Best American Magazine Writing 2013

Best American Magazine Writing 2013

Compiled by the American Society of Magazine Editors
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 560
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  • Book Info
    Best American Magazine Writing 2013
    Book Description:

    Chosen by the American Society of Magazine Editors, the stories in this anthology include National Magazine Award--winning works of public interest, reporting, feature writing, and fiction. This year's selections include Pamela Colloff (Texas Monthly) on the agonizing, decades-long struggle by a convicted murderer to prove his innocence; Dexter Filkins (The New Yorker) on the emotional effort by an Iraq War veteran to make amends for the role he played in the deaths of innocent Iraqis; Chris Jones (Esquire) on Robert A. Caro's epic, ongoing investigation into the life and work of Lyndon Johnson; Charles C. Mann (Orion) on the odds of human beings' survival as a species; and Roger Angell (The New Yorker) on aging, dying, and loss. The former infantryman Brian Mockenhaupt (Byliner) describes modern combat in Afghanistan and its ability both to forge and challenge friendships; Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic) reflects on the complex racial terrain traversed by Barack Obama; Frank Rich (New York) assesses Mitt Romney's ambiguous candidacy; and Dahlia Lithwick (Slate) looks at the current and future implications of an eventful year in Supreme Court history. The volume also includes an interview on the art of screenwriting with Terry Southern fromThe Paris Review and an award-winning short story by Stephen King published inHarper'smagazine.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53706-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    I have had it with long-form journalism. By which I mean—don’t get me wrong—I’m fed up with the termlong-formitself, a label that the people who create and sell magazines now invariably, and rather solemnly, apply to the work you will find in these pages. Reader, do you feel enticed to read a story by the distinction that it is long? Or does your heart not sink just a little? Would you feel drawn to a movie or a book simply because it is long? (“Oooh—you should really readMoby-Dick— it’ssuperlong.”) Editors presumably care...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-1)
    Sid Holt and American Society of Magazine Editors
  5. Fear of a Black President
    (pp. 3-33)
    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    The irony of President Barack Obama is best captured in his comments on the death of Trayvon Martin and the ensuing fray. Obama has pitched his presidency as a monument to moderation. He peppers his speeches with nods to ideas originally held by conservatives. He routinely cites Ronald Reagan. He effusively praises the enduring wisdom of the American people, and believes that the height of insight lies in the town square. Despite his sloganeering for change and progress, Obama is a conservative revolutionary, and nowhere is his conservative character revealed more than in the very sphere where he holds singular...

  6. Who in God’s Name Is Mitt Romney?
    (pp. 35-47)
    Frank Rich

    Back in the thick of the 2008 Republican presidential race, I asked a captain of American finance what he had made of Mitt Romney when they were young colleagues at Bain & Company. “Mitt was a nice guy, a smart businessman, and an excellent team player,” he responded without missing a beat. Then came the CEO’s one footnote, delivered with bemusement, not pique: “Still, whenever the rest of us would go out at the end of the day, we’d always find ourselves having the same conversation: None of us had any idea who this guy was.”

    Here we are...

  7. It’s Not About the Law, Stupid and The Supreme Court’s Dark Vision of Freedom and Where Is the Liberal Outrage?
    (pp. 49-61)
    Dahlia Lithwick

    Next week the Supreme Court will hear arguments over the Affordable Care Act, what many people know as Obamacare. The mainstream opinion is that this is unquestionably the most important case of this term. That opinion is no doubt supported by the attention it will receive—six hours of argument over three days. But amid all the throat clearing, odds making, and curtain raising that surrounds next week’s health-care case, it seems worth noting what is in dispute and what’s not. So let’s start by setting forth two uncontroversial propositions.

    The first proposition is that the health-care law is constitutional....

  8. The Innocent Man
    (pp. 63-145)
    Pamela Colloff

    On April 12, 1987, Michael Morton sat down to write a letter. “Your Honor,” he began, “I’m sure you remember me. I was convicted of murder, in your court, in February of this year.” He wrote each word carefully, sitting cross-legged on the top bunk in his cell at the Wynne prison unit, in Huntsville. “I have been told that you are to decide if I am ever to see my son, Eric, again. I haven’t seen him since the morning that I was convicted. I miss him terribly and I know that he has been asking about me.” Referring...

