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Longreads’ Best of WordPress, Vol. 2

Here are 10 of our favorite stories right now from Autostraddle, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Toast, Walrus Magazine, and more.
AUTHOR:Mike Dang
PUBLISHED: July 23, 2014

Islands in the Stream

The Bee Gees were pop music geniuses whose work in 1978 "accounted for 2 percent of the entire record industry’s profits." Yet they were still underappreciated—and also still capable of making ill-conceived creative decisions.
PUBLISHED: July 18, 2014
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2817 words)

Reading List: Summertime and the Reading Is Easy

Five stories about summer from The New Yorker, The Rumpus, Flavorwire, The Paris Review, and Autostraddle.
PUBLISHED: July 7, 2014

Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction No. 119

From 1990: George Plimpton interviews the acclaimed poet, who died Wednesday at age 86:

When I finish maybe fifty pages and read them—fifty acceptable pages—it’s not too bad. I’ve had the same editor since 1967. Many times he has said to me over the years or asked me, Why would you use a semicolon instead of a colon? And many times over the years I have said to him things like: I will never speak to you again. Forever. Goodbye. That is it. Thank you very much. And I leave. Then I read the piece and I think of his suggestions. I send him a telegram that says, OK, so you’re right. So what? Don’t ever mention this to me again. If you do, I will never speak to you again. About two years ago I was visiting him and his wife in the Hamptons. I was at the end of a dining room table with a sit-down dinner of about fourteen people. Way at the end I said to someone, I sent him telegrams over the years. From the other end of the table he said, And I’ve kept every one! Brute! But the editing, one’s own editing, before the editor sees it, is the most important.

PUBLISHED: May 28, 2014
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6569 words)

Matthew Weiner: The Art of Screenwriting

The Mad Men creator on his early inspiration and the making of Don Draper:

You know in Reds, when they’re interviewing the witnesses, and Henry Miller says, People today think they invented fucking? That kind of thing. The old people you’re looking at, they may have been more carnal than we are—drunker, less responsible, more violent. So many of those film noirs are about how soldiers reintegrate themselves into society. The private detective is haunted by the shadow of having killed people in the war. Don’t even get me started on The Best Years of Our Lives. The move to the suburbs, the privacy, the conservatism of the fifties—that’s all being driven by guys who, for two years, had not gone to the bathroom in privacy. I’m not the first TV person to be puzzled and fascinated by the fifties. The two biggest shows of the seventies are MASH and Happy Days. Obviously that moment is some sort of touchstone for culture. Is Hawkeye not related to Don Draper? He’s an alcoholic Boy Scout who behaves badly all the time. I just wanted to go back and look again.

PUBLISHED: May 6, 2014
LENGTH: 33 minutes (8452 words)

Death of a Salesman

On the genius of Cal Worthington, the legendary Southern California car dealer and TV pitchman who died Sept. 8 at age 92:

"Worthington’s long-running series of self-produced spots never deviated from a formula. The slender cowboy—six foot four in beaver-skin Stetsons and a custom Nudie suit—always preceded his hyperactive sales pitch with a gambol through the lot of his Dodge dealership, accompanied by an escalating succession of exotic animals. Originally it was an ape, then a tiger, an elephant, a black bear, and, finally, Shamu, the killer whale from SeaWorld—each of which was invariably introduced as Cal’s dog, Spot. Not once did he appear with a canine. The banjo-propelled jingle (set to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”) exhorted listeners to 'Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal,' a catchphrase that became the basis for the most infamous mondegreen in Golden State history. To this day, Pussycow remains a nostalgic code word exchanged among Californians who came of age in the era before emissions standards."

(via The Browser)
AUTHOR:Sam Sweet
PUBLISHED: Oct. 10, 2013
LENGTH: 6 minutes (1553 words)

Longreads Member Pick: 'A Semester with Allen Ginsberg,' by Elissa Schappell

This week we're excited to feature Elissa Schappell's essay, "The Craft of Poetry: A Semester with Allen Ginsberg," as our Longreads Member Pick. Her recollections are an intimate window into the Beat legend. The piece originally appeared in the Summer 1995 issue of the Paris Review and was later anthologized in their 1999 collection Beat Writers at Work. Thanks to Schappell and the Paris Review for sharing it with the Longreads community.

Become a Longreads Member to receive the full ebook.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 3, 2013
LENGTH: 62 minutes (15685 words)

Child Mortality

The writer on contemplating death at an early age:

"For a time I thought that if I ignored death it would ignore me. At school, I tried not looking out across at the cemetery; I shielded my eyes when I was driven past it in the mornings and afternoons, turned my face away any time I was made to go outside during the day. But the grounds and the graves were always there on my blurred periphery. Even tucked away inside the school building, sitting in class or walking the halls, I felt a dark, sickly pull, like death had me in its sights, like it was daring me, just daring me, to look it in the eye.

"I wasn’t even safe at home, or asleep. That fall I began to dream of death—or perhaps I had always dreamed of death but it was only then that I was able to remember the dreams in any detail when I woke. I was so much a child then that it is almost hard to comprehend. I feel like I never possibly could have been so small, so new. When things happened then, they happened for the first time. They had never happened before."
PUBLISHED: June 20, 2013
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5379 words)


[Fiction, National Magazine Awards finalist] A lapsed Christian Scientist meets a woman escaping her past:

"Seamus lived in Wheaton, Maryland, in the last house on a quiet street that dead-ended at a county park. He’d bought the entire property, including a rental unit out back, at a decent price. This was after the housing market crashed but before people knew how bad it would get—back when he was still a practicing Christian Scientist, still had a job and a girlfriend he’d assumed he would marry. Now, two years later, he was single, faithless, and unemployed. The money his mother had loaned him for a down payment was starting to look more like a gift, as were the checks she’d been sending for the last year to help him cover the mortgage. His life was in disrepair, but for the first time in months he wasn’t thinking about any of that: he was sitting out back on a warm spring day with a woman. Her name was Charity, and she was a stranger."
PUBLISHED: May 6, 2013
LENGTH: 48 minutes (12042 words)