Pop Culture and Feelings Relevant Links

Michelle Dean on Harry Potter for The Millions:

Isn’t it funny that this is what happens to us? That even if you love books, if you start to dedicate your life to them, a light goes out, somehow. You come to know them with your brain rather than your soul. Maybe it’s just one more sad example of how you’ve grown up. And I know, I know, in some ways these books aren’t just “un-literary” – there are parts of them that are flat-out dishonest, sentimental, destructive. It’s not that all those endless lessons on technique I’ve internalized aren’t right, strictly speaking. But it isn’t the least bit of hyperbole for me to say that as an adult who is a voracious reader, I know that I am going to spend the rest of my life not quite managing to love a book the way I loved Anne, to read it the way I did the first, second, thirty-fifth time. I know that the rest of my reading life is just a thinly-disguised effort to forge a path back to that, but I’ll never get there.

Anne Helen Peterson on Marlon Brando for The Hairpin (read the rest of her Scandals of Classic Hollywood series also):

Brando, however, was the kind of handsome that gives grown women shivers, with a sort of physical imprint that lingers in the back of your head and dreams for days. Sixteen-year-old me saw nothing in Brando; 30-year-old me sees everything.

That everything, of course, is sex. Hedda Hopper called him “Hollywood’s New Sex Boat,” recounting how, when she mentioned his name over coffee, it “instantly spread over my living room like a flash fire. ‘Marlon Brando? He’s exciting! Marlon Brando! He’s coarse, he’s vulgar! Marlon Brando, he’s male!”

INDEED, HEDDA’S COFFEE CLATCH. Brando was male, and it made people feel something funny in their bathing suit parts. More importantly, he seemed to represent the working class male — in part because the roles that made him famous were so clearly marked as such (Stanley Kowalski, road biker, longshoreman) but also because the way he comported himself off the screen so precisely matched that image, all dirty dungarees and motorcycles and t-shirts rolled over the biceps.

Slavoj Zizek on his made-up relationship with Lady Gaga in the Guardian:

What irked the not-Lord Gaga wasn’t so much the unwarranted Hegelian dialectical inversion (surely he might more plausibly have been corrupted by her extremist ideas?), but that the fake Facebook page claimed that Lady Gaga and Žižek cemented their relationship by deconstructing patriarchal ideology, feminism and collective human responsibility. It was an intolerable slur: “I don’t say those sort of things. Can you imagine a more boring evening?” How would you have spent an evening with Lady Gaga? He chuckles, but waves away the question (Žižek does many things in conversation but answering questions isn’t one of them).

“My mistake was that I should not have categorically denied a relationship to the press. I should have said ‘no comment’, leaving a gap for the obscene possibility that I am her lover.”

Robert Macfarlane on Iain Sinclair, also in the Guardian, pushing Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire a bit higher on my reading list:

Hackney was a 600-page “deep map” of the area where Sinclair has lived for decades. The book sprawled, falling foul of the same mistake that did for Borges’s imperial cartographers: the aspiration to an impossible 1:1 mapping of a territory. Sinclair couldn’t resist jamming everything in: diary entries, interview transcripts, letters and “deep-memory interrogations”, as well as descriptions of his walks and recollections. He reminds me at times of another Borges character, Funes the Memorious: the young man who, after a riding accident, finds that his memory is faultless in its recall of detail. Like Funes, Sinclair can seem cursed by hypermnesia. “The born-again flâneur,” he wrote in 1997, is “a stubborn creature, interested in noticing everything.”

Oh, and how could I forget, Nitsuh Abebe on pop music today for New York:

If I could choose, in retrospect, which set of music-based pathologies to spend my teenage years absorbing—the dogged outsider mumbling I picked up from indie-rock records or the brave thrusting entitlement and self-regard that allegedly speak through today’s pop—there’s a decent chance I’d take the pop. Sure, it feels gauche to say that; the path of modesty and self-sacrifice must be more noble, right? But there’s also an embarrassed, self-effacing quality there that’s hard to recommend. Besides, if those psychologists are correct, and our culture is increasingly deluged with narcissism and entitlement, we might really need pop’s poses and costumes to help us navigate it—to have songs that feel out the dimensions of ­every last way to think you’re hot shit.

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