The Sunday Long Read

The best longform journalism. Every Sunday.
Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

Financial Windfalls: 15 Stories of the Money That Changed Everything by Andy Wright, Jhoni Jackson and Haley Cohen Gilliland for Topic



The week's best reads, carefully curated by Don Van Natta Jr. and Jacob Feldman.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Happy Sunday! Jacob Feldman is enjoying a well-deserved week off. Étienne Lajoie, our tireless, invaluable producer/curator, chooses his favorite piece below.

In recent weeks, we have enjoyed a surge in new subscribers. Thank you and welcome! We invite our new (and veteran) subscribers to become a Sunday Long Read member. You’ll help support this newsletter’s ever-rising costs while receiving all sorts of cool exclusive stuff, including members-only editions and super-early delivery, every Sunday, of the SLR. Treat yourself and/or a friend!


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Don's Favorite

   The True Story Behind an Iconic Vietnam War Photo Was Nearly Erased-- Until Now
By Michael Shaw for The New York Times Magazine
 (~30 minutes)

A major museum exhibition and a highly regarded book revealed the agonizing story of a wounded Marine captured in one the Vietnam War’s most iconic images. Their version was wrong. And the truth was hiding in plain sight.

Étienne's Favorite

   My Restaurant Was the Greatest Show of Excess You’d Ever Seen, and It Almost Killed Me
By David McMillan as-told-to Julia Kramer for Bon Appétit
 (~10 minutes)

In Montreal, chef David McMillan is king. Foodies from around the world flock Joe Beef for an ineffable, Viking-like experience: truffles, foie gras, lobster, wine, more wine... McMillan partook every time—until he turned things around. 

➢ A Critic for All Seasons

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   How Former Ref Tim Donaghy Conspired to Fix NBA Games
By Scott Eden for ESPN The Magazine 
 (~60 minutes)

Ex-referee Tim Donaghy denied repeatedly that he had fixed NBA games. In this two-years-in-the-making master class of investigative reporting, my ESPN The Magazine colleague Scott Eden takes a wrecking ball to Donaghy’s denials. At the same time, Eden’s reporting demonstrates, once again, that the leaders of a major American professional sports league will do everything possible to make evidence of game-fixing and cheating go away as quickly-- and as quietly-- as possible.

➢ The Rough Terrain


   A Different Kind of Theory of Everything
By Natalie Wolchover for The New Yorker
 (~10 minutes)


What’s the point of the perfection found at every level, theorists are now wondering, if it’s bound to be superseded? 


   Anthony Bourdain and the Missing Piece
By Ian Frisch for Longreads
 (~10 minutes)

In his forthcoming book “Magic Is Dead,” Ian Frisch describes how he performed a magic trick for the late, great Anthony Bourdain. The story of a card trick has become the perfect eulogy.



   Time to Panic
By David Wallace-Wells for The New York Times 
 (~15 minutes)

"The age of climate panic is here,” writes David Wallace-Wells, the author of the forthcoming, “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.”


   When Kids Realize Their Whole Lives Are Online
By Taylor Lorenz for The Atlantic 
 (~10 minutes)

The shock of realizing details and images of their lives-- or, in some cases, the complete, moment-by-moment narrative-- have been shared online without their consent or knowledge has become a rite-of-passage for many young teens and tweens.

➢ You Give Apps Sensitive Personal Information. Then They Tell Facebook. [$]
➢ Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain


   Secrets of the Chateau Marmont
By Mark Rozzo for Vanity Fair 
 (~25 minutes)

My favorite American hotel is the Chateau Marmont, the “ultimate movie-colony clubhouse” off Sunset Boulevard that’s turning 90 years old. In a piece flush with name-dropping from Garbo to Beyonce, Mark Rozzo traces the hotel’s soaring and seedy history.

➢ It Was the Hottest Oscar Night Party. What Happened?


   Financial Windfalls: 15 Stories of the Money That Changed Everything
By Andy Wright, Jhoni Jackson & Haley Cohen Gilliland for Topic 
 (~55 minutes)

A lucrative book deal. A massive insurance payment. The MacArthur Genius Award. How do people spend unexpected windfalls of cash? 

➢ How Esquire lost the Bryan Singer story


   ‘I’m Not the Morality Police’: Inside Benjamin Brafman’s Defense of Harvey Weinstein
By Eric Sullivan for Esquire 
 (~35 minutes) 


We’re late to this fascinating profile of Benjamin Brafman, one of New York’s top criminal defense lawyers who is representing the disgraced movie mogul.

