Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

Inside the messy, awkward, occasionally successful dating scene on the campaign trail
by Lisa Bonos for The Washington Post



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

Sunday, February 2, 2020

EDITORS' NOTE: Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

Don's Favorite

   The Remembrance: Kobe Always Showed His Work. So We Have to in Remembering Him, Too.
By Brian Phillips for The Ringer 
 (~15 minutes)

There were so many brilliant tributes of Kobe Bryant after his death at the age of 41 (and the deaths of his 13 year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others) in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California last Sunday morning. We muddled through a marathon week of mourning; the tragedy even managed to sideline the Super Bowl. The bloviating pre-game hype was eclipsed by tearful, heartwarming Kobe remembrances: What he meant, and will always mean, to so many. A wonderful term was coined—#girldad—by my ESPN colleague Elle Duncan. “I know he wasn’t a perfect person,” said Jimmy Kimmel, who wept. So did Shaq, during a remarkable NBA on TNT tribute that felt like a wake, for his “little brother” (Shaq later asked, “What would Kobe do?” and concluded he’d want life to go on and so on Friday night, Shaq hosted his star-studded, tough-ticket Super Bowl party in Miami with all the proceeds going to the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation and the others families of the helicopter crash victims). And my colleague and friend Dan LeBatard delivered a moving tribute.

But this lyrical, profound essay by The Ringer’s Brian Phillips was, for me, the best of the best. This is the one piece to read, and savor, if you read none of the Kobe tributes or if you somehow found time to read them all. Phillips unpeels every layer of Kobe’s complicated legacy, including a 19-year-old woman’s 2003 rape allegation against him in Colorado, making sense of the senseless and finding meaning in the apparently meaningless, including a video clip of Kobe’s on-court injuries. Phillips also turns the simple word “but” into a coda not only for Kobe’s life but for his death that still, a week later, seems unreal.

Jacob's Favorite

   The Sting
By Michael Lista for Toronto Life 
 (~25 minutes)

Michael Lista’s powerful, all-too-real parable of an unsolved murder and the elaborate scheme police used to suss out a confession from a troubled man relentlessly drives home just how f’d up crime and justice can be.

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   This Arctic Explorer Was One Tent Pole Away from Death
By Colin O’Brady for Outside 
 (~5 minutes)

Colin O’Brady describes how his first remarkable solo crossing of the Antarctic landmass, in 2018, under his own power (and with no resupplies) nearly ended. An excerpt from his new memoir, “The Impossible First.”

➢ Their Son’s Heart Saved His Life. So He Rode 1,426 Miles to Meet Them.


   Harry Goes Rogue
By Jonathan Parry for the London Review of Books 
 (~10 minutes)

The centuries-old challenge, if you're born second in the Royal Family, of “avoiding the appearance of uselessness.” 


   What Happens When the News is Gone?
By Charles Bethea for The New Yorker 
 (~30 minutes)

The New Yorker has a new special series “tallying our problems, reckoning with their implications, and inspecting proposed solutions.” Those in the writing world will want to start with this one. But be prepared. It ain’t pretty.

➢ The Last Time Democracy Almost Died
➢ What Will You Do When the Culture War Comes for You?


   Treasure Fever
By Jill Neimark for Hakai Magazine
 (~25 minutes)

Who should control a long lost shipwreck and its sunken treasure? The hunters who found it and want to divvy up the bounty with their investors? Or the archaeologists who want to exhume and study the lost relics?

➢ Keeping the Country


   Brad Pitt and the Beauty Trap
By Manohla Dargis for The New York Times 
 (~10 minutes)

Ahead of Brad Pitt’s expected Oscar win for “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” The New York Times’ co-chief film critic put together an appropriately captivating analysis of his film career.


   Don’t Leave Jazz to the Jazz Guys
By Shuja Haider for The Outline
 (~10 minutes)

“I’ve been listening to jazz my whole life, or more,” writes Shuja Haider in this outstanding essay. “But I generally do not raise the subject with anyone unless I know they are also into it, as though it was a sexual kink or a fringe religion.”


   Leaked Documents Expose the Secretive Market for Your Web Browsing Data
By Joseph Cox for Vice 
 (~10 minutes)

A subsidiary of antivirus company Avast sells “Every search. Every click. Every buy. On every site.” Its clients have included Home Depot, Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, and McKinsey. But 72 hours after this alarming story was published, Avast announced it would stop the data collection and immediately began winding down the clicks-for-sale operation.


   The Quieter Years of Randy Travis
By Michael J. Mooney for Cowboys & Indians
 (~15 minutes)

One of our rules: Read everything Michael J. Mooney writes. He outdoes himself with this incredible profile of Randy Travis, whose syrupy voice that made audiences swoon was snatched by a stroke.


