Ferrante in Fragments of Her Choosing

At The New Republic, novelist Alexander Chee has an essay/review of Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey, Ferrante’s new book of selected letters and interviews spanning nearly two-and-a-half decades. In the piece, Chee considers the way the press feels compelled to draw parallels between fiction and its authors’ lives; the way it treats women authors in particular; and the importance of anonymity for Ferrante, whose cover was allegedly blown in a recent The New York Review of Books article.

Many of these recent interviews are a pleasure to read—Ferrante’s professorial side is less didactic, more relaxed. But when asked, “Will you tell us who you are?” she answers: “Elena Ferrante. I’ve published six novels in 20 years. Isn’t that sufficient?” At this point, I have to agree. Why aren’t the novels enough?

But for all of her explanations on the topic of her withdrawal, the press appears, in these pages, determined to misunderstand her. If she seems repetitive at times, she is—but only because the questions are. Soon, she begins to sound like someone pleading for her life. At one point, she vows to stop publishing if she is exposed. And when she is asked to consider the legacy of her absence, she points a finger home:

“Those who became aware of the books later … as a result of the media attention, at least here in Italy, encounter them with an initial distrust, if not hostility, as if my absence were an offensive or culpable type of behavior…. The only thing I can do is continue my small battle to put the work at the center.”

Read the story

from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/10/31/ferrante-in-fragments-of-her-choosing/


Creepypasta, Shirley Jackson, and Horror Podcasts: A Halloween Reading Guide

Happy Halloween! It’s the season of costume parties, trick-or-treating, pumpkin-carving, and scary stories. The spookiness doesn’t have to end with the weekend—indulge in classic creepypasta, scary podcasts, and Ms. (Shirley) Jackson on your lunch break.

1. “The Definitive Guide to Creepypasta–The Internet’s Scariest Urban Legends.” (Aja Romano, The Kernel, October 2012)

For the past two weeks, I’ve been in a reading funk. I start a book; I put it down; repeat. Instead of novels, I’ve turned to Reddit (for virtually the first time in my life), reading creepypasta and other weird stories into the wee hours. Bonus round: Every year, Jezebel collects terrifying stories from their readers—usually of the paranormal-it-happened-to-me variety–and this year’s is up! I think “Armoire” is the scariest.

2. “A User’s Guide to Shirley Jackson.” (Anna Fitzpatrick, Hazlitt, September 2016)

Late one night, I asked Twitter for advice about my aforementioned reading rut, and one wise internet denizen recommended The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson—”a spooky, pretty short, easy read,” she said. I found a PDF and settled in. Three hours later, I was simultaneously freaked out and in awe of Jackson. Use Anna Fitzpatrick’s reader’s guide to choose which tale will jolt you from your own rut, or start with “The Man in the Woods,” courtesy of The New Yorker.

3. “Readers Report: Haunted.” (Susan Clements, The Rumpus, October 2014)

Eighteen writers take on what it means to be haunted in these super-short stories and poems.

4. “Antique Nightmares.”(Jason Boog, LARB, October 2015)

Podcasts like NoSleep, Lore, Just A Story, Tanis and many more are bringing old-school radio horror to our modern airwaves. Jason Boog writes about these contemporary storytellers and their 20th century precursors. (If true crime is scarier to you than the paranormal, I’m obsessed with My Favorite Murder.)

from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/10/30/creepypasta-shirley-jackson-and-horror-podcasts-a-halloween-reading-guide/

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week.

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* * *

1. The Writer Who Was Too Strong To Live

Dave McKenna | Deadspin | Oct. 28, 2016 | 37 minutes (9,445 words)

A heartbreaking story on alcoholism and a superstar sports journalist. Jennifer Frey soon disappeared from the business, and died earlier this year.

2. I Went Undercover With a Border Militia. Here’s What I Saw.

Shane Bauer | Mother Jones | Oct. 25, 2016 | 58 minutes (14,654 words)

Bauer goes on a border operation with a paramilitary group to get a firsthand look at the growing militia movement in the U.S.

