THE GLASS LABYRINTH
Last July, when the 24 members of the U.S. Women’s National Team rolled down New York City’s Canyon of Heroes, they had every reason to believe they were on top of the world. Days earlier the team had trounced Japan to capture its third Word Cup and now the city was honoring them with a ticker-tape parade, the first ever for a women’s sports team. Their World Cup medals around their necks, the beaming players basked in the admiration of their rapturous fans. Carli Lloyd — who would later be named 2015’s world player of the year — hoisted the World Cup trophy for all to see. Alex Morgan posted photos of herself waving an American flag to her 2 million Twitter followers. Hope Solo, the edgy superstar, snapped selfies with her beaming teammates, confetti dancing around them.
In trying to overcome obstacles created by the very organizations that ostensibly serve to foster and develop their sport, the members of the Women’s National Team — along with players in the National Women’s Soccer League — must contend with systemic biases that devalue and obscure their contributions to the game. Many of these practices are questionable and untenable at best and, quite possibly, illegal.
As the most visible international symbol of women’s soccer, the WNT has readily accepted a leadership role in this fight for fair play. It puts them in the company of Billie Jean King and Venus Williams, pioneering athletes whose off-the-court endeavors rivaled their athletic accomplishments. In the case of the WNT, it is a bid to push for more equal — or, at least, less grossly unequal — treatment in a sport long dominated by men. And it’s a battle they’re waging on multiple fronts, from compensation and working conditions to representation in the sport’s decision-making organizations.
TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE
Gay Talese never met an interview subject he didn’t like. Or at least never one he couldn’t sympathize with. He hunts down losers, outcasts, criminals. He etches them into elegantly written books and articles that seem to normalize almost any possible human behavior. “I don’t find anything so unusual,” he says. “If you ask me, What shocks you? I can’t think of anything. I am not judgmental.” He seems almost repentant when admitting his lack of interest in reform, like an adult confiding that he can’t read. It’s a quality that makes him seem either hopelessly behind the times or far ahead of them.
Nevertheless, over the past few months critics have sought to reform Talese. In April, he trended on Twitter when he failed to cite more than one female nonfiction writer who inspired him as a youth. He irritated a New York Times magazine staff writer when he asked her how she got her job, and if she would be headed to a nail salon after a symposium. At 84, he should be enjoying his status as a long-time bestselling author and architect of such journalistic classics as “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” collecting honors as a national treasure. But Talese has always set off firebombs. Now, he’s in a mess with an unreliable voyeur.
#FerranteFever: What’s fueling the passion for these captivating novels — and turning their secretive creator Elena Ferrante into a superhero?
THE MYSTERIOUS AUTHOR who goes by Elena Ferrante first discussed her idea for a novel that would become the now-legendary Neapolitan series with her Italian publishers over a lakeside lunch on a sunny summer afternoon in 2009.
“She told us that she wanted to write the story of two friends, middle-aged, and in Naples,” recalls Sandra Ozzola Ferri, Ferrante’s editor and the co-founder, with husband Sandro Ferri, of the Italian publishing house Edizioni E/O. Ferrante had been thinking about her own relationship with a friend who had died, and had envisioned a pivotal wedding scene. Most of the novel’s characters are gathered in one tableau, a group the narrator, Elena, hopes to escape. Sandra continues: “When Elena looks at the crowd and says, ‘Ah, these are the plebes, the ignorant ones and, not only poor, but vulgar.’ Everything is dirty — the floor, the people — and she is really very frightened. This is what she wanted. It was practically one of her first ideas.”
It took Ferrante less than five years to create her epic tale, which sprawls to nearly 1,700 pages. Her impulse to conjure her deceased friend had wired her to crowds of other ghosts, political street violence, abusive industrial conditions, birth, death and betrayal. Sometimes the writing would go so smoothly, she would carry on for 50 to 100 pages without going back to reread or rewrite.
Sandra recalls how odd it was that Ferrante wrote what is now being called a masterpiece with no outline. “She had only the beginning and the end,” Sandra says.
“Practically no notes,” Sandro Ferri adds. “Only in her head.”
The Power Broker
John Gomes doesn’t break stride as he rushes across the black marble lobby of his West Village apartment building. He waves a strong arm to indicate I am to fall in immediately as he’s in a hurry to his day’s first meeting. Even from 50 feet away, underneath the lobby’s colossal, 24-foot ceilings, Gomes seems taller than his 6-foot-1 frame. With his shaved bald head, he resembles a more fashionable Daddy Warbucks: stylish, but not flashy, in a soft, gray felt jacket with suede elbow patches, bright tie and brown wingtips. It’s 9:30 a.m. and Gomes has an appointment downtown to discuss the details of a new condo development that could ultimately yield $113 million in contracts.
