First Person

178 articles
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On the best teacher the writer ever had.

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Confessions of a white-collar dope fiend.

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A trip to the Famous Poets Society convention/contest in Reno.

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On surfer girls in Maui; the story that led to the film Blue Crush.

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On prison tourism.

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A wedding photographer catches up with his past clients.

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In 1968, the author revisits remote British Columbia, which he traveled two years earlier.

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The story of an avalanche, as told by a survivor.

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A week in the author’s life when it became impossible to control the course of events.

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Memoir of a Latter-day campaign correspondent.

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“If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it’s probably because at some level you find “reality” a bit of a disappointment.”

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More than forty years later, tracking down an elementary school crush.

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How Moscow State university discriminated against Jewish applicants using deceptively simple problems.

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Adventures in bartending.

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A mystery writer moves into an apartment where a grisly crime was committed.

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On being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

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Exploring remote atolls in the South Pacific.

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Diagnosed with a rare blood disease, the author reflects on illness and addiction.

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On working in a war zone to pay the bills.

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New York’s Russian community in Brooklyn.

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“It was creepy to wake up violently in the middle of the night. It was creepier when no one could tell me why it was happening.”

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On working in an artists’ colony.

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A meditation on the “out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant.”

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“I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling.”

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On living in Saudi Arabia.

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On the Calorie Restriction movement, the scientifically-supported belief that the key to a very long life is to eat as little as possible.

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“What could possibly be funnier than depositing a perfectly ridiculous, obviously false, fake cheque?”

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In a posthumously published essay, Twain recounts dreams of a long-lost love.

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“Transforming into an Administrative Jekyll for a certain amount of time every day limits the amount of time my Creative Hyde can come up with content to market and sell. Luckily, amphetamines have that problem tackled as well: when you’re using them, you don’t have to sleep… at all.”

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This isn't an essay or simply a woe-is-we narrative about how hard it is to be a black boy in America. This is a lame attempt at remembering the contours of slow death and life in America for one black American teenager under Central Mississippi skies. I wish I could get my Yoda on right now and surmise all this shit into a clean sociopolitical pull-quote that shows supreme knowledge and absolute emotional transformation, but I don't want to lie.
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The frenzied few days before the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer.

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An Englishman’s account of the first modern Olympic games.

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Watching the jazz singer in New York.

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Three years after her gold-medal performance – and amidst rumors of a fall from grace – the author travels to Transylvania to track down gymnast Nadia Comaneci. He also enjoys several drinks with her coach, Bela Karolyi.

Part of our Olympics primer, on the Longform blog.
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Meeting Nick Drake, London, 1970.

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A personal reflection on bird-watching and relationships.

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What happens when a complete stranger becomes convinced you’re the Zodiac killer.

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A veteran critic reviews 32 shows in 30 days.

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On collecting books.

I have lived in books, for books, by and with books; in recent years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to live from books. And it was through books that I first realised there were other worlds beyond my own; first imagined what it might be like to be another person; first encountered that deeply intimate bond made when a writer's voice gets inside a reader's head.

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How six different people live off six different, and wildly varying, incomes.

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How the author became tangled up with an international con man who may or may not have murdered several people.

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Remembering George Plimpton’s old-fashioned style.

Above all, he was a gentleman, one of the last—a figure so archaic, it could be easily mistaken for something else. No, my father’s voice was not an act, something chosen or practiced in front of mirrors: he came from a different world, where people talked differently, and about different things; where certain things were discussed, and certain things were not—and his voice simply reflected this.

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Visiting his daughter in San Francisco, the author longs for food delivery in Manhattan.

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A coffee shop owner finally gets to shut down his store.

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On conspiracy theories in sports, from the ‘85 NBA draft lottery to Michael Phelps’ gold medal performance in the 100-meter butterfly.

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The author recounts playing herself – best-selling author Sloane Crosley – on an episode of “Gossip Girl.”

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"I turned to see Eva padding around the room, naked, dipping a small plastic wand into the bottle of bubble soap she’d bought at the market... Sometime in the far future, when I was lying on my deathbed, I said, this was the moment I wanted to remember."

On the relationship between travel and photography.

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As Playboy magazine moves to Los Angeles, the writer considers its place in the Midwest.

