To the naysayers who complain that long-form nonfiction narrative is dead, at least as a viable commercial form; who say young writers don’t care about it and won’t make a living doing it; who say digital platforms and consumers of digital text just don’t cotton to a long piece; to all of that I say check this out.
Kevin Morris’ story at The Daily Dot, an ambitious news site covering the Internet, spins a gripping tale of tragedy and intrigue about a young Chinese woman whose promising life is devastated by a poisoning. By focusing on the Internet community’s role in first trying to solve the medical mystery and then by trying to solve the evident criminal mystery, Morris pulls us through the story in classic true-crime fashion.
- Morris is a young writer, just a couple years out of journalism school (I met him in classes at Syracuse, but I wouldn’t flatter myself to say I taught him anything; he’s gifted, and came to us that way).
- He’s on staff at The Daily Dot, so his ability to do this kind of work is both practical and a credit to his employer’s dedication to quality.
- The story is long even by today’s print standards: just under 4,000 words, by my count.
- And it’s incredibly timely, noting developments that occurred this month (but starting way back in 1995). More important, the story turned into a story to be told now just within the past couple of weeks, which means Morris moved quickly to produce something of this weight and quality.
Writers will write such work and publishers will publish it if people read it and respond to it. And how can they not, when it’s this riveting and heartbreaking and important?