3. The Other Sister

Ciara O’Rourke | Seattle Met | Oct. 27, 2016 | 16 minutes (4,127 words)

A moving personal essay by Ciara O’Rourke about preparing for a future in which she is the primary caregiver for her sister, who is living with autism.

4. Eight Women in Love

Shawn Wen | n+1 | Oct. 17, 2016 | 11 minutes (2,834 words)

“When she met him, she was holding a bowl of tabbouleh. He wasn’t famous at the time. Just a promising upstart in the Ba’ath party. And she liked everything about him from the start. His blue silk suit. His golden eyes.” The women left in the wake of eight of modern history’s worst despots.

5. Why Pop Culture Just Can’t Deal With Black Male Sexuality

Wesley Morris | New York Times | Oct. 27, 2016 | 24 minutes (6,244 words)

Wesley Morris takes on American culture’s deep, all-abiding fear of the black penis and “America’s dubious assumptions about the sexual prowess of black men.”

from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/10/28/the-top-5-longreads-of-the-week-142/

Hellish Days in the City of Angels: Michelle Tea on the L.A. Places She Hit Rock Bottom

At Buzzfeed, sober writer Michelle Tea takes readers on a tour of some L.A. establishments where she partied hard in 2001, the year she says she was hitting rock bottom with her addictions. Of The Frolick Room in Hollywood, she recalls:

This teeny-tiny bar situated on the walk of fame was the last place Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, was seen alive. But as much as a death wish as I appeared to have, the bar’s real draw was its status as one of Charles Bukowski’s primo haunts. Like all alcoholics who write, I adored Chinaski because he made my drinking seem literary, the activity of a working class hero, dirty and rebellious — which meant, since I was a girl, also feminist. I loved the redness of the bar, a vague redness, as well as how fucking awful the Hollywood mural on the wall was, and I loved the carnival promise of the neon sign outside and the weird, large, round, flat lamps on the inside. The Frolic Room was where I went when the 101 on-ramp had become tiresome and I needed a drink. Seated alone on a barstool I ordered a vodka whatever and sullenly nursed my drink. Eventually the phone rang, and the bartender answered it; turning to me, she said, “Someone is looking for a girl with blue hair. Are you her?” My boyfriend came to fetch me from The Frolic Room, took me to the taco truck down by the gay center for some food to help sober me up, then back to Tamarind, where I ate them with aggressive resentment, spilling cheese down my shirt.

Read the story

from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/10/28/hellish-days-in-the-city-of-angels-michelle-tea-on-the-l-a-places-she-hit-rock-bottom/

Sister, Friend, Caregiver

Now 26, the thick curtain of bangs cut above her eyebrows has grown. Several years of braces corralled her front teeth. She finally learned it wasn’t her pinky she should thrust in the air if she wanted to give someone the finger. But she still wants to play like we did when we were younger.

“I’m not a kid anymore,” my mom told Ellie recently as she explained why she didn’t want to join her in a game we enjoyed in elementary school. Ellie and I would crawl on the carpet pretending to be dogs while our mom faithfully fed us invisible bowls of food and scratched our heads. She had retired from the role when Ellie last asked to play. By then, Ellie wasn’t a kid either.

“But I still am,” she said. “Why am I?”

Eight years ago, after Ellie—not her real name—turned 18, becoming an adult in the eyes of the law, a piece of paper was filed at a King County Courthouse formalizing a decision that was reached without much discussion, drama, or fanfare. If my mother died, one of her sisters would become Ellie’s guardian until I turned 30, at which point I would take over.

-A beautiful essay by Ciara O’Rourke, in Seattle Met magazine, on preparing for a time in which she will be the primary caregiver for her sister, who is living with autism.