   Swine Country: How Feral Pigs Took Over the U.S.
By Dan Greene for Sports Illustrated 
 (~15 minutes)

AR-15s are up against “the worst invasive species we’ll ever see,” and they might lose.

   Ari Emanuel, WME, and the Great Hollywood IPO That Wasn’t
By Richard Rushfield for Vanity Fair 
 (~15 minutes)

Super-agent Ari Emanuel doesn’t always win.


   When can you impeach a President?
By Lawrence R. Douglas for The Times Literary Supplement 
 (~10 minutes)

The impeachment of an American president has always been an overt political act, with its origins in the British Parliament of the 14th century.

➢ 21 Hours With Alan Dershowitz


   'Angels' in Hell: The Culture of Misogyny Inside Victoria's Secret
By Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Katherine Rosman, Sapna Maheshwari and James B. Stewart for The New York Times
 (~15 minutes)

Interviews with more than 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors and models turned up a culture of bullying and harassment at the company that defined femininity for millions.


   The Woman Shaking Up The Diamond Industry
By Ed Caesar for The New Yorker
 (~45 minutes)

The ancient diamond industry was ripe for change and the innovation—not free of pushback—came thanks to Canadian geologist Eira Thomas, profiled here, by the great Ed Caesar.

➢ “You Guys Are Scaring Me”


   Trapped in Iran
By Nicolas Pelham for 1843 Magazine
 (~50 minutes)

Nicolas Pelham, The Economist's Middle East correspondent, was kidnapped in Iran. Blindfolded, chauffered and curfewed, he saw another side of Tehran.


   Inside the messy, awkward, occasionally successful dating scene on the campaign trail
By Lisa Bonos for The Washington Post
 (~10 minutes)

The campaign trail is not your typical dating site.

➢ The Outsize Influence of Your Middle-School Friends


   How ‘West Side Story’ Was Reborn
By Sasha Weiss for The New York Times Magazine
 (~50 minutes)

The Broadway production of the classic musical “West Side Story” is less a revival than it is a radical re-imagining. The director has modernized Jerome Robbins’ iconic choreography, cut out songs and introduced cameras as part of the staging. Sasha Weiss takes us behind the scenes where she explores the debate over the show’s changes, even among its actors.


   A Battle for the Soul of Marfa
By Mimi Swartz for Texas Monthly
 (~35 minutes)

What happens when a deep-pocketed patron wears out his welcome?


   Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?
By Wyatt Williams for The Believer
 (~20 minutes)

The trouble men seem to have talking—and writing—about abortion. It’s not just grammatical.


   Two Weeks in the Life of a Target Employee
By Maxwell Strachan for Vice
 (~25 minutes)

This is not your traditional longform story. A 23-year-old opens his diary to Vice, unveiling a fable about life in America.

➢ Question time: my life as a quiz obsessive


   An Astros fan listened to thousands of the team’s 2017 at-bats. Sign-stealing was everywhere.
By Jacob Bogage and Neil Greenberg for The Washington Post
 (~5 minutes)

The Major League Baseball scandal that keeps on giving, well, keeps on giving.


   Lamar Jackson was a ‘vessel for joy’ in 2019
By Kevin Van Valkenburg for The Undefeated
 (~15 minutes)

Here's one worthy pro football read to tide you over until game time, on a man we feel certain will be making his Super Bowl debut soon.

Last Week's Most Read

   A scandal in Oxford: The curious case of the stolen gospel
By Charlotte Higgins for The Guardian

   Peggy Siegal Sends Her Regrets
By Maureen O’Connor for Vanity Fair

   Live From New York, It’s Michael Che’s Weird Fixation With Me
By Jack Allison for The Outline 


Lede of the Week

   The Quieter Years of Randy Travis, by Michael J. Mooney

That voice. For decades, the voice of Randy Travis was a smooth pour of warm syrup on a cold morning. With song after song, his gilded baritone rounded the sharp edges of life for millions of people — and ultimately changed the direction of an entire genre of music, producing a slew of platinum records and 16 No. 1 hits along the way. He could take lyrics that might otherwise be corny or trite and make them poetry. During an era when Nashville’s brightest stars thrived making increasingly shallow, increasingly banal tripe, this lean, winsome young man from small-town North Carolina made music that sounded like it may have always existed somewhere in your mind, waiting to be recognized. At concerts, he’d sometimes hum into the microphone, and his voice would send throngs of women — and plenty of men — into fits of ecstatic joy.


