Esquire has been celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with several different look backs and lists. As someone who loves lists, this has been a good year. As a culmination of the celebration, they’ve listed the 7 greatest articles of all time, though, judging by the list, the magazine was shit until the 60s, then again until 2003 with a brief beacon of light in 1986. Not sure if this is accurate, or if they just wanted to make sure that everyone knew that Gay Talese and Norman Mailer wrote for Esquire. In any case, I enjoy best of lists and each of these articles is sure to be a great read. As Esquire is a hog for pageviews and presents most of their lists in slideshow form (I’ll complain about anything, I know), I’ve gone through the trouble of reproducing the list here. Hope you enjoy it.
“The School” By C.J. Chivers June 2006
Kazbek Misikov stared at the bomb hanging above his family. It was a simple device, a plastic bucket packed with explosive paste, nails, and small metal balls. It weighed perhaps eight pounds. The existence of this bomb had become a central focus of his life. If it exploded, Kazbek knew, it would blast shrapnel into the heads of his wife and two sons, and into him as well, killing them all.
“The Falling Man” By Tom Junod September 2003
In truth, however, the Falling Man fell with neither the precision of an arrow nor the grace of an Olympic diver. He fell like everyone else, like all the other jumpers–trying to hold on to the life he was leaving, which is to say he fell desperately, inelegantly. In Drew’s famous photograph, his humanity is in accord with the lines of the buildings. In the rest of the sequence–the eleven outtakes–his humanity stands apart. He is not augmented by aesthetics; he is merely human, and his humanity, startled and in some cases horizontal, obliterates everything else in the frame.
“What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?” By Richard Ben Cramer June 1986
He’s always first, 8:00 A.M., at the tennis club. He’s been up for hours, he’s ready. He fidgets, awaiting appearance by some other, any other, man with a racket, whereupon Ted bellows, before the newcomer can say hello, “WELL, YOU WANNA PLAY?” Ted’s voice normally emanates with gale force, even at close range. Apologists attribute this to the ear injury that sent him home from Korea and ended his combat flying career. But Ted can speak softly and hear himself fine, if it’s only one friend around. The roar with which he speaks in a public place, or to anyone else, has nothing to do with his hearing. It’s your hearing he’s worried about.
“Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” By Gay Talese April 1966
He was the victim of an ailment so common that most people would consider it trivial. But when it gets to Sinatra it can plunge him into a state of anguish, deep depression, panic, even rage.
“M” By John Sack October 1966
“They hit a little girl,” and in his muscular black arms the first specialist carried out a seven-year-old, long black hair and little earrings, staring eyes–eyes, her eyes are what froze themselves onto M’s memory, it seemed there was no white to those eyes, nothing but black ellipses like black goldfish. The child’s nose was bleeding–there was a hole in the back of her skull.
“The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes!” By Tom Wolfe March 1965
Starting time! Linda Vaughn, with the big blonde hair and blossomy breasts, puts down her Coca-Cola and the potato chips and slips off her red stretch pants and her white blouse and walks out of the officials’ booth in her Rake-a-cheek red show-girl’s costume with her long honeydew legs in net stockings and climbs up on the red Firebird float. The Life Symbol of stock-car racing! Yes!
“Superman Comes to the Supermarket” By Norman Mailer November 1960
Yes, America was at last engaging the fate of its myth, its consciousness about to be accelerated or cruelly depressed in its choice between two young men in their forties who, no matter how close, dull, or indifferent their stated politics might be, were radical poles apart, for one was sober, the apotheosis of opportunistic lead, all radium spent, the other handsome as a prince in the unstated aristocracy of the American dream.