Read the story

from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/10/27/sister-friend-caregiver/

The Trick to It All: A Conversation with Photographer Henry Leutwyler

Cody Delistraty | Longreads | October 2016 | 12 minutes (3,326 words)

Born in Switzerland in 1961, the portrait photographer Henry Leutwyler was told he wouldn’t make it as a photographer. He was rejected from a top Swiss photography school, and when he opened his own photo studio in Lausanne — photographing watches and chocolates and cheeses — he went bankrupt in a swift year-and-a-half.

But at age 25, Leutwyler moved to Paris and began apprenticing with the French photographer Gilles Tapie, who helped him find his stride as an editorial photographer. A decade later, in 1995, Leutwyler moved to New York City, where his portrait photography began to appear in Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Esquire, and Time, among others.

Since then, Leutwyler has photographed the top-tier of global talent, including Martin Scorsese, Michelle Obama, Julia Roberts, Misty Copeland, Tom Wolfe, and Rihanna.

In 2010, Leutwyler published his first book with the German imprint Steidl called Neverland Lost: A Portrait of Michael Jackson, following it with two editions of Ballet: Photographs of the New York City Ballet. This year, he completed his most extensive project yet. After 12 years in the works, Document was released on October 25, 2016, by Steidl and will be accompanied by a show at the Foley Gallery in New York City, from November 3, 2016, to January 8, 2017.

The one-of-a-kind project is comprised of 124 photographs of seemingly ordinary items whose history renders them extraordinary: the gun that killed John Lennon, Bob Dylan’s harmonica, Andy Warhol’s paintbrush, Julia Child’s madeleine tray, Charlie Chaplin’s cane, Fred Astaire’s tap shoes, Janis Joplin’s guitar, Michael Jackson’s sequined glove, a hand-sewn Civil War-era flag, Mahatma Gandhi’s cracked leather sandal, among many others — all of which Leutwyler managed to round-up and photograph on his trademark white background.

Recently, while Leutwyler was in Palermo, Italy, I spoke with him about the trick to portrait photography, the magic of inanimate objects, his laughs with Julia Roberts, his awkwardness with Helmut Newton, and how he manages to stay creative after decades of universally adored photography.

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What was your first foray into photography?

Back in the day, my initial love was music. Record covers are the perfect format: square, 33 by 33 centimeters, the perfect ratio for photography. That’s why I became a photographer. I wanted to shoot record covers, which I did, and I wanted to work for magazines. My entire room was plastered with magazine cutouts when I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen. When I was a kid, without knowing and without realizing, I was already working on my photographic and visual culture.

Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett

You began your career with a string of failures — you were rejected from a top Swiss photography school and you started your own company that went bankrupt in a year-and-a-half. How did you get from there to your current success?

Well I learned that failure is not necessarily a bad thing, and if you are resilient enough, like a cactus with little water, you will survive. It’s more about the passion. When you’re young you don’t know any better. Many, many young kids, including myself, thought, Okay, you know what, I failed to get into photography school, oh my God, what am I going to do now, you know? And then I also realized that if you try — without much knowledge — to open up a little photo studio with a friend, you realize that you actually really don’t know anything about billing, profit, delivering on time, and above all — what is good photography. You have no idea. So the failures taught me that I had to study really, really hard, that I had absolutely to open up and share my thoughts and my fears, and I had to seek advice from my colleagues, which I did. And you know, decades later it paid off.

Henri Cartier-Bresson talked about how a photographer’s first 10,000 photos are usually his worst. Have your images significantly changed since you first started, or has there been an underlying similarity?

I hope they improved. There is a lightness to the beginning. I think Cartier-Bresson is right: there is less commercial pressure and more freedom. I think the secret to longevity in professional photography is to remain open, fresh, free, and once in a while — unfortunately — you have to make enemies and say, “No, this is not going to be done the way you think; it’s going to be done this way.”

We are so much under pressure lately, and the older you become the pressures become bigger. As a young photographer, you have one camera, a one-bedroom or studio apartment, a tiny fridge, no kids, no wife, no employees, no nothing. So I think that the danger of doing the ten-thousandth-and-one picture is to compromise — and compromises are dangerous. I have been compromised very little and unfortunately made a few enemies on the way.

