The Saturday Read from the 2016 winners of the Pulitzer Prize

Four writers and journalists, whose work was featured in this blog, were among the winners of the Pulitzer Prize announced on Monday. Today, for the ‘Saturday Read’ we revisit the writings of William Finnegan, Kathryn Schulz, Emily Nussbaum and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Three journalists call The New Yorker home. On Monday, it became the first magazine to be honored with the Pulitzer Prize. Emily Nussbaum and Kathryn Schulz earned Pulitzers in criticism and feature writing respectively, and William Finnegan received the prize for biography.

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“Emily Nussbaum, who has won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, writes essays and reported pieces about television that are fearless, hilarious, and pioneering. Among the pieces submitted to the Pulitzer committee were her standout essays on Joan Rivers, P. Jay Sidney, advertising, and “Mad Men.”

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“Kathryn Schulz, who arrived at The New Yorker less than two years ago, has won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, for “The Really Big One,” her piece on the more than a little troubling geology of the Pacific Northwest. Her evocations of the earthquake in Japan in 2011 and of the earthquake that could occur in the states of Washington and Oregon stay with us much like works of the best fiction, to say nothing of horror films.”

The Saturday Read on December 12, 2015 included excerpts from this ‘long read’.

“Just north of the San Andreas, however, lies another fault line. Known as the Cascadia subduction zone, it runs for seven hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, continuing along Oregon and Washington, and terminating around Vancouver Island, Canada. The “Cascadia” part of its name comes from the Cascade Range, a chain of volcanic mountains that follow the same course a hundred or so miles inland. The “subduction zone” part refers to a region of the planet where one tectonic plate is sliding underneath (subducting) another. Tectonic plates are those slabs of mantle and crust that, in their epochs-long drift, rearrange the earth’s continents and oceans. Most of the time, their movement is slow, harmless, and all but undetectable. Occasionally, at the borders where they meet, it is not.”

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“William Finnegan, who has been a staff writer since 1987, has won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, for his memoir about surfing, “Barbarian Days.” This project has been Finnegan’s literary obsession for a very long time. It began as a series in our pages more than two decades ago, and came to completion in June, with “Off Diamond Head,” an excerpt from the book, which was published not long after.”

The Saturday Read on August 1, 2015 recommended ‘Barbarian Days, A Surfing Life’.

“When you do a book reading in Manhattan Beach, California you need to use a microphone so the guys with ‘surfer’s ear’ in the back can understand you. Last night New Yorker journalist and lifetime surfer William Finnegan used a mic as he read from his well reviewed new book…

The Q&A at the reading was closer to a book club discussion than a publicity event. Most of those attending had either read the book or the excerpt in the June 1 issue of the New Yorker magazine. This is not just a book about surfing. Mr. Finnegan is a well regarded journalist with a resume that includes reporting from South Africa, Somalia, the Balkans, Central America and Australia. Robert Boynton included him in his conversations with America’s best nonfiction writers in ‘The New New Journalism’.”

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Lin-Manuel Miranda won the Pulitzer for drama, for ‘Hamilton’. “For a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life.”

“A landmark American musical about the gifted and self-destructive founding father whose story becomes both contemporary and irresistible.”

David Rooney reported on the prize for Billboard. “Miranda wrote the book, music and lyrics for the show, in addition to starring in the title role. The Pulitzer now further cements Hamilton’s status as the toughest ticket in town and the clear frontrunner to take the top musical kudos at this year’s Tony Awards in June.”

I have written about Miranda and Hamilton five times in the past year. My favorite is ‘The Power of Taking a Break & the Unexpected Inspiration of Reading’ on March 4, 2015.

“If Mr. Miranda had not been on vacation, taking time away from work, we may have been deprived of his creativity and ability to connect the dots as he developed his perspective for the play: “Miranda saw Hamilton’s relentlessness, brilliance, linguistic dexterity, and self-destructive stubbornness through his own idiosyncratic lens. It was, he thought, a hip-hop story, and immigrant’s story.”

Ms. Mead’s article tells the story of the evolution of Mr. Miranda’s career, the development of ‘Hamilton’, and the connections he has made along the way with mentors and creative partnerships.

Sometimes we think creativity belongs to the artist and we struggle to find opportunities to relate to our own workplace. But creativity is about imagination and storytelling our way to solving a problem. Taking time away allows for a different view. If we are open to the unexpected we can connect the dots and reframe the narrative. And, maybe be online Sunday to buy tickets and see how it’s done.”

