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Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

The Extinction of the Middle Child by Adam Sternbergh for The Cut.

 

The week's best reads, carefully curated by Don Van Natta Jr. and Jacob Feldman. This week's guest editor is Jo Piazza.

 

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      Brighten Our Sunday!

   SUNDAY — July 22, 2018   

EDITORS’ NOTE: Happy Sunday! Our guest editor this week, Jo Piazza, is a bestselling author and longtime journalist who has covered everything from the Kardashians to Catholic nuns, politics to luxury travel. She’s written eight critically acclaimed books, both fiction and non-fiction. Her latest novel, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, comes out on Tuesday. It’s a searing portrait of what it really takes for a woman to run for political office in America today.

She also just dipped her toe into the podcasting world with the narrative storytelling podcast Committed from How Stuff Works that explores intimate stories of love and marriage.

Jo cut her teeth as an intern at the New York Times followed by a stint as a gossip columnist for the New York Daily News. She might be the only journalist out there who covered Britney Spears’ nervous breakdown and the Iowa caucus in the same year. To recover from celebrity reporting, Jo got a masters in religious studies from NYU and wrote a book about how nuns really should be running the world.

 


"BROOCH WARFARE" is something I would have written into a satirical political novel two years ago. I would have written it and my discerning editor at Simon and Shuster would have told me it was too silly, too unbelievable and I would have taken it out.

Of course brooch warfare is this week’s reality. Life has surpassed satire.

I wasn’t planning to write a novel in 2016. I’d published two books earlier in the year and I was pregnant and burnt out and needed a break. But, as I watched how the media covered women candidates (and not just THE woman candidate, but all women candidates) during the 2016 election, I felt compelled.

And so I started writing Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, a novel about a female tech executive and mother of three who quits her high-powered job to run for Senate in Pennsylvania, a state that in real life has never elected a woman to the Senate. And in the beginning the book was a satire. My past two novels had been satirical takedowns of digital media and the unnerving world of personal fitness and wellness. Satire was a comfortable place for me. It allowed the space for social commentary, but it also provided humor and a certain lightness.

But as the world violently shifted under our feet, what was once satire had become reality and I was challenged as a writer to work harder, to write smarter, to throw away my satirical crutches in order to craft something more incisive and penetrating. I want to start an authentic conversation about what it actually takes for a woman to run for office in America in 2018.

The heroine of this novel was a female candidate, but she was so much more. She was a mother, a daughter, a friend, a wife, an executive. She was brilliant and ambitious, but also flawed. Some days she felt like a failure. Some days she felt like a savior. She thought she could fix what was broken in America moments after feeling like a fraud.

She needed to be so much more than the two dimensional female candidates portrayed in the press and pop culture.

I ripped pages to shreds on a daily basis, desperate to stay afloat in a news cycle that was more like a deranged spin cycle.

I turned in the first draft of my novel as I was going into labor, bouncing up and down on one of those half-deflated yoga balls. A few days post-partum I started writing again and re-writing. I mention these baby details because women writers get asked about their baby details all the time, the same way women candidates get asked about how their children are being taken care of while they’re on the campaign trail. No one ever asks male writers or male candidates these kinds of questions and the only way to combat them is to be totally honest about the fact that women just get it done. This is our normal. It’s not even that interesting.

Popular commercial fiction, television and movies have all failed women. They’ve failed to create enough strong, ambitious and likable female characters, the kinds of women who do lead. Hollywood and publishing haven’t given us the kinds of women role models that tell the electorate they can and should elect a woman, that women are qualified.

Crafting this list isn’t easy. There’s so much insightful and provocative reporting and writing out there, but this is also the first time in a long time that I allowed myself to swim in the swamp of branded editorial spam and clickbait sludge to get to the good stuff. How many different hot takes on brooch warfare do we need? How many videos speculating whether Melania is making a funny face or whether she went “twinsies” with Finland’s first lady can we watch?

We are still living a satire and the only antidote is good journalism. Last week The New York Times launched their series on #CampaigningWhileFemale with a brilliant story from Kate Zernike. It’s a good start.