John Lennon's glasses

John Lennon’s glasses

How does an artist maintain his creative freedom as he ages?

Let’s put it this way. Basically I’m a magazine photographer. I was never a huge advertising guy. I have always thought that I could retain the most amount of freedom by earning less and working for magazines. The moment you start working more, doing more advertising, getting paid therefore more, you have to follow guidelines. I’m not a guideline follower. I have never been; I never will be. Photography is not about following guidelines. Photography is an art of free spirit in my opinion.

So how I retain my freedom? I say no to a lot of jobs. This makes me not immensely wealthy. If I would have said yes when I was 25 to tons of advertising jobs a year I would have a big, fat bank account. But I think I would have become a sellout, and I never want to become one. I think creative freedom comes at the hefty price both financially and professionally. People don’t like when you say no to them, but unfortunately you have to.

You’re world-renowned for your portrait photography. What’s the trick to getting the perfect shot?

I go in with this attitude that it is never my picture, but it is the picture of the person in front of the camera. It is the sitter’s photograph. I always make sure not to get in there with an attitude. I try to make them laugh. I’m open to their ideas. And if they are very, very, very difficult, which happens once in a while, I stick them in a corner and make sure they can’t move. And at that point they might feel threatened that they have no choice besides either collaborating or behaving or, I don’t know, screaming or laughing; but that’s the trick.

Still, first most and foremost, it’s about respect, kindness. And again, I think if you manage to make someone laugh the first five minutes of when they come on set, you’re halfway there. You know, portrait photography and photography, at the end, are not considered open-heart surgery. We should take this a bit lighter.

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland

But surely there is a particular difficulty when you’re shooting people of the caliber of Julia Roberts, of Michelle Obama, of Rihanna. Is there a particular difficulty in getting world-famous people to let down their usual guards?

I, most of the time, make fun of myself; I make a fool of myself; I laugh with them; I make stupid jokes. I don’t want to be in front of a camera. So you have to be gentle to people, even professionals, even models, even movie stars. You really have to be understanding of the fact that standing or sitting in front of a camera, even for a movie actor, is difficult.

Julia Roberts, when I photographed her, was probably one of the biggest stars in American movie history. I had fifteen minutes to do a billboard when she came on Broadway for the first time. Fifteen minutes. It wasn’t fifteen minutes in front of the camera; no, she would walk in to the set, dressed, made-up; I would photograph her; she leaves. So Julia arrived at the door of the studio, and I walked towards her; I greet her; I shake her hand, and I say, “Hi Julia, I’m really, really happy to, after all these years, finally meet you. But most importantly I’m really, really happy that I am no longer 35.” I was probably 46 or 47 back then. And she said, “Why not?” I said, “Because I think I would have peed all over myself. Julia Roberts for fifteen minutes!” The next fourteen minutes, she was my friend. She knew that I knew that she was the star.

You know, we have to forget that there’s only one percent of photographers worldwide — some of them unfortunately have died, but I would include Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and many more — that have this same stature of fame as Julia Roberts or Roberto Benigni or Wim Wenders or Spielberg, who are real superstars. The others — that I am part of, the 99 percent, not the one percent — we are not the stars; we are not the famous people. The problem that young photographers and maybe a few older professionals have is they think they’re the boss, that they are famous people, that they need to be respected, and they have an attitude. They will fail because that’s not the right attitude on set.

Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts

Have you ever had an experience where getting a good portrait was impossible?

Not impossible, but I was on an assignment in the south of France, and I was photographing famous people in Monte Carlo for a magazine assignment. And I have to be honest, the most famous person—and the person I really wanted to photograph — was not on the list, and that was Helmut Newton. So I picked up my courage, located his phone number, and called him and said, “Mr. Newton, how are you? I am Henry Leutwyler. I’m a young Swiss photographer. I’m very, very disappointed because I am here on assignment, and of these famous people of Monte Carlo, you are not on the list.” He said, “I am not on the list?” I said, “No, you are not on the list.” “I want to be on the list.” I said, “I agree!” We agreed that I should photograph him.