  9. 18 Tigers, 17 Lions, 8 Bears, 3 Cougars, 2 Wolves, 1 Baboon, 1 Macaque, and 1 Man Dead in Ohio
    (pp. 147-179)
    Chris Heath

    A little before five o’clock on the evening of October 18, 2011, as the day began to ebb away, a retired schoolteacher named Sam Kopchak left the home he shared with his eighty-four-year-old mother and headed into the paddock behind their house to attend to the horse he’d bought nine days earlier. Red, a half-Arabian pinto, was acting skittish and had moved toward the far corner of the field. On the other side of the flimsy fence separating them from his neighbor Terry Thompson’s property, Kopchak noticed that Thompson’s horses seemed even more agitated. They were circling, and in the...

  10. Did You Think About the Six People You Executed?
    (pp. 181-203)
    Robert F. Worth

    One night last September, a prisoner named Naji Najjar was brought, blindfolded and handcuffed, to an abandoned military base on the outskirts of Tripoli. A group of young men in camouflage pushed him into a dimly lit interrogation room and forced him to his knees. The commander of the militia, a big man with disheveled hair and sleepy eyes, stood behind Najjar. “What do you want?” the commander said, clutching a length of industrial pipe.

    “What do you mean?” the prisoner said.

    What do you want?” the commander repeated. He paused.

    “Don’t you remember?”

    Of course Najjar remembered. Until a...

  11. A Life Worth Ending
    (pp. 205-223)
    Michael Wolff

    On the way to visit my mother one recent rainy afternoon, I stopped in, after quite some constant prodding, to see my insurance salesman. He was pressing his efforts to sell me a long-term-care policy with a pitch about how much I’d save if I bought it now, before the rates were set to precipitously rise.

    For $5,000 per year, I’d receive, when I needed it, a daily sum to cover my future nursing costs. With an annual inflation adjustment of 5 percent, I could get in my dotage (or the people caring for me would get) as much as...

  12. Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives
    (pp. 225-251)
    Mimi Swartz

    There are things about women that most men would just as soon never discuss. The stirrups in a gynecologist’s office, for one; the tampon aisle at the grocery store, for another; and pretty much any matter involving words like “cervix,” “uterus,” and “vagina.” At least, that’s how it was until March 2, 2011. Back in January of the same year, at the start of that legislative session, Governor Rick Perry had pushed as an emergency item a bill requiring all women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound twenty-four hours beforehand. As Sid Miller, the legislator who sponsored the bill...

  13. School of Hate
    (pp. 253-275)
    Sabrina Rubin Erdely

    Every morning, Brittany Geldert stepped off the bus and bolted through the double doors of Fred Moore Middle School, her nerves already on high alert, bracing for the inevitable.


    Pretending not to hear, Brittany would walk briskly to her locker, past the sixth-, seventh-and eighth-graders who loitered in menacing packs.


    Like many thirteen-year-olds, Brittany knew seventh grade was a living hell. But what she didn’t know was that she was caught in the crossfire of a culture war being waged by local evangelicals inspired by their high-profile congressional representative, Michele Bachmann, who graduated from Anoka High School and,...

  14. Atonement
    (pp. 277-303)
    Dexter Filkins

    In the early hours one morning last September, Lu Lobello rose from his bed, switched on a light, and stared into the video camera on his computer. It was two-thirty. The light cast a yellow pall on Lobello’s unshaven face. Almost every night was like this. Lobello couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop thinking about his time in Iraq. Around San Diego, he’d see a baby—in a grocery store, in a parking lot—and the image would come back to him: the blood-soaked Iraqi infant, his mother holding him aloft by one foot. “Why did you shoot us?” the woman demanded...

  15. The Big Book
    (pp. 305-325)
    Chris Jones

    On the twenty-second floor of the Fisk Building in New York—an elegant brick giant built in 1921, stretching an entire block of West Fifty-seventh Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue—the hallways are lined with doors bearing gold plaques. The plaques reveal the professions of the people at work behind them: lawyers, accountants, financial advisors. But one plaque displays only a name, with no mention of the man’s business: ROBERT A. CARO.

    Behind that door on this February morning, as on most mornings for the twenty-two years he has occupied this office, Caro is hunched over his desk. His...

