A Mindblowing Magazine Story

by Conor Friedersdorf

I'm a long form journalism junkie.

My favorite practitioner is the peerless John McPhee, though some days I'd swear it's Lawrence Weschler or Ian Frazier or James Fallows or Gay Talese or Mark Bowden or Gene Weingarten, or whoever last wowed me. In 2008 and 2009 I offered roundups of my favorite stories, and I make frequent use of Instapaper, Readability, and LongForm.org.

In the spirit of Slow Journalism, I want to tell you about one of the more amazing stories I've ever come across: "Pat Dollard's War on Hollywood" by Evan Wright. It's long, but riveting throughout, the kind of piece that you want more of even as it ends. The impossible editor tasked with summarizing the piece came up with this subhead:

In 2004, having made his name as Steven Soderbergh’s agent, Pat Dollard was the stereotypical Hollywood operator: coked-up, Armani-sheathed, separated from his fourth wife, and rapidly self-destructing. But when he hit bottom, Dollard didn’t go back to rehab; he went to Iraq, embedded with the Marines, and filmed a pro-war documentary, which has the industry buzzing and right-wingers hailing him as the anti–Michael Moore. But whether he’s surviving mayhem in Ramadi or dining with Ann Coulter in Los Angeles, Evan Wright reports, Dollard’s life is a one-man combat zone.

But that doesn't do this piece justice.

All I can say is that neither the scene where American troops are filmed playing with a human skull nor the one where the protagonist asks an ex-con to film him while he has sex with the ex-con's former girlfriend is even remotely the craziest scene in the piece. It's got sex, drugs, violence, rock and roll... but also geopolitical insights, a tragic story arc, a cameo by Andrew Breitbart, inside Hollywood gossip, dry writerly humor... if you've got the time, use that Readability link above or print it out.

And let me know what you think.