Best American Magazine Writing 2003


In the magazine world, no recognition is more highly coveted than an "Ellie," presented by the American Society of Magazine Editors. The finalists and winners are chosen from more than a thousand submissions, and the stories in this anthology represent the very best of those outstanding works by some of the most eminent writers in the country. Among them are:

"The Most ...
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In the magazine world, no recognition is more highly coveted than an "Ellie," presented by the American Society of Magazine Editors. The finalists and winners are chosen from more than a thousand submissions, and the stories in this anthology represent the very best of those outstanding works by some of the most eminent writers in the country. Among them are:

"The Most Dangerous Beauty"
Michael Paterniti, GQ

"A Piece of Cotton"
Anne Fadiman, The American Scholar

"Lying in Wait"
Gary Smith, Sports Illustrated

"Horseman, Pass By"
John Jeremiah Sullivan, Harper’s

"In the Party of God"
Jeffrey Goldberg, The New Yorker

"Jewish Power, Jewish Peril"
Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair

"The Fifty-first State?"
James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly

"Terminal Ice"
Ian Frazier, Outside

The American Society of Magazine Editors is the professional organization for editors of consumer magazines that are edited, published, and sold in the United States. It sponsors the National Magazine Awards in association with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060567750
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/2/2003
  • Series: Best American Magazine Writing Series
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

The American Society of Magazine Editors is the professional organization for editors of consumer magazines and business publications that are edited, published and sold in the United States. It sponsors the National Magazine Awards in assosciation with the Columbia University School of Journalism.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xiii
Acknowledgments xvii
"The Most Dangerous Beauty" (Published in GQ Finalist--Feature Writing Editor-in-Chief, Art Cooper) 2
"Horseman, Pass By" (Published in Harper's Winner--Feature Writing Editor, Lewis H. Lapham) 32
"In the Party of God" (Published in The New Yorker Winner--Reporting Editor, David Remnick) 76
"Wild in the Parks: The Moonbow Chronicles" (Published in National Geographic Adventure Winner--Leisure Interests Editor-in-Chief, John Rasmus) 108
"Lying in Wait" (Published in Sports Illustrated Winner--Profile Writing Managing Editor, Terry McDonell) 130
"A Piece of Cotton" (Published in The American Scholar Winner--Essays Editor, Anne Fadiman) 158
"The Fifty-first State?" (Published in The Atlantic Monthly Winner--Public Interest Managing Editor, Cullen Murphy) 170
"Terminal Ice" (Published in Outside Finalist--Feature Writing Editor, Hal Espen) 202
"Backlash Babies" (Published in The Nation Winner--Columns and Commentary Editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel) 226
"Phoning It In" (Published in Fortune Finalist--Columns and Commentary Managing Editor, Rik Kirkland) 232
"Jewish Power, Jewish Peril" (Published in Vanity Fair Finalist--Columns and Commentary Editor, Graydon Carter) 236
"Bumping Into Mr. Ravioli" (Published in The New Yorker Finalist--Essays Editor, David Remnick) 250
"Home Alone" (Published in The Atlantic Monthly Finalist--Reviews and Criticism Editor, Michael Kelly) 262
"U.S. Confidential" (Published in Vanity Fair Winner--Reviews and Criticism Editor, Graydon Carter) 278
"Death Isn't Fair" (Published in Texas Monthly Finalist--Public Interest Editor, Evan Smith) 292
"Lucky Jim" (Published in GQ Finalist--Profile Writing Editor-in-Chief, Art Cooper) 318
"The Boy Who Loved Transit" (Published in Harper's Finalist--Profile Writing Editor, Lewis H. Lapham) 340
"Three Girls" (Published in The Georgia Review Finalist--Fiction Editor, T. R. Hummer) 368
"Jolene: A Life" (Published in The New Yorker Winner--Fiction Editor, David Remnick) 380
Contributors 411
2003 National Magazine Award Finalists 417
1966-2003 National Magazine Award Winners 427
ASME Board of Directors 2002-2003 435
ASME Mission Statement 437
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First Chapter

The Best American Magazine Writing 2003

Michael Paterniti

The Most Dangerous Beauty

You are not supposed to look at Pernkopf's Anatomy. It is a thing of wonder, a breathtaking book that maps the human body in elaborate detail and vivid brushstrokes. But it was born of nightmare science, marred by the stamp of swastikas, and now the world has banned it. Still, one man couldn't stop looking.

