Want some smart, provocative, moving stories for your weekend inspiration? Here are Storyboard’s picks of some notable recent work, ranging from poetry about race to essays on journalistic misdeeds and a tale about a forgotten child star from the 1970s.
Claudia Rankine’s fifth volume of poetry, “Citizen: An American Lyric” won this year’s National Book Critics Circle poetry award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. It’s a remarkable book, weaving together prose poems, essays and visual images in a sharp, haunting exploration of racism. And, in a week that featured the release of a horrific video showing a South Carolina police officer repeatedly shooting an unarmed, fleeing man in the back, her voice takes on even more resonance. Here, in a poem that explicitly addresses the issue of black men being pulled over by police, she writes:
“Then flashes, a siren, a stretched-out roar– and you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description.”
This YouTube video, depicting 1970s child star Mason Reese breaking down into tears on “The Mike Douglas Show,” prompted Jonathan Goldstein, host of the CBC radio progam “WireTap,” to investigate why clips of the precocious television and film actor had suddenly begun showing up on the video-sharing service 40 years after his heyday.
In a co-production with the podcast “Reply All,” Goldstein tracks down Reese to find out what became of him. The story is a beautifully structured hourglass, seamlessly leading you from general musings about late-night nostalgia to the claustrophobia of a memento-filled two-room apartment in New York and back out again. And, like the best of this kind of work, it takes you through a narrative that is far more complex and nuanced than you might expect.
In the chorus of reaction to the release this week of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s report on the discredited Rolling Stone article about campus rape, two pieces stood out. The first is the Columbia Journalism Review Q-and-A with the report’s lead authors, journalism school dean Steve Coll and Sheila Coronel, dean of academic affairs. The interview offers valuable insights into what the two discovered during the investigation and believe should be its lessons. Coll, in particular, emphasizes one interesting point that did not get as much attention elsewhere:
“If anyone thinks there was a golden age of excellent reporting practice, that’s probably wrong. But certainly now, there are a lot of new entrants and a lot of young self-educating reporters who need a way to talk about these practices at a level of real ethical detail and seriousness. Because if you get it wrong that can not only have consequences that are serious for others but you can end your career, real quickly.”
And in The New Yorker, George Packer implicates the “tyranny of narrative” in the debacle, citing various points where the reporter and editors made decisions that favored story over truth:
“One can imagine the impulses competing in the feature editor’s mind—carefulness and transparency on the one hand, the stylistic pleasure of an uninterrupted flow of narrative on the other. It’s a question that comes up in every piece of literary journalism worth the name.”