Let’s just get straight to it since the sun is shining and I’d rather be outside. Here, seven longreads to devour in the next 48 hours. Enjoy the weekend, wherever it takes you.
“Boy, Interrupted” by Fred Vogelstein
It had taken four months of phone calls, emails, and meetings with doctors and pharmaceutical company executives on two continents to get permission to try this drug. Sam wasn’t joining an ongoing clinical trial. The company made the pills just for him. It believed CBD was safe based on animal studies. It also said it knew of about 100 adults who had tried pure CBD like this over the past 35 years. As a percentage of body weight, Sam’s dose would approach twice what anyone else on record had tried for epilepsy. Would it make him vomit or become dizzy, or give him a rash or cause some other unpleasant event? We didn’t know. We’d volunteered our son to be a lab rat.
“The Endless Fall of Suge Knight” by Matt Diehl
This could finally be the end of the road for the record-label head who, a generation ago, helped bring the West Coast gangsta rap of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur to the mainstream, pushing aside the pop rap of artists such as MC Hammer and Tone-Loc and putting low-riders and gang signs into heavy rotation on MTV. In the process, Knight established himself as a legendary music-biz tough guy. His exploits — some mythic, some real — during the heyday of Death Row Records have become part of hip-hop lore: In the early Nineties, he allegedly shook down Vanilla Ice into handing over publishing profits, walking the rapper out to a hotel-room balcony to show him how far his fall would be. (“I needed to wear a diaper that day,” Ice said later.) In his memoir, former N.W.A manager Jerry Heller alleged that Knight and his cohorts, bearing baseball bats, intimidated Eazy-E into releasing Dre from his Ruthless Records contract. (The claims have never been substantiated.) Knight was sitting next to Tupac when he was gunned down in 1996 in Las Vegas; his participation in a fight on the night of the shooting would land him in prison for five years on a probation violation.
“The Utopia at the End of the World” by Noah Berlatsky
There’s an impulse to believe that dystopias are a trend, that we like to imagine the end of the world because of the financial collapse, or September 11th, or ecological disaster, or Vietnam. But dystopias are always more popular and more prevalent than their cheerier twin; utopias mostly just sit there, soliciting didactic admiration. Once you’ve achieved perfection, what else is there to do? Much like the Houyhnhnm section of Gulliver’s Travels or Herland, utopic fiction tends to be a tour, rather than an adventure, because as soon as the engine of plot starts grinding, you’re moving towards conflict, disaster, and dissolution. Utopias are static because heaven is outside time—and outside narrative.
“The Mob’s IT Department” by Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley
According to prosecutors in the Netherlands and Belgium, what happened next transformed the pair into masterminds of one of the biggest drug-smuggling operations in Europe. The case, detailed in thousands of pages of police reports and court records, allegedly shows how mobsters and hackers teamed up to commit sophisticated crime, manipulating global logistical and transportation networks for huge gain. The hackers’ version of events, which they laid out as they wait for their fate to be determined later this year by Belgian authorities, differs sharply: a story of two men who became pawns of a violent group through coercion and a series of very bad decisions.
“A Father’s Struggle to Stop His Daughter’s Adoption” by Kevin Noble Maillard
One evening in August, Emanuel says his girlfriend called him, sobbing. Her mother had returned from vacation and a neighbor had told her about the pregnancy. She had confronted her daughter and, according to Emanuel, told her, “You’re pregnant by a nigger. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Emanuel’s girlfriend repeatedly promised him that she would never put their child up for adoption. But he couldn’t erase the possibility from his mind. So he posed the question to her, “If you ever had to give your baby up for adoption, you’re going to give it to me, right?” She said she would, but insisted that she had no plans to give the baby away. He says they made plans for her to move in with him permanently at the end of the year.
“Thank You Based God: A Dinner With Lil B” by Will Butler
At this point a small plate of warm olives arrived at the table. He wasn’t that interested, but he dug into Acme Bread’s signature sourdough loaf enthusiastically. He worried about using his hands, noting that his aunt was a stickler for “etiquette.” When asked for still or sparkling water, he chose still.
Despite the occasion, it may be worth pointing out that Lil B was not drinking. The bartender, nearly beside himself with excitement, was ready to go into the cellar and pull out the best bottle of sparkling wine on reserve, but Lil B’s tastes aren’t so obvious. Instead, we had two glasses of grape juice—a Gewurtzstraminer varietal from Navarro vineyards, which is basically the closest thing to wine without the booze. B was quite pleased, and made sure to get the exact name and origin of the beverage.
“What Does Harper Lee Want?” by Claire Suddath
“This Watchman publication is what physicists call a singularity. There has been nothing like it before now, and there never will be again,” says Daniel Menaker, a former editor at Random House and, before that, the fiction editor at the New Yorker. “You couldn’t plan for this if you tried.”
But someone did plan for this, although it might not have been Harper Lee. Ever since Watchman was announced, rumors have persisted that a younger, more mindful Lee—the one who swore not to publish anything again—wouldn’t abide any of this. At one point, the state of Alabama even got involved to assess a claim of possible “elder abuse.” How aware is Lee, really, of this new book? Does she, as her publishers insist, approve of its publication? The answers lie with Lee’s lawyer, friend, and confidante, Carter.
[Image via Getty]