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Category Archives: why’s this so good?

“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 — [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 84: Woody Allen, Earl Monroe and the ballet of basketball

Woody Allen has written and directed an original film nearly every year since 1969. He has written several Broadway plays, published dozens of pieces in The New Yorker and given innumerable interviews. As far as I know, though, he has written only a single piece of journalism: a profile, of sorts, on the flamboyant New [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 83: David Foster Wallace on a ticket to the fair

Late summer is carnival season, when fairgrounds across Middle America sprout blooms of creaky steel whirling machines and stands of sugary fried food, jostling us from our languor and threatening nausea en masse. Which is, of course, part of their allure. When I was 14, I threw up mid-tumble on The Egg Roll at my [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 82: Rebecca Solnit and “Detroit Arcadia”

If you’ve been following the recent reports out of Detroit, you know conditions there are dire. This is hardly new. For decades the dominant narrative about the city has been one of failure: economic collapse, physical devastation, racism and violence propelling a once robust metropolis down a dismal path. For a taste of the common [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 81: Lawrence Wright and the “bootleg preacher”

I’m old enough to have practiced as a state prosecutor for a while, but I still laugh at fart jokes. Regardless of the flatulent punch line, Larry the Cable Guy’s trademark quip, “I don’t care who you are, that’s funny right there,” always applies. And the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lawrence Wright must have known this when [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 80: Joseph Mitchell and Joe Gould’s secret

When I write a story about someone else, I keep me, myself and I, out of it. I feel strongly that I, and my proxy pronouns, do not belong. But a few years back, I wrote about someone else and did belong in the story; I was an undeniable part of it. The story centered [...]