NiemanStoryboard launched an eight-week project showcasing the work of Michael Brick, which is collected in Everybody Leaves Behind a Name: True Stories. Here’s a Q and A about the book. And here’s the first story, with an essay from Wright:
The story of Mr. Todd Fatjo’s departure from his truly dope duplex loft is one of those rare pieces that manages to capture a subculture in a moment of transition, and were that all the story did, it would be a success. Most people wouldn’t have seen a flier and understood that modern anthropology begins, and often ends, with noticing something hiding in plain sight. In this recognition, and the mental hop-scotch from there to the wide angle lens, Michael Brick shows his reporting virtuosity. But there’s something else, a subversive undercurrent laced beneath the story, managing to both be a newspaper trend piece while also subtly poking fun at the entire conceit. The voice and language is confident, and reading it always makes me picture a young man, running flat out and roaring, in complete control. Even the use of the New York Times’ honorific isn’t perfunctory; he turns a stodgy rule of style into another weapon in his arsenal. There’s a line by singer-songwriter Jason Isbell that comes to mind when I get to the last sentence about building the city on rock n roll: “A vandal’s smile,” Isbell sings, and that’s what I imagine on Brick’s face when he finished typing this dispatch. He’d completely captured a world, avoiding the tropes so common with similar trend stories, and while evoking hipster Brooklyn and Mr. Fatjo’s transition from a DJ to “some guy with a job,” he’d left behind a finger in the eye of those who’d sling cartoons and clichés. He wrote a flawless story, while managing to spray-paint his name on the worst impulses of journalists, doing both at the same time. It is nearly perfect.