Things we like: April 2014

Our monthly round-up of stories that have got the Mosaic team thinking.

A Piece of the Wall (Twitter)

A fascinating use of Twitter as a storytelling medium, which fuses multimedia and well-crafted writing. Teju Cole (@tejucole) uses multiple Twitter accounts to present a story tweet by tweet. Watching the story emerge over several hours was fascinating, and the random juxtapositions and interjections of his other characters accentuated the poignancy. Watched ‘live’, the story was an ardent, glowing thread woven into the chatter of everyone else you follow on Twitter. Read after the event, it’s still a gripping tale.

A Matter of Life and Death (Vanity Fair)

It may be old but this first-person tale of cancer still resonates. As a story about death it is not surprising that it is powerful, but writer Marjorie Williams adds her own style to elevate this piece to much more than another cancer story.

Pixel & Dimed: on (not) getting by in the gig economy (Fast Company)

A writer tries to survive on the ‘gig economy’ using the Internet to take on odd jobs as a ‘micro-entrepreneur’. It’s a fascinating world, but we wondered if the piece was as interesting as it could have been?

The Flogsta Roar (Aeon Film)

A nicely shot film with interesting subject matter: young people, mental health and urban living. But it treads a fine line between documentary and drama: can you trust a film that exists so openly in the uncanny valley between the two? Is it too contrived or manipulative, or just effective in deploying these tactics to convey emotion?

Once Upon a Time in the West (Lapham’s Quarterly)

An essay about Mark Twain and how he turned frontier humour into literature. Our Editor raved about the writer’s style:

“The notion that literature could emerge from the frontier’s barbaric yawp encountered violent resistance from America’s literary establishment. It didn’t help that tall tales abounded in vulgarity, drunkenness, and depravity, not to mention perversions of proper English that would make a schoolteacher gasp. Proving the literary power of the frontier would be a central part of Twain’s legacy, and a pie in the face of the New England dons who had dominated the country’s high culture for much of the nineteenth century. He wasn’t immune to wanting their approval, but he came from a very different tradition. His ear hadn’t been trained at Harvard or Yale; it was tuned to the myriad voices of slaves and scoundrels, boatmen and gamblers.”

'Greatest Games' - England 1-1 West Germany at Italia 90 (The Blizzard – paywall)

Some of Team Mosaic are massive fans of The Blizzard, the pay-what-you-like football periodical. The Spring issue features a long-form take on one of the seminal matches in World Cup history. It weaves the story of the game as it unfolds with the historical context of the state of English football, the changing commercial face of the game as a whole (soon after, the Premier League and its money arrived), and the individual heart-breaking stories of iconic figures like Paul Gascoigne, told with the benefit of 24 years’ hindsight.

Street Fighter II: an oral history (Polygon)

An unusual subject for the in-depth, multimedia ‘Snowfall’ treatment that is currently en vogue in online publishing. This piece uses the style to craft a lovingly nostalgic look-back on one of the classic video games of the last 30 years. Incredible attention to nerdy detail, from the ‘cover screen’ to the background music (a theme that’s spawned a viral meme) and story detail, it has some great anecdotes. It’s structurally interesting because it eschews a traditional narrative for piecemeal interviews with virtually all the key people involved in the game. It may be a little niche, but will certainly resonate with anyone for whom the word “hadouken” means something.

The Last Clinic (The Atavist)

A 50-min documentary about an abortion clinic in Mississippi by Maisie Crow. Crow has a beautiful way of capturing moments, a sense of place, the details that bring life to a scene. There are moments when you expect a cut to happen – but it doesn’t. And there’s a scene at around 16min 50sec that’s a brilliant example of how to combine composition with action.

What stories have caught your eye recently? Do share in the comments.