How We Got There from Here


Anna Armstrong | Longreads | December 2017 | 12 minutes (2,903 words)

“Jefferson, I think we’re lost.” — Little America, R.E.M.

The distance between Rodeo and Santa Cruz is just over 90 miles. For the most part the drive is unremarkable — urban, industrial cities and rural, unincorporated towns along the Eastshore Freeway, shaping the wasteland east of San Francisco Bay. But then the interstate gives way to Highway 17 and you begin the ascent to another world. The road is a thin, curlicue curved by the green Santa Cruz Mountains.

As a child I made this trip many times with my parents in our wood-paneled station wagon packed tightly with my five siblings and me — my gaze resting out the window, tracking the miles by the three-minute pop songs on the radio while an endless imaginary flat-panel saw tethered to my slight wrist sliced through the redwoods. Our…

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Imaginary Blurb

Michael Wehunt

I was idly writing a fake blurb for my not-quite-finished novel The Lighted Hand (because why not?) and it sort of turned into a micro-story of its own. No spoilers for the book are here outside of the vaguest thematic sort.

“I finished this Wehunt novel and took it outside and beat it to death with a shovel in my back yard. I know a book isn’t a living thing so I couldn’t beat it to actual death, but at the same time it kinda is a living thing, too, you know? But I use the expression to mean I really went to town on it with that shovel. I was wearing a cap and I took the cap off when I was done and wiped the sweat off my brow. My hands had started to blister. But that wasn’t enough so I dug a hole with the shovel and…

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Derivative Sport: The Journalistic Legacy of David Foster Wallace


By Josh Roiland

Longreads | December 2017 | 32 minutes (8,200 words)

At a hip Manhattan book launch forJohn Jeremiah Sullivan’s 2011 essay collection Pulphead,David Rees, the event’s emcee, asked the two-time National Magazine Award winner,“So John…are you the next David Foster Wallace?” The exchange is startling for its absurdity, and Sullivan shakes his head in disbelief before finally answering, “No, that’s—I’m embarrassed by that.” But the comparison has attached itself to Sullivan and a host of other young literary journalists whom critics have noted bear resemblance to Wallace in style, subject matter, and voice.

WhenLeslie Jamison published The Empathy Exams, her 2014 collection of essays and journalism,a Slate review said “her writing often recalls the work of David Foster Wallace.” Similarly, whenMichelle Orange’s This is Running for Your Life appeared a year earlier, areview in the…

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Getting to Greenland: Book Excerpt

Common Sense and Whiskey

Here is an excerpt from my book Out in the Cold, in which we arrive in Greenland and try to sort out what to do next. Enjoy it:


First thing we have to do, we have to find Robert.

The men smoking outside the concrete block terminal are not Robert so I ask around inside. The man behind the check-in counter might as well be collecting Arctic tumbleweeds. No flights are pending; no one is checking in.

He does not know Robert.

Together we lean over his counter to look down to the harbor. One boat is speeding away and there don’t seem to be any others. He flips his palms up and shakes his head, “I think you just go down there and wait. That is your only chance.”


Humans inhabit the fringe, the perimeter of Greenland not flattened by the ice cap, and…

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Maybe Your House Can Be “Most Congenial”


In an essay at White Noise, Richard Wallace considers his chances at being memorialized with one of the blue English Heritage plaques that dot historic homes in London’s (mostly well-heeled) boroughs:

I mostly think money, power and status are chimeras, eliding the serious parts of the human project… Then I periodically remember those English Heritage blue plaques that go on the walls of noteworthy dwellings, and I think: no. Fuck goodness and principle. I want to get so famous they give my house a medal.

Lack of marketable skills aside, an informal of analysis of plaque recipients reveals the real predictor of plaques: class.