Of course, Helmut Newton said, “Let’s do this picture at the casino with two naked women next to me; I will be wearing a tux; I will look cool, be at the roulette.” And I said, “No, Mr. Newton, it will have to be in front of a white background.” And he says, “Well I’ve yet to know a young photographer with no ideas.” And I said, “No, it’s not really about ideas; it’s about the fact that everybody else has been photographed on a white background, and so I have to follow through.”

It was probably July in Monte Carlo. And he says, “Okay, fine. I will come at noon, but I will be photographed in the shade because it’s too hot and I’m too old.” So you know, photographing when you have a small budget, at noon, and trying to find shade is difficult considering the fact that the sun is exactly above your head, and the shade is underneath your shoes. So I was thinking about how to do it, and I asked him to take his camera with him; it would be fun to have him holding a camera.

Anyway, he arrives in his Honda four-by-four or something like this — a very funny car. He was dressed in green, wearing white sneakers; he looked like a German pervert tourist, with a leather case around his neck and all that. So we greet each other: legendary, older Helmut Newton meeting non-legendary, young Henry Leutwyler — it was a clash of professional generations.

I start photographing. And this was film, so one roll of film — two-and-a-quarter, twelve frames, color — another roll of film — two-and-a-quarter, black-and-white. I take a third roll of film, and at that point I had taken 24 frames, which is not even a roll of film, 36 frames. And he said, “Well are you done yet?” I said, “No, I’m not done yet, I need one more roll of film.” And he said to me, “You’re too close. You want to get away. You’re too close.” I said “No, no don’t worry, I’m fine.” “You have the wrong lens.” “No, no, no I don’t have the wrong lens.”

And then I tell him, “Would you mind please, Mr. Newton, showing me the camera in your camera case?” You know, just to have more time. And I kept on photographing. And he said, “Henry, come on. Photography is all about illusions. Do you really think at noon in Monte Carlo in summer at my age it’s a camera in the camera case?” So even that failed. And then, in the end, he said, “Anyway, if you don’t have it within seven minutes, you never will.” We shook hands and he walked off.

He’s right: if you don’t get it in seven minutes, you never will. And most likely the good picture is the first one, and you walk your way through to get the two last ones, which will be the good ones too, if you’re lucky. The trick is: don’t keep people in front of the camera for too long. You need to get them in and out quickly.

Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton

Let’s talk about your new project, Document. How did it come about?

My mother made my father wait 10 years before she got married — so I’m going to be 55 at the end of the year; I could’ve been 65 — and the idea is that if everything would have panned out the way it could have, I could have met my childhood heroes and photographed them. Jimmy Hendrix, John Lennon, James Dean, Laurel and Hardy — I never met them. And I thought, one day, this is the project that I want to do. I want to photograph my heroes of my childhood and a few villains, because obviously there’s a few villains in the book too.

How’d you manage to get a hold of these precious and rare objects? The gun that killed John Lennon is a particularly famous photograph of yours.

For that one, I got a call from a magazine I really love called Mother Jones. And Mother Jones commissioned a still life. The story was about the illegal guns that are funneled from Miami up to New York City and the five boroughs through the I-95, and the picture I took is of 25 guns in a single picture.

For that story, I went to a police precinct, where I picked the guns I wanted to photograph. I set them up, photographed them, closed my equipment cases, and on the way out of the police precinct, I saw a small paper clipping on a chair with a gun on top of it, and it said it was the gun that killed John Lennon. I asked the sergeant, I said, “Sir, is this really the gun that killed John Lennon?” He said, “Yeah, that’s the gun that killed John Lennon.” Just like that? Just in a corner on a paper clipping? This is the gun that killed another dude? And I was like, “Do you mind if I photograph it?” And he said, “Okay, but quick.” So we unpacked everything, set up the whole shebang again, photographed the gun, both sides, and left. When I got home, I realized, again, this is the right project.