No other general interest magazine tried to reach readers in the wide swathe of land between New York and California. “It was a Midwestern magazine, designed for people there. If you wanted it to be hip, edgy, go toe-to-toe with GQ, you were making a mistake,” said Chris Napolitano, a former executive editor who began at Playboy in 1988.

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The political fight over a new football stadium in Minnesota.

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The author on his mother’s deteriorating health and the “price of longevity.”

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A summer as a whorehouse Madame.

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The author reflects on his mayoral run with Norman Mailer against John Lindsay.

At the bar one night a couple of weeks after the primary, I looked up from a drink and saw my face and Norman's face floating across the screen on the NBC First Tuesday show. It is a network thing, and they did a 20-minute look at our campaign. The show reinforced my opinion that Norman and I had some of the most terrific lows in the history of anything that ever took place in this city. And, perhaps, a couple of highs that could be recognized as time passes a bit. Like maybe colleges for years will be using the things Norman Mailer was saying out in the streets.

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The parallel lives of a KGB defector and his CIA handler.

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On the ground with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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A married father of two tracks down his free-living doppelgänger, a musician who has avoided responsibility at every turn, to see who’s happier.

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One man’s stories from the early days of the NBA.

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Eco-tourism in the Himalayas.

The valley is everything you'd want and more. An icy milky river thunders over rocks and below steep wooded slopes are lush fields where people are working the land, oblivious to the Gore-Tex procession. Oblivious but not unaffected: the houses are smart, the prayer wheels freshly painted, just about everyone has a mobile phone, it seems, and is on it, and there are very few places you can't get a signal around here. This is not really the place to come if you're looking for peace and quiet.

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In 1987, a terrible accident kills five Ole Miss sorority members. The author catches up with her Chi Omega sisters who survived.

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Yearning for conception.

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The author tracked down “the other” Alan – Alan Z. Feuer – for a story last year. After the other Alan’s death, however, the author learns the truth about the society man’s humble past.

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An advertising copywriter adjusts to daily life in Paris, and works in a dysfunctional office.
Office culture in Paris held that it was each person's responsibility, upon arrival, to visit other people's desks and wish them good morning, and often kiss each person once on each cheek, depending on the parties' personal relationship, genders, and respective positions in the corporate hierarchy. Then you moved on to the next desk. Not everyone did it, but those who did not were noticed and remarked upon.
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The author of Truly Tasteless Jokes unmasks herself.

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The real-life events that inspired the new Richard Linklater dark comedy Bernie:

It’s a story about people believing what they want to believe, even when there’s evidence to the contrary. It’s a story about people not being what they seem. And it’s a story, as the movie poster says, “so unbelievable it must be true.” Which it is. I know this because the widow in the freezer was, in real life, my Aunt Marge, Mrs. Marjorie Nugent, my mother’s sister and, depending on whom you ask, the meanest woman in East Texas. She was 81 when she was murdered, and Bernie Tiede, her constant companion and rumored paramour, was 38. He’ll be eligible for parole in 2027, when he’ll be 69.

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A young man’s personal account of undergoing “ex-gay treatment.”

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Teaching Emily Dickinson at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida.

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Delivered at the Austin Convention Center on March 15, 2012.

In the beginning, every musician has their genesis moment. For you, it might have been the Sex Pistols, or Madonna, or Public Enemy. It's whatever initially inspires you to action. Mine was 1956, Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was the evening I realized a white man could make magic, that you did not have to be constrained by your upbringing, by the way you looked, or by the social context that oppressed you. You could call upon your own powers of imagination, and you could create a transformative self.

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I've grown, over the last few months, the beginnings of concerned; he's started to suffer bouts of malaise. Nothing too regular, or too terrible: mild stomach aches, sore joints, general lethargy. In anyone else, it could be anything, etc. In Chad, I grow attuned to the slightest variation in temperature, to the distracted look behind his eyes when food isn't sitting with him.
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A profile.

When we're introduced, I spend a long moment trying to conjugate the reality of James Brown's face, one I've contemplated as an album-cover totem since I was thirteen or fourteen: that impossible slant of jaw and cheekbone, that Pop Art slash of teeth, the unmistakable rage of impatience lurking in the eyes. It's a face drawn by Jack Kirby or Milton Caniff, that's for sure, a visage engineered for maximum impact at great distances, from back rows of auditoriums.