  16. Terry Southern: The Art of Screenwriting
    (pp. 327-355)
    Maggie Paley

    Terry Southern was born in 1924 in Alvarado, Texas, the son of a pharmacist and a dressmaker. He was drafted into the army during World War II and studied at the Sorbonne on the G. I. Bill. In Paris he became friends with George Plimpton, H.L. Humes, and Peter Matthiessen, who published his story “The Accident” in the first issue ofThe Paris Review. Back in the United States, Southern was often associated with Beat writers like Burroughs, Corso, and Ginsberg, some of whose attitudes he may have shared, yet the elegant clarity of his prose—which Norman Mailer characterized...

  17. Mega: Ten Days Inside the Mansion—and the Mind—of Kim Dotcom, the Most Wanted Man on the Internet
    (pp. 357-389)
    Charles Graeber

    A. Kim Dotcom is not a pirate. He’s a hero. The savior of my online liberties. A visionary digital entrepreneur. His company Megaupload was a legitimate data-storage business used by hundreds of millions of individuals and by employees of NASA, U.S. Central Command, even the FBI. The raid on his New Zealand home was excessive and illegal—shock-and-awe bullshit. Hollywood is terrified by the digital future, and an innocent paid the price. Kim is a martyr. But Kim will triumph.

    You’d like him, he’s cool.

    B. Kim Dotcom is a pirate. A megalomaniacal gangsta clown. An opportunistic and calculating career...

  18. Portrait of a Lady and Social Animal and We’re All Helmut Newton Now
    (pp. 391-411)
    Daphne Merkin

    I used to read a winsome children’s book to my daughter when she was young that began with the all-important question: “Jesse Bear, what will you wear? What will you wear in the morning?” I found myself thinking about Jesse and his daily dilemma while I was looking at the coverage of the spring shows and trying to envision myself dressed in peplums, floaty prints, and A-line frocks—the kind of clothes that convey unadulterated, unsubversive femininity. Could I imagine trading in my wintry leggings and big sweaters, my armed-for-urban-combat uniform, for such transformative, ladylike vestments? How would white lace...

  19. Over the Wall
    (pp. 413-419)
    Roger Angell

    My wife, Carol, doesn’t know that President Obama won reelection last Tuesday, carrying Ohio and Pennsylvania and Colorado and compiling more than three hundred electoral votes. She doesn’t know anything about Hurricane Sandy. She doesn’t know that the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, in a sweep over the Tigers. More important, perhaps, she doesn’t know that her granddaughter Clara is really enjoying her first weeks of nursery school and is beginning to make progress with her slight speech impediment. Carol died early last April, and almost the first thing that she wasn’t aware of is that our son,...

  20. Batman and Robin Have an Altercation
    (pp. 421-433)
    Stephen King

    Sanderson sees his father twice a week. On Wednesday evenings, after he closes the jewelry store his parents opened long ago, he drives the three miles to Crackerjack Manor and sees Pop there, usually in the common room. In his “suite,” if Pop is having a bad day. On most Sundays, Sanderson takes him out to lunch. The facility where Pop is living out his final foggy years is actually called the Harvest Hills Special Care Unit, but to Sanderson, Crackerjack Manor seems more accurate.

    Their time together isn’t so bad, and not just because Sanderson no longer has to...

  21. The Living and the Dead
    (pp. 435-499)
    Brian Mockenhaupt

    Tom Whorl decided at twelve years old, the night he met his father’s two friends at the Super Bowl party. They matched his physical conception—thick arms, straight backs, high-and-tight haircuts shaved short on the sides and just a little longer on top—but it was how they carried themselves that fascinated him: direct in speech but respectful, with a confidence that suggested they knew something about themselves and the world that many others did not. Leaving the party, Tom told his father he would join the Marine Corps.

    He considered nothing else, and five years later he hustled off...

  22. State of the Species
    (pp. 501-526)
    Charles C. Mann

    The problem with environmentalists, Lynn Margulis used to say, is that they think conservation has something to do with biological reality. A researcher who specialized in cells and microorganisms, Margulis was one of the most important biologists in the last half century—she literally helped to reorder the tree of life, convincing her colleagues that it did not consist of two kingdoms (plants and animals), but five or even six (plants, animals, fungi, protists, and two types of bacteria).

    Until Margulis’s death last year, she lived in my town, and I would bump into her on the street from time...

  23. Permissions
    (pp. 527-530)
  24. List of Contributors
    (pp. 531-538)