I cannot guarantee that you will like all of these things, but I can guarantee that I have. I have a fair amount of free time on my hands this summer, and the bulk of it will be spent either revisiting some of these media items or just moving the hell into their guest houses and drinking their wine for the entire month of July.
Please feel free to add your own recommendations below: like-minded gossip/media consumers are always looking for new things to distract them when the gossip well runs dry, leaving only Kardashians and Real Housewives.
1.) What Would a Nerd Wear.
I sorta kinda went to college with this person, meaning she lived in the same house as I did four years after, then went to grad school and now has a pretty blog where she wears clothes that are affordable, cute, and not ridiculous. She also knows how to write, which distinguishes her from the bulk of fashion blogs. Doing her part to rid academia of the frump, one blog post at a time.
I don’t know if this new Bill Simmons-headed site is going to live up to the hype or not — I will say, however, that I love Simmons’ writing and podcasts (even though I am a dilettante when it comes to sports fandom; some say this is why I like Simmons, but bygones) and I like them even more when they involve Chuck Klosterman, one of the quickest wits writing today. Plus Dave Eggers and a host of other personalities and writers treading the intersection between sports and pop culture. Stay tuned.
3.) The Hairpin, duh, and not just because I’ve been writing for it.
(Speaking of which: if you missed the last in the Scandals of Classic Hollywood series, it’s on Clara Bow. You can find it here).
1.) Slate’s Cultural Gabfest
Find this on iTunes and give it a listen. This is the best pop culture podcast available. I’ve loved Dana Stevens for a long time — she’s the film reviewer for Slate, has a Ph.D. in English, and is full of insight, historical grounding, and verve. Julia Turner has the best vocabulary of anyone I know on a podcast, plus she’s always endorsing awesome things like “Return of the Mack.” (If you were not born within four years of 1981, you might not understand why that’s awesome. It’s okay, you’ll still like the podcast. Each week, along with their sometimes-bastardy-but-still-likable cohost, they discuss three au courant issues. (Usually a film, a television show, a new album, a new article that everyone’s talking about, etc. etc.) It’s also only about 45 minutes, so you don’t find yourself having to stop it in the middle if, like me, you use podcasts as your soundtrack for making dinner.
LONG FORM JOURNALISM THAT YOU SAID YOU’D GET AROUND TO READING BUT DIDN’T:
The New Yorker article on Paul Haggis and Scientology. It’s up in full form, it’s free, and it’s the best piece of investigative journalism you’ll read this year. Really incendiary stuff. Stop pretending like you read it, pour a glass on wine, and click on the link.
1.) Jo Ann Beard, In Zanesville
Beard’s previous book is called The Boys of My Youth. But neither it nor In Zanesville are melodrama: they’re mostly just hilarious. Kinda memoir, kinda not, set in the late ’60s — if you like A Girl Named Zippy, you will love this even more. You’ll also tear through it.
2.) Jo Nesbø – The Redbreast
This Slate piece convinced me that if I liked the Dragon Tattoo series but wanted something a bit more….rigorous…then this was the place for me. That’s not to say that these books are academic — they just require you to think a bit more, but with the same interlocking and gripping intrigue that made Stieg Larson’s books into bestsellers. Plus the author is a TOTAL FOX and you can just stare at him when you need to take a break from reading.
3.) Tana French, The Likeness
French’s first mystery, In the Woods, was a huge smash. You’ve totally seen it on every book counter and in every airport book shop. The follow-up involves one of the main female characters going undercover, and I think I like it even more than the first. I’m usually not this in to mysteries, but I find them wonderful beach/pool reading — especially when they’re as evocatively rendered as this one.
4.) Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad
This book won this year’s Pulitzer. It is about many, many things — too many to possibly summarize — and a lot of people have said some pretty wonderful things about it. If you like dexterous writing, if you have a taste for vignettes of individuals, if you just want to say that in addition to reading The Hunger Games you also read what very well may be the best book of the year, read this. It’ll seriously blow you out of the water.
Please, how are you not watching this show? Can I tell you that every single person that I’ve cajoling into watching has been sucked into a hole, only to emerge sometime around S02E03 when a certain twist makes them consider the way that life and love and narrative will ever be the same? For more encouragement, see the two-part series that Faye Woods and I wrote over at Antenna back in January. It’s all streaming on YouTube.
It’s only three episodes. It’s not fuddy-duddy. It stars a guy with the absurd name of Benedict Cumberbatch. You can watch it with your mom or your boyfriend or your kid. But it’s smarter than anything you’ll see on American television.
3.) Parks and Rec.
This is the funniest thing on network television, and if you start with Season 2, as I recommend, you will soon realize what all the fuss about Ron Swanson is. Available on Netflix Streaming.
4.) Downton Abbey.
Another British show, also widely available streaming. This is for those nights when you’re tempted to rent something with Kate Hudson mostly because you just want a romance and to look at some clothes. RESIST THE URGE AND WATCH DOWNTON ABBEY. It’s more than a costume drama — there’s all sorts of intriguing class politics, including the gradual decay of the British landed gentry — but also a love story, really great hats, Maggie Smith, and the usual stuff that goes with upstairs/downstairs dramas that remain so appealing.
5.) Game of Thrones.
I was an early nay-sayer. The first episode was atrocious and offensive. But now I’m hooked, the gender and race politics have (somewhat) improved, and what everyone said about The Sopranos meets medievalism, well, okay, they’re right. Plus: Direwolves! (For the haters: a really fantastic take-down of the show, courtesy of Jeffrey Sconce).
So that’s all I’ve got, at least until the next time I go on vacation and read four books in eight days. But please, share your own?