For this week’s Member Pick, we’re thrilled to share the first chapter of Drew Magary’s new memoir on fatherhood, Someone Could Get Hurt (Gotham Books). Magary, who writes for Deadspin and GQ, has been featured on Longreads many times in the past, and he explained how his latest book came together:
I was in the middle of writing a second novel that would hopefully earn me a billion dollars in movie franchise royalties when my third kid was born. There were complications. I find that ‘complications’ is the universal euphemism for anything bad that happens during the birth and early life of an infant. It can mean anything, really: birth defects, mental illness, a lost limb, an ambulance driven into a tree, etc.
If you’ve ever experienced complications with a baby, you know that it immediately makes any other difficulty you’ve ever experienced in life seem harmless by comparison. Your life can be neatly separated into Before Complications and After Complications. They always say that having a kid changes you, but that’s a lie. It’s having a kid on the brink of dying that changes you.
So I had to table the novel for a bit and get this out of my system. I had to write about my third kid, and I had to write about my family as a whole, about this whole unit of people that needed to be strong enough to go through what we were about to go through. And that’s how Someone Could Get Hurt came to be. This is the first chapter.
Thomas Rhiel and Raphael Pope-Sussman are the founding editors of BKLYNR, a new online publication that features in-depth journalism—including more than a few #longreads—about Brooklyn.
Thomas’s pick: “Brooklyn: The Sane Alternative,” by Pete Hamill in New York magazine
It’s 2013—three long years since New York magazine asked “What was the hipster?”—and yet there are still people for whom Brooklyn means Bedford Avenue. It’s depressing that so played out a trope could displace, in the popular imagination, everything else that the borough is: more populated than Manhattan and three times as massive; a patchwork of neighborhoods, some of which, incredibly, aren’t Williamsburg or Park Slope; and a place whose history stretches as far back as the country’s.
A restorative for the trend piece du jour is Pete Hamill’s “Brooklyn: The Sane Alternative,” a New York magazine cover story from 1969. It’s an oldie but goodie, a look at the borough’s bounce back from what Hamill sees as its postwar (and post-Dodgers) decline. As a snapshot of an evolving Brooklyn from decades ago, the story’s a fascinating read today. And Hamill’s wide-angle view of the borough’s complexities, as well as his celebration of its energy and diversity, still rings true.
Raphael’s pick: “Gentrified Fiction,” by Elizabeth Gumport in n+1
There’s a story many Brooklynites tell in which the moment of their arrival in a neighborhood coincides with the last breath of its “authentic” life. Those who came after, this story goes, never knew the “real” neighborhood. They missed the junkies who hung out on the stoops down the block, the bodega on the corner that sold 40s, the drop ceilings and vinyl siding and linoleum. It’s a seductive story, to hear and to tell. But it’s also a destructive story—really a myth—that valorizes an arbitrary authenticity at the expense of a more complex understanding of the place we call home. What is the “real” Brooklyn—what is the “real” anywhere?
If you’re interested in interrogating that question, I strongly recommend Elizabeth Gumport’s 2011 essay “Gentrified Fiction,” which explores the fixation on authenticity in contemporary literature about Brooklyn.
What are you reading (and loving)? Tell us.
Meaghan O’Connell is the editor-in-chief of meaghano.com:
“I regard novel-writing with a heady combination of awe and dread, so when debut novelist Ted Thompson wrote about his book’s eight (eight!) year journey to completion last week, I opened it in a tab and walked away from my desk immediately. ‘The Evolution of a First Novel’ is as fascinating as it is generous, and takes us along as his book about a retired Connecticut divorcee went from plausible deniability, to short story, to MFA application, to self-doubt, despair, long dog walks, and longer grant applications. The story ends as all real stories should, with an air of peaceful resignation and a book deal. The people mentioned (Thompson most of all, I suppose) seem to be from a bygone literary era, but aren’t—or so we’ll keep hoping. I took from it what is either a reminder, a threat, or a revelation, depending: that people will forgive you when you get in your own way, and make way for you when you get out of it.”
What are you reading (and loving)? Tell us.
(photo by teejayfaust, Flickr)
This week’s Member Pick is “Yellow,” a story by Antonia Crane about the days following the death of her mother. The piece will be featured in Black Clock #17 this summer and is adapted from her forthcoming book Spent. We asked her to tell us how the story first came together:
“‘Yellow’ actually began as a love letter to Cheryl Strayed’s essay ‘The Love of My Life’ (The Sun, Issue #430) which begins ‘The first time I cheated on my husband, my mother had been dead for exactly one week.’ I had become fixated on that essay because in it, Strayed’s palpable sorrow contained a sexually reckless rhythm that I related to as a dancer and sex worker. My own mother died of cancer two months into grad school and I was raging with grief. At that time, I quit my half-assed personal assistant jobs and chose to sit in the dark for two years at ‘Pleasures.’
“A lifelong dancer and athlete, I was more comfortable hurling my body at the world than eating or buying toothpaste. I remember that I could go strip or meet a client for money, but I could not remember to pick up toothpaste no matter how many times I wrote in on my hand with a black Sharpie. I came home one afternoon to a Walgreens bag on my doorknob with Crest in it and bawled.
“Strayed’s essay modeled the utensils I sought to stir up my own concoction of rage and loss that was tearing at my skin. I’m grateful she allowed me to cook in her kitchen. I was mourning my mother. I was dancing; and I wrote like a motherfucker.”
Read an excerpt of “Yellow.”
Become a Longreads Member.
This week’s Member Pick is “Symmetrical Universe,” an essay by physicist Alan Lightman, published in the latest issue of Orion magazine. In it, Lightman explores the wonder of nature and the principles that guide its design—helping to answer questions like why a honeycomb is a hexagon, or why human-created art embraces asymmetry.
Lightman is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and author of books including Einstein’s Dreams and Mr g: A Novel About the Creation.
Read an excerpt here.
Support Longreads—and get more stories like this—by becoming a member for just $3 per month.
Illustration by Katie Kosma
- An Oddly Modern Antiquarian Bookshop in Toronto specializes in the strangest, most wonderful books.
- Katherine Arcement writes about her adolescent love of fan fiction.
- Monica Torres writes about majoring in English while not being white.
- Dating While Feminist and Christian
Emily Perper’s always excellent reading list.