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An American (Working) in Paris

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.

Opium's Varied Dreams

"Opium does not deprive you of your senses. It does not make a madman of you. But drink does. See? Who ever heard of a man committing murder when full of hop. Get him full of whiskey and he might kill his father."

A journey into New York’s turn-of-the-century opium dens to find out who gets hooked and why.

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

The story of Attila Ambrus, who was released from jail this morning in Hungary. Nicknamed the Whiskey Robber because witnesses always spotted him having a double across the street prior to his heists, Ambrus only stole from state-owned banks and post offices, becoming a Hungarian folk hero during his seven years on the lam. While on his spree he was also the goaltender for Budapest’s best-known hockey team and was arguably the worst pro goalie ever to play the sport, once giving up 23 goals in a single game.

Excerpted from Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts.

Train of Thought: On the 'Subway' Photographs

An essay drawn from the introduction of Davidson’s iconic book Subway, first published in 1986:

To prepare myself for the subway, I started a crash diet, a military fitness exercise program, and early every morning I jogged in the park. I knew I would need to train like an athlete to be physically able to carry my heavy camera equipment around in the subway for hours every day. Also, I thought that if anything was going to happen to me down there I wanted to be in good shape, or at least to believe that I was. Each morning I carefully packed my cameras, lenses, strobe light, filters, and accessories in a small, canvas camera bag. In my green safari jacket with its large pockets, I placed my police and subway passes, a few rolls of film, a subway map, a notebook, and a small, white, gold-trimmed wedding album containing pictures of people I’d already photographed in the subway. In my pants pocket I carried quarters for the people in the subway asking for money, change for the phone, and several tokens. I also carried a key case with additional identification and a few dollars tucked inside, a whistle, and a small Swiss Army knife that gave me a little added confidence. I had a clean handkerchief and a few Band-Aids in case I found myself bleeding.

Peyton's Place

When your house is the set of One Tree Hill:

On one shoot, I remember, I'd been confused about where they needed to set up (confession: hungover), and as a result neglected to clean the bedroom. Later, a crew guy—the same one who'd told me about Blue Velvet—said, "I'm not used to picking up other people's underwear." I felt like saying, Then don't go into their bedrooms at nine o'clock in the morning! Except… he was paying to be in my bedroom.

Norman Mailer Sent Me

In 1972, James Wolcott arrived in New York armed with a letter of recommendation from Norman Mailer. He hoped to land a job at The Village Voice. Excerpted from his memoir, Lucking Out.

How lucky I was, arriving in New York just as everything was about to go to hell. I had no idea how fortunate I was at the time, eaten up as I was by my own present-tense concerns and taking for granted the lively decay, the intense dissonance, that seemed like normality.

My obsession with a New York cup of coffee and a doughnut

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?"

I Was Born Inside the Movie of My Life

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.