Our favorite stories of the week, featuring The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, SB Nation, Priceonomics and Esquire, with a guest pick by Sasha Belenky.
Stephanie Lee, a 36-year-old Iraq War widow with two children is diagnosed with terminal colon cancer and told she has just a few years to live. A group of pioneering cancer specialists at the Icahn Institute at Mount Sinai use genetic data to figure out alternative treatments to "the standard of care" that could give her her life back:
His name was Ross Cagan. He did not work for Schadt; he worked as a professor at Sinai. But they met every week, and after Schadt called on October 1 to tell Cagan about Stephanie Lee, he listened to Cagan's idea for her. A month earlier, Cagan had started doing something that he said "had never been done before." He started creating "personalized flies" for cancer patients. He took the mutations that scientists like Schadt had revealed and loaded them into flies, essentially giving the flies the same cancer that the patient had. Then he treated them. "Why a fly? You can do this in a fly. You can capture the complexities of the tumor."
A day after Cagan spoke with Schadt, Stephanie became the fifth person in the world to have a fly built in her image—or, rather, in the image of her cancer. In an ideal world, Cagan would have created as complex a creature as possible, burdening the fly with at least ten mutations. He gave Stephanie's fly three, because "Stephanie is on the shorter course. We're making the fly as complex as possible given her time." By October 11, however, Cagan already had "one possible drug suggestion for her"—or one possible combination of drugs, since he always tests at least two at a time. "In this center, the FDA will not allow us to put a novel drug in patient. To get a novel drug into a patient, we have to do a novel combination of [known] drugs. We have to use novel drug combinations that people have never seen before."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 20, 2013
LENGTH: 60 minutes (15090 words)
Tom Junod’s profile of George Clooney, in which the actor takes on Russell Crowe, Tesla and Leonardo DiCaprio:
"And the thing about playing Leo is you have all these guys talking shit. We get there, and there’s this guy, Danny A I think his name is. Danny A is this club kid from New York. And he comes up to me and says, ‘We played once at Chelsea Piers. I kicked your ass.’ I said, ‘I’ve only played at Chelsea Piers once in my life and ran the table. So if we played, you didn’t kick anybody’s ass.’ And so then we’re watching them warm up, and they’re doing this weave around the court, and one of the guys I play with says, ‘You know we’re going to kill these guys, right?’ Because they can’t play at all. We’re all like fifty years old, and we beat them three straight: 11–0, 11–0, 11–0. And the discrepancy between their game and how they talked about their game made me think of how important it is to have someone in your life to tell you what’s what. I’m not sure if Leo has someone like that.”
PUBLISHED: Nov. 12, 2013
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6061 words)
Our story picks of the week, featuring Esquire, Wired, BuzzFeed, The New Republic, Lapham's Quarterly, and a guest pick by Sari Botton.
PUBLISHED: Sept. 27, 2013
Inside Air Force One moments after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963:
"Judge Hughes has been found. She is on her way.
"In the passenger cabin, Stoughton, the White House photographer, approaches Liz Carpenter and Marie Fehmer. He is sweating and ashen. 'You must go in and tell the president,' he says, still trying to catch his breath, 'that this is a history-making moment, and while it seems tasteless, I am here to make a picture if he cares to have it. And I think we should have it.'"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 17, 2013
LENGTH: 31 minutes (7829 words)
An intimate look at the life of Caitlyn Pinto, a ten-year-old girl living in Canada who loves Justin Bieber and has thoughtful ideas about racism and bullying:
"Caitlyn has an iPod touch, which allows her to surf the Internet, though she uses it mostly for iMessage, and FaceTime, a kind of one-on-one video chat. She and her friends message several times a day, about dumb stuff: school, music, what are you eating, whatever. On Fridays, they group-message, with everyone texting online at once. The family rule is that Facebook is not allowed until grade seven, and Caitlyn is fine with that. After much discussion at school about cyberstalking and cyberbullying, the prospect of sharing too much in cyberspace makes her nervous. Friends talk about the suicide of Amanda Todd, the BC teen bullied so callously across the Internet and at school. Caitlyn has heard stories about grade seven girls being teased online, and this is scary: an electronic footprint fixes a young girl’s identity when she is most in flux, and it can’t be erased. 'I like texting more than Facebook, because you know where it’s going. It’ll just go to one friend, and you can’t forward things.'"
(Related: Susan Orlean's classic profile, "The American Male at Age Ten,"
which was published in Esquire in 1992)
PUBLISHED: Sept. 11, 2013
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5622 words)
For this week’s Member Pick, we’re excited to share “The Prophet,”
the much-talked-about new story from Luke Dittrich
magazine investigating the claims made by Dr. Eben Alexander in the best-selling book Proof of Heaven,
about Alexander’s own near-death experience.
Dittrich, a contributing editor at Esquire since 2008, has been featured on Longreads many times in the past and his work has appeared in anthologies including The Best American Crime Writing, The Best American Travel Writing, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and his article about a group of strangers who sheltered together during a devastating tornado won the 2012 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing. He is currently writing a book for Random House about his neurosurgeon grandfather's most famous patient, Henry Molaison, an amnesiac from whom medical science learned most of what it knows about how memory works.
Read an excerpt here. Become a Longreads Member to receive the full ebook.
PUBLISHED: July 23, 2013
LENGTH: 42 minutes (10525 words)
This week's picks include stories from Salon, Esquire, VQR, Fast Company and D Magazine.
The writer on the man who became his father figure:
"A few years ago I was working on a book project, and the deadline was crushing me. I hadn't given myself enough time to write, and I was panicking, so I left Jessica and the kids in New York and moved out to Princeton with Dieter for a month, to race the clock. I quickly established a routine of working day and night, and without a word being said, Dieter made himself my twenty-four-hour valet. Every morning as I awoke, he'd bring me a cup of coffee. 'Would you like to see the menu?' he'd ask. 'Or shall we just have the chef whip up something for you?' If I fell asleep on the couch, he would cover me with a blanket. It was the fall, and every morning he and I would take a walk in the changing colors, and we would talk through the day's writing, and every couple days, Dieter would read pages for me and tell me what he thought.
"He knew that I'd given up on my own father, and he looked on me with a kindness for which I was not at all prepared, that it seemed he had been waiting for just this moment to bestow. Sometimes it was almost too much for me to bear. As he made us dinner, he would ask me about my life and say such encouraging things with love and without qualification, and I would look at him and think, Are you real?"
PUBLISHED: July 8, 2013
LENGTH: 23 minutes (5845 words)