The Birth of The New Journalism - “God knows I didn’t have anything new in mind, much less anything literary, when I took my first newspaper job…”
The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes! - “Ten o’clock Sunday morning in the hills of North Carolina. Cars, miles of cars, in every direction, millions of cars…”
What if He’s Right? - “Suppose he is what he sounds like, the most important thinker since Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein, and Pavlov what if he is right?”
The Secret Vice - “Real buttonholes. That’s it! A man can take his thumb and forefinger and unbutton his sleeve at the wrist because this kind of suit has real buttonholes there.”
The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce - “Grinnell Iowa: the last town in America that people would have figured to become the starting point of a bolt into the future that would create the very substructure of life in the year 2000 and beyond.”
The Me Decade -“The new alchemical dream is: changing one’s personality—remaking, remodeling, elevating, and polishing one’s very self … and observing, studying, and doting on it. (Me!)”
One Giant Leap to Nowhere - “The space program, the greatest, grandest, most Promethean quest in the history of the world, died in infancy at 10:56 p.m. New York time on July 20, 1969.”
The Rich Have Feelings, Too -“I feel like boffing some bimbos in the Caribbean. Anybody like to come along?”
Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died - “Brain imaging was invented for medical diagnosis. But its far greater importance is that it may very well confirm, in ways too precise to be disputed, theories about the mind, the self, the soul, and free will.”
Pell-Mell - “The American idea was born at approximately 5 p.m. on Friday, December 2, 1803…”
We asked essayist, storyteller and all-round literary woman-about-town Megan Stielstra to tell us about her favourite writing from 2013. This is what she chose:
My Husband’s New Son by Lisa Schlesinger - “If your friends, a lesbian couple, ask your husband to donate sperm so they can have a child, would you agree?”
The ‘Tough Teen’ is Quietly Writing Stories by Matt de la Pena - “He had all these feelings he didn’t know what to do with. So he wrote them into stories.”
Writers Respond to Typhoon Haiyan, an excellent series in the wake of the recent storm in the Phillipines - “But writing, that wormhole from one person’s world to another’s, heeds its highest calling when it works to ignite empathy for what lies beyond our own experience.”
Goodbye to All This by Lauren Quinn - “There’s a difference between writing and Being a Writer.”
You Are the Second Person by Kiese Laymon - “You wondered out loud what writing “multiculturally” actually meant and what kind of black man would write the word “bro” in an email”
I’ll Not Yield At This Time by Callie Collins - On our personal connections to political and cultural events.
Radio Silence by Jill Talbot - Challenges our perceptions about single mothers.
And for live storytelling excellence… I’m lucky enough to be involved in the performance community in Chicago, and many of the essays that most inspired me this year weren’t written for the page. These kicked my ass in the best possible way:
Khanisha Foster at 2nd Story on being an actor of color
Samantha Irby at Write Club on what it means to be free
Suzy Krueckeberg at Guts & Glory on finding humanity in the most awful of circumstances
JC Aevolitis at The Paper Machete on the Sandy Hook shooting
Megan Stielstra’s personal essay collection, Once I Was Cool, is forthcoming May 2014, and her excellent essay Channel B was recently included in The Best American Essays 2013. She is the Literary Director of 2nd Story and teaches writing and performance at Columbia College and Northwestern University.