➢ Lena Headey Suspects Rejecting Harvey Weinstein Hurt Her Career for 10 Years


   The Lucky Ones
By Adriana Gallardo for ProPublica 
 (~15 minutes)

Nearly 30 years after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as an undocumented child, Adriana Gallardo returned to that location on a reporting trip. And the memories flowed, including the origin story of each of her tattoos. (This essay was co-published with Guernica, which has a terrific new series, “Rewriting the West.”)


   What Happens When Techno-Utopians Actually Run a Country?
By Darren Loucaides for WIRED 
 (~45 minutes)

How Italy's Five Star movement came to be. 

➢ How a Slovakian Neo-Nazi Got Elected


   The #SundayLR Q&A: Jane Curtin Is Playing It Straight
By Michael Schulman for The New Yorker 
 (~25 minutes)

“Saturday Night Live"’s turbulent existence in an all-parody era-- plus the state of comedy (and the Republican Party)-- are dissected by veteran actress and ex-Not Ready for Prime Time Player Jane Curtin.

➢ The Classicist Who Sees Donald Trump as a Tragic Hero


   The Caviar Con
By David Gauvey Herbert for Longreads 
 (~20 minutes)

Greed flowers in the unlikeliest of places, including tiny Warsaw, Missouri (pop. 2,177).


   Miley Cyrus’s Personal Memo to the World
By Zach Baron for Vanity Fair 
 (~10 minutes)

A flash marriage. A new home, after a heartbreaking loss. Miley Cyrus is still figuring out who she is, in real time-- and that’s perfectly fine with her.

➢ The Long Adolescence of Lucas Hedges


   Brightline and Tri-Rail Have Killed Dozens
By Meg O'Connor for Miami New Times 
 (~15 minutes)

Why do people keep being hit by trains in Florida? Writer Meg O'Connor meets the families of those who met a tragic end.


   ‘It Is Not a Closet. It Is a Cage.’ Gay Catholic Priests Speak Out
By Elizabeth Dias for The New York Times 
 (~15 minutes)

The crisis over sexuality in the Catholic Church goes beyond abuse. It goes to the heart of the priesthood, into a closet that is trapping thousands of men.


   The Sunday Oral History: Follow the Path of Least Resistance: An Oral History of ‘Office Space’
By Jake Kring-Schreifels for The Ringer 
 (~65 minutes)


Has it really been 20 years? In 1999, animator Mike Judge changed how the world thinks about office culture, adulthood, red staplers and Michael Bolton.

➢ 'We Didn’t Want to Wallow in Grossness’: An Oral History of ‘Bridesmaids’


   The #SundayLR List: The 50 Best Movie Soundtracks of All Time
By Staff of Pitchfork 
 (~15 minutes)


What would movies be without some really fly music? (Hint: We greatly approve of Pitchfork’s number one soundtrack.)

➢ Debunking Green Book: Jazz Greats on What It Was Really Like to Tour During Jim Crow


   The Fan Letter: A Few Things I’d Like to Discuss With Ethan Hawke
By Andrew Martin for The New York Times Style Magazine 
 (~5 minutes)


The writer Andrew Martin discusses Ethan Hawke's performance in First Reformed as the pastor Ernst Toller and makes the case that it’s worthy of nomination.


   ‘She Never Looks Back’: Inside Elizabeth Holmes’s Chilling Final Months at Theranos
By Nick Bilton for Vanity Fair
 (~15 minutes)


The final days of Elizabeth Holmes’s Theranos, starring a dog defecating in the company boardroom. 


   The Remembrance: Remembering Peter Tork
By Rob Sheffield for Rolling Stone 
 (~5 minutes)


   The Remembrance: Karl Lagerfeld, the Designer Who Dressed To Survive
By Rachel Syme for The New Yorker 
 (~5 minutes)

   The Remembrance: Nick Cafardo, baseball writer of uncommon grace and dedication, dies at 62
By Bryan Marquard for The Boston Globe 
 (~5 minutes)

   The Remembrance: Stanley Donen, Director of Iconic Movie Musicals, Dies at 94
By Carmel Dagan and Tim Gray for Variety
 (~5 minutes)

Last Week's Most Read

   Why Does It Feel Like Everyone Has More Money Than You?
By Jen Doll for Harper's Bazaar 

   Public Education’s Dirty Secret
By Mary Hudson for Quillette 

   The Machine Stops
By Oliver Sacks for The New Yorker


Lede of the Week

   Who Killed Tulum?

