July 26th brought news items reporting two separate incidents of curious holiday gastronomy. First, tourists in the Paracel Islands posted pictures of a meal of Tridacna gigas—endangered giant clams. At the same time, vacationers in Greece snapped photos of themselves hoisting an extraordinarily rare "hexapus," only the second ever recorded, just before killing it and frying it in a nearby pub. Yet only one of these stories was largely used as evidence to feed an expansive and growing set of opinions about an entire nationality and culture.
Of all China's frighteningly fast advances, international travel is, in light of history, maybe its most stunning. Two decades [...]
William Shawn began work at The New Yorker in 1933, was appointed managing editor in 1939 and, quite shortly after the death of founding editor Harold Ross, became the magazine's editor in 1951.
In 1985, 34 years later, Shawn was still the editor, but Peter Fleischmann, the son of founding partner Raoul Fleischmann, owned only 25% of shares in The New Yorker. Paine Webber owned the next largest share, and the Newhouse family's Advance Publications already owned around 17% of the publication. Advance wanted, and got, the rest, for a price something like 20 times current revenues, according to the Times.
The employees, however, were not happy [...]
"Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world. Once upon a time you saw people like this in every newsroom in the country. They often had chaotic personal lives and they died early of cirrhosis or a heart attack. But they were tough, angry SOBs and they produced great stories. Do you want to know what kind of people get promoted and succeed in the modern news organization? Social climbers. Networkers. People who are gregarious, who 'buy in' to [...]
"America's largest open-air mental hospital," that's how Oceanside police spokesman Bob George described this run-down coastal city between Camp Pendleton and the surfer towns of North San Diego County. I called it the Slum by the Sea. Despite the miles of beach and the beautiful old Spanish mission and the Southern California weather, Oceanside was a honky tonk Marine Corps town on the west side of Interstate 5 and a sprawling mess of trailer parks and starter-home suburbs to the east.
I spent a lot of time at Bob's desk in the back of the OPD headquarters. Sometimes it was as a police beat reporter, sometimes it was as the [...]
My office was the living room closet in a huge one-bedroom in a 1920s East Hollywood apartment court, across the street from the big blue Scientology headquarters in the old Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. There were built-in bookshelves and just enough space for a chair and a laptop and an ashtray. The neighbor lady's rescued pit bulls romped outside in the overgrown garden, and that electric L.A. sunlight came filtered through the grimy old French windows to the hardwood floors. It was a very pleasant place to work, my friends lived within walking distance in other cheap apartments in Los Feliz, and I had a bad case of being in [...]
A couple of years ago, I took the train out to Long Island to interview the last person pulled alive from the wreckage of the Twin Towers. Genelle Guzman-McMillan had been in her early 30s on September 11, 2001, and employed by the Port Authority, which had an office on the 64th story of the World Trade Center. She and her coworkers had managed to make it out into the stairwell and all the way down to the 13th floor before the second plane hit, after which the entire building collapsed and Guzman-McMillan was buried under several thousand tons of debris and dust. She lay there for 27 hours, a [...]
Last week, David Grann and I met in his office at The New Yorker, in midtown Manhattan. It is a glorious fire hazard because he doesn't throw anything away. Grann has been a staff writer at the magazine since 2003 and published two books, the enthralling The Lost City of Z, and The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, a collection of his reportage. Stacks of papers related to finished stories ("That's Z, that's Cuba, that's Willingham…") line the walls, while the floor is devoted to a book-in-progress, as yet untitled, on the Osage Indian murders and the birth of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
For fans, a new [...]