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“My name is Jackie and I am addicted to waitressing.” An essay on waiting tables.

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Ed Rosenthal recounts the six days he got lost in Joshua Tree National Park.

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One woman’s ordeal with Texas’ new sonogram law.

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After years of avoiding the uncomfortable truths about how his gadgets are made, a Mac fanboy travels to Foxconn to see for himself.

Update 3/16/12: This American Life retracted this story today after it was revealed to have "contained significant fabrications."
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Love, Margaret Thatcher and a broken penis.

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An essay on working at Sotheby’s.

Art pricing is not absolute magic; there are certain rules, which to an outsider can sound parodic. Paintings with red in them usually sell for more than paintings without red in them. Warhol’s women are worth more, on average, than Warhol’s men. The reason for this is a rhetorical question, asked in a smooth continental accent: “Who would want the face of some man on their wall?”

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In 1970s Britain, conservative philosophy was the preoccupation of a few half-mad recluses. Searching the library of my college, I found Marx, Lenin, and Mao, but no Strauss, Voegelin, Hayek, or Friedman. I found every variety of socialist monthly, weekly, or quarterly, but not a single journal that confessed to being conservative.

A young Brit goes against the political grain.

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The excerpts from a diary of an anonymous Russian special-forces officer who served twenty tours of duty in Chechnya during the Second Chechen War (1999-2009). He tells of torture, civilian killings, female suicide bombers and becoming desensitized to it all.

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A Romanian-German novelist on being pursued by Ceaucescu’s secret police.

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Reporting undercover from inside the online-shipping industry.

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Exploring the relationship between authors and their parents.

It mattered to her that she could have, or might have, been a writer, and perhaps it mattered to me more than I fully understood. She watched my books appear with considerable interest, and wrote me an oddly formal letter about the style of each one, but she was, I knew, also uneasy about my novels. She found them too slow and sad and oddly personal. She was careful not to say too much about this, except once when she felt that I had described her and things which had happened to her too obviously and too openly. That time she said that she might indeed soon write her own book. She made a book sound like a weapon.

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On touring America and the culture of trailer parks in the early 1950s.

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The writer contemplates beauty and identity following reconstructive surgery.

There was a long period of time, almost a year, during which I never looked in a mirror. It wasn’t easy, for I’d never suspected just how omnipresent are our own images. I began by merely avoiding mirrors, but by the end of the year I found myself with an acute knowledge of the reflected image, its numerous tricks and wiles, how it can spring up at any moment: a glass tabletop, a well-polished door handle, a darkened window, a pair of sunglasses, a restaurant’s otherwise magnificent brass-plated coffee machine sitting innocently by the cash register.

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Coping with a brother’s suicide.

We tell stories about the dead in order that they may live, if not in body then at least in mind—the minds of those left behind. Although the dead couldn’t care less about these stories—all available evidence suggests the dead don’t care about much—it seems that if we tell them often enough, and listen carefully to the stories of others, our knowledge of the dead can deepen and grow. If we persist in this process, digging and sifting, we had better be prepared for hard truths; like rocks beneath the surface of a plowed field, they show themselves eventually.

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Afternoons with Altman and Allen.

For a year or two during the mid-1970s, living in New York, I was a moviegoer. I was in my early 20s then, working off and on, driving a cab, setting up the stage at rock shows, writing occasional pieces for The Village Voice. But there were also long empty spells. I tried to write some fiction and couldn’t, tried to read and could—but only for so long. I ended up going to the movies.

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On playing chess and waiting to get arrested.

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A son chronicles his father’s death:

My father's mortician was a careless barber. Stepping up to the open casket, I realized too much had been taken off the beard. The sides were trimmed tidy, the bottom cut flat across. It was a disconcerting sight, because in his last years, especially, my father had worn his beard wild, equal parts loony chemist and liquor store Santa. The mortician ought to have known this, I thought, because he knew the man in life. My father — himself the grandson of a funeral home director — would drop by Davey-Linklater in Kincardine, Ontario, now and then for a friendly chat. How's business? Steady as she goes? Death was his favourite joke.

