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‘Ace Longread Stories News Desk’

Book Reviews By Ace

#AceBookDesk says spend your weekend in the company of an eclectic group with today’s Top 5. Kurt Cobain is here, along with freediver Alexey Molchanov, and a couple of ex-champion boxers. And if you need to take a break from them, we can also steer you down a darker path … with stories about macabre dollhouses, corpse compost, and a reading list on artificial intelligence’s nascent linguistic takeover.

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1. My Time with Kurt Cobain 

Michael Azerrad | The New Yorker| September 22, 2021| (7,102 words)

Music journalist Michael Azerrad’s piece about his friendship with Kurt Cobain is honest and lucid. Azerrad recounts a number of moments with the late Nirvana singer, starting with the first time they met in 1992, when he visits the small Los Angeles apartment Cobain shared with Courtney Love to interview him for Rolling Stone. As a journalist, Azerrad gains Cobain’s trust, and eventually goes on to write a book about the band, Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, which was published in September 1993, the same month their third and final album, In Utero, was released. Azerrad remembers encounters over the next few years — an epic show at the Reading Festival, a business dinner with executives (“the grownups,” as Cobain referred to them), tense moments between band members while on tour, flashes of Cobain’s heroin addiction. My favorite bits, though, are Azerrad’s quiet, beautiful descriptions of Cobain away from the spotlight: the intimate hours the two spent in a Seattle hotel room as Cobain read Azerrad’s manuscript, and the time they wandered around an eerily empty downtown Dallas with daughter Frances, who was just 15 months old at the time. —Cheri Lucas Rowlands

2. It’s Triller Night, Marv!

Matthew Shen Goodman | n+1| September 18, 2021 | (4,386 words)

Look, just because I had zero interest in watching a card of fights between retired ex-champions on the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 while Donald Trump and his namesake son commentated doesn’t mean I have zero interest in reading a gimlet-eyed, absolutely bonkers polemic about it. And that’s exactly what Matthew Shen Goodman delivers in his slightly drunken, extremely lurid critical essay, which also marks his first inclusion as a Longreads Pick. The horrors on display are many, whether Snoop Dogg “performing” with the late Marvin Gaye (the essay’s headline details Snoop’s literal answer to Marvin’s titular question during a rendition of “What’s Goin’ On”) or onetime mixed martial-arts great Tito Ortiz’s plodding defeat to other onetime MMA great Anderson Silva (“veterans of one sport playing at another, their takedowns and elbows and kicks and joint breaks pared down to only punches, four-ounce semi-articulated gloves replaced with the bulbous curve of twelve-ounce boxing mitts”). The piece is half exhausted sigh, half feverish deconstruction, and entirely memorable. Punching down may be easier than the alternative, but sometimes it’s just what you need. —Peter Rubin

3. To Be a Field of Poppies

Lisa Wells | Harper’s Magazine | September 20, 2021 | (6,064 words)

This is a story about a company that is pioneering natural organic reduction (NOR), or the composting of dead bodies. Readers get all the dirt—sorry, sorry—on the science and business behind the venture, but writer Lisa Wells offers so much more than that. Her piece is a meditation on intention and guilt; grief and fear; life and loss. Perhaps above all, it is about our species’ fraught relationship with the natural world. I will be thinking about it for a long time. —Seyward Darby

4. The Secrets of The World’s Greatest Freediver

Daniel Riley| GQ | September 21, 2021 | (7,369 words)

Daniel Riley clearly relished reporting on the freediving competition Vertical Blue — a chance to be around 42 divers who feel they are doing something “sublime.” This event at Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas is a mecca for all serious divers, but Riley focuses on Alexey Molchanov, who, as the world’s best freediver, is tremendously skilled at staying present in a dive, with nothing “beyond the body, the breathing, the intense focus of the next meter,” until he reaches a depth where there is no light, no sound, just sensory oblivion. Riley pulls you into the water with Molchanov, to such a degree that I went from feeling the serenity of the stillness to intense claustrophobia, as we go down and down — a rather impressive gamut of emotions to feel while in fact sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea. Riley’s respect for Molchanov is evident throughout the piece — he is, after all, a man who has dedicated his life to a sport that killed his mother, and has the potential to kill him too. —Carolyn Wells

5. Dollhouse of Horrors

Mary Kay McBrayer | Oxford American | August 31, 2021 | (4,784 words)

Come for an introduction to the uncanny work of miniature construction and collecting, stay for a rumination about what it means to cope with chaos and cruelty. “I cannot control any of the horrors that happen at me,” Mary Kay McBrayer writes. “But in my dollhouse, I own everything. I make the horrors happen. I am the one.” This is a piece for fans of Hereditary and Shirley Jackson, and for anyone struggling to make sense of our world gone mad. —SDFurther Reading 

Death of Writing, Writing of Death: A Reading List on Artificial Intelligence and Language 

Five longreads on AI and a future filled with machine-written prose. 

The State We Are In: Neither Here, There, nor in Heaven 

On vaccine privilege in America and COVID-19 inequities in India.

#AceNewsDesk report ……..Published: Sept.26: 2021:

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