2010’s Best Long Reads: Art, Design, Film & Music
By Mark Armstrong
PLEASE ALLOW ME TO CORRECT A FEW THINGS
Please Allow Me to Correct a Few Things (Bill Wyman, Slate, Nov. 5, 2010)
Time to read: 20 minutes (5,103 words)
Not an actual letter written by Mick Jagger, responding point-by-point to offending passages in Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life. It’s better: Music critic Bill Wyman created this fictional correspondence to construct an in-depth history of Mick and Keith’s relationship.
“He’s just trying to get my attention, I think, in the end. The remaining part of the rancor comes from the fact that he knows he lost me, many years ago.”
CRIMES OF ART?
Crimes of the Art? (Michael Shnayerson, Vanity Fair, Dec. 1, 2010, 7062 words)
Time to read: 28 minutes (7,062 words)
A disturbing and heartbreaking portrait of a family grappling with its late father’s legacy: Was artist Larry Rivers a genius, an abuser, or both?
“Emma declares her father guilty of nothing less than child pornography, over a period of six years, with herself and Gwynne as his unwilling subjects.”
NEW YORK’S GARBAGE ANTHROPOLOGIST
New York’s Garbage Anthropologist (Alex Carp, The Believer, September 2010, 4009 words)
Time to read: 16 minutes (4,009 words)
There’s art in everything, even garbage. The Believer interviews Robin Nagle, the resident “garbage anthropologist” for New York City’s Department of Sanitation.
“Every single thing you see is future trash. Everything. So we are surrounded by ephemera, but we can’t acknowledge that, because it’s kind of scary.”
THE MARK OF A MASTERPIECE
The Mark of a Masterpiece (David Grann, The New Yorker, July 12, 2010, 16034 words)
Time to read: 64 minutes (16,034 words)
Peter Paul Biro uses fingerprint technology to help authenticate works of art–and writer David Grann puts the entire process under a microscope.
“When I asked Biro if he worried that his method might be flawed, he said that during nearly two decades of fingerprint examinations he had ‘not made one mistake.’ He added, ‘I take a long time and I don’t allow myself to be rushed.'”
STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY: THE X FACTOR
Stephen Tobolowsky: The X Factor, Part One (Stephen Tobolowsky, The Awl, Aug. 2010, 4021 words)
Time to read: 16 minutes (4,021 words)
Character actor Stephen Tobolowsky is probably best known as Ned Ryerson from the movie Groundhog Day, and as Sandy Ryerson on the Fox show Glee. Few stories offer a more realistic glimpse of an actor’s life and what it’s like to audition in Hollywood. (Read part two here.)
“Message to young actors: When you first come to L.A. and you start to despair, remember the X-Factor. Hollywood is not like school. There is no syllabus and there are no grades-here you can succeed by complete failure.”
TV’S CROWNING MOMENT OF AWESOME
TV’s Crowning Moment of Awesome (Chris Jones, Esquire, Aug. 1, 2010, 5085 words)
Time to read: 20 minutes (5,085 words)
Esquire’s Chris Jones is on many Longreads best-of lists for his incredible profile of Roger Ebert (Click here to read it), but let’s not forget his investigation into a mysterious win on TV’s The Price Is Right. How, exactly, did Terry Kneiss make history by guessing the exact value of his Showcase Showdown?
“Terry believed that his brain and his eyes and his strong, deep voice made him the perfect vessel for exploiting weakness, for capitalizing on the imperfections of others — for seeing in their patterns an opportunity, a chance for him to break the game.”
AND GOD CREATED CONTROVERSY
And God Created Controversy (Jon Ronson, The Guardian, Oct. 9, 2010, 3141 words)
Time to read: 13 minutes (3,141 words)
If you aren’t a hardcore Juggalo, you can at least thank the Insane Clown Posse for inspiring some of the most bizarre stories of the past year. This one supposedly outs them as evangelical Christians. (See also: Inside the Gathering of the Juggalos, by Camille Dodero, Village Voice.)
“I suddenly wonder, halfway through our interview, if I am looking at two men in clown make-up who are suffering from depression.”
THE MAN WHO MAKES YOUR iPHONE
Apple & Design: The Man Who Makes Your iPhone (Frederik Balfour and Tim Culpan, Businessweek, Sept. 9, 2010, 5204 words)
Time to read: 21 minutes (5,204 words)
… paired with …
INTERVIEW WITH JOHN SCULLEY
Interview with John Sculley (Leander Kahney, Cult of Mac, Oct. 14, 2010, 8322 words)
Time to read: 33 minutes (8,322 words)
Two men who have worked close to Steve Jobs, in different ways: The first is a profile of Terry Gou, CEO of Foxconn, the China-based manufacturer whose 300,000 employees build the iPhone and other products. The second is an interview with former Apple CEO John Sculley, who looks back on his time working with Jobs and the mistakes he made.
“[Steve Jobs] was a person of huge vision. But he was also a person that believed in the precise detail of every step. He was methodical and careful about everything — a perfectionist to the end.”
CHERAYLA DAVIS: AMATEUR
Cherayla Davis: Amateur (Paul Hiebert, The Awl, Oct. 26, 2010, 2477 words)
Time to read: 10 minutes (2,477 words)
One aspiring singer’s story of near-misses and changing priorities–culminating in a performance at the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night.
“‘I was tired of being poor, and a lot of people have to be poor before they make it, but I’m just not willing to do that,’ Cherayla said. ‘You know how someone says “You’re so talented, you’re going to be the next _______!” I don’t receive that anymore from people, and I don’t want that.'”
See more Longreads 2010 “best-of” lists here.
Published December 14, 2010