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I’ve read stories from people who say they always knew they were attracted to the same sex, or that they figured it out at a young age. I’m not one of them.
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Chantix is a pill that decreases the pleasurable effects of cigarettes. It also causes hallucinations, suicidal thoughts and waking nightmares:

A week into my Chantix usage, I started to feel as if the city landscape had imperceptibly shifted around me. Mundane details began to strike me as having deep, hidden significance. The neon arch above McDonald’s: The lights blinked on and off in some sort of pattern, and I needed to crack the code.

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Tracking down 40-odd members of the British band.

It's a Tuesday morning in December, and I'm ringing people called Brown in Rotherham. "Hello," I begin again. "I'm trying to trace Jonnie Brown who used to play in the Fall. He came from Rotherham and I wondered if you might be a relative." "The Who?" asks the latest Mr Brown. "No. The Fall - the band from Salford. He played bass for three weeks in 1978." "Is this some kind of joke?"

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On killing and eating small game in Seattle.

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Joseph Mitchell immerses himself in the Fulton Fish Market.

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Two weeks spent walking across Provence.

There is something about entering an ancient town on foot that's radically different from entering the same place by car. Keep in mind that these old French towns were all designed by people on foot for people on foot. So when you walk in, you're approaching the place as it was intended to be approached—slowly and naturally, the way Dorothy came upon Oz (spires rising in the distance, a sense of mounting mystery: What kind of city will this be?).

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Assessing 40 years of treatment.

My abiding faith in the possibility of self-transformation propelled me from one therapist to the next, ever on the lookout for something that seemed tormentingly out of reach, some scenario that would allow me to live more comfortably in my own skin. For all my doubts about specific tenets and individual psychoanalysts, I believed in the surpassing value of insight and the curative potential of treatment — and that may have been the problem to begin with.

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Life, and debt, in New York.

I've historically been pretty good at getting by on what I have, especially if you apply the increasingly common definition of "getting by," which has more to do with keeping up appearances than keeping things under control. Like a social smoker whose supposedly endearing desire to emulate Marlene Dietrich has landed her in a cancer ward, I have recently woken up to the frightening fallout of my own romantic notions of life in the big city: I am completely over my head in debt. I have not made a life for myself in New York City. I have purchased a life for myself.

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The author reluctantly commits to a Kindle.
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Love advice from a beloved aunt.

I try to call my Great Aunt Doris every day. She's ninety-years old and lives alone. I love her desperately and as she gets older, especially of late as she becomes more feeble, my love seems to be picking up velocity, overwhelming me almost, tinged as it is with panic -- I'm so afraid of losing her.

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The author gets a job writing about amusement parks.

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When a writer’s daily routine gets out of control.

One morning, as I gobbled my doughnut and slurped my coffee, thinking to myself, "What a fantastic doughnut, what an amazing coffee," I realised that I had not just thought this but was actually saying aloud, "What a fantastic doughnut! What a totally fantastic experience!", and that this was attracting the attention of the other customers, one of whom turned to me and said, "You like the doughnuts, huh?"

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The case for coaches in professions other than music and sports. Like medicine, for example:

Since I have taken on a coach, my complication rate has gone down. It’s too soon to know for sure whether that’s not random, but it seems real. I know that I’m learning again. I can’t say that every surgeon needs a coach to do his or her best work, but I’ve discovered that I do.

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A visit to Walt Disney World.
The first thing I did at Walt Disney World was to take an oath not to make any smart-aleck remarks. A Disney public-relations man had told me that attitude was everything. So I placed my left hand on a seven-Adventure book of tickets to the Magic Kingdom and raised my right hand and promised that there would be no sarcasm on my lips or in my heart.
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On cell phones and the decline of public space.

One of the great irritations of modern technology is that when some new development has made my life palpably worse and is continuing to find new and different ways to bedevil it, I'm still allowed to complain for only a year or two before the peddlers of coolness start telling me to get over it already Grampaw--this is just the way life is now.

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Nearly four years later, I sometimes type his email address in the search box in my Gmail. Hundreds of results pop up, and I’ll pick a few at random to read. The ease of our everyday interactions is what kills me.