The walls of seaweed first started washing over the white-sand beaches of Tulum, Mexico, in 2015. They came from deep in the Atlantic and across the Caribbean, darkening the neon-blue water. Some of the seaweed was puke brown, while the rest was dark red, and in the summer it was so thick that swimming was impossible. Dead fish and other sea creatures were mixed in, and the piles on the beach smelled like rotten eggs. Where was it coming from? Development in the Amazon was leaching more fertilizer into increasingly warmer oceans — maybe that was it. But some residents of Tulum, which has long attracted visitors predisposed toward the mystical, thought that Mother Nature had simply had enough: The first time one local remembered seeing the seaweed was after one of Tulum’s many oceanfront venues hosted a wild party and put up a barrier to close off the beach.

The SLR Podcast

We’ll return soon with more captivating conversations. In the meantime, here are some of our favorites that you may have missed:

Tommy Tomlinson
Amy Chozick
Wright Thompson & Seth Wickersham
Rachel Syme
Shea Serrano
Rachel Sklar
Sy Hersh

Subscribe today!

The Classic Read
from Jack Shafer

   The Devil and John Holmes (1989)
By Mike Sager for Rolling Stone
 (~60 minutes)

Drugs, porn stars, Laurel Canyon, and murder. What more do you want? This Mike Sager piece stinks of storytelling genius. You'll want to read it twice.

Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

The Sunday Long Pod
from Jody Avirgan

       Over My Dead Body (iTunes | Spotify)

I have deep, deep skepticism about true crime podcasts. But this one starts to get it right, and it’s no surprise, since Matthew Shaer is a fantastic writer and journalist and has assembled a great editing team. I’m only a couple episodes in, but it’s a gripping story that also has lots to say about love, marriage, jealousy and faith.


Sunday Pod curator Jody Avirgan is the host of FiveThirtyEight's politics podcast and is heading up the new "30 for 30" podcast documentary series from ESPN.

The Sunday Still
from Patrick Farrell

Lunch in Harlem

A month after California Democratic Sen. Kamala D. Harris announced her bid to become the first black female president, AP photographer Bebeto Matthews drew the press pool position to shoot a Feb. 21 meeting between Harris and Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia’s in Harlem. The famous soul food restaurant is the same one where Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders met with Sharpton to (unsuccessfully) seek his endorsement. Although Matthews’ photo would be shared, other New York photographers weren’t about to miss their shot. Matthews positioned himself inside and rose above a standard meeting image by including the photo pack outside, pressed against the cold window, to emphasize the importance of the historic sit-down.


Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he has worked since 1987. He is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Management at the University of Miami School of Communication.

The Long View
from Justine Gubar

   What America Can Learn from ‘Roma’
Video by Leah Varjacques for The New York Times

   The Gender Politics of the Red Carpet
Produced and Edited by Yara Bishara for The New Yorker 

Roundup of some voice-y OSCAR related content as prep for Sunday night’s broadcast.

The Long View curator Justine Gubar is the former Vice President, News Narratives at Fusion and the author of Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan. Reach out to Justine at if you have a suggestion for next week's Long View

The Sunday Cover
from Étienne Lajoie

   Millennial socialism [$]
By The Economist 
Photo by Jo Banks

 (~5 minutes)

Étienne Lajoie, the curator of The Sunday Cover, is a journalist based in Montreal.

The Sunday Esoterica
from Ryan Rodenberg

   Mapping of corruption in sport in the EU

In mid-February, the publications office of the European Union released a 64-page report entitled 'Mapping of Corruption in Sport in the EU.'  From match-fixing to doping, the report aimed to "provide the European Commission with adequate knowledge of existing initiatives in order to identify where best to focus its efforts – and those of the Member States – in the years to come."

Sunday Esoterica curator Ryan Rodenberg works as a professor at Florida State University, where he teaches research methods and sports law. He writes a lot of academic articles and some mainstream pieces too.

The Sunday Long Play
from Kelly Dearmore

   Ryan Bingham - American Love Song (iTunes | Spotify)  & Hayes Carll - What It Is (iTunes | Spotify)

Since there wasn't a Sunday Long Player last week, please allow me to make that up to you with a double dose this week.