He bounds into the back seat of his black Mercedes S550 sedan, tricked out with custom, chocolate-brown leather interior. His driver, Douglas, pulls into the heavy traffic, and Gomes hits the button to lower the passenger-window privacy shade, then the window, and thrusts his smooth head fully out into the cold damp May air, like a dog. “I’m sorry,” he says, eyes closed, a beatific expression on his Buddha-like face. “I know this looks weird, but I need to cool down.” This is just one of his morning rituals.
Routine helps keep his driven life on track. He wakes naturally before the 6 a.m. alarm, puts in 20 minutes of Transcendental Meditation and one hour with a personal trainer. For breakfast, it’s muesli with almond milk and Keurig coffee in front of “Good Morning America,” while dispersing hundreds of overnight emails to his assistant or the assistant of his assistant, followed by a long hot steam to clear yesterday’s construction dust from his pores.
Gomes, 44, and his business partner Fredrik Eklund, 39, are the top brokers of luxury new residential development for Douglas Elliman, the biggest real-estate firm in New York City. Riding Manhattan’s building boom, the duo sells multi-million dollar condominiums — many of them outrageously appointed penthouse units perched atop brand-new, gleaming towers — to the very rich, the very very rich and the GDP-hoarders.
I. DREAM TRIP
The meteorologists of Louisville, Kentucky, could not quite believe how perfectly calibrated the barometric pressure was that first Saturday in May 1999. The skies were as blue as the bottom of a freshly painted pool. The white clapboard steeples of Churchill Downs, which had loomed over thoroughbred races since the turn of the century, were brilliant in the sunshine. That spring, La Nina, the rare weather phenomenon chilling the waters of the equator thirty-five hundred miles away, had communicated its meteorogical message north, and now Louisville, and more specifically, the crowds gathering for the last Kentucky Derby of the millennium, were wallowing in heat and happiness. I was there with a man whom I adored. He was tanned, gaining muscle, and proudly cultivating a head of baby-soft hair. It was the first time we had ever been to a thoroughbred track and a perfect day to fall in love with racing.
Only nine weeks earlier, this man—Chuck Fulgham—had emerged from the hospital after a second month of chemotherapy treatments without hair, eyelashes, eyebrows; with fingernails peeling off at the thickened tips. Over those many weeks of his treatment for leukemia at Baylor Hospital in Dallas, he had dwindled around his bones until he was just a six-foot four-inch wraith who got winded walking across a room. But he had rallied back in that vivid, love-infused spring, and it was for that reason Chuck and I felt our very presence among the drunken, happy hordes of the Churchill Downs infield was a victory, no matter what happened for us at the betting windows.
Kate Moss: America’s Obsession
If Kate Moss were to open her ripe, Cupid’s-bow mouth to make a public statement, it would go something like this: “I’m not anorexic, I’m not a heroin addict, I’m not pregnant – all the shit they fucking say about me is not true. It’s a load of lies the media made.” Moss pauses for breath.
She is a lot of life when you meet her outside a picture.
Moss is not making a statement. She’s enduring an interview, a process she hates because she doesn’t want to give any more of herself away. This is the girl who was stripped of makeup and clothes, and pinned up everywhere; who appeared in such profusion throughout the pages of Harper’s Bazaar that it seemed like a family album; who, preserved by Calvin Klein in the silence of photographs, has waited with us for buses, has lingered against the walls of buildings, gazed out from Times Square – the kind of repetition of image that world leaders as savvy as Marshal Tito have employed to hold the savage, furious fragments of their nations together, and which, in our country, sells perfume and underpants.
The Life of a Prison Chaplain
Six years ago, Chaplain Jim Brazzil reported for his first day of his new job at the Huntsville prison in Texas. Called to the Lord at age 9 in his hometown of Temple, Texas, he’s been ministering since he was 17 and has served as a Baptist pastor since 20. He has worked in a tuberculosis ward in a Ukrainian maximum-security prison and has seen all manner of physical horrors as a paramedic. But that day, at age 45, his assignment daunted him for the first time. “By the way,” the administrators told him in passing, “there is an execution tonight, and we need you to handle it.”
“I can’t even explain the experience,” Brazzil says now, in his soft drawl. “It was extremely traumatic. It was extremely religious. It opened my eyes and my life to things I had never even dreamed of, as far as being alive. Back then, they were still executing at midnight, so it was a long, hard day.”
On the campaign trail, George W. Bush has had to explain why Texas puts more people to death than any other state, with over 130 executed during his tenure as governor. But Brazzil faces more pressing questions from the 131 men and women he has counseled in the last two weeks of their lives, through the last full day of their lives, to the moment that he puts his hand on their leg and watches their last breath.