Quotation of the Week

   Swine Country: How Feral Pigs Took Over the U.S., by Dan Greene

“If they were not fun to hunt, we would not be in the shape we’re in...and I term it to be: We’re in a war.”

Billy Higginbotham

The Classic Read
from Jack Shafer

      American Slang (1921)
By H.L Mencken, excerpted from The American Language
 (~25 minutes)

We momentarily suspend the usual Sunday classic rules to offer a chapter from a book instead of an article from a periodical. Here, H.L. Mencken, the flawed god of cleverness, beats the linguists at their own game in his exploration on the use and meaning of slang. "Slang originates in an effort, always by ingenious individuals, to make the language more vivid and expressive," he writes. Rereading it sent me on a long Google hunt for the meaning of "the dexter meadow." Turns out, according to Eric Partridge, "dexter" means right or right handed, and dexter meadow means the right side of a baseball field. Batter up!


Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

The Sunday Long Pod
from Jody Avirgan

   Juan Ep: JAY (Apple | Spotify)

Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg have been doing their rap podcast for a long, long time, but a couple months ago they re-booted with a multi-part series on Jay-Z. It’s a bit of a mix of conversation and oral history, sprinkled with interviews with Jay and others who came up with him. It can be a bit rocky at times (for instance, the first episode doesn’t really get going until about 7mins in) but it’s full of fascinating information about Brooklyn, rap, and more. And every fifteen minutes Peter and Cipha break into an argument about whether Jay is the greatest of all time, and I can’t get enough of that argument.

Jody Avirgan is a podcast host and producer, most recently with 30 for 30 Podcasts and FiveThirtyEight. You can find his work and newsletter at

The Sunday Still
from Patrick Farrell


As the deadly coronovirus headed into a global health emergency, Getty Images photographer Kevin Frayer documented desperate air travelers wearing plastic jugs, fruit peels and even sanitary napkins over their faces in an attempt to protect themselves on Jan. 30 at Beijing Capital International Airport. After seeing photo after photo of crowds wearing face masks, Frayer’s curious image of a girl in a makeshift shield stands out. Using a shallow depth of field, Frayer isolates the girl to focus our attention, prompting the question, “What is going on here?” Based in Asia, Frayer has distinguished himself as one today’s most talented photojournalists. His images of the mass exodus of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in 2017 are stunning testimony to his skill at covering the human condition as we flee persecution, conflict and disease.

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

Hell or High Water


I'm talking with some Hollywood types because it looks, at long last, that a story I wrote will be made into a movie. I'll share more details when the deal is finalized but the point is: I was on a conference call this week, and the studio guys and I started to talk movies. One of them mentioned Hell or High Water, which I missed when it came out in 2016. It's amazing, a modern take on West Texas that is more character study than shootin' up the ole saloon, though there's plenty of violence too. Taylor Sheridan wrote the script and he said in this Hollywood Reporter round table that he looks for "absurdly simple" plots which allow him to blow life into the interpersonal relationships among characters. Esquire did a great job of explaining how Sheridan moved from journeyman actor to the bard of the modern Western. Hell of High Water sucks you in because it's not just about the two brothers who rob banks but why they do it. Like Parasite, this is a story of class warfare. The dialogue of the final scene still gives me chills. 

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

   'He Was Going to Do Great Things.' Why Many Believed the Best Was Ahead of Kobe Bryant
By Sean Gregory for Time
Cover photo by Michael Muller  

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

The Su♬day Sou♬dtrack
from The Editors

By Will Smith

The Sunday Comix
from Alex Segura

   Explore the Sad Origins of Mary Shelley in This Comic Book Celebration of History's Inspiring Women
By James Whitbrook for io9
 (~5 minutes)

Anthologies are always a mixed bag, and comic book anthologies are no exception. It’s hard to look at a collection’s product info and know it’ll be worth your time. Well, the exception proves the rule, and NOISEMAKERS: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World, the debut release from Kazoo, fits the bill. The book celebrates the lives of inspiring female figures throughout history - including Mary Shelley, who’s spotlighted in a story by acclaimed writer/artist Emil Ferris (My Favorite Thing Is Monsters). Couched as a conversation between the long-gone author and Ferris, the short is presented in the style Ferris has gained attention for, creating a memorable and intense piece of graphic storytelling. It’s not clear from the story or the promotional copy accompanying the book what other creators have contributed to the collection, but based on Ferris’s story alone, it should be worth your time.

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 @theyearofelan

I’ve got some NEWS for you people about WHY your salads are dull and flavorless. Are you ready for some NEWS???

Read the whole thread here

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

   The Second-Best Me I Could Possibly Be
By Annah Feinberg for The New Yorker
 (~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


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 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: Hanna Melin

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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