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Category Archives: why’s this so good?

“Why’s this so good?” No. 90: George Plimpton and Sidd Finch

Twenty-nine years ago today, Sports Illustrated ran George Plimpton’s “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” about a mysterious, unknown major league pitching recruit who threw a fastball at jet speed. Published on April Fools’ Day 1985, the piece carried the following deck: He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent lifestyle, [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 89: Matthew Power and ‘Mississippi Drift’

My friend Matthew Power, wondrously excellent human and magazine journalist, died recently while on assignment in Uganda. Like so many others, in recent days I have missed Matt, older-writing-brother Matt, in part by revisiting his work. I have been reading his old print stories, and discovering his radio archives. He had a slightly scratchy voice [...]

“Why’s this so good?” — The Spring Break edition

In our “Why’s this so good?” series, contributors break down a favorite piece of journalistic storytelling. In honor of this, the season of Spring Break, three great reads in first-person major, on excursions tinged with existentialism. Megan Garber, Paul Kix and Brent McDonald revisit an ocean voyage, a music festival and a county fair. Megan [...]

“Why’s this so good?” – The badass women edition

From the “Why’s this so good?” archives, a handful of great reads about, or by, brilliant, brave, inspiring women, featuring Joan Didion, Rita Dove, Calvin Trillin, Julia Barton, Edna Buchanan, Ben Yagoda, Walt Harrington and Jennifer B. McDonald: In No. 47, The New Yorker‘s Calvin Trillin hangs out with Edna Buchanan, who, in the 1980s, [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 88: Katherine Boo and the marriage cure

Katharine Boo begins her 2003 New Yorker piece “The Marriage Cure” with one of my all-time favorite opening lines: One July morning last year in Oklahoma City, in a public-housing project named Sooner Haven, twenty-two-year-old Kim Henderson pulled a pair of low-rider jeans over a high-rising gold lamé thong and declared herself ready for church. [...]

“Why’s this so good?” — the music edition

From our “Why’s this so good?” archives, a handful of great reads on music by Lil Wayne, James Brown, Britney Spears and Sly Stone, deconstructed for craft and significance by the New York Times’ Margaret Ho, Vela’s Eva Holland, the New York Times’ Jenna Wortham and The Atavist’s Charles Homans. Bonus: a short play list. In No. 70, [...]

“Why’s this so good?” — the Hollywood edition

From our “Why’s this so good?” archives, a handful of great reads on Hollywood by Raymond Chandler, Truman Capote, Ian Parker and Dave Gardetta, deconstructed for craft and significance by critic Maud Newton, The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal, Wired’s Jason Fagone and Vanity Fair’s Benjamin Wallace: “Raymond Chandler sticks it to Hollywood” — critic Maud Newton deconstructs an Atlantic [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 87: Hunter S. Thompson and the Kentucky Derby

It’s easy to miss. A sobering second, surrounded by intemperance. But there it is, the transitional scene after Hunter S. Thompson opens “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” with some lewd banter in a Louisville airport bar. He’s returned home to cover the race for a no-name magazine, and right away he meets a [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 86: Ian Frazier and the hidden city

Don’t talk about the weather. Don’t ask anybody where they’re from or where they went to school. Oh, and don’t worry if they don’t want salad: Chances are they’ve eaten more vegetables in the last week than you have. That’s the advice I was given when I first started volunteering at a homeless shelter. The [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 85: George Saunders and the incredible Buddha boy

If something funny comes my way — an article about dog whisperers, let’s say — I am sometimes reduced to responding with the shorthand “LOL,” though the truth is few stories make me Laugh Out Loud. The exception: a piece by George Saunders. His work unmasks me. Everything that I feel — good and bad — [...]