Remembering a relationship through IM.

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A first-person account of an arrest:

I stared at the yellow walls and listened to a few officers talk about the overtime they were racking up, and I decided that I hated country music. I hated speedboats and shitty beer in coozies and fat bellies and rednecks. I thought about Abu Ghraib and the horror to which those prisoners were exposed. I thought about my dad and his prescience. I was glad he wasn’t alive to know about what was happening to me. I thought about my kids, and what would have happened if they had been there when I got taken away. I contemplated never flying again. I thought about the incredible waste of taxpayer dollars in conducting an operation like this. I wondered what my rights were, if I had any at all. Mostly, I could not believe I was sitting in some jail cell in some cold, undisclosed building surrounded by “the authorities.”
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At age 22, the author went undercover at his old high school. An excerpt of the book that became the film.

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Extracted from the author’s memoir, Life Itself.

The British satirist Auberon Waugh once wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Telegraph asking readers to supply information about his life between birth and the present, explaining that he was writing his memoirs and had no memories from those years. I find myself in the opposite position. I remember everything. All my life I've been visited by unexpected flashes of memory unrelated to anything taking place at the moment. These retrieved moments I consider and replace on the shelf.

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On witnessing the transformation of George W. Bush over 25 years.

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At a dinner party, the author meets one of Afghanistan’s last remaining maskhara  an entertainer, thief and murderer.

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If you are young and you should write asking to see me and learn how to be a somber literary man writing pieces upon the state of emotional exhaustion that often overtakes writers in their prime -- if you should be so young and fatuous as to do this, I would not do so much as acknowledge your letter, unless you were related to someone very rich and important indeed. And if you were dying of starvation outside my window, I would go out quickly and give you the smile and the voice (if no longer the hand) and stick around till somebody raised a nickel to phone for the ambulance, that is if I thought there would be any copy in it for me.
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A look at the artists and writers who drive for a New York cab company. The story that inspired Taxi.

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On the culture of plastic surgery in Los Angeles, and how the reporter’s life changed when she got a pair of fake boobs.

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Dreaming of the perfect apartment.

Should anyone ever choose to remake and bastardize Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I propose an opening sequence re-imagined to reflect more contemporary preoccupations. The revised opening scene should be filmed against the backdrop of an early evening in Brooklyn. The throngs of suits coming home from their nine to five grinds in Manhattan would be emerging from the subway stairwells like ants from an anthill, rushing off down various streets towards their various homes and families and dinners. All except for the would-be protagonist who, as the crowd rushes past her, makes her way to the closed-for-the-night real-estate storefront opposite the subway station. Somewhere, “Moon River” might still be playing, as if it had never stopped. Disheveled, lugging her purse and gym bag, she pauses for a number of minutes to read listings she has already read, and which she committed to memory weeks ago: a studio on Pineapple Street; a loft on Gold Street; a townhouse on Argyle Street; a two-bedroom coop on First Place; a one-bedroom condo on Carlton Avenue; a brownstone on Henry Street. It’s fall and the leaves blow in eddies on the sidewalk. She gets cold and turns away from the window to walk off down the street just as dusk begins to arrive in earnest. The occasional “For Sale” sign swings on its hinges, and the story of the day ends only to begin again in the morning.

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Another look at a popular myth.

For the longest time blues fans didn’t even know what their hero looked like—in 1971, a music magazine even hired a forensic artist to make a composite sketch based on various first-hand accounts—until two photos of Robert Johnson finally came to light.  The dapper young man pictured in the most famous photo, dressed in a stylish suit and smiling affably at the camera, hardly looks like a man who has sold his soul to Lucifer.

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A reporter recounts her weekend as an undercover Juggalette.

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As a teenager, Trey Smith snuck into the cash- and porn-filled home vault of his friend’s father. Fifteen years later, he told the story from prison.

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The truth and consequences of reporting from a war zone.