JO'S FAVORITE READ:
 

   motherjones.com
Inside the Radical, Uncomfortable Movement to Reform White Supremacists
By Wes Enzinna 
 (~35 minutes)

 

The number of extremists seeking rehabilitation is increasing. They want out. But how do you rehabilitate someone schooled in white supremacy since the age of five? Can you reeducate a person who, when asked if they would kill a black baby, responds with “I don’t believe they have souls anyway. It’d be like killing a dog?”

This story explains extremism as a form of addiction, exploring the idea that a “cure” could be closer to a 12-step program than simple therapy. It’s nuanced in its examination of the cocktail of experiences that lead to extremism. It’s easy to hate these purveyors of hate and so much harder to try to understand where they’re coming from.

Sidebar: You Can’t Understand White Supremacists Without Looking at Masculinity

   nytimes.com
She Gave Millions to Artists Without Credit. Until Now.
By Robin Pogrebin
 (~5 minutes)

 

For more than two decades, Susan Unterberg wanted to remain anonymous, even as she gifted more than $5 million to women artists over the age of 40. She called her grant program Anonymous Was a Woman, “in reference to a line in Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own,’ to pay tribute to female artists in history who signed their paintings ‘Anonymous’ so that their work would be taken seriously.” Unterberg, now 77, is coming forward because she finally thinks it is time for women to speak up.
 


 

   espn.com
Dead Man Walking
By Tisha Thompson and Kevin Shaw

 (~25 minutes)


"At the bottom of the freshly dug grave lay a man in his late 40s with what appeared to be blood running from a gunshot wound to his right temple. More blood trailed from his nose. The man, clad in nothing but his underwear, had his arms pulled beneath his back as though he'd been bound.”

But Ramon Sosa was still alive. The boxing trainer had been marked for death by his wife and survived in this harrowing tale ripe for a cinematic adaptation. 

 
 

   thecut.com
The Extinction of the Middle Child
By Adam Sternbergh 

 (~25 minutes)

Families are having fewer children and that means the middle child is facing extinction. Why should we care? Does the personality type born of being neither the oldest or the youngest in the sibling pecking order actually help build harmony in society? Adam Sternbergh examines his own middleness alongside the psychology and anthropology and even the pop culture of the middle child to try to figure out if it will matter if the middle child disappears forever. 

 
 

   theverge.com
How a Cabal of Romance Writers Cashed in on Kindle Unlimited
By Sarah Jeong
 (~30 minutes)

In a world where authors struggle daily to cut through the noise, where fewer and fewer self-described readers seem to be reading actual books, self-published romance authors can make a killing. In fact, traditional publishers could learn a thing or two from the tactics used in the Amazon Kindle Unlimited world when it comes to courting readers and hitting bestseller lists. 

 
 

   nytimes.com
George Soros Bet Big on Liberal Democracy. Now He Fears He’s Losing
By Michael Steinberger
 (~45 minutes)

According to large chunks of right-leaning America, there is but one mastermind behind pretty much all leftist evil today, and it's not Hillary Clinton. It's hedge fund billionaire George Soros. The Hungarian-American philanthropist has indeed set out to change the world, but not in the way the average American probably thinks. His anti-Communist projects have had a profound, but possibly fleeting influence in eastern Europe. Now he takes some time to reflect on past accomplishments and an increasing wariness about the future.

 
 

   gq.com
Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott on Love, Making It Work, and the Kardashian Curse
By Mark Anthony Green
 (~15 minutes)

 

As a one-time gossip columnist and author of a book on how celebrities make money, I believe in the Kardashian Curse. I also may have helped to coin or perpetuate that turn of phrase. My time in the tabloids is still a blur. Mark Anthony Green takes us inside a relationship that feels so far from normal it makes Kim and Kanye seem domestic.

Come for the cultural commentary on how these two are truly masters of influence and stay for the delicious details like the comparison of the couple’s bags, one “a roller bag full of luscious hair extensions that need meticulous untangling,” and the other a “bag of what smells like some of California's loudest weed.”

 
 

   elle.com
You Can Get in Anthony Scaramucci's Exclusive Social Club—If You Have $67,000 and "a Story to Tell"
By Rose Minutaglio 
 (~10 minutes)

 

Minutaglio goes behind the gilded doors of the kind of elite social club where one member once sold the original Batmobile to another member. It’s a place where members put down other elite social clubs as amateurs, referring to places like Soho House as “kids' playpens.” The place is an exercise in paradox. Core hosts breakfasts on female empowerment, even as Anthony Scaramucci sips a green juice in the next room.
 
