There's nothing quite like the sight of a bunch of unread magazines resting on a coffee table to get the pulse racing. And there's little as wonderful as the anticipation of immersing yourself in a brilliantly written feature. The argument is being made that the internet has rewired our brains so that we can't concentrate for more than a nanosecond and that skimming, not reading, is the norm. But this notion fails to explain our enduring love of the magazine. We're very pleased to launch our own new glossy magazine today and, to mark the occasion, Sunday Tribune writers have chosen some of their favourite magazine articles of all time. There's no real logic behind the selection, but we hope you enjoy our choices as much as we did. The irony is not lost on us that you will have to read them online.
Letting Go, by Atul Gawande
The New Yorker, August 2010
One of the best articles I have come across on end-of-life issues and should be required reading for everyone, given the likelihood of either suffering serious illness ourselves or being close to someone who does. It's about knowing when to stop treatment and focus on improving the patient's quality of life instead.
What's Eating Marco, by Lynn Barber
The Observer magazine, October 2007
Lynn Barber is the queen of the 'celebrity' interview. Her sharp-as-a-knife writing is unparallelled ? and she doesn't need her subjects to like her, the most useful quality an interviewer can possess. I read her interview with Marco Pierre White as I prepared to interview him myself. Having met him, I can attest to the fact that she got him down to a tee.
The Omnivore, by Jeffrey Steingarten
Slate, August 1996
By my reckoning Steingarten is, the greatest food writer in the world, and this is a typically amusing account of his initial steps when he morphed from lawyer to food critic for Vogue.
The End of the Affair, by PJ O'Rourke
The Wall Street Journal, May 2009
After 30 years of political satire and general hell-raising, O'Rourke still has it. This feature, written in the wake of General Motors' bankruptcy, documents how America fell out of love with the automobile.
Pearls Before Breakfast, by Gene Weingarten
Washington Post, April 2007
The genius of a simple idea attacked from every conceivable angle. Take one of the world's greatest violinists, stand him in a subway station at morning rush hour, see how much he takes as a busker. A magical and affecting look at the power of music.
The Chosen One, by Gary Smith
Sports Illustrated, 23 December 1996
Picking out one Gary Smith piece is nearly impossible. But this profile of Tiger Woods, written before the 20-year-old had won a major, is jaw-dropping for its prescience in considering the battle Woods would fight with fame and its queasiness at how it might all turn out.
Fatal Distraction, by Gene Weingarten
Washington Post, March 2009
Between 15 and 25 children die every year in the US as a result of being left strapped into their car seats, forgotten by a parent who has gone about their day, leaving their child to literally bake to death. You start the article thinking that these people must be America's dumbest parents. You finish it understanding how easily it can actually happen. It won the Pulitzer prize for feature writing this year.
Meet Your New Boss, by Claudine Ko
Jane magazine, July 2004
In 2004, Claudine Ko spent a month trailing Dov Charney, founder of the American Apparel T-shirt chain, and published an unorthodox feature in the now defunct Jane magazine. She writes how Charney masturbated at least eight times in the course of their interviews, all the while carrying on discussing his business plan. Ko admits to thinking fondly of Charney after interviewing him, but the publication of the article means the words 'Charney' and 'pervert' will forever appear together in a Google search.
How He Did It
Newsweek, November 2008
The magazine assigned a team of its reporters to follow Barack Obama on his path to the White House. In a truly cracking read – turned around for publication the day after the poll – they bring you right into the heart of the campaign, revealing the secret battles and private fears behind this most epic of US elections.
Stuff I've Been Reading, by Nick Hornby
The Believer, November 2003
A bookclub pal tipped me off to this article from Hornby's monthly series for the McSweeney's mag. The Believer's policy is not to diss authors or books so Hornby reappraised what he was reading and why, and then began picking books he knew he would like, rather than what he thought he should be reading. Basically, a much-loved author reassures you that it's OK not to finish books you're not enjoying.
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
The New Yorker, September 1965
This stark and beautiful work of 'new journalism' about the cold-blooded murder of a wealthy farming family in rural Kansas and the subsequent trial and execution of the perpetrators, saw Truman Capote blur the lines between reportage and fiction in an ethically dubious manner. Yet, in spite of or maybe because of this, it's one of the most powerful pieces of writing in 20th-century literature.
How the Poor Die, by George Orwell
Now magazine, November 1946
Orwell recalls his experiences in a public hospital in Paris in 1929 where he was being treated for pneumonia. Like all of Orwell's writings on poverty and injustice, a cool, crisp unemotional prose style barely hides his burning anger.
Kerry Babies: We Say The Judge Got It Wrong, by Gene Kerrigan.
Magill, November 1985
The Kerry Babies case, in which the state argued with a straight face that an Abbeydorney woman, Joanne Hayes, had had twins by separate fathers, produced an avalanche of brilliant journalism in the mid-1980s. None was better than Gene Kerrigan's analysis of the judicial inquiry into how Hayes and her family confessed to murdering one of the babies. It inspired at least one local reporter to pack his bags and try to gain a foothold in national journalism.
www.politico.ie – with a subscription
Playing Possum, by John Lahr
The New Yorker, July 1991
The author, the son of Bert Lahr who played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, has showbiz in his blood. His subject, the Australian comedian and provocateur Barry Humphries, has built a career testing the limits of what show business means. It turned out to be a perfect match. Better known on this side of the world as Dame Edna Everage, Humphries emerges from Lahr's profile as subversive, unshockable and hilarious, a whole lot more than an acid-tongued cross-dresser.
American Ground: Unbuilding The World Trade Centre, by William Langewiesche
Atlantic Monthly, July-August 2002
Langewiesche got very early access to Ground Zero in the wake of the September 11 attacks and spent nine months there until the last truckload of debris had been removed from the site. The three articles which followed, and which were subsequently turned into a book, are an astonishing account of life underground, as thousands of workers tried to create order out of chaos. Although the articles were criticised in some parts for their absence of emotion, their lack of sentimentality was their strength. They remain a fitting tribute to New York and its people.
www.theatlantic.com – some sections are available without a subscription
The Great American Bubble Machine, by Matt Taibbi
Rolling Stone, July 2009
Rolling Stone might be a bit of a disappointment as a music magazine currently, but as a chronicle of the sorry state of US politics and society, it has few peers. Taibbi's July 2009 piece, about how Goldman Sachs bank had helped sink the US and world economies, was an unforgettable mix of invective and research. His description of the bank as a "giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity" has been quoted so often subsequently that it has almost become a cliché.