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I felt, in some substantive yet elusive way, that I had had a hand in killing my mother. And so the search for a bed became a search for sanctuary, which is to say that the search for a bed became the search for a place; and of course by place I mean space, the sort of approximate, indeterminate space one might refer to when one says to another person, "I need some space"; and the fact that space in this context generally consists of feelings did not prevent me from imagining that the space-considered, against all reason, as a viable location; namely, my bedroom-could be filled, pretty much perfectly, by a luxury queen-size bed draped in gray-and-white-striped, masculine-looking sheets, with maybe a slightly and appropriately feminine ruffled bed skirt stretched about the box spring (all from Bellora in SoHo).
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A visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships.

Olinka and Drazen are artists, and after some time passed, they did what artists often do: they put their feelings on display. They became investigators into the plane wreck of love, bagging and tagging individual pieces of evidence. Their collection of breakup mementos was accepted into a local art festival. It was a smash hit. Soon they were putting up installations in Berlin, San Francisco, and Istanbul, showing the concept to the world. Everywhere they went, from Bloomington to Belgrade, people packed the halls and delivered their own relics of extinguished love: “The Silver Watch” with the pin pulled out at the moment he first said, “I love you.” The wood-handled “Ex Axe” that a woman used to chop her cheating lover’s furniture into tiny bits. Trinkets that had meaning to only two souls found resonance with a worldwide audience that seemed to recognize the same heartache all too well.

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 The writer speaks with his father for the first and last time.

My father moved back to Nigeria one month after I was born. Neither I nor my sister Ijeoma, who is a year and a half my elder, have any recollection of him. Over the course of the next 16 years, we did not receive so much as a phone call from him, until one day in the spring of 1999, when a crinkled envelope bearing unfamiliar postage stamps showed up in the mailbox of Ijeoma's first apartment. Enclosed was a brief letter from our father in which he explained the strange coincidence that had led to him "finding" us.* It was a convoluted story involving his niece marrying the brother of one of our mother's close friends from years ago. As a postscript to the letter, he expressed his desire to speak to us and included his telephone number.

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The need for a new letter on an old manual machine leads the author to the shop of Martin Tytell, now in his seventh decade as repairman, historian, and high priest of typewriters.

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The jury room was a gray-green, institutional rectangle: coat hooks on the wall, two small bathrooms off to one side, a long, scarred table surrounded by wooden armchairs, wastebaskets, and a floor superficially clean, deeply filthy. We entered this room on a Friday at noon, most of us expecting to be gone from it by four or five that same day. We did not see the last of it until a full twelve hours had elapsed, by which time the grimy oppressiveness of the place had become, for me at least, inextricably bound up with psychological defeat.
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Tom Wolfe on the development of ”New Journalism,” an unconventional reporting style which he helped to pioneer.

I had the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that I was doing things no one had ever done before in journalism. I used to try to imagine the feeling readers must have had upon finding all this carrying on and cutting up in a Sunday supplement. I liked that idea. I had no sense of being a part of any normal journalistic or literary environment.

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There are believed to be 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. We’re not always who you think we are. Some pick your strawberries or care for your children. Some are in high school or college. And some, it turns out, write news articles you might read. I grew up here. This is my home. Yet even though I think of myself as an American and consider America my country, my country doesn’t think of me as one of its own.
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In the early years of the Iraq war, the U.S. military developed a technology so secret that soldiers would refuse to acknowledge its existence, and reporters mentioning the gear were promptly escorted out of the country. That equipment—a radio-frequency jammer—was upgraded several times, and eventually robbed the Iraq insurgency of its most potent weapon, the remote-controlled bomb.
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A profile of Florida legend—and pardoned killer—Charlie Driver.

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A journey to Disney World with kids and weed.

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An essay about the weeks after the author’s brother nearly died.

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The author gets a security guard job at this aging textile factory. Part of the City by City project.

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A field trip to the video gamey world of the modern trader.

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A bank robber tells the story of a successful heist.

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A personal essay about family through the lens of mashed potatoes.

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The author attends a Tolstoy conference as a grad student. She wears flip-flops, sweatpants and a flannel shirt, and tries to determine if Tolstoy was murdered.

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As surely as 2008 was made possible by black people’s long fight to be publicly American, it was also made possible by those same Americans’ long fight to be publicly black. That latter fight belongs especially to one man, as does the sight of a first family bearing an African name. Barack Obama is the president. But it’s Malcolm X’s America.
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She is an unknown struggling writer. Her boyfriend is Jonathan Franzen.

