The Best Long Reads of 2016 / by James Kelleher

There is much to celebrate as 2016 closes. The end of death, the peaceful resolution of all conflicts, and a pleasant, frictionless user interface design for our every brush with the glossy surface of The Deep State. But now, in this coming golden age of prosperity and geopolitical stability, let us take this opportunity to revisit some highlights of the year in writing on the internet. 

As ever, if you particularly enjoy any of the work linked here, consider throwing the publisher a bone by taking out a subscription, or cut out the middleman and send the author a fat cheque.

Our hospital body, all rivers of scars; the day-to-day form that we present to the world; the sacrosanct one we show to lovers – we create our own matryoshka bodies, and try to keep at least one that is just for us.

Blue Hills and Chalk Bones by Sinéad Gleeson, for Granta 

Why shouldn’t a gun be like a car—or food? If you need to know the history, you call a number and somebody’s got the information. If we have an E. coli outbreak, we don’t have much trouble getting to the offending bags of lettuce. Guns don’t work that way.

Inside the Federal Bureau Of Way Too Many Guns by Jeanne Marie Laskas, for GQ

There is the whole class of kimo‑kawaii, or “gross-cute”, epitomised by Gloomy, a pink bear whose claws are red with the blood of his child owner, whom he habitually mauls.

The New Science of Cute by Neil Steinberg, for The Guardian

His delusions became increasingly florid but, as Waugh described it later, ‘it was not in the least like losing one’s reason… I was rationalising all the time, it was simply one’s reason working hard on the wrong premises.’

The Reality Show by Mike Jay, for Aeon

They were completely lost on the idea of a stranger harassing us over the Internet. It’s a feeling like you’re drowning, and the person doesn’t understand what water is.

The Serial Swatter by Jason Fagone, for The New York Times Magazine

The ultimate goal of the spectacular state is the restriction of the public sphere, where all ideas of culture and heritage are either filtered through – or respond to – the narrative of the state, ruled by a dictator who has developed a cult of personality.

Trumpmenbashi by Sarah Kendzior, for The Diplomat

Bro culture doesn’t care about heartbreak or subtlety: bro culture cares about having a good time.

How Bros Made The Charts All Sound The Same by Aimee Cliff, for The Fader

Machines don’t go wrong like humans do; they go completely wrong.

Attack of The Killer Robots by Sarah A. Topol, for Buzzfeed

Dreams, in short, are transient ‘trips’ and, when they forcibly and suddenly break through into waking life, they sometimes become visions or hallucinations.

Dreams and Revelations by Patrick McNamara, for Aeon

Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon.

Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker by David Remnick, for The New Yorker

I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name.
By year two I concluded that I would never have the right answer, so I set about trolling the faculty instead. I aspired to adoxography, elaborate writing on trivial subjects.

The Girl in Your MFA by Roisin Kiberd, for Guts

Identity politics is not the sole preserve of minority voters. This election is a reminder that identity politics in America is a white invention: it was the basis of segregation.

Now Is The Time To Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for The New Yorker

I try to visualize the scenario, but it tests the limits of my open-mindedness. It is difficult to imagine supporting a pregnant woman’s injection-drug habit.

H.: On Heroin and Harm Reduction by Sarah Resnick, for n+1

Nobody ever goes broke overestimating the rage and misogyny of the average American male.

Travels in Pornland by Andrea Stuart, for Granta

When your goal is to make public benefits more accessible to low-income Americans, you are beholden to all sorts of things — laws, institutions, budgets — other than low-income Americans.

Code Cracking by Yiren Lu, for The New York Times Magazine

Polonium was a miasma, a creeping fog. It was found inside the dishwasher, on the floor, till, a coffee strainer handle.
How did this happen? How did we get here? Why does nobody listen to us, why does nobody care about us?

Brexit Blues by John Lanchester, for The London Review of Books

What time is it? Oh, God, I have to medicate.

You Want A Description of Hell? Oxycontin's 12-Hour Problem by Harriet Ryan, Lisa Girion and Scott Glover, for the Los Angeles Times

Finally, I will be able to satisfy my constant yearning and uncontrollable desire to peer into other people’s lives. My voyeuristic urges will now be placed into effect on a plane higher than anyone else has contemplated.

The Voyeur's Motel by Gay Talese, for The New Yorker

Is there just something about very smart minds that leaves them vulnerable to religious conversion about AI risk, and makes them particularly persuasive?

Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People by Maciej Cegłowski, for Idle Words