Travel and Adventure
The Old Man at Burning Man by Wells Tower
Excuse Us While We Kiss The Sky by Matthew Power
A Long Ride by Nathaniel Rich
An interview with Chris Hadfield by Emma Brockes
Thanksgiving in Mongolia by Ariel Levy
First Australians by Michael Finkel
Stranded on the Roof of the World by Michael Finkel
Learning About Humanity on Public Transportation
by Chris Gethard
Now We Are Five by David Sedaris
Why You Truly Never Leave High School
by Jennifer Senior
Our Kind of Ridiculous by Kiese Laymon
37 Conversation Rules for Gents
by Brett & Kate McKay
A Million First Dates by Dan Slater
All My Exes Live in Texts by Maureen O’Connor
Farting in love by Tracy Clark-Flory
If Your Boyfriend Tells You Your Vagina Is Repulsive, BREAK UP WITH HIM by Lindy West
The End of the Hangup by Ian Bogost
Silent War by Michael Joseph Gross
Desert Bus by Simon Parkin
#Manhunt by James Gleick
I Am An Object Of Internet Ridicule by C. D. Hermelin
All Can Be Lost by Nicholas Carr
Restless Genes by David Dobbs
The Social Life of Genes by David Dobbs
We Aren’t the World by Ethan Watters
Complexity and the Ten-Thousand-Hour Rule
by Malcolm Gladwell
Schizophrenic. Killer. My Cousin. by Mac McClelland
A Tale of Two Londons by Nicholas Shaxson
A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse
by David Graeber
Too Big to Jail by Matt Taibbi
Secrets and Lies of the Bailout by Matt Taibbi
Everything Is Rigged by Matt Taibbi
Crime and Punishment
The Dangers of Stash by Brendan I. Koerner
The Body in Room 348 by Mark Bowden
Goldman Sachs’ Golden Handshake by Michael Lewis
America’s Real Criminal Element by Kevin Drum
Oops, You Just Hired the Wrong Hitman
by Jeanne Marie Laskas
Cruel and Unusual Punishment by Matt Taibbi
The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved - “I got off the plane around midnight and no one spoke as I crossed the dark runway to the terminal. The air was thick and hot, like wandering into a steam bath…”
Freak Power in the Rockies - “On the Weird Mechanics of Running a Takeover Bid on a Small Town… and a Vulgar Argument for Seizing Political Power and Using It like a Gun Ripped Away from a Cop… with Jangled Comments on the Uncertain Role of the Head and the Awful Stupor Factor”
Doomed Love at the Taco Stand - “Going to Hollywood is a dangerous high-pressure gig for most people, under any circumstances. It is like pumping hot steam into thousands of different-size boilers…”
The Hippies - “The best year to be a hippie was 1965, but then there was not much to write about, because not much was happening in public and most of what was happening in private was illegal…” (Scroll to the bottom for the HST text).
The Curse of Lono - “We were about 40 minutes out of San Francisco when the crew finally decided to take action on the problem in lavatory 1B…”
The Motorcycle Gangs - “Ever since World War II, California has been strangely plagued by wild men on motorcycles. They usually travel in groups of ten to thirty, booming along the highways and stopping here are there to get drunk and raise hell…”
Strange Rumblings in Aztlan - “Aztlan - the “conquered territories” that came under the yoke of Gringo occupation troops more than 100 years ago, when “vendito politicians in Mexico City sold out to the US” in order to call off the invasion that Gringo history books refer to as the Mexican American War.”
The Professional Voice of Law Enforcement - “Weapons are my business. You name it and I know it: guns, bombs, gas, fire, knives and everything else. Damn few people in the world know more about weaponry than I do…”
Fear and Loathing in las Vegas - “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold…” (Scroll down for links to each chapter.)
The Song of the Sausage Creature - “There are some things nobody needs in this world, and a bright-red, hunch-back, warp- speed 900cc cafe racer is one of them…”
Fear and Loathing in America - The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.
Violence of the Lambs - “Elephants on the African savanna have been raping rhinoceroses. Evidently this is just as startling to science as it to the layperson.”
Leaving Reality - “Where do you go after you leave the cast of The Real World? To a universe where your only job is to be young and famous and keep the party jumpin’. Or to a tiny hell of endless exploitation.”
Feet in Smoke - “On the morning of April 21, 1995, my elder brother, Worth (short for Elsworth), put his mouth to a microphone in a garage in Lexington, Kentucky, and was electrocuted.”
You Blow My Mind. Hey, Mickey! -“Do you Disney?” One goes to Disneyland and has a great time there, but one Disneys at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. There’s an implication of surrender to something enormous.”
Peyton’s Place - “Practically every day, cars stop in front of our house and people get out to take pictures of it, and of us—me and my wife and daughter—if we happen to be outside…”
My Debt to Ireland - “He was, I thought, one of the most authentically Irish-seeming guys I’d ever met, apart from his being Ukrainian.”