The Saturday Read – a selection of the best articles of 2015 from Jon Ronson, Oliver Sacks, Kathryn Schulz and Nikil Saval

This week the recommendations for ‘The Saturday Read’ come from journalists who wrote some of the most popular long form articles of the year. Instead of a book, which might seem daunting in the midst of holiday shopping and celebrating, sample the writings of these four storytellers who tackled a range of topics including internet shaming, death, earthquakes and the origins of the white collar worker.

On Wednesday, ‘The Upshot’ covered ‘The Stories That Held You The Longest in 2015’. “We measured the favorite Times articles of 2015 in a new way — by the total combined time readers have spent looking at them. It’s a mix of ambitious investigative projects, big breaking news, features and service journalism.”

Number two on the list first appeared in the February 12, 2015 New York Times Magazine. Written by Jon Ronson, ‘How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life’ tells the story of the world of public ‘internet shaming’ through the experience of its victims.

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“In the early days of Twitter, I was a keen shamer. When newspaper columnists made racist or homophobic statements, I joined the pile-on. Sometimes I led it…

Still, in those early days, the collective fury felt righteous, powerful and effective. It felt as if hierarchies were being dismantled, as if justice were being democratized. As time passed, though, I watched these shame campaigns multiply, to the point that they targeted not just powerful institutions and public figures but really anyone perceived to have done something offensive. I also began to marvel at the disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment. It almost felt as if shamings were now happening for their own sake, as if they were following a script.”

Number ten on the list was an Op-Ed piece by neurologist and writer, Oliver Sachs, ‘My Own Life’, on learning he had terminal cancer.

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“Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).”

A New Yorker article received a lot of attention when it first appeared in July. ‘The Really Big One’ was researched and written by contributor, Kathryn Schulz.

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“Most people in the United States know just one fault line by name: the San Andreas, which runs nearly the length of California and is perpetually rumored to be on the verge of unleashing “the big one.” That rumor is misleading, no matter what the San Andreas ever does. Every fault line has an upper limit to its potency, determined by its length and width, and by how far it can slip. For the San Andreas, one of the most extensively studied and best understood fault lines in the world, that upper limit is roughly an 8.2—a powerful earthquake, but, because the Richter scale is logarithmic, only six per cent as strong as the 2011 event in Japan.

Just north of the San Andreas, however, lies another fault line. Known as the Cascadia subduction zone, it runs for seven hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, continuing along Oregon and Washington, and terminating around Vancouver Island, Canada. The “Cascadia” part of its name comes from the Cascade Range, a chain of volcanic mountains that follow the same course a hundred or so miles inland. The “subduction zone” part refers to a region of the planet where one tectonic plate is sliding underneath (subducting) another. Tectonic plates are those slabs of mantle and crust that, in their epochs-long drift, rearrange the earth’s continents and oceans. Most of the time, their movement is slow, harmless, and all but undetectable. Occasionally, at the borders where they meet, it is not.”

Longreads.com selected their ‘Best of 2015’ which included an excerpt from the book, ‘Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace’. The fifth most popular article was ‘I Would Prefer Not To: The Origins of the White Collar Worker’, written by Nikil Saval.

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“When does the office begin? It’s a question without an easy answer. One can associate the origins with the beginning of paperwork itself—until recently, the most common mental association with office work (think of the derogatory phrase “paper pusher”). In other words, since the invention of writing and the corresponding ability to keep records in a systematic manner, there have always been places that resemble offices: monasteries, libraries, scholars’ studies. Banking furnished an especially large amount of paperwork; the Uffizi, an incomparable gallery of Renaissance art in Florence, was also one of the first office buildings—the bookkeeping offices of the Medici family’s groundbreaking financial operations. Clerks, too, have existed for ages, many of them unclinching themselves from their desks to become quite famous: from Samuel Pepys, the British government diarist who reported on the gossipy world of seventeenth-century England, to Alexander Hamilton, who had cut his teeth as a merchants’ clerk before he became the first secretary of the Treasury of the United States; Benjamin Franklin, paragon of pecuniary restraint and bourgeois self-abnegation, started out as a dry goods clerk in 1727. Perhaps some of the tediousness of Franklin’s own writing was honed in the conditions of his first job: since clerks have had the opportunity to keep diaries, they have bemoaned the sheer boredom of their tasks—the endless copying, the awkward postures, the meaninglessness of their work. When not doing writing for the job, clerks have cultivated the habit of writing about the job—or literally around it…”

 

 

The week@work – Holacracy@Zappos, Exploring Pluto, Earthquakes in Seattle and Every Job in America on a Map

This week@work Harvard Ph.D. student Robert Manduca shared his visual representation of every job on a map of the United States. Three of the locations plotted were sites of interesting stories about work this week: Las Vegas and Zappos‘ experiment with ‘holacracy’, Laurel, Maryland home to the Pluto exploring ‘New Horizons’ team and Seattle…well more about that later.