What makes this story particularly interesting is the power couple behind The Core Club, two women who have been “married since 2011 and legally changed their last name to Enterprise because it sounded cool.”

 
 

   newyorker.com
My Great-Grandfather the Nigerian Slave Trader
By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
 (~15 minutes)

 

“ ‘He was a renowned trader,’ my father told me proudly. ‘He dealt in palm produce and human beings.’ Between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, nearly one and a half million Igbo slaves were sent across the Atlantic.” The author grapples with her father’s pride for his ancestors and the legacy that slavery has left in Nigeria.

 


   vice.com
The Insane Saga of the Fake Saudi Prince Who Scammed Miami's Rich and Famous
By Francisco Alvarado 
 (~5 minutes)


In this XY chromosome version of the Anna Delvey story, Anthony Gignac managed to con the upper crust of South Florida into believing he was a Saudi Prince. Gignac’s Ferrari even had fake diplomatic plates. His home had the nameplate "Sultan" on the door. But even more intriguing than Gignac’s case are theories on why Miami Beach is so susceptible to these kinds of swindlers. Are the city’s denizens so desperate to attach themselves to someone who seems rich and glittery that they’ll throw money away without any due diligence?

 
 

   theguardian.com
‘My brain feels like it’s been punched’: the intolerable rise of perfectionism
By Paula Cocozza
 (~10 minutes)

 

“My brain feels like it’s been punched” is one of the best descriptions I’ve heard to describe what striving in 2018 feels like. But is perfectionism a mental health issue, a personality trait or something else entirely, and what are the consequences of its fast rise?

 
 

   buzzfeednews.com
Alt-Right Troll To Father Killer: The Unraveling Of Lane Davis
By Joseph Bernstein
 (~30 minutes)

 

Long before Joseph Bernstein wrote this story, Lane Davis was one of his sources in the alt-right movement. This gives Bernstein a unique perspective on Davis’s rise in the alt-right movement and his eventual murder of his father. As the culture wars continue to move offline with devastating consequences, Davis’ radicalization paints a picture of a lost man desperate for a purpose and a place in the world.

 
 

   espn.com/espnw
Aly Raisman Takes the Floor
By Mina Kimes
 (~10 minutes)

 

Olympian Aly Raisman never expected to become an activist. But after the sexual abuse conviction of her team doctor Larry Nassar put her in the spotlight, it’s a role Raisman is comfortable taking as long as it means she can try to shift the way that our society perceives women. The sentencing of Nassar was just the beginning for Raisman. This is her journey from athlete to activist.

  
 

   citylab.com
How Cars Divide America
By Richard Florida
 (~5 minutes)

 

CityLab takes a look at the side effects of a country built around the automobile. With 40,000 Americans dying annually behind the wheel, incalculable productivity lost in traffic, and a curiously close connection with our social divides, the car may not be to blame for all our woes, but car dependency is certainly not helping.

 
 

   economichardship.org
Sisters in Arms
By Barbara Ehrenreich

 (~10 minutes)

 

The #MeToo movement has largely ignored the stories of harassment of the working poor—farmworkers, house cleaners, domestic workers, the very people who need their jobs the most and also have no one to protect them. Pulling stories from Bernice Yeung’s new book In a Day’s Work, this piece highlights some of the dark corners of our society that flashy Hollywood-style feminism still ignores.

 


   variety.com
Stephen Curry Takes a Shot at a New Game
By Andrew Wallenstein
 (~10 minutes)

 

Another one of the best and most beloved basketball players in the world is getting into a new game—Hollywood. Steph Curry talks to Andrew Wallenstein about his plans to focus on family and faith-friendly fare for television and movies and ultimately video games and virtual reality. “I don’t mind being called corny,” Curry says. “I’m comfortable with who I am.”

Sidebar:  Tamed Fury: How Kirk Gibson Learned to Quell His Volcanic Ferocity After Years of Rage

 


   politico.com/magazine
How the Supreme Court Popularity Contest Got Out of Control 
By Neil A. Lewis 
 (~5 minutes)

 

Does it matter if Americans find a Supreme Court Justice likable? The journey to the court now has the sheen of a popularity contest meets reality television show and this is how it happened. Lewis takes us from Stephen Breyer claiming he was once a ditch digger to Brett Kavanaugh serving meals to the homeless and coaching Catholic Youth basketball teams and bragging about it to anyone who will listen. 