Susan Sontag wrote that all photographs are a form of memento mori. Are your images of possessions a kind of a counter-argument? A claim that parts of us might live forever through our possessions?

Every single object has a history. Every single object is loaded with memories. Every object talks. The life of its owner, the imprint of the life of its owner is within the object. One of my earlier books was on Michael Jackson, and it was called Neverland Lost, and while I often photograph objects on a white background, when it came to Michael Jackson’s project back in the day, I decided to photograph it on black.

One of the reasons for that choice was there is a Japanese philosopher called Jun’ichirō Tanizaki who wrote, among other things, a book you can read in a day called In Praise of Shadows. And if you read in between the lines you learn the differences between East and West in the world. The West puts shiny objects in the sun; and in my opinion, they don’t shine. The East puts them in darkness. If you go to Japan, you walk around the temples, the Shinto temples, you realize that those statues are in total darkness, and that’s why they shine.

The second reason was I was photographing hundreds of objects that belonged to Michael Jackson who, in my opinion, back in the day, had a short-lived childhood for the reasons we all know. I photographed the first edition of Peter Pan that was owned by Michael and the sadness that I realized at that point when I saw the book made me decide to shoot on black. I was thinking — can you imagine? — the musical genius of this kid that didn’t have a proper childhood recreated a childhood at Neverland. I was documenting Michael’s life through his objects while he was alive, while his house was being emptied and prepared for auction. Disaster. Heavy, heavy, heavy load of history, every single object.

Marilyn Munroe's valises

Marilyn Munroe’s set of Goyard luggage

Is there a purity that these possessions have? Did you find that your photographs of objects captured their owner’s soul in some fundamental way?

It’s like going to the shrink. You lie on a couch and you talk. And objects talk. For me, yes they are inanimate, but they are really alive. They don’t lie. Let’s say you’re photographing a good-looking model. By the time the picture has been delivered to a magazine, it looks ten times better than the good-looking model we had in front of the camera. Hair, make up, Photoshop, and God knows what else. An object? Well it is what it is, and I really like it.

King Kong's hand, 1933

King Kong’s hand, 1933

How do you maintain the energy it takes to be a photographer as you’re climbing to an age where people traditionally begin to retire?

Once in a while, you know, there are difficult moments, and I try to dig in within myself and figure out and find again how did I feel the day I got my first assignment? How did I feel when I saw my first picture published? What did I do? And when these dark moments come — because they do come; times have changed; it’s no longer 1980 — then with that thinking process I just manage to feel the youth, the fun, and the strength to keep on going, and I hope that I will be lucky, maybe like Avedon who died on assignment, and Helmut Newton who died climbing on assignment. I don’t want to die in a nursing home; I want to die with a camera in my hand. Photography is a great excuse to share your passion with other people. What’s greater than that? Trust me, I wouldn’t want to be a heart surgeon. I don’t want to play with other people’s lives. I want to give them pleasure, or I want to give them information. And I do believe that if photography is well applied — and we both know that this happens — it can change the world.

* * *

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Cody Delistraty is a writer based in Paris. Follow him on Twitter: @delistraty.

from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/10/27/the-trick-to-it-all-a-conversation-with-photographer-henry-leutwyler/

Salt, Sugar, Fat, Repeat: A Reading List on Restaurant Chains

The first restaurant chain in the US, the late-19th-century Harvey House, popped up in train stations and followed the rapid growth of rail travel. It disappeared decades ago, but the project of connecting huge swaths of land with the promise of culinary sameness lives on. In a country that currently seems fractured and exhausted by its own divisions (at least from across the Canadian border, where I live), are chains a unifying force, a common denominator — or yet another arena in which cultural and political tensions play out?

