Lorrie Moore is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt and the author of four story collections and three novels. Her most recent novel is A Gate at the Stairs and her most recent collection of stories is Bark. (October 2016)
Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown
by Gerri Hirshey
Enter Helen: The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Modern Single Woman
by Brooke Hauser
Somewhere back in the day Helen Gurley Brown said that after a certain age the only thing a woman could rely on to improve her appearance was good posture and expensive jewelry. At least that is my recollection, though I no longer recall the exact source or context. The gender specificity, the whiff of doom in the goal, the daft simplicity, the conciseness, the candor, and the plausibility caused it to stick in my head (although my most recent earrings were bought for three dollars from a street vendor).
a Netflix documentary series directed by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos
One cannot watch Making a Murderer without thinking of the adage that law is to justice what medicine is to immortality. The path of each is a little crooked and always winds up wide of the mark. Moreover, nothing is as vain and self-regarding as the law.
a television series created and written by Nic Pizzolatto
When True Detective aired last year on HBO it was squarely in the familiar trope of two guys getting to know each other on the job, doing some squabbling, some drinking, and having each other’s back. At the end there is a long predictable rescue of one by the other. And yet it seemed entirely original. This is due to several elements that are all in perfect sync with one another.
I first met Miranda July years ago at a faraway literary conference in Portland, Oregon. Along with Rick Moody and others we were on a panel that was supposed to converse authoritatively about narrative structure. When it came time for July to speak, she stood up and started singing. She was large-eyed and lithe. I don’t remember what song it was—something she had written herself, I believe. I was startled. Who was this woman?
Corruption seems to surround Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who faces Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in Tuesday’s recall election. Walker has a criminal defense fund already in place and rumors of indictments are in the air, regarding both his time as Milwaukee County Executive and his current use of state moneys. But many people in self-contradictory Wisconsin, the home of both the Progressive Party and of Joe McCarthy, may not care very deeply about the charges against Walker. There can be a begrudging provincial respect for someone in the national eye, as well as for the out-of-state billionaires who have helped fill Walker’s campaign coffers with $31 million—an unprecedented amount in Wisconsin political history.
The Roche-Wainwright-McGarrigle intertwinings comprise a musical family the sprawling brilliance of which has not been experienced perhaps since—well, we wonʼt say the Lizst-Wagners—but at least the Carter-Cashes. The extended family oeuvre, though varied, often has a conversational, smart-kids-at-summer-camp quality that is both folky and jokey. The Rochesʼ own wistful, clever songs are written with a sweet street spontaneity and prosody, and their clear, pure voices are like a barbershop trio of sassy angels. But most often they sound like plucky girls riding home on a school bus, making things up as they go along.
A documentary film is often part stunt, part lab experiment, and the way a documentary filmmaker pursues his or her story will always involve a bit of amateur sleuthing, as well as improv. That such scriptless adventures have attracted a great director like Werner Herzog is curious but not alarming. Good documentary films can be made cheaply and we seem to be living in an abundantly golden—or at least copper (penny-wise)—era of them. Herzogʼs latest film, Into the Abyss, much like his 2005 documentary, Grizzly Man, uses the camera as a geiger counter to locate some of the more toxic elements of the American cultural psyche as seen through the questing mind of a pseudo-squeamish European: here the setting is small town Texas’s well-traveled road to death row.
Already in a condition of satire, the opening of the Tea Party-hosted GOP debate on Monday night in Tampa presented the eight Republican presidential candidates as good-looking characters—“The Diplomat” “The Newcomer” “The Firebrand”—who would have to battle one another off the electoral island. Music, brassy and tense, and a baritone voice-over let you know that this reality show was part of the ongoing Apocalypse Lite that has infused our television programming and made the networks almost unwatchable. There was little even Jon Stewart on his show the next evening could do to make fun of what was often comedically predigested—except to say that the red, white and blue stage looked like the inside of Betsy Rossʼs, well, sewing room. Iʼm paraphrasing.