 


   nytimes.com
Leaving New York to Find an American Dream in Philadelphia
By Matt Katz
 (~15 minutes)

 

New York media is obsessed with calling out Philly as the sixth borough and documenting the migration down the Jersey turnpike in search of cheaper rent and the opportunity to put an s on the end of the word you. This piece is a twist on the migratory hipster narrative and sheds a spotlight on the immigrants fleeing down to the city of Brotherly Love in pursuit of a more attainable American Dream. That jingling you hear is the sound of Philadelphia rent prices slowing creeping towards those in outer Williamsburg. 

JACK SHAFER'S CLASSIC READ: 

 

          Baltimore Evening Sun
Bayard vs. Lionheart (1920)
By H.L. Mencken
 (~10 minutes)

"As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." This piece was in heavy rotation during the campaign but has become even more timely. Take it away, Henry!

Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

THE SLR POD:

 

    sundaylongread.com
BRETT MICHAEL DYKES

Through a mixture of humorous tales and handy insights, Uproxx editor-in-chief Brett Michael Dykes explains to Don how he turned a few viral posts on a personal blog into a series of jobs in digital media. He also discusses the book that inspired him to write, where he gets his best thinking done, as well as why he goes by The Cajun Boy online.

Subscribe to The Sunday Long Read Podcast today!

LEDE OF THE WEEK:
The Food of My Youth

When you are always on the run, from the bill collectors or the Man, or people in suits checking up on you, you need foods with a long shelf life. When the lights went out in our apartment and so did the electric stove, we lived on saltines with peanut butter and beans from a can. We ate like miners. There was a certain pride to be had in eating like men who were prospecting for gold, because the prospect of a better future is what had brought my family here to northern California. Later, in the early ’80s, Ma’s pursuit of higher education plopped us in our small apartment in Los Angeles along the 405 freeway.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

'See ya later, suckas!': Iowa family writes unique obituary for 5-year-old cancer victim

"The things I love the most: Playing with my sister, my blue bunny, thrash metal, Legos, my daycare friends, Batman and when they put me to sleep before they access my port Things I hate: Pants!, dirty stupid cancer, when they access my port, needles, and the monkey nose that smells like cherry farts…I do like the mint monkey nose like at Mayo Radiation and that one guy that helped me build Legos (Randy)."

-5-year-old cancer victim Garrett Matthias

LAST WEEK'S MOST READ STORIES:


Two Strangers Met on a Plane—and the Internet Ruined It
By Megan Garber 

 

Ice Poseidon's Lucrative, Stressful Life As A Live Streamer
By Adrian Chen

The Staggering Rise Of India’s Super Rich
By James Crabtree

   THE REMEMBRANCE   

    theatlantic.com
NANCY SINATRA

By Todd S. Purdum

 (~5 minutes)

Frank Sinatra’s first wife, Nancy Sinatra, passed away at 101 this week. A friend once called her "“a great wife, a great ex-wife, and a great widow.” Purdum writes that Nancy was probably the last person alive to remember the towering figure of Frank Sinatra “not as a legend but as an impossibly skinny fireman’s son from Hoboken, who would sing for a pack or two of cigarettes and a sandwich, but dreamed of more.”
 

    latimes.com
JONATHAN GOLD

By Andrea Chang

 (~5 minutes)

The first restaurant critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, Los Angeles legend Jonathan Gold, died this weekend at 57 years old. As Carolina A. Miranda put it, "to be a writer in Los Angeles is to contend with the words of Jonathan Gold."

   THE LONG VIEW   

   nbcnews.com
Raising 'theybies': Letting kids choose their gender
By Melanie Bencosme and Julie Compton
 (~5 minutes)

 

This provocative digital original from NBC News looks at a new parenting technique of raising children and not as a he or she but as a they.  We meet Julie and Nate Sharpe as they raise their 3-year-old twins free from gender identification. Accompanying text story finishes what the video starts: 

The Long View is curated by Justine Gubar, 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 justinegubar@mac.com if you have a suggestion for next week's long view.