Where Is Cuba Going? - “On the plane, something odd but also vaguely magical-seeming happened: nobody knew what time it was…”
Back In The Day - “Before the weirdness claimed his legacy, Michael Jackson understood his talent better than we ever have…”
Upon This Rock - “Rock music used to be a safe haven for degenerates and rebels. Until it found Jesus.”
The Last Wailer - “He grew up in the same house as Bob Marley, and together with Peter Tosh, they created not just The Wailers but a new template for sound.”
The Final Comeback of Axl Rose - “The doors had opened at seven o’clock. The opening act had been off by eight thirty. It was now after eleven o’clock. It didn’t feel like the room could get any tenser…”
Venture Kapital - "Some look at the reconstruction of Berlin and see the heart of a new Europe. But maybe what’s really going on here is a monumental branding event."
The Church of the Non-Believers - A band of intellectual brothers is mounting a crusade against belief in God. Are they winning converts, or merely preaching to the choir?
The Dumbass, The Daytrader, and The New Democracy -“The public is there for one reason and one reason only, they are there to absorb the risk.”
Who Owns the Law? - "A private database owner has effectively asserted copyright ownership over thousands of decisions handed down by the courts of the United States. If you want to cite these decisions you have to pay."
The Curse of Xanadu - "It was the most radical computer dream of the hacker era. Instead itbecame the longest-running vaporware project in the history of computing. The amazing epic tragedy."
Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess - In a design straight from the earliest days of the Web, miscellaneous posts compete for attention on page after page of blue links, undifferentiated by tags or ratings or even usernames. Is this really the best we can do?
Gold Mania in the Yukon - "Behind the new Klondike gold rush is the rising price of gold, and behind that price is fear."
A Simple Plan to ID Every Creature on Earth - "He wants to know more than just the names, of course; he wants to know who lives where and who eats whom and to unravel the mysteries of the ecosystem. But his first question is always the most basic: What is it called?"
The Wisdom of Saint Marshall - "By the time of his death, Marshall McLuhan had been dismissed by respectable academics. But in light of the digital revolution, McLuhan’s relevance is being recognised again."
An Interview with Marshall McLuhan - "The real message of media today is ubiquity. It is no longer something we do, but something we are part of."
We asked nonfiction reading machine Alexandra Z to pick her favourite articles form 2013. This is what she chose:
Elliott Smith: ‘Mr. Misery’ revisited, 10 years after the singer-songwriter’s controversial death by Liam Gowing I’ve read this article in three pieces, not because of its length, but because it’s emotionally difficult to read. It’s about Elliott Smith.
The day I saw 248 girls suffering genital mutilation by Abigail Haworth Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an ancient cultural practice, scarring women both physically and psychologically, still happening, mainly in muslim societies.
That’s not a droid, that’s my girlfriend by Aubrey Belford Will our grand-children fall in love with robots? A glimpse into the future of robotics and our life and relationships 50 years from now.
Danse Macabre: A scandal at the Bolshoi Ballet by David Remnick Last December’s acid assault to Sergei Filin, Bolshoi’s artistic director, is the reason for this thorough article not only on the Bolshoi Ballet theater, but also on today’s Russia.
The view from the sitting room by Angie Chuang A glimpse to Afganistan’s soviet era and the 50,000 “lost” people, as well as to every day life, from a woman’s perspective.
Chucks & Bucks: An oral history of the coolest shoes on Earth by David Marchese While writing this, I’m wearing my pair of dark pink Chucks. You probably have one, too. This is how they went from a basketball shoe to a style statement.
Five years off Adderall and Dexedrine and I’m still in withdrawal.
How prescription drugs are widely accepted by society, even though they can also affect someone’s life.
Leo and Frida - The doctor and the artist by Catherine Reef One of Frida Kahlo’s best friends was her doctor, Leo Eloesser, MD. He was a thoracic and orthopedic surgeon at Stanford’s medical school, who treated the artist and with whom, over the years, became close friends.
