From The New Yorker's spellbinding story of a murder mystery in Guatemala to GQ's consideration of David Foster Wallace's legacy, The Daily Beast picks the best longform journalism from around the Web this week.
David Grann, The New Yorker
"Guatemala is a good place to commit a murder, because you will almost certainly get away with it," a U.N. official said recently. In this Central American jungle of corruption, shadow governments, and drug cartels, David Grann unwinds the tale of a crusading lawyer who set out to uncover the truth about the murder of his secret lover and her father. As Rodrigo Rosenberg realized the murder plot went all the way to the top of the Guatemalan president's regime, he knew it was almost certain he would be assassinated. He was, but his murder started a chain of events that would shake the country and expose the heart of its brutal government.
Nikil Saval, Slate
In this essay, adapted from the latest issue of the literary magazine n+1¸ Saval reviews the worried analyses of society's relationship to music that have proliferated in the past half century. The Cassandras were wrong in the 1960s, when popular music was an incitement to social change. But in the age of the iPod, where solipsism has been made sophisticated, they are more right than anyone ever imagined.
3. The Acid Sea
Elizabeth Kolbert, National Geographic
The tiny Italian island of Castello Aragonese, off the coast of Naples, is a barometer of the oceans' future: Carbon dioxide bubbles up from the sea floor, making the acidity of the water identical to what that of the global oceans will be in 2100. Already, coral polyps and other marine life are dying out, leaving behind an ocean graveyard that eerily predicts an underwater world—without a drastic intervention.
John Jeremiah Sullivan, GQ
When the generation-defining David Foster Wallace took his own life in 2008, he left behind an unfinished novel, The Pale King, that will either serve to round out his transcendent body of writing or place a haunting question mark at the end of his career. John Jeremiah Sullivan holes up with the new book and considers the legacy.
Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair
On the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the man who once rewrote the Ten Commandments reviews what he considers the greatest work in the English language. Hitchens praises the men who worked under King James to produce the authoritative English Bible, and the "crystalline" prose that became so integral to the English language. "It's near impossible to imagine our idiom and vernacular, let alone our liturgy, without them," he writes.
This weekly column is The Daily Beast's contribution to the growing Longreads community on Twitter, where fans of longform journalism collect and share their favorite stories. Follow along through the hashtag #longreads, and visit Longreads.com and Longform.org for suggestions throughout the week. To take these stories on the go, we recommend using smartphone applications such as Instapaper or Read It Later. You can download either at your mobile phone's application store. To send us suggestions, tweet the story to @thedailybeast on Twitter with the hashtag #longreads. To read previous editions, visit our Longreads archive.