   THE SUNDAY Q&A   

    popula.com
ANTHONY BOURDAIN

By Maria Bustillos 

 (~60 minutes)

Bourdain spent two and a half hours in a little Irish pub in Manhattan chatting with Maria Bustillos about everything from raising daughters to how he hoped Harvey Weinstein would perish and how every time he’s in England everyone wants to do cocaine with him.

The transcript of the interview is 20,000 words and I easily devoured each and every one of them. Certain details will haunt you, like the moment Bourdain is melancholy about acquiring things— “a house is a commitment, you know? You have to take care of it. It’s like any beautiful thing you have to maintain and protect. And then you also have to consider who gets it after you’re gone. And so even books and records, which I… books in particular, I have a lot of books that I really love. When I acquire one that I really love it’s difficult for me, because I think about… who does one pass this on to?”

(Maria Bustillos is a new SLR contributing editor, who will be a guest on the SLR podcast in August.)

Sidebar: Anthony Bourdain’s Long-Burning Suicidal Wick—In His Own Words

   THE #SUNDAYLR LIST   

    inc.com
Emotionally Intelligent Advice From an 80-Year-Old Man

By Justin Bariso

 (~5 minutes)

"Number 32: Take charge of your attitude. Don't let someone else choose it for you."

   THE SUNDAY STILL   

Location, location, location

Out of all the action shots to come out of the final match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it wasn’t 19-year-old soccer phenom Kylian Mbappé or Croatian superstar Luka Modrić who commanded the world’s attention, it was France’s well-dressed, sophisticated president, Emmanuel Macron, jumping on a table and cheering like a madman. An uninhibited Macron punched the air with his fists, with a sweeping view of the packed stadium at his feet. His glee contrasted sharply with the subdued figures of the Russian and Croatian leaders next to him. Kremlin pool photographer Alexei Nikolsky surely must have thought he pulled the short straw when he was assigned to the match’s VIP area in the stands. Instead, he ended up capturing an iconic, viral sports photo of a world leader throwing decorum to the wind to celebrate victory.

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 Distinguished Executive-in-Residence in Emerson College’s Department of Journalism.

   THE SUNDAY COVER  

   harpers.org
Cover story: Combustion Engines
By Richard Manning
Photo by Laura Verhaeghe

 (~20 minutes)

RYAN RODENBERG'S SUNDAY ESOTERICA


Do "fewer walls, doors, and other spatial boundaries" lead to a more collaborative workplace?  In a recently-published academic article, two Harvard professors—Ethan S. Bernstein and Stephen Turban—utilize a unique research design to dig for answers.  In one field study, the authors find that "open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM." 

The 14-page paper can be found here​

An error slipped in last week's issue. It read "Justice Kennedy—who joined the Supreme Court in 1998." Justice Kennedy joined the Supreme Court in 1988.

Ryan 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

TIM TORKILDSON'S SUNDAY LIMERICK


From The Wall Street Journal:
"The triumph of English has been remarkable. Most major European multinational companies adopted English as their boardroom language more than a decade ago. English has long since overtaken French as the de facto language of the EU. Increasingly, Europe’s leading national politicians speak English when they meet each other bilaterally. In the past 14 months, Spain, France and Poland have all acquired new fluently English-speaking leaders, replacing monoglot predecessors." 

From Tim:
Sweet English is the only tongue
that keeps the mind and breath quite young.
It conquers
ev'ry type of guff
that comes from speaking other stuff.
Too bad that in the USA
we're speaking Spanish more each day.
Not that Hispanic is a curse,
but I can't put it into verse! 


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

   THE LAST LAUGH  

    npr.org
Review: ABBA Silver: 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again'

By Glen Weldon

 (~10 minutes)

A perfect non-review review of the “Mamma Mia” sequel.

   THE SUND&Y AMPERS&ND   

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

   THE SU♬DAY SOU♬DTRACK   

Changes
By David Bowie

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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 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
Campus Editor: Peter Warren

Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Nick Aster, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, 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, 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, Matt Sullivan, Wright Thompson, Pablo Torre, Kevin Van Valkenburg, John A. Walsh, Seth Wickersham and Karen Wickre.


Header Image: Julien Pacaud


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.

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