There’s a distinct sense that a certain type of people are predisposed to plaque-worthiness, and the reason is probably what class-progressives already know: that it’s so much easier to get recognised for your achievements if you get a good start in life. This shouldn’t diminish…

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The Nearly Impossible Journey of a Long-Term Survivor


On June 24, 1972, three boys decided to leave their residential school in Canada’s Northwest Territories and walk from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk (“Tuk”), in a bid to avoid punishment for stealing a pack of cigarettes from their dorm supervisor. Without a highway connecting Inuvik to Tuk, the boys had no idea they were undertaking an impossible journey of 90 miles over boggy tundra. At Granta, Nadim Roberts tells the story of Dennis, Jack, and Bernard — just one example of the horrific toll residential schools have exacted on Inuits, the Inuit community, and their traditional ways of life.

From the pond, the boys walked in the direction of the highest hill, where they could see power lines unspooling to the north-east. The 69,000-volt transmission lines had been strung the previous month. ‘These lines go all the way to Tuk,’ Dennis told his friends. He and Bernard were from Tuktoyaktuk…

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I’m Black, and I think Richard Spencer Should Speak At The University of Michigan

Me & a mask

I’m Black, and I think Richard Spencer Should Speak At The University of Michigan

Before anyone gets too upset with me, let me make one thing clear. I find Richard Spencer to be a vile and disgusting human being, and wholeheartedly disagree with his ideology. However, with all that being said, I think it would be best for the University to allow him to come to campus. What’s more, I don’t think a single person should protest, strike, rally, or take any action that would disrupt the event.

Richard Spencer represents a problem that has plagued this country from its inception, but with a recent shift in our political climate the problem has only been exacerbated. He is a part of one of the worst groups in this country, a group that seeks to intimidate, belittle, and eliminate this country’s minority population. Spencer, and those who buy into his thought…

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Second Life: A World that, for Some, Allows Full Participation


At The Atlantic, Leslie Jamison profiles several long-term, hard-core users of the immersive, virtual reality platform Second Life. In the game, you create a fantasy alter-ego and your “selective self” resides in a virtual world that allows you to leave behind everything you don’t like about yourself and your real life. Weary of your teal-blue lozenge pool? Install another.

Some critics of Second Life easily dismiss it as escapism. Despite the fact that Jamison herself struggled to embrace the virtual land of imperfect perfection, she discovered that for some, it can offer a kind of refuge from the hassles and frustrations of everyday life — an oasis of belonging regardless or age, status, or whether or not you have a physical disability or a mental illness. As she notes, “Second Life recognizes the ways that we often feel more plural and less coherent than the world allows…

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Climate Change and Social Disorder in Central Africa


Incorrectly named by Europeans as Lake Lake, Central Africa’s Lake Chad once sprawled across the region where the borders of Nigeria, Niger, Camaroon and Chad meet. This massive lake district was once home to 100 million people, where numerous tribes utilized the lake’s bountiful fish and reed islands, grew crops and grazed cattle. In the 1970s, the lake and its tributaries started drying up. Drought descended, followed by tsetse files, famine and disease. Now the tribes and the jihadist extremist group Boko Harama battle over territory and scrarce resources.

In The New Yorker, Ben Taub reports from Lake Chad, where roads are rare and the desert is spreading, to examine how natural disaster and colonialism led to humanitarian disaster and jihadism. Boko Haram is a reaction to poverty and colonialism, and here on the front lines of climate change, shifting ecology contributes to social decay as much as homegrown greed and…

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The Joys and Sorrows of Watching My Own Birth


Shelby Vittek | Longreads | December 2017 | 13 minutes (3,315 words)

It’s a hot August night in 1991 at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, and the delivery room is filled with bright lights. A film crew is documenting a woman giving birth. After almost 12 hours of active labor, it’s time for her to really push.

A few anxious rounds of counting to 10 and many deep breaths later, the doctor says, “Ooooh there you go, lots of hair.”

“That’s it, the baby’s coming!” the red-haired nurse says with excitement.

That’s when I enter the picture, with a head full of red hair of my own.

* * *

I know this scene well. It’s my own birth. Not many people can say they’ve watched their own delivery, but I can.

In fact, I’ve watched myself be born more times than I should probably ever admit to. I’m doing…

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