It's somewhat of a themed double bill as well. We'll call it the Texas-Ex Country Rock Double Pack (Not Sold in Stores!). The brand new records from Ryan Bingham and Hayes Carll are absolutely worth your time, regardless of what gimmicky name we give it here. The Oscar-winning Bingham (for his 2010 song "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart) has lived in Los Angeles for years, but before that, the gravel-voiced former rodeo cowboy called numerous Texas towns and even Paris, France, home as he made the transition from transient cowpoke to Americana troubadour. With American Love Song, his seventh release, Bingham shows he's only getting better with his blues-inflected folk rock. 

Not to be outdone, the Houston-born Carll has moved around quite a bit as well, including a time living in Croatia around the turn of millennium. After years of residing in Austin, Carll has recently relocated and splits time between New York City and Nashville now where he spends time with his massively talented fiancé, singer-songwriter Allison Moorer. What It Is is notable not merely for the fact it's a varied yet cohesive album of one fine tune after another, but it's a stark contrast to the quiet, acoustic driven Lovers and Leavers from 2016. As hard as it is to imagine Carll topping his stellar Little Rock (2005), Trouble In Mind (2008) or KMAG YOYO (2011) records, he may have just done that here with songs packed with insightful wit, cutting commentary and imminently hummable melodies to spare. 


Kelly Dearmore is a Dallas-based journalist whose work has appeared in the Dallas Morning News, Paste, American Songwriter, the Dallas Observer and Lone Star Music, among other fine outlets.

The Su♬day Sou♬dtrack
from The Editors

Forgive Me Friend
By Smith & Thell feat. Swedish Jam Factory 

The Sund&y Ampers&nd
from Nick Aster

The Sunday Ampersand is chosen by Nick Aster. Nick was the founder of, a leading publication focused on sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He is also the author of the childrens book We Thought You Were a Platypus.

The Last Laugh
from The Editors

   Chicago Police Credit Their Extensive Experience Falsifying Evidence for Helping Solve Smollett Case
By Staff of The Onion 
 (~5 minutes)

“This was very much an open-and-shut case.” 

Read Later

Founder, Curator: Don Van Natta Jr.
Producer, Curator: Jacob Feldman
Producer, Curator: Étienne Lajoie
Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer
Senior Long View Editor: Justine Gubar
Senior Photo Editor: Patrick Farrell
Senior Music Editor: Kelly Dearmore
Senior Podcast Editor: Jody Avirgan
Senior Editor of Esoterica: Ryan M. Rodenberg
Senior Originals Editor: Peter Bailey-Wells

Digital Team: Nation Hahn, Nickolaus Hines, Megan McDonell, Alexa Steinberg
Podcast Team: Cary Barbor, Julian McKenzie, Jonathan Yales
Webmaster: Ana Srikanth
Campus Editor: Peter Warren

Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Nick Aster, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Jonathan Bernstein, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Maria Bustillos, Chris Cillizza, Anna Katherine Clemmons, Rich Cohen, Jonathan Coleman, Pam Colloff, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Hadley Freeman, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, Maggie Haberman, Reyhan Harmanci, Virginia Heffernan, Matthew Hiltzik, Jena Janovy, Bomani Jones, Chris Jones, Peter Kafka, Paul Kix, Mina Kimes, Peter King, Michael Kruse, Tom Lamont, Edmund Lee, Chris Lehmann, Will Leitch, Glynnis MacNicol, Drew Magary, Erik Malinowski, Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin, Jeff Maysh, Jack McCallum, Lyra McKee, Susan McPherson, Ana Menendez, Kevin Merida, Heidi N. Moore, Eric Neel, Joe Nocera, Ashley R. Parker, Anne Helen Petersen, Jo Piazza, Joe Posnanski, S.L. Price, Jennifer Romolini, Julia Rubin, Albert Samaha, Bob Sassone, Bruce Schoenfeld, Michael Schur, Joe Sexton, Jacqui Shine, Rachel Sklar, Dan Shanoff, Ben Smith, Adam Sternbergh, Matt Sullivan, Wright Thompson, Pablo Torre, Kevin Van Valkenburg, Nikki Waller, John A. Walsh, Seth Wickersham and Karen Wickre.

Header Image: Pete Gamlen

You can read more about our staff, and contact us (we'd love to hear from you!) on our website: Help pick next week's selections by tweeting us your favorite stories with #SundayLR.

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