew Hiltzik, Jena Janovy, Bomani Jones, Chris Jones, Peter Kafka, Jordan Kisner, Paul Kix, Mina Kimes, Peter King, Michael Kruse, Tom Lamont, Edmund Lee, Chris Lehmann, Will Leitch, Steven Levy, 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, Kevin Nguyen, 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: Oliver Munday

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.

Our mailing address is:

The Sunday Long Read
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