Thanks to the magic of Facebook’s timelines it’s trivial to see what we were up to at just about any arbitrary date in our past. Timelines also give companies, and particularly periodicals, an incredibly useful new tool. The Atlantic’s timeline might be the most stunning example of this: Jared Keller, The Atlantic’s social media editor, has been studiously populating the timeline with some of their most memorable pieces dating all the way back to 1857. The New Yorker’s, too, poses a great threat to your free time. Sadly, The Feature wasn’t founded in 1857, but we’ve been here since 2008, and now our timeline collects the most popular articles and essays that we’ve posted in that time. Therein lies surprises, and independent exploration is encouraged, but by way of introduction, here’s what our Timeline says we were enjoying this time last year:
- The Possibilian (Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker)
If Eagleman’s body bears no marks of his childhood accident, his mind has been deeply imprinted by it. He is a man obsessed by time. As the head of a lab at Baylor, Eagleman has spent the past decade tracing the neural and psychological circuitry of the brain’s biological clocks. He has had the good fortune to arrive in his field at the same time as fMRI scanners, which allow neuroscientists to observe the brain at work, in the act of thinking. But his best results have often come through more inventive means: video games, optical illusions, physical challenges. Eagleman has a talent for testing the untestable, for taking seemingly sophomoric notions and using them to nail down the slippery stuff of consciousness. “There are an infinite number of boring things to do in science,” he told me. “But we live these short life spans. Why not do the thing that’s the coolest thing in the world to do?”
- North Korea’s digital Underground (Robert S. Boynton, The Atlantic)
To smuggle facts into or out of North Korea is to risk imprisonment and even execution. Yet today, aided by a half-dozen stealthy media organizations outside the country, citizen-journalists are using technologies new and old to break the regime’s iron grip on information. Will the truth set a nation free?
- Has BP really cleaned up the Gulf oil spill? (Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian)
There are few people who can claim direct knowledge of the ocean floor, at least before the invention of the spill-cam, last year’s strangely compulsive live feed of the oil billowing out of BP’s blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico. But for Samantha Joye it was familiar terrain. The intersection of oil, gas and marine life in the Mississippi Canyon has preoccupied the University of Georgia scientist for years. So one year after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, killed 11 men and disgorged more than 4m barrels of crude, Joye could be forgiven for denying the official version of the BP oil disaster that life is returning to normal in the Gulf.
In my time running this website I’ve discovered, rediscovered, and otherwise enjoyed the works of various writers I might not have in other circumstances. Among my favourite discoveries this year was John Jeremiah Sullivan, who I’ll leave it to James Wood to introduce, from his review of Sullivan’s latest collection of essays, Pulphead:
He seems to have in abundance the storyteller’s gifts: he is a fierce noticer, is undauntedly curious, is porous to gossip, and has a memory of childlike tenacity. Anecdotes fly off the wheels of his larger narratives. In a touching piece about the near-death of his brother (who electrocuted himself with a microphone while playing with his band, the Moviegoers, in a garage in Lexington, Kentucky), Sullivan mentions, in passing, “Captain Clarence Jones, the fireman and paramedic who brought Worth back to life, strangely with two hundred joules of pure electric shock (and who later responded to my grandmother’s effusive thanks by giving all the credit to the Lord).” Any reporter can be specific about the two hundred joules. But the detail about Captain Jones giving all the credit to the Lord, while a small thing, suggests a writer interested in human stories, watching, remembering, and sticking around long enough to be generally hospitable to otherness.
You can buy Pulphead from Amazon right now, but in the meantime I’ve collected some of my favourite John Jeremiah Sullivan essays here, in no particular order, for your enjoyment.
Here are The Feature’s highlights of the year. This list is comprised of my favourites and reader favourites, selected from articles posted here in 2011 (limited to those originally published in 2011). Open this post in your browser to make use of the Read Later button accompanying each link.
There is no theme to today’s reading list. Instead it’s a compendium of mostly unrelated articles and essays from the last week or so that you might have missed, or that I haven’t posted for various reasons. Consider these my weekend reading recommendations.
All hell broke loose in the British press last week when Rupert Murdoch revealed he’d be shutting down the News of the World in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. Since then, an avalanche of inquiries, conjecture, and gleeful ribbing. Even as the last ever edition of the News of the World — an inappropriately rose-tinted edition — sells record copies, the true reach of the scandal is still unknown, and the fate of the now-unemployed News of the World staff is as much in the balance as that of Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch. This story will go down as one of the decade’s biggest, and here I’ve collected some of the more unmissable and informative pieces on the scandal from the past week or so.
This was the first of what I hope to be a recurring feature. If I missed anything great on this list, or you have an idea or a submission for a future list, do get in touch.
This was my first full year at the helm of Give Me Something To Read, and to mark it, I’ve compiled this list of the best articles and essays I posted through 2010 (limited to those that were actually published in 2010). Best, obviously, is subjective, and what this list comprises is a selection of my favourites and reader favourites (as judged by the number of notes they got on Tumblr). Enjoy! (Hint: Open this in your browser, each link has a read later button next to it.)