Here are some of my favorite reads on America’s restaurant chains, from the generically upscale to the proudly down-home. They cover politics, economics, regional identity, and even (surprise!) food.

1. “Giving Thanks at Cracker Barrel.” (Cari Wade Gervin, Eater, November 19, 2014)

My first foray into the strange, Americana-on-steroids world of Cracker Barrel came during a long, boring drive from St. Louis to Chicago; I left with many unanswered questions (are these antiques real? Why is a single diner given so much bread?). Gervin’s personal essay recounts the origins of her family’s annual visit to Cracker Barrel for Thanksgiving dinner — and tries to make sense of the chain’s manufactured hominess along the way.

(This piece is part of Eater’s Life in Chains series — other highlights include Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes on the allure of McDonald’s in Alaska and Sara Benincasa on death and TGI Friday’s.)

2. “The Death of Flair.” (Lisa Hix, Collectors Weekly, August 11, 2016)

As it turns out, the antiques at Cracker Barrel are indeed real. They’re the culmination of a trend that started decades earlier at TGI Friday’s, where the walls were kept cluttered to fuel flirty conversations during the chain’s heyday as a singles’ mecca. “I put big things in too small of a space, little things in too big a space. I wanted people to feel like they were seeing something they’d never seen before every time they came to the restaurant,” says Dan Scoggin, the chain’s founder. Hix looks at chain restaurants as spaces that reflect the evolution of mores and aesthetics — and traces the fate of the discarded knickknacks once restaurants decide to follow more minimalist trends.

3. “The KFC Chicken Sandwich that Ate Pakistan.” (Saba Imtiaz, Roads and Kingdoms, April 21, 2016)

Fried chicken in general, and the Colonel Sanders variety in particular, is embedded in multiple local — and very American — histories of race, class struggle, and cultural appropriation. So what happens when you drop KFC in the heart of an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city? Saba Imtiaz follows the story of an unlikely object of capitalist longing: the Zinger, a sandwich that hadn’t even been tested in the US until earlier this year, and that has become “a symbol of urban aspirations and dreams, a burger that sustains a city constantly in flux.”

4.”Big Med.” (Atul Gawande, The New Yorker, August 13, 2012)

I think of the Cheesecake Factory as an embarrassment: both because of the food it serves, and (mostly) because of how much I actually love going there. (It’s been more than five years: we were expecting, shopping for a stroller in a Seattle suburb, and decided to bid adieu to any and all traces of hipness in one gazillion-calorie seating). Yet the chain’s innovative processes and success at scaling up quality control have inspired professionals in other fields, like medicine. Here, Gawande wonders how hospitals might become more efficient and adaptable if they learned from mega-kitchens that churn out hundreds of different items every day, flawlessly.

5. “Twilight of the Pizza Barons.” (Bryan Gruley, Bloomberg, July 3, 2014)

Pizza in the US conjures up images of Italian-American communities in places like Providence and New Haven, or of neo-artisanal varieties in Brooklyn or Berkeley. Yet two of the top-three pizza chains in America started in Detroit. Gruley profiles Tom Monaghan and Mike Ilitch, the billionaire founders of Domino’s and Little Caesars, respectively, and tells a tale of an economically struggling city being shaped by pie-generated fortunes.

6. “What It’s Like to Work at the Waffle House for 24 Hours Straight.” (Andrew Knowlton, Bon Appetit, February 17, 2015)

Knowlton, a born-and-bred Georgian, returns to Atlanta for a Herculean undertaking: manning the waffle station for an entire day at a busy Waffle House location. What ensues is a hazy gonzo account full of mayhem, grease, and Southern drawls. As he aptly reasons, “Let’s be honest: If the French Laundry were open 24 hours a day, sketchy things would happen there too.”

(For more on the beloved chain, read Jessica Contrera’s tribute to an old Waffle House Location in Bloomington, Indiana, on the eve of its demolition.)

from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/10/26/salt-sugar-fat-repeat-a-reading-list-on-restaurant-chains/