The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle and Readmill users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

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1. Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney

Ron Suskind | The New York Times Magazine | March 9, 2014 | 36 minutes (9,118 words)

Suskind explores how his autistic son Owen found a voice through the lessons and sidekicks in Disney films. The story is an excerpt from the journalist’s new book, Life, Animated:

Owen’s chosen affinity clearly opened a window to myth, fable and legend that Disney lifted and retooled, just as the Grimm Brothers did, from a vast repository of folklore. Countless cultures have told versions of “Beauty and the Beast,” which dates back 2,000 years to the Latin “Cupid and Psyche” and certainly beyond that. These are stories human beings have always told themselves to make their way in the world.

But what draws kids like Owen to these movies is something even more elemental. Walt Disney told his early animators that the characters and the scenes should be so vivid and clear that they could be understood with the sound turned off. Inadvertently, this creates a dream portal for those who struggle with auditory processing, especially, in recent decades, when the films can be rewound and replayed many times.

See also: “Navigating Love and Autism” (Amy Harmon)

 

2. The Reckoning

Andrew Solomon | The New Yorker | March 10, 2014 | 30 minutes (7,650 words)

The father of the Sandy Hook killer searches for answers:

In Peter Lanza’s new house, on a secluded private road in Fairfield County, Connecticut, is an attic room overflowing with shipping crates of what he calls “the stuff.” Since the day in December, 2012, when his son Adam killed his own mother, himself, and twenty-six people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, strangers from across the world have sent thousands upon thousands of letters and other keepsakes: prayer shawls, Bibles, Teddy bears, homemade toys; stories with titles such as “My First Christmas in Heaven”; crosses, including one made by prison inmates. People sent candy, too, and when I visited Peter, last fall, he showed me a bag of year-old caramels.

See also: “Orders of Grief: Newtown, 11 Months Later” (Lisa Miller, New York magazine)

 

3. The Soundproof Room

Lacy M. Johnson | Tin House | March 12, 2014 | 15 minutes (3,918 words)

An excerpt from Johnson’s memoir The Other Side, which details Johnson’s experience of being held prisoner in a soundproofed room by her ex-boyfriend and what followed after she escaped:

The Detective follows me to my new apartment in the unmarked car. He offers to come inside, to stand guard at the door, but I don’t want him to see that I have no furniture, no food in the fridge, nothing in the pantry, or the linen closet, or on the walls. I ask him to wait outside. I call my boss at the literary magazine where I am an intern and leave a message on the office voice mail: Hi there. I was kidnapped and raped last night. I won’t be coming in today. I call My Good Friend’s cell phone. I call My Older Sister’s cell phone.

While I’m in the shower, the apartment phone rings and callers leave messages on the machine: My Good Friend will stay with her boyfriend; she’s delaying her move-in date. Of course she hates to do this, but she’s just too scared to live here, with me, right now. You should find somewhere to go, she says. My Handsome Friend’s message says he heard the news from My Good Friend. He’s leaving town and doesn’t think it’s safe to tell me where to find him. The message My Older Sister leaves says she wants me to come stay at her place, which sounds better than sleeping alone in this apartment on the floor.

More Tin House: “The Mandarin and the Hipster” (Gerald Howard)

 

4. Inside the Barista Class

Molly Osberg | The Awl | March 11, 2014 | 22 minutes (5,621 words)

A former barista examines service work and the difficult transition into the creative class:

My kind of service work is not the kind of service work that puts you in the back room washing dishes for 12-hour shifts for dollars because you are considered completely expendable. But my kind of service work is part of the same logic that indiscriminately razes neighborhoods. It outsources the emotional and practical needs of the oft-fetishized, urban-renewing “creative” workforce to a downwardly mobile middle class, reducing workers’ personality traits and educations to a series of plot points intended to telegraph a zombified bohemianism for the benefit of the rich.

See also: “How to Bully Children” (Sarah Miller)

 

5. The Story Behind The Rob Ford Story

Ivor Tossell | The Walrus | March 1, 2014 | 25 minutes (6,275 words)

How a little-known Supreme Court ruling unmuzzled reporters—and changed Canadian journalism:

The truth about Rob Ford was dragged into public view one story at a time, in every case without the benefit of irrefutable proof. There were no Breathalyzer tests proving that the mayor had a drinking problem, and while three journalists reported seeing the video of the mayor smoking crack, it would be months before the police confirmed that it even existed. Through it all, Ford and his older brother Doug, a city councillor, fought back by vigorously advancing versions of events that were the exact opposite of what happened. How, then, did Doolittle and others manage to get at the truth without risking the mother of all defamation suits?

See also: “The Marineland Dreamland” (Craig Davidson)

 

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Image via the Suskind Family / NYT

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