Mother Jones guest blogger Mark Armstrong is the founder of Longreads, a site devoted to uncovering the best long-form nonfiction articles available online. And what better time to curl up with a great read than over the weekend? Below, a hand-picked bouquet of five interesting stories, including word count and approximate reading time. (Readers can also subscribe to The Top 5 Longreads of the Week by clicking here.)
1. The Man Who Had HIV and Now Does Not | Tina Rosenberg | New York Magazine | May 31, 2011 | 15 minutes (3,798 words)
“He is cured.” Timothy Brown, who found out he had HIV in 1995 and was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006, underwent a risky stem-cell transplant to treat both. It worked. Now experts are debating how big a breakthrough this might be in the search for a cure:
“News of the Berlin Patient’s cure—Brown stepped forward to identify himself by name only late last year—made its debut at the February 2008 annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston. [His doctor, Gero Hütter] had submitted a paper to The New England Journal of Medicine and to the conference organizers as well, asking to present Brown’s results—no HIV a year after stopping treatment. The journal rejected his submission, and CROI only allotted Hütter space to put up a poster, the platform offered to present research considered of lesser importance.
“Steven Deeks, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and a doctor at San Francisco General Hospital’s Positive Health Program—the newest name for the old Ward 86, the first-ever outpatient AIDS clinic—was among the few to appreciate the significance of Hütter’s display. ‘I said, “Wow, this is interesting. Why doesn’t anyone seem to care?” ’
2. The Mystery Guest Has Arrived Kevin Arnovitz | ESPN | June 2, 2011 | 18 minutes (4,743 words)
Erik Spoelstra’s unlikely journey from Miami Heat video intern to head coach in 13 short years. His path is unique in the NBA—and the employer-employee loyalty seems just as rare in corporate America:
“Stan Van Gundy was Pat Riley’s assistant coach—then assistant head coach—from 1995 until earning the head coaching position in 2003. Van Gundy, who now coaches the Orlando Magic, says he’s only met two people whom he knew, right away, were going to be standout coaches—current University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller and Spoelstra.
“‘Very early on in his career, we all knew he’d end up where he is,’ Van Gundy says. ‘I don’t think anyone is surprised that he’s gone to that level. Erik might say he’s surprised, but no one else in [the Heat] organization is.'”
3. Basta Bunga Bunga | Ariel Levy | The New Yorker | June 6, 2011 | 39 minutes (9,909 words)
The sordid history of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s sexual escapades—his orgies were reportedly called “Bunga Bungas”—and evidence that Italy is tiring of the misogynist culture he symbolizes:
“There is growing dissatisfaction with the status of women in Italy. In 2009, in response to rising sexual-assault statistics, Berlusconi said, ‘We don’t have enough soldiers to stop rape because our women are so beautiful.’ Several months later, fifteen thousand people signed a petition to the wives of G8 leaders, asking them to urge their husbands to show support for Italian women by boycotting a summit with Berlusconi.
“That same year, the center-left politician Rosy Bindi appeared on the TV show ‘Porta a Porta,’ to support a high-court ruling against a new law that would have made the Prime Minister (among other officials) exempt from prosecution while in office. Berlusconi called in and told Bindi, ‘You are increasingly more beautiful than you are intelligent.’ Bindi, a stocky, gray-haired sixty-year-old who wears thick glasses and sensible shoes, shot back, ‘Presidente, I am not one of the women at your disposal.'”
4. The Man Who Played Rockefeller | Mark Seal | Wall Street Journal | May 26, 2011 | 22 minutes (5,592 words)
How could so many intelligent people get conned by the same person? An excerpt from Seal’s new book, “The Man in the Rockefeller Suit,” tracing the multiple identities and lies constructed by Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter (aka “Clark Rockefeller”), which even fooled his wife:
“When Sandra Boss finally decided to leave her husband, she did not realize that the man she’d been married to for 12 years had been an impostor. When she was later asked in court how she could have been fooled so completely for so long, she explained that she was 26 when she met him, young and naïve, and never imagined that someone would perpetrate such an elaborate fraud. ‘One can be brilliant and amazing in one area of one’s life,’ she testified, ‘and really stupid in another.’
“Boss ultimately paid Rockefeller $800,000 in alimony and won the right to raise Reigh, whom she took with her to London. In 2008, on a court-supervised visit back in Boston, Rockefeller kidnapped his 7-year-old daughter and fled with her to Baltimore, where he had set up a new identity as Chip Smith, a professional yacht captain and catamaran designer.”
5. Doing Business in Argentina: A Constant Feeling of Crisis | Max Chafkin | Inc. | May 31, 2011 | 21 minutes (5,298 words)
Meet the entrepreneurs who build their businesses in Argentina despite cycles of political and economic instability that threaten to wipe them out:
“Over the course of two weeks in Argentina, I crisscrossed the country, interviewing dozens of entrepreneurs in a variety of industries. I met winemakers in the foothills of the Andes, manufacturers in the country’s agricultural heartland, and the founders of some of the country’s biggest and most successful tech companies. I met jaded old-timers and fresh-faced kids too young to really remember the worst excesses. I spent a lot of time listening to complaints.
“The single biggest one—and the most obvious way that Argentina is much, much worse off than America—has to do with money. Argentina does not have a modern financial system. Business credit is nonexistent. Only businesses with many years of operating history can qualify for things such as lines of credit or overdraft privileges. Small-business loans are extremely unusual, and it would be crazy to tap credit cards for operating capital: They have low limits and interest rates of up to 45 percent. ‘It’s hard to explain it to Americans, but there is no financing in Argentina,’ says Patricio Fuks (pronounced fooks), a co-founder of Fën Hoteles. ‘There are no seed investors. The stock market is so small that if you invested a million dollars, you’d move the market.'”
Featured Longreader: Choire Sicha @choire
Choire is co-founder of The Awl
“I’ve been reading work by Paul Ford and talking to him about the future for ten years now. Paul Ford isn’t a theoretician, he’s a builder, really, and if you’re not too familiar, now is a good time to catch up. Mostly he makes things that exist on the Internet or that live on your machines. (‘Websites’; ‘apps.’) But his writing, which often is sometimes fact and sometimes fiction and sometimes I don’t know (this hilarious interview!), are where I feel like he works out the conceptual background for the things that he’s building. As he left a long period of working more behind the scenes, he’s writing more and more again: an essay about editing as production from last summer got a lot of attention.
“He’s also very funny, as well as a warrior in the struggle against the lunch and meeting industry. And not a week has gone by in the last decade that I haven’t said ‘The shoes!’ out loud, thanks to his ‘”Sex and the City” as Beckett’ shtick.
“Now I’m digesting his essay of last month, a piece of ‘speculative fiction’ (LOL, sorry!) about the future of human contracts and our infrastructure of privacy.”
Nanolaw with Daughter | Paul Ford | FTrain | May 16, 2011 | 8 minutes (2,031 words)