The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

25Richards01

Photo by Jessica Rinaldi / Boston Globe staff

***

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

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

***

1. For Richard Family, Loss and Love

David Abel | Boston Globe | April 13, 2014 | 54 minutes (13,683 words)

A family forever changed by the Boston Marathon bombings, one year later:

Bill, still in pain from an unsuccessful operation to repair his ruptured eardrums, continued to struggle making restaurant reservations for four and found himself instinctively grabbing five plates for dinner, having to put one back.

After a while, they were happy to see neighbors, but it wasn’t always comfortable. Some weren’t sure what to say to the Richards and felt strange talking about themselves, at times apologizing for carping about things that seemed so trivial by comparison, like a backache.

But Bill and Denise were buoyed by a steady flow of good will.

More Boston Globe stories from the Longreads Archive

 

2. It’s Adventure Time

Maria Bustillos | The Awl | April 15, 2014 | 45 minutes (11,383 words)

The writer spends some time with the creators of “Adventure Time”—a wildly popular animated TV series on the Cartoon Network—to discuss what makes the show so magical:

We began by talking about humor. Children’s humor, I suggested, is commonly thought of as a kind of “diversion” from fear or sadness. But Adventure Time confronts very dark themes head on: The apocalypse, the possibility of loss and pain, grief and mortality. Yet somehow it makes these grave things seem so simple, unthreatening, even hilarious.

“It’s funnier when you’re sad, I think,” he said. “I’ve heard laughter is releasing stress from your body, like when you go, ’HA! Haaaa!’—you know, you get it out of you. My favorite kind of humor is dark comedies, because I think, mmm… I guess that’s my personality, maybe I’m more cynical about things, so I laugh stuff off easily, and life is really scary?”

More from Bustillos: “Venture Capital’s Massive, Terrible Idea For The Future Of College” (2013)

 

3. Lessons of Immortality and Mortality From My Father, Carl Sagan

Sasha Sagan | New York magazine | April 15, 2014 | 5 minutes (1,475 words)

Sasha Sagan on the life lessons given to her by her father, astronomer and author Carl Sagan:

After days at elementary school, I came home to immersive tutorials on skeptical thought and secular history lessons of the universe, one dinner table conversation at a time. My parents would patiently entertain an endless series of “why?” questions, never meeting a single one with a “because I said so” or “that’s just how it is.” Each query was met with a thoughtful, and honest, response — even the ones for which there are no answers.

See also: “King of the Cosmos: A Profile of Neil deGrasse Tyson” (Carl Zimmer, Playboy)

 

4. Why I Fixed Fights

Charles Farrell | Deadspin | April 16, 2014 | 32 minutes (8,000 words)

A longtime manager on the dirty business of professional boxing:

I fixed a lot of fights over the years. In two I didn’t fix but should have, people paid heavily for my carelessness. Even though I set up Mitch “Blood” Green and Leon Spinks cushion-soft in their comeback fights, I managed to get one embarrassed and the other nearly killed. There had been opportunities for them, deals that came undone when they lost. It wasn’t as if the winners benefited in any tangible way either. At best their victories brought them smallish short-term bragging rights. Among boxing insiders they were objects of scorn for having won, as incompetent at their jobs as Green, Spinks, and I were at ours.

More Deadspin: “Can Diamond Dallas Page Save Wrestling’s Walking Dead?” (Tom Ley)

 

5. The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie

John Jeremiah Sullivan | The New York Times | April 22, 2014 | 55 minutes (13,953 words)

Sullivan searches for the real story behind two phantom voices that recorded songs for Paramount in the early 1930s:

No grave site, no photograph. Forget that — no anecdotes. This is what set Geeshie and Elvie apart even from the rest of an innermost group of phantom geniuses of the ’20s and ’30s. Their myth was they didn’t have anything you could so much as hang a myth on. The objects themselves — the fewer than 10 surviving copies, total, of their three known Paramount releases, a handful of heavy, black, scratch-riven shellac platters, all in private hands — these were the whole of the file on Geeshie and Elvie, and even these had come within a second thought of vanishing, within, say, a woman’s decision in cleaning her parents’ attic to go against some idle advice that she throw out a box of old records and instead to find out what the junk shop gives. When she decides otherwise, when the shop isn’t on the way home, there goes the music, there go the souls, ash flakes up the flue, to flutter about with the Edison cylinder of Buddy Bolden’s band and the phonautograph of Lincoln’s voice.

More Sullivan: “One of Us” (Lapham’s Quarterly)

The staff of Longreads.
Get the Longreads Weekly Email

Sign up to receive the Top 5 Longreads of the week, delivered every Friday.