Doug Bock Clark has written for GQ, Wired, and The New Yorker. His new book is The Last Whalers: Three Years in the Far Pacific with a Courageous Tribe and a Vanishing Way of Life.

“I think for me the answer has always been you just find the people. You just listen to their stories. I think we're all microcosms, right? We're all fractals of the bigger world. Whether it's my own life or your life or the Lamalerans or other people I've encountered reporting. I think one of the things I'm constantly aware of is how these sort of greater world historical forces are working on us and shaping our lives. For more people than most people would assume, if you just followed their life and looked at it in the particulars but also in the broader circumstances, you could probably draw larger themes from them and their experiences. I never had any worries about whether I could expand the Lamaleran story. It was always just about getting those specific stories right, and I knew the rest of it would come.”

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Going To Extremes

They listened to the radio until there was nothing more to do. Philip went into the house and retrieved a container of Kraft vanilla pudding, which he’d mixed with all the drugs he could find in the house—Valium, Klonopin, Percocet, and so on. He opened the passenger-­side door and knelt beside Becky. He held a spoon, and she guided it to her mouth. When Becky had eaten all the pudding, he got back into the driver’s seat and swallowed a handful of pills. Philip asked her how the pudding tasted. “Like freedom,” she said. As they lost consciousness, the winter chill seeped into their clothes and skin.

Lizzie Johnson covers wildfires for the San Francisco Chronicle.

“It’s kind of like when you’re a beginning journalist and you have to write an obituary—calling the family of the person who died seems like this insurmountable, very invasive task and you really don’t want to do it. That’s kind of how I felt about interviewing fire victims at first. I felt like I was somehow intruding on their grief and their pain. But somewhere along the way I realized there’s healing power in talking about what you’ve been through. Saying it out loud and being able to claim ownership to it. I found that time after time these people are very grateful because they need to talk. They have something to say in the aftermath of this big, massive thing that just came and wiped out everything they knew. They really do just need someone to listen to them. I have never had someone tell me, ‘Go away, we don’t want to talk to you.’ And I’m completely bowled over by that every single time.”

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