David Plotz Is the Wrong Person to Tell You What to Read This Week

Comments
Slate Plus
Your all-access pass
July 18 2014 10:48 AM
Comments

Who Cares What Happened at Slate This Week? 

David Plotz ignores weekly newsletter protocol, shares his favorite Slate reads of all time.

Illustration by Charlie Powell.

Illustration by Charlie Powell.

Dear Slate Plus readers,

I’m the wrong person to tell you what to read in Slate this week. I stepped down as editor on Monday, which means this is the first time in, oh, 18 years, that I haven’t read the magazine critically. So is Ali Griswold’s piece on smartphones in restaurants any good? I don’t know! Readers are raging about Jordan Weissmann’s account of a Comcast customer service call gone awry—I just scanned the headline. What human foible did Dear Prudence explore this week? Beats me!

Instead, I’ve spent the whole week in a nostalgic haze about Slate, so let me at least put those tears to use by sharing a few of my favorite deep cuts, the old, spectacular pieces that I return to again and again and again. My favorite piece in Slate history is Herb Stein’s “Watching the Couples Go By.” Herb wrote this in 1997, shortly after his wife of 60 years died, and it is an economist’s musing on love. It has the hard, crackling exoskeleton of analytical brilliance that you expect from Slate, but a soft, creamy, heartbreaking center.  

I could fill an entire book with favorite Seth Stevenson stories. Maybe the funniest is “Extroverted Like Me,” his diary of taking Paxil to overcome his shyness. Don’t miss the part about “delayed orgasm”!

One of the greatest pleasures of my working life was editing Emily Yoffe’s gonzo column, Human Guinea Pig. She did all kinds of ridiculousness for a story—street performing! Nude modeling! Learning math!—but nothing topped her magnificent effort to win the Mrs. Washington D.C. contest.

Slate has a proud history of enlisting famous people down on their luck to write for us. Perhaps the best example was when we sent Henry Blodget, just coming off his troubles, to cover the Martha Stewart trial. He began like this: “Given the current state of my reputation … readers may want to take everything I say with a grain of salt.”

Disaster helped produce some of Slate’s best journalism. Rebecca Liss’ piece about the Marine who found the last two survivors of the World Trade Center attack is so moving and odd that we re-run it every Sept. 11. Blake Bailey was driven from his home by Hurricane Katrina: His piece about the poet who rescued him will make you weepy.  

How to pick a favorite Christopher Hitchens piece? Or Mike Kinsley piece? Or Jacob Weisberg piece? I tried. And tried. And tried.

What about Slate’s new bosses? What are their best stories? New editor-in-chief Julia Turner wrote one of the most popular stories in our history, this slideshow history of the bikini. (Hmm, wonder why that was popular?). But my favorite Turner is her series about signage, in particular this story about why Penn Station is the most confusing spot on the planet. New deputy editor John Swansburg etched his name in history with the definitive takedown of “your stupid birthday dinner.” And executive editor Josh Levin: “The Welfare Queen,” of course.

Let me finish with what is undoubtedly the wrongest piece in Slate history. In 1996, a Slate writer spent a month reporting on White House geography, Secret Service techniques, and presidential logistics, and concluded that it was impossible for the president to commit adultery. I give you “Could Clinton Cheat?” by David Plotz. 

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.