Pam Colloff

Pam Colloff

It’s one of the last weekends of the summer and a good time to relax on the front porch with some of the recent noteworthy stories you may have missed. Here are Storyboard’s three picks for this weekend’s reading:

In the  New York Times Magazine, former Gourmet executive editor John Willoughby writes a powerful “Lives” essay about the teenage summer when he realized a difficult truth.

“On the first night he stayed with me, I looked over at him asleep in the twin bed across the room, his face peaceful, his chest rising and falling under the sheet, and actually whispered aloud, “This.” I remember it very clearly, because the word seemed to come from some other person, quite outside myself.”

The latest story by Texas Monthly’s Pamela Colloff, winner of the 2014  Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism,  offers a nuanced portrait of a woman who witnessed 278 executions while she worked for the Texas prison system.

“Mornings, when her commute offered time to think back on everything she had seen at the Walls, were the hardest. She was flooded with memories from her time inside the Death House: of the conversations she had shared with particular inmates in the hours before they were strapped to the gurney; of the mothers, dressed in their Sunday best, who had turned out to attend their sons’ executions; of the victims’ families, their faces hardened with grief; of the sudden stillness that came over the prisoners soon after the lethal drugs entered their bloodstreams. She could still see some of these men—their chests expanding, their chins stiffening as they took their last breaths.”

And, finally, amid all the mediocre and maudlin stories spawned by the suicide of Robin Williams, there was this small gem of a remembrance by author and television producer David Simon, about meeting Williams when the actor guest-starred on “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

“Mr. Williams caught the look from the producer and ended the impromptu routine abruptly, with an awkward smile. His breathing was labored, and he looked to be genuinely embarrassed by his demonstration as cast and crew applauded with warm delight before returning to work. But it seemed that the actor had gone there as much for his own needs as for the audience, that he had come back downstairs from the dollhouse of the dead, readied himself to shoot another painful scene of grief and guilt, and then, in manic desperation, reached out for as much human comedy as ten minutes will allow.”

By the way, if you’re curious about that “Homicide” cameo, here’s a clip:

Further Reading

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