Paul Ford: My Top 5 Longreads of 2010

longreads:

Paul Ford was an editor at Harper’s Magazine; now he’s wandering around, looking at stuff and writing computer programs.

***

Tony Judt, “Night,” New York Review of Books (January 14)

This was the year of the dying critic. Most writers would do themselves, and their readers, a service by dying without all the self-elegies (“selfegies”?). We’ve read once too often, right, of the bark of the lonely fox out the bay window. But then you had Judt in his wheelchair, climbing Everest every night, putting out a series of reflections and continuing to publish great work even post-mortem. In a different city, and a different vein, there’s Roger Ebert’s Journal, the essay that never ends—starting as a kind of testament, it transformed over many months into a mass lecture from an old newspaper hand (a man of a literally dying breed), holding forth on absolutely everything.

Dan Koeppel, “How to Fall 35,000 Feet—And Survive” (Popular Mechanics, January 29)

Stuff like this is why magazines persist. It’s fun to imagine the pitch. “I’d like to write about falling thirty thou—” “You had me at falling.”

Frédéric Filloux, “Aggregators: the good ones vs. the looters” (Monday Note, September 19)

Inside baseball for publishing nerds, but bangs out its point. It’s hard to find good wide-angle writing about tech. Related: “Why the OS Doesn’t Matter.” Also: Tom Bissell on cocaine and Grand Theft Auto; Fred Vogelstein on the iPhone/AT&T meltdown; and Nitsuh Abebe on the Internet Paradox.

Issendai, “How to Keep Someone With You Forever,” (Issendai’s Superhero Training Journal, June 9)

You read this, right? I’ve visited friends and read this aloud. Explains publishers, graduate school, bad jobs, and broken marriages. (Related in a way I can’t fully articulate: Given that 2010 was, in addition to being the year of the dying critic, the year of the supercilious journalist writing about the Insane Clown Posse, it’s worth going back to 2009’s “MC CHRIS IS AT THE GATHERING: A LOVE STORY,” for the nerd’s eye view—a far more subtle view than presented elsewhere—of the weirdness of Juggalism.)

Josh Allen, Chokeville. (Ongoing)

Most prose born on the Internet is highly defensive. Everyone is braced for audience attack and opens their posts with four paragraphs explaining why the remaining four paragraphs are worth reading. Chokeville is not that. It tries to explain itself, but it can’t. Sometimes I get started and then drift away to Zooborns, but I know that’s my problem, because I’ve forgotten how, and I also know that I’ll end up some weekend night in front of my monitor, zoomed in, drinking my way through every word.

P.S. We’re also several years into the flowering of history blogs. Here’s a good place to start.

And let’s not forget Paul’s own excellent piece: “Real Editors Ship”

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