The Top 5 Longreads of the Week
June 29, 2012
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1. The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever
Michael J. Mooney | D Magazine | June 24, 2012 | 18 Minutes (4,622 words)
It's still remembered as "That Night"—when bowler Bill Fong stunned the crowd at the Plano Super Bowl:
"Most people think perfection in bowling is a 300 game, but it isn’t. Any reasonably good recreational bowler can get lucky one night and roll 12 consecutive strikes. If you count all the bowling alleys all over America, somebody somewhere bowls a 300 every night. But only a human robot can roll three 300s in a row—36 straight strikes—for what’s called a 'perfect series.' More than 95 million Americans go bowling, but, according to the United States Bowling Congress, there have been only 21 certified 900s since anyone started keeping track.
"Bill Fong’s run at perfection started as most of his nights do, with practice at around 5:30 pm. He bowls in four active leagues and he rolls at least 20 games a week, every week. That night, January 18, 2010, he wanted to focus on his timing."
More Mooney: "The Day Kennedy Died" (2008)
2. The Truth About the Fast and Furious Scandal
Katherine Eban | Fortune | June 28, 2012 | 26 Minutes (6,709 words)
An investigation into how the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) became accused of intentionally allowing American firearms to get into the hands of Mexican drug cartels:
"Voth grew deeply frustrated. In August 2010, after the ATF in Texas confiscated 80 guns—63 of them purchased in Arizona by the Fast and Furious suspects— Voth got an e-mail from a colleague there: 'Are you all planning to stop some of these guys any time soon? That's a lot of guns…Are you just letting these guns walk?'
"Voth responded with barely suppressed rage: 'Have I offended you in some way? Because I am very offended by your e-mail. Define walk? Without Probable Cause and concurrence from the USAO [U.S. Attorney's Office] it is highway robbery if we take someone's property.' He then recounted the situation with the unemployed suspect who had bought the sniper rifle. 'We conducted a field interview and after calling the AUSA [assistant U.S. Attorney] he said we did not have sufficient PC [probable cause] to take the firearm so our suspect drove home with said firearm in his car…any ideas on how we could not let that firearm "walk"'?"
More Fortune: "Barry Minkow: All-American Con Man" (Jan. 2012)
Eban books on Amazon
3. Keeper of the Flame
Matthew Vollmer | New England Review | June 26, 2012 | 17 Minutes (4,252 words)
A father and son visit a collector of Nazi paraphernalia in the mountains of southwestern North Carolina:
"My father glanced over his shoulder at me and emitted a wheeze-burst of laughter—an exhalation intended to express disbelief. He had led me to an underground vault containing the artifacts of the last century’s most brutal regime, and he now seemed downright giddy. I, on the other hand, didn’t know what to think or what to say. I found it difficult to process what any of this meant. That is, I didn’t know why it was here, how it had gotten from where it had been made to where it was now. Were we in the presence of some kind of monster? Or had he created this space for stuff he deemed historically significant, buried it in a moisture-controlled vault because he fancied himself one of history’s unbiased curators? Was this the product of an obsessive and sympathetic mind, one which interpreted the mainstream records of history as having been unduly cruel to the Third Reich, which had been a movement, in his eyes, about nationalism, about ancestors, about revering and honoring the past? I didn’t know. And, honestly, I was afraid to ask."
See also: "Haunting MoMA: The Forgotten Story of 'Degenerate' Dealer Alfred Flechtheim" (Nina Burleigh, New York Observer)
4. The Kingpins
William Finnegan | The New Yorker | June 25, 2012 | 40 Minutes (10,206 words)
How the upcoming Mexican presidential election could impact the drug war in cities like Guadalajara:
"Weary of pantallas, I tried to get to the bottom of a single bust—the 'historic' meth-lab raid in Tlajomulco that confiscated some four billion dollars’ worth of drugs. Were the drugs seized really worth that much? Well, no. The more experts I consulted, the lower the number sank. Maybe it was a billion, if the meth was pure. Then was it really fifteen tons of 'pure meth.' as widely reported? Well, no. There had been some confusion. There were precursor chemicals. A lot of equipment—gas tanks, reactors. Maybe it was eleven pounds of pure meth. Eleven pounds? Nobody wanted to speak on the record, but the spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office in Guadalajara, a young man named Ulises Enríquez Camacho, finally said, 'Yes, five kilos.' Eleven pounds. The fifteen tons had been methamphetamine ready for packing, according to the Army. But it was not 'a finished product,' and there had been only five kilos of crystal. In the U.S., where meth is often sold by the gram, that amount might be worth five hundred thousand dollars. So the reported value had been inflated by a factor of eight thousand?"
More Finnegan: "Silver or Lead" (2010)
Books by Finnegan on Amazon
5. When My Crazy Father Actually Lost His Mind
Jeneen Interlandi | New York Times Magazine | June 23, 2012 | 29 Minutes (7,460 words)
A daughter recounts the difficult experience of getting her bipolar father the help he needed to get better:
"I could feel everyone getting tired. The emergency-screening service kept sending the same patient to the psychiatric hospital, only to see him again the following week. The hospital had to baby-sit for a man who refused to comply with treatment. I made dozens of phone calls and was getting nowhere. The only people who hadn’t succumbed to fatigue were my mother, though her fingers were cramped from praying so many rosaries, and the local police, who had no choice in the matter. The same roster of officers responded to each call, shepherding my father from the street to the emergency room to PESS to jail, and periodically driving past my mother’s house to make sure things were calm. I worried that before long they, too, would give up and release my father, on his own recognizance, to the street.
"And then what?
"I imagined him circling a drain, the pull of love and obligation dragging my mother and siblings and me behind him."
See also: "When Illness Makes a Spouse a Stranger" (Denise Grady, New York Times, May 2012)
Fiction Pick: Another Life
Paul La Farge | The New Yorker | June 26, 2012 | 17 Minutes (4,307 words)
A husband, feeling sick, leaves his father-in-law's party early:
"At this point, the husband realizes that he doesn’t want to spend the night reading Rousseau in bed, alone. He thinks about going downstairs to the hotel bar. It’s the kind of thing he never does—but ten minutes later there he is, sitting at the bar, reading his book. The husband is not trying to pick anyone up. His wife will be back in an hour or two, and besides, who would dream of picking someone up with Rousseau? Of all the authors you could try to pick someone up with, Rousseau is probably the worst. Or maybe Kant. The husband orders a hot toddy. The bartender, an attractive young woman with crinkly black hair, brings him the drink and they exchange remarks about it. Is that what you wanted? Yes, it’s perfect, the husband says."
See also: "The Untitled Lincoln Love Story Project" (Katya Apekina, Joyland)
Books by La Farge on Amazon | More Longreads fiction picks
"My favorite longread of the week is Steven Lee Myers's 'Hillary Clinton’s Last Tour as a Rock-Star Diplomat' in the New York Times Magazine, which is sort of a real-time history of modern diplomacy and the ever-winding, unpredictable path that is Hillary Clinton's public life. Even the best historians must come at their subjects with an after-the-fact perspective, and thus many histories and biographies describe lives and events as if they were inevitable. Myers smartly doesn't make that mistake here with Clinton, who seems to consistently reinvent herself in surprising ways. His article is a window into how diplomacy and the Obama administration works, and how seemingly small and unrelated things like cookstoves and a blind activist can truly cause international near-incidents."
Hillary Clinton's Last Tour as a Rock-Star Diplomat
Steven Lee Myers | New York Times Magazine | June 27, 2012 | 22 minutes (5,552 words)
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