I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet by Paul Miller You are reading this on Tumblr. You probably have a Facebook account, a Twitter one, several e-mail accounts, as well as many other profiles in social networks. Now, imagine a whole year without these. Is it bearable? Paul Miller describes his experience and the conclusion he comes to is quite expected (for me, at least).
The Russia left behind by Ellen Barry The journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow lasts for 12 hours, during which the traveller passes through villages in the verge of non-existence.
Shanshan’s $550 shoes came from her lover, but the soles of her feet, as hard as leather, came from her childhood.
A thorough article on how and why young women in China become older men’s mistresses.
Economics, Work & Society
Suds for Drugs by Ben Paynter
Are coders worth it? by James Somers
Home Economics by Stephen Marche
The Secret World of the Shipping Industry by Rose George
The American Cloud by Venkatesh Rao
Meet The Dread Pirate Roberts by Andy Greenberg
Technology & the Internet
Emoticon, Emoji, Text by Tom McCormack
Inside the fall of BlackBerry by Sean Silcoff, Jacquie McNish and Steve Ladurantaye
I Am An Object Of Internet Ridicule, Ask Me Anything by C. D. Hermelin
Two-Hit Wonder by D. T. Max
Scrubbed by Graeme Wood
What’s wrong with the modern world by Jonathan Franzen
The Poorest Rich Kids in the World by Danielle Levitt
The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia by Jean Friedman-Rudovsky
Carjack victim recounts his harrowing night by Eric Moskowitz
Murder By Craigslist by Hanna Rosin
A Loaded Gun by Patrick Radden Keefe
Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail? - “Financial crooks brought down the world’s economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them.”
The Great American Bubble Machine - “The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money…”
How Wall St. Copies the Mob - “How America’s biggest banks took part in a nationwide bid-rigging conspiracy - until they were caught on tape.”
How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform - “How the banks strangled the Dodd-Frank law — with a big assist from Congress and the White House.”
The Big Takeover - “How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution”
The Real Housewives of Wall Street - “Why is the Federal Reserve forking over $220 million in bailout money to the wives of two Morgan Stanley bigwigs?”
Wall Street’s Bailout Hustle - “Goldman Sachs and other big banks aren’t just pocketing the trillions we gave them to rescue the economy — they’re re-creating the conditions for another crash.”
Looting Main Street - “How the nation’s biggest banks are ripping off American cities with the same predatory deals that brought down Greece.”
Secrets and Lies of the Bailout - The federal rescue of Wall Street didn’t fix the economy – it created a permanent bailout state based on a Ponzi-like confidence scheme. And the worst may be yet to come…
The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever - How and why there’s no price the big banks can’t fix
Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail - How HSBC hooked up with drug traffickers and terrorists. And got away with it
How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests - “Much more than a movement against big banks, they’re a rejection of what our society has become.”
Why Sports Are for Losers - “There is a dirty truth that professional sports keeps hidden from fans, i.e., guys like you and me who spend winter after winter wondering, What if? And that truth is: Watching sports sucks.
You Can’t Kill the Rooster - “Use the word y’all and, before you knew it, you’d find yourself in a haystack French-kissing an underage goat.”
Three - A trio of the best Sedaris stories including The Youth in Asia, Jesus Shaves and Giant Dreams, Midget Abilities
Old Lady Down the Hall - Her name was Rocky. She was my neighbor. I hated her guts. She was my best friend.
Undecided Voters -“Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”
The Man Upstairs - “What religious people call fate, I call luck, and what they call God’s will, I call bad luck.”
Journey Into Night - “That’s Business Elite for you. Spend eight thousand dollars on a ticket and, if you want an extra thirteen cents’ worth of ice cream, all you have to do is ask.”
The Man Who Mistook His Hat for a Meal - “My father has always had some questionable eating habits, but this is getting ridiculous.”
Laugh, Kookaburra -“One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work. In order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners.”
Guy Walks into a Bar Car - “We’ll kiss … now, I kept thinking. Then, O.K… . now. And on it went, more torturous by the second.”
Six to Eight Black Men - “The words silly and unrealistic were redefined when I learned that, in Holland, Saint Nicholas travels with what was consistently described as “six to eight black men.”