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Last summer, when she thought nobody was looking, Mary Bale put a cat in the trash. The act was caught on video, and Bale was quickly tried and convicted online. The aftermath of a viral crime.

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On Elizabeth Taylor at the height of her fame.

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A young black gentrifier gets lumped in with both groups, often depending on what she’s wearing and where she’s drinking. She is always aware of that fact.
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Memories of the author’s teenage years, when his father pulled up stakes on a comfortable life in Baltimore to reinvent himself as the head of a S&L bank in Los Angeles.

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“I had inherited a Rolodex full of useful phone numbers (the College Board, a helpful counselor in the UCLA admissions office), but the number I kept handing out was that of a family therapist.”

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Thompson heads to his hometown for the biggest race of the year and produces history’s first piece of gonzo journalism.

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Supply and demand paid-sex economics, ‘hobbyist’ internet message boards, and the power of reviews.

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A detailed account of the writer’s very brief stint as quarterback of the Detroit Lions. A participatory journalism classic.

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A remembrance of relationships formed when the author, at 13 and using a false identity, frequented hockey chat rooms.

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A 134-pound magazine writer takes his chances at the U.S. Open sumo championships.

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Memories of the expat revolutionary scene in 1980s Nicaragua. An excerpt from Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War.

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“In 1995 I was hired as entertainment editor of Hustler magazine at Larry Flynt Publications.” Gang-bang buffet tables, deeply earnest ‘Letters to the Editor’, ghost-writing Kierkegaard references into model bios in Barely Legal, and how a half-decade of reviewing porn erodes the thin line between the author’s alter egos and self.

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A first-person rumination on a lifetime spent behind bars.

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On what you come to appreciate after a short apprenticeship with paramedics.

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The perpetually underpaid author takes a moonlighting job with Demand Media, publisher of search-engine optimized articles with titles like “Hair Styles for Women Over 50 With Glasses”, absurdity ensues.

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A just-barred Pakistani-American attorney attempts to save a young family’s home from foreclosure and glimpses the contradiction-rich bureaucracy that has emerged in response to the housing crisis.

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The author joins his father’s work crew, gutting out foreclosed houses in Florida and interviewing their former residents.

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The author enrolls in three cults - ADIDAM, the Moonies, and Aleph (formerly Aum, who carried out the Tokyo metro Sarin attacks) - via their New York branches.

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The poet and his love affair with Italian motorbikes (and also lots of women.)

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Lessons learned while temping at an Amsterdam coffee shop.

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A firsthand account of prison’s dysfunctional relationships. The writer wasn’t able to gain access through official channels, so he completed guard training and took a job as a Sing Sing corrections officer.

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How Juarez became the murder capital of the world.

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Tony Judt on his own amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and the experience of being “left free to contemplate at leisure and in minimal discomfort the catastrophic progress of one’s own deterioration.”

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A Pynchon conference in Lublin, Poland may say more about the men (yes, only men) who attend Thomas Pynchon conferences than the works of the reclusive author.

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A Hollywood screenwriter finds out his identity’s been stolen when a hooker calls–from his private office–demanding to be paid for the sex they didn’t just have.

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An awkward journalist-Russell Crowe friendship turns even more awkward.

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A trip to a lobster festival leads to an examination of the culinary and ethical dimensions of cooking a live, possibly sentient, creature.

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Adventures in something called “Radical Honesty.”

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It’s legal to buy poppy seeds in America and it’s legal to plant them—unless you’re familiar with the simple process of turning them into opium, that is. Then having poppies in your garden is a felony.

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Less than a week after Katrina, Michael Lewis goes home to New Orleans.

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A first person account of the cigarette based market for services and goods within a WWII P.O.W. camp.

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The inner workings of a surprisingly amiable Holocaust denial conference.

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An excerpt from Zak Smith’s We Did Porn detailing an appearance by porn star Sasha Grey on The Tyra Banks Show.

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A weekend at a Christian gay-to-straight sexual reorientation retreat.

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The improbable and true story of how Al Sharpton, Cornel West, Marion Barry’s wife, and Tucker Carlson (yes, that Tucker Carlson) flew to Liberia to negotiate a ceasefire in the midst of a civil war.