The Dickens Of Detroit

That’s Elmore Leonard, and no exaggeration. A tribute to his mighty five early Detroit novels, 52 Pickup, Swag, Unknown Man #8, The Switch, and City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit, which stake out Leonard’s lifelong territory of armed robbery, blackmail, kidnapping, alcoholism. “Nobody ever used airport lockers with as much verve and creativity as Elmore Leonard did. The man was the Miles Davis of the airport locker” (4,925 words)

Irrational Treasure

In genuine appreciation of Nicholas Cage: “There are moments in which Cage seems to be gunning for some as-yet-nonexistent Academy Award presented to ‘Most Actor’ … He’s successfully taken us away from an obsession with naturalism into a kind of presentation style of acting that I imagine was popular with the old troubadours”. (The first quarter of this piece, the introduction, is great; for the rest, your mileage may vary) (5,409 words)

The Life And Times Of Kiss Pick of the day

“There’s never been a band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame whose output has been critically contemplated less than the music of Kiss. Part of what makes the band so culturally durable is the assumption that you can know everything about their aesthetic without consuming any of it”. As for the music: “A few of these records are great, most are OK, several are bad, and some should be buried in sulphur” (10,400 words)

Letterman’s Last Great Moment

David Letterman’s announcement of his retirement was one of the great moments in television: “There was stunned silence. Two solid seconds of quiet felt like two hundred. The spiritual king of late night was stepping down.” Jay Leno had the bigger audience, but he never matched Letterman’s mystique. “The old man told a story, then a second story, then a third story, and suddenly, he was gone” (2,550 words)

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Of The Future

The induction of Pearl Jam is almost a foregone conclusion: They were “the last archetypal rock band that was insanely popular”. Radiohead is the next sure bet, as “the last archetypal rock band that was insanely popular and then consciously decided to become less popular”. Eminem? Probably. Beyoncé too. But Coldplay isn’t quite cold yet. LCD Soundsystem is a “long shot”. And The Strokes have pretty much lost it (3,050 words)

Dropped

The “greatest juggler alive, maybe of all time”, is a 40-year-old Floridian named Anthony Gatto, who alone can “juggle eight clubs for 16 catches”. And he’s giving it all up. A few bit parts with the Cirque du Soleil; that aside he runs a concrete company in Orlando, Florida. Why? You won’t find a surprising answer here; he got bored, mostly, and needed more money. But prepare to learn a lot about juggling along the way (6,300 words)

Liam Neesons, Though!

Terse, fizzy, fun film review. “Anyone planning to see Non-Stop should probably just go see it. This is one of those near-perfect, peeled-onion, airplane-hijacking thrillers in which each removed layer brings you closer to a single, happy tear … The filmmakers love the junk they’re making. Non-Stop is like a hamburger that would’ve been fine as just meat on a bun. But the accumulation of fixings starts to blow your mind” (1,450 words)

Enough Rope To Hang Myself

On Stephen King’s Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep. “As a horror novel, Doctor Sleep doesn’t compare to the book King wrote 36 years ago. But in moments it’s as tender as anything he’s ever written. This is how far King has come: After years of dispatching his characters via flying-manhole-cover decapitation, superflu, and alien ass-monster, he has finally written a book in which many people die peacefully of old age” (2,100 words)

Myst: Lost To The Ages

Pioneering video game Myst sold more than six million copies in 1993 and launched the era of CD-ROM gaming. “Fans and critics alike held their breath in anticipation of the tidal wave of exploratory, open-ended gaming that was supposed to follow”. But nothing did. Myst was too far ahead of its market. It was as if its creators “had brought a truckload of freshly baked bread to a society that hadn’t even figured out how to harvest wheat yet” (4,500 words)

The Constant Traveler

“In the same way that the detective movie is a fantasy about city life, the spy movie is a fantasy about tourism. The elements of travel we ourselves find exhausting and stressful have been magically made easy for the spy. The spy never worries about not understanding a language; whatever it is, he already speaks it. Instead of sitting around in train stations, the spy procures a car, or a helicopter, or a speedboat” (2,000 words)

Huey Lewis’s Old, Weird America

He was huge in the 1980s, and he’s still touring. Eighty shows this year, the 30th anniversary of Sports. No longer a star, very much a working musician. “Lewis hasn’t been a fixture on pop radio for nearly 25 years, but he remains a reflexively mainstream artist. It’s not in his nature to upset the applecart. He’s still wired to give the public what it wants, however the public wants it, many years after the public has moved on” (4,900 words)

The Champions League Final

Saturday special. Classic, exuberant piece of sports writing, about today’s European Cup Final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. Even if football isn’t your passion. “It’s like playing Galaga. You could clear level after level, but those aliens were going to keep munching their way toward you forever. Bayern is the endless loop of aliens; Dortmund is a kid who’s only got so many quarters. You can root for the kid, but be realistic” (2,280 words)

The Contradictions Of Alex Ferguson

“His career overlapped with an enormously chaotic period in the history of soccer. He was a working-class socialist who furthered the aims of billionaires. He was a traditionalist with deep local roots who facilitated the commercial globalization of the game. He was a loyalist who destroyed his own allies. He was a bully and a thug, at times, with what seemed, at times, like a strangely beautiful way of looking at the world” (2,154 words)

Black And Brown Blues

With the Cleveland Browns on the day of the NFL draft picks. It’s tense. And complicated. “The Browns want to swap the no. 6 pick for a later selection in the first round and another selection in the second. The St. Louis Rams are willing to surrender the 16th pick. However, the Browns will agree to the deal only if Mingo is no longer available at no. 6, and the Rams will make the swap only if the guy they want is still there” (4,518 words)

‘The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent And Depraved,’ By Hunter S. Thompson

In June 1970 Scanlan’s magazine published “one of the most famous and least read articles in Thompson’s career”, with illustrations by Ralph Steadman. If you missed it, here it is again, introduced and annotated. Though nominally on a sporting assignment, Thompson gave his attention “not to the horses but to the outdoor loony bin of boozed-up burgher spectators”. With this piece the term “Gonzo journalism” was born (8,096 words)

Out In The Great Alone

Huge read, practically a book, about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska. Big, lyrical writing style. A hymn to the mushers and the terrain. “We were stranded out there for three hours. It was the first time I ever understood why freezing to death is sometimes described as peaceful or soothing or just like falling asleep. It was like certain parts of your body just accrued this strange hush. Like you were disappearing piece by piece” (19,396 words)

The Race And The Aftermath

“The Marathon was the old, drunk uncle of Boston sports, the last of the true festival events. There was no way to lock down, or tighten up, or Fail-Safe into Security Theater a race that covers 26.2 miles, a race that travels from town to town, a race that travels past people’s houses. There was no way to garrison the Boston Marathon. Now there will be. Someone will find a way to do it. And I do not know what the race will be now” (1,712 words)

The End And Don King

Profile of once-great boxing promoter. Starts slowly, warms up about four paragraphs in. “Don King no longer sits on boxing’s throne, but he has nostalgia by the balls … It’s a little sad to sit across from him at the Carnegie Deli and see the tourists line up at our table to take a photo, and to overhear them talk about the man in the past tense as if he were already dead. Not because Don King deserves our sympathy, but because it’s always jarring to see a once-robust American institution fall into disrepair and decay” (6,602 words)

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