The New York Times Magazine: The Meaning of Serena Williams

View in Browser | Add to your address book.
Get all digital access to The Times for just 99 cents.

“There is no more exuberant winner than Serena Williams,” Claudia Rankine writes at the outset of this week’s cover story, a profile of the tennis star. The particular quality of that exuberance – the grinning, the laughter, the fist-pumping – is crucial for Rankine (an award-winning poet and essayist, making a rare foray into reporting for the magazine). “Black excellence is . . . supposed to perform with good manners and forgiveness in the face of any racist slights or attacks,” Rankine writes. “And in winning, it’s not supposed to swagger, to leap and pump its fist, to state boldly, in the words of Kanye West, ‘That’s what it is, black excellence, baby.’ “
Mark Leibovich, meanwhile, visits Larry King five years after the cancellation of CNN’s “Larry King Live” and finds the suspendered TV host occupying a strange sort of afterlife, still adjusting to the absence of the spotlight and, at 81, contemplating his own mortality: “I can’t get my head around one minute being there and another minute absent,” he says. But Larry King is still Larry King, ruminating on hip-hop (“You can hum a rap song?”), invisibility (“Would I like to see my friends having sex? Yes”) and his inevitable final cancellation (“If my wife is late for my funeral, I will be very angry”). Online, you can also watch King read aloud the tweets that have made him a cult sensation on Twitter.
Elsewhere in the issue, Ben Austen reports from a campaign to diversify tennis on the South Side of Chicago, Scott Shane ponders the posthumous influence of the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Tamar Adler celebrates the forgotten recipes of cookbooks past.
Happy reading,
Jake Silverstein
Editor in Chief

Serena Williams

Christopher Griffith for The New York Times
The U.S. Open Issue
The Meaning of Serena Williams
On tennis and black excellence.


Larry King with his wife, Shawn King, at their home in Beverly Hills.

Graeme Mitchell for The New York Times
Five years after CNN pulled the plug on his show, the TV host is thinking about whom he’ll book for his funeral.

Four years after the United States assassinated the radical cleric in a drone strike, his influence on jihadists is greater than ever. Was there a better way to stop him?

The U.S. Open Issue
John Morris gives his 9-year-old son, Christopher, a pep talk before the boy has a session with a college player in Tuley Park.

Carolyn Drake/Magnum, for The New York Times

Who Gets to Play Tennis?

On the South Side of Chicago, a campaign to diversify the game.


Grant Cornett for The New York Times. Food stylist: Michelle Gatton. Prop stylist: Theo Vamvounakis.

What We Learn From Old Recipes

The cookbooks of the past – free of today’s relentless ambition, optimization and ease – remind us what it means to be a human eater in the world.

Julia Gunther
On Patrol With the Black Mambas
Portraits of a majority-female South African anti-poaching squad.


Bill Bryson

John Slate/Getty Images, for The New York Times
The travel writer on animal attacks, a mugging at knifepoint and Midwestern decency.

Illustration by Andrew Rae
On Money
A cache of clay tablets provides an unusual look at an ancient but strikingly familiar-looking economy – and confirms a modern truth about trade.

Owen Labrie listening as some of his former classmates testified in Merrimack County Superior Court on Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, in Concord, N.H.

Pool photo by Jim Cole

The St. Paul’s Rape Case Shows Why Sexual-Assault Laws Must Change

In many states, laws requiring evidence that force was used in a rape would have made it difficult for the accuser to bring charges at all.

The composer Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs in her studio in Los Angeles.

Damon Casarez for The New York Times

Can Data Capture the True Health of the Creative Economy?

A response to the critics of this week’s magazine cover story.

Get unlimited access to and our NYTimes apps for just $0.99. Subscribe »