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Category Archives: why’s this so good?

“Why’s this so good?” No. 95: Patrick Radden Keefe and the loaded gun

It had been three months since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and stories probing the life and possible influences of the shooter Adam Lanza were still all over the news, so when I opened my New Yorker to a piece entitled “A Loaded Gun” last February, I assumed it would be about Lanza [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 94: Joe Rhodes and Aunt Marge and the deep (deep) freeze

Joe Rhodes pulls off the nearly impossible in “How My Aunt Marge Ended Up in the Deep Freeze,” an edgy New York Times magazine piece. He takes a horrific event—the murder of a family member, an elderly aunt living in a tiny Texas town—and somehow makes it funny. Not just gently amusing, but the kind of [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 93: Ta-Nehisi Coates and the case for reparations

It’s hard to know where to begin when attempting to grapple with the sprawling legacy of racial discrimination and oppression in America. But Ta-Nehisi Coates knows there to start. “The Case For Reparations,” Coates’ latest tour de force in The Atlantic, spans more than 300 years of history, beginning with Clyde Ross, a black child of the [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 92: David Foster Wallace and “9/11: The View from the Midwest”

David Foster Wallace grew up in the Midwest but it was not really his home. Yet in September 2001, he was teaching at Illinois State University and living in Bloomington. He had attended college in Massachusetts and graduate school in Arizona, and had written Infinite Jest and earned a MacArthur “genius” grant, and now he was living [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 91: Ariel Levy on Thanksgiving in Mongolia

At the end of 2013, everyone I knew was talking about a single essay: Ariel Levy’s “Thanksgiving in Mongolia: Adventure and Heartbreak at the Edge of the Earth,” published in the New Yorker in November. Levy has been celebrated for her profiles (like the one about marriage equality pioneer Edith Windsor) and her examination of [...]

“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. [...]