There was a certain buzz in the air before Michael Hastings’s The Last Magazine was published. His personal story, in fact, is the stuff that good fiction is made of. A prominent journalist, he died just over a year ago in a single-vehicle crash in the hours before dawn, triggering speculation that he had been murdered.
Legend has it that Hemingway, after reading a review of his work that he didn’t like, strode into the reviewer’s office and slapped him across the face with a book. Upset over a line that questioned his bravado — the line compared his writing style to “wearing false hair on the chest” — Hemingway tore off his shirt to prove his chest hair was real. This week, The New Republic republished the article that started the fight. (For a lighter take on the author, you could read Stephanie Bernhard on cooking recipes in Hemingway’s fiction.)
Spider-Man is one of our favorite superheroes, but he’s a terrible journalist. At The Atlantic, discusses how Peter Parker and Clark Kent are unethical reporters. “The media is, in theory at least, supposed to be honest. Putting on a costume, coming up with a fake name, and lying to everyone about what you really do are the opposite of that.”
How do you keep going back and back and back in conditions that are really awful? It’s the people that keep you going back; it’s these deep engagements with these people that you’re learning a great deal from. … It really is a respect and a love for these people that has nothing to do with your own virtue. It has to do with their claim on your heart. Then the trick is how do you get that onto the page so that people in New York, 8,000 miles away from their community, will be able to engage with their dilemmas?
"This is what set Geeshie and Elvie apart even from the rest of an innermost group of phantom geniuses of the ’20s and ’30s. Their myth was they didn’t have anything you could so much as hang a myth on." John Jeremiah Sullivan investigates more mysterious musicians in The New York Times Magazine. Bonus: You can listen to their music as you read. For more of Sullivan’s music journalism, read his piece on the origins of ska.
Just as an artist needs to identify his light source before beginning a painting, a writer looks for a narrative power source — what sets the story in motion, or what obstructs it. Perhaps no writer is as concerned with the minutiae of power and motivation, its shifts and upheavals, as a journalist — someone who has covered politics, wars, and uprisings here and abroad. Not to mention a journalist who was successful in his field for years, who always met his deadlines and word counts, and who ultimately decided to leave the profession entirely in order write his own truths.
Who invented ska music? John Jeremiah Sullivan traces the history of the genre in his latest essay for The Oxford American. “The more the claims for Rosco Gordon’s supremacy as a ska progenitor seem not out of proportion, and the less crazy it feels to say that, in a sense, ska was born in Tennessee.” Pair with: Sullivan’s essay on Bunny Wailer, who makes a cameo in his ska essay.
At a refugee community in Onagawa, an old neighbour would appear in the living rooms of the temporary houses, and sit down for a cup of tea with their startled occupants. No one had the heart to tell her that she was dead; the cushion on which she had sat was wet with seawater.