Thanks to the research of Robert Manduca, we can now see concentrations of economic sectors across the U.S. Writing in the Washington Post, ‘Wonkblog’ author Emily Badger cited the significance of his work:

“Among all the things that distinguish American cities from one another — their architecture, their demographics, their history and their terrain — their economies vary widely, too. Washington is, of course, a city of government work. Charlotte is a banking hub, Manhattan a financial center, Boston an education mecca. Metropolitan Cleveland remains relatively industrial, while Las Vegas runs on tourism.

These differences form economic identities that shape each city as much as their culture and geography do.”

Where we choose to work, geographically, can have a significant impact on our success. Cultures of organizations fit within the larger communities where they are located. When considering career advancement it’s important to examine the size of a particular sector within the local economy. Will the geography lend itself to a variety of opportunities when you decide to move on?

Maybe even more important is your social life outside of work. The folks that make up your community will in some ways reflect the values of the places they go to work each day. If you really didn’t like your classmates in that ‘Intro to Finance’ class, you may want to think twice about living and working where these same folks are now grown-ups working in investment banking.

Las Vegas is one place you might consider if you were interested in the hospitality industry. It’s also the home to online retailer Zappos.com.

In his article, ‘At Zappos, Pushing Shoes and a Vision’ NY Times reporter David Gelles chronicles the experiment in ‘holacracy’ or self management which began in 2013. Tony Hsieh has run Zappos for 16 years. He has been viewed as a visionary by many and realized change was needed to sustain the corporate culture he built.

“The goal of Holacracy is to create a dynamic workplace where everyone has a voice and bureaucracy doesn’t stifle innovation.

At Zappos, this means traditional corporate hierarchy is gone. Managers no longer exist. The company’s 1,500 employees define their own jobs. Anyone can set the agenda for a meeting. To prevent anarchy, processes are strictly enforced.

At Zappos, Mr. Hsieh seems to regard Holacracy as a way to revive the close-knit community feeling that made the company so special 10 years ago, when it was just a few hundred people taking on the giants of e-commerce. “Once you have that level of friendship, there’s higher levels of trust,” he said. “Communication is better; you can send emails without fear of being misinterpreted; people do favors for one another.”

If only it were so simple. Holacracy has been met with everything from cautious embrace to outright revulsion at Zappos, but little unequivocal enthusiasm.”

Another point on the map is Laurel, Maryland home to the ‘New Horizons’ team that piloted a piano sized spacecraft to Pluto and beyond. The workplace story here is the dedication of a team to a long term goal, the implementation of a ‘longevity plan’ to ensure program success over nine years and the joy of scientific discovery way outside the box.

It’s that shear joy that was expressed by New Horizons scientist Carey Lysse in an NBC interview:

“I love to explore. It’s one of the reasons I’m a scientist. This is one of those red letter days that doesn’t happen every day and so I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. It’s incredible.”

And now about Seattle. If you are thinking of relocating you may want to read Kathryn Shultz’s  New Yorker Magazine article, ‘The Really Big One’.

“Most people in the United States know just one fault line by name: the San Andreas, which runs nearly the length of California and is perpetually rumored to be on the verge of unleashing “the big one.” That rumor is misleading, no matter what the San Andreas ever does. Every fault line has an upper limit to its potency, determined by its length and width, and by how far it can slip. For the San Andreas, one of the most extensively studied and best understood fault lines in the world, that upper limit is roughly an 8.2—a powerful earthquake, but, because the Richter scale is logarithmic, only six per cent as strong as the 2011 event in Japan.

Just north of the San Andreas, however, lies another fault line. Known as the Cascadia subduction zone, it runs for seven hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, continuing along Oregon and Washington, and terminating around Vancouver Island, Canada. The “Cascadia” part of its name comes from the Cascade Range, a chain of volcanic mountains that follow the same course a hundred or so miles inland. The “subduction zone” part refers to a region of the planet where one tectonic plate is sliding underneath (subducting) another. Tectonic plates are those slabs of mantle and crust that, in their epochs-long drift, rearrange the earth’s continents and oceans. Most of the time, their movement is slow, harmless, and all but undetectable. Occasionally, at the borders where they meet, it is not.”