Beneath this black roof, on a well-clipped block, in a small midwestern town on the Wabash River, a professor wakes in the dark, confused at first by an outline under the sheets, this limp figure beside him in bed. From some primordial haze slowly comes recognition, then language: bed, sheets, wife ... Andrea. He kisses her and rises. He is 58 years old, and he wakes every morning at this ungodly hour, in his finely appointed brick house with exploding beds of lilies, phlox and begonias. After three heart attacks, he goes now to cardiac rehab. Wearing shiny blue Adidas sweats, he drives off in the family's Nissan. Once at the medical center, he walks briskly on the treadmill, works the cross-trainer machine and then does some light lifting. It's a standing joke that if he's not there at 6 A.M. sharp, the staff should just put on ties and go straight to the funeral home. After his workout, as he drives to his house, the town glows in a flood of new light; the river bubbles in its brown banks as the flies rise; the lawns are almost too bright, green with beauty and rancor.

He feels better for this visit, more alive, as if it's a daily penance ensuring him another day on earth, another chance to breathe in the smell of cut grass before a spasm of summer lightning. He takes Lopressor, Altace and aspirin to thin his thick blood. Even now fragments accumulate, arteries begin to clog, his cardiac muscle weakens, slows, speeds again to make up time. There is so little time.

He wears his silvered hair neatly parted. A creature of habit, he's worn the same style of round tortoiseshell glasses for thirty years. He drinks a cup of chai every afternoon of his well-plotted life at a café near his office at Purdue University, where he teaches medical illustration. He is a humble, somewhat conservative man, a Roman Catholic whose joy for the most simple things can be overwhelming, inexplicable. After his third heart attack, when they jammed tubes into him and he was pretty sure it was over, he became insistent. "Just tell me I'm going to mow the lawn again!" he said to his doctor. "Tell me I'm going to mow the lawn!"

These were nearly his last words.

If this man can be oversensitive and a bit obsessive, if he has an exact recall of the little injustices that have been done unto him -- he keeps old hurtful letters on file -- he knows he must unburden himself now, make peace with those in his life: wife, children, friends, colleagues. And with the vanished ghosts that roam the rooms of his memory: mother, father, brother.

And what of Pernkopf? What of Batke?

He can't fathom where to begin with the Book, now forever out of print, effectively banned. When considering it, he often conjures the language of some illicit affair: rapture, consumption, shame. And if he was betrayed by that lover, does it lessen all those days he spent in love? Ah, the Book, the nearly unbearable perfection of its paintings, and then, weltering behind it, armies clashing across the face of Europe, 6 million spectral Jews. Under pressure, history splits in two: the winners and the losers, the righteous and the evil.

It is not like this man to act impulsively, to yield control, to risk missing cardiac rehab, to wander 7,000 miles from his dear doctor, but he does. He packs a bag with some old journals, drives from West Lafayette to Indianapolis and gets on a plane. He travels eight hours in coach, through spasms of lightning, wearing his Adidas jumpsuit, hair neatly parted. Fragments accumulate; arteries begin to clog. He drinks some wine; he pores through his journals, these copiously recorded memories of a sabbatical he took twenty-three years ago, when he went on a pilgrimage to find the Book's greatest artist, when he still worshiped -- yes, really, that's the word -- the Book's achievement. He naps, wakes, reads his decades-old handwriting again. If he were to die on this plane, in a hotel lobby in Vienna, in the echoing halls of the Institute searching for some truth, will he have been cleansed? After all, he didn't do the killing or throw the bodies from the window. He didn't spew the hate that incited a hemicycle of fanatics.

No, his sin, if that indeed is what it is, was more quotidian: He found beauty in something dangerous. There are days when he can't remember how it began, and nights when he can't sleep, remembering.

• • •

A cloudy afternoon, Vienna, 1957. A man sits and smokes, a body laid before him. A creature of habit, he wears a white lab coat and a white polyester turtleneck, no matter what the weather. He is small, with a crooked nose and skewed chin that give him the appearance of a beat-up bantamweight. He has a lot of nervous energy, except when he sits like this. When he sits like this, he seems almost dead, a snake in the heat of day. Before him lies a nameless cadaver that was brought up from the basement of the Institute, from the formaldehyde pools of torsos and limbs, then perfectly prepared like this: an incision, a saw to the breastbone, the rib cage drawn open, the heart removed. He stares at this open body, looks down at the floor, stares some more.

The Best American Magazine Writing 2003. Copyright © by Ann Louise American Society of Magazine Editors. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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