After their atrocious 2011 Venice Biennale U.S. Pavilion — it included an upturned tank with a jogger atop, full-size wood reproductions of business-class airline seats with U.S. Olympic gymnasts doing tricks on them (ruining their feet on the terrazzo floor), and some sort of idiotic cash machine in a pipe organ (I think) — Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla have a lot to answer for.* But the curatorial-darling duo’s current Gladstone show only alleviates those past bad judgments a little.
On Wednesday, Alison Bechdel became only the second graphic book writer to win a MacArthur “Genius” grant — worth $625,000 and a lifetime of bragging. Her graphic memoirs, Fun Home and Are You My Mother?, turned her tortured family history — she had OCD and liked girls, her mother showed little affection, her closeted father likely killed himself — into multidimensional art. Erudite and beautiful, they demonstrated just how intelligent and uncompromising comics (and coming-out memoirs) could be. We caught up with her via Skype yesterday in Italy, where she’s on a six-week artist’s residency, to talk about the big prize, her next work, and the irresistible charms of Orange Is the New Black.
Thirty years ago this weekend, The Cosby Show debuted on NBC, and its star was catapulted into the comedic stratosphere. The timing is prime, then, for the release of a sprawling biography. Written by former Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker, Cosby: His Life and Times documents the man’s rise from the Philadelphia projects, while also detailing the creation of his family sitcom and the murder of his son Ennis in 1997.
The book is notable, however, for its complete avoidance of sexual abuse allegations that have dogged Cosby for more than a decade. In a statement to Buzzfeed's Kate Aurthur, Whitaker says, "I didn’t want to print allegations that I couldn’t confirm independently." Regardless, their absence is glaring. Consider the following timeline an appendix to the book.
The older the money, the stingier the meal — or so goes a persistent Wasp stereotype. Onstage, too, the rich can be unforthcoming. A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters, an epistolary play about such withholding among the upper crust, also suffers from it, partly the result of its stuntlike conception. It tells the story of stuffy but successful Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and free-spirited but doomed Melissa Gardner from the time they first encounter each other in second grade to about the age of 55, a period roughly coinciding with Earth years 1940 through 1988, when the play was first produced.
John Darnielle has been putting out music for nearly two decades as the Mountain Goats, but this week he releases an excellent new novel, Wolf in White Van, which was just long-listed for the National Book Award. The book traces backwards through the life of Sean Phillips, who — following a near-fatal incident that has left him disfigured — runs a play-by-mail role-playing game. Darnielle, an unabashed fan of heavy metal and horror films, walked us through some of his main influences
To judge from the grainy videos on YouTube, Bette Midler’s shows at the Continental Baths in 1971 were not especially vulgar. She mostly stuck to double entendres and generic ribaldry. What does seem shocking, even now, is the venue, that orgy palace of men in white towels — and the common cause Midler made with them as fellow outsiders. Bridget Everett delivers something of the same shock in her tornadic and polymorphously perverse cabaret act Rock Bottom, even though the polarities are reversed. The venue — Joe’s Pub — is more salubrious now, but the vulgarity, even accounting for inflation, is far greater. It amounts to the same thing, though: a complicated and often brilliant love offering to the emotionally dispossessed.
The shortlist will arrive on October 15 and the winners will be announced November 19. We won't pick a favorite but only one of the authors on this list has recorded an impassioned defense of Justin Bieber.
In her last novel, The Middlesteins, author Jami Attenberg wrote a tale of family life in the modern Midwest. For her next one, Saint Mazie, due in June 2015, she goes back in time to Depression-era New York City. Here's a look at the beautiful jacket art for Saint Mazie along with a note from Attenberg.
Comics memoirist Alison Bechdel is one of this year's 21 new MacArthur Fellows, and she's just the second cartoonist ever to be awarded the honor. Bechdel tells the L.A. Times she's going to use the $650,000 grant to "pay off some debts, save for retirement — really boring stuff." Here's hoping she discussed this good news with another woman and never once mentioned a man.
Since he already wrote the book, Neil Patrick Harris used the trailer for his forthcoming memoir Choose Your Own Autobiography to show off some of his many other talents. As you might expect, NPH is a pretty great magician, and a very bad competitive binge drinker. This is delightful.
In a casting move that has author John Green "so excited!" Cara Delevingne and her eyebrows have signed on for the upcoming screen adaptation of Green's Paper Towns. The model will star as Margo, a mysterious young woman who enthralls a nerdy teen played by The Fault in Our Stars' Nat Wolff. This is only the latest installment of Cara Delevingne Conquers Hollywood: She's also appearing in Michael Winterbottom's Amanda Knox–ish film as well as a Peter Pan reboot, and recently broke into directing with a short film of Reese Witherspoon in an elevator.
My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. And Then I Found Myself With Someone Like Dad.By Yamma Brown
It's no secret that James Brown had a dark side. This summer's biopic Get On Up left out many of the weird, uncomfortable, and simply violent incidents that Brown instituted or participated in. But it wasn't until now that we've been able to get a look at just how frightening the singer could be. Earlier this month, his daughter Yamma Brown published a memoir titled Cold Sweat: My Father James Brown and Me (co-written with Robin Gaby Fisher) that details her life growing up with her often volatile dad. In the excerpt below, Yamma flashes back to a moment when Brown beat her mother in front of her and her sister, then writes about how that violent legacy stayed with her into adulthood.
Last week on the Lower East Side, the art galleries opened the 2014-2015 season in a bigger, more viable, and better place. New arrivals have landed; start-ups of the past few years have taken wonderful root; artists are sticking with their galleries rather than going to the burly shores of megagalleries. At this stage in its development, the 1980s DIY East Village scene saw mass artist defections to Soho powerhouses, and galleries decamping there as well. But here in the Lower East Side, shows and spaces have improved in the past year or so.
Adulthood is dead, which is great news to get right before the weekend because it means you can cancel your errands and tedious chores and go on a bender, or perhaps just stay home and reread Harry Potter. In a long and thoughtful (and, more specifically, thought-packed) essay in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine — provocatively titled “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture” — A.O. Scott lassos everyone from Beyoncé to Louis C.K. to Don Draper to Broad City to Huck Finn to Lena Dunham to Madonna and hogties them together as an argument that adulthood, culturally speaking, is down for the count.
The fall TV season may be upon us, but many of our go-to shows for laughs won’t be returning until 2015, or ever. Don’t despair, fans of Broad City, Parks and Recreation, Archer, the dearly departed Enlisted, and other comedies — Vulture has your back. These humorous books should help with your grief over canceled sitcoms or tide you over until your favorite funny characters return.
Michael Cera, he of the turtle face and pipe-cleaner arms, has cornered the market on screen nerdism to the point you would think there was nothing left for him to mine from the indignations of the socially awkward. Turns out, given material deep enough, there is. He’s found that material in Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth, and under Anna D. Shapiro’s superlative direction uses it to fuel an unforgettable performance, the more so for marking his New York stage debut. As the overliteral, quasi-Asperger’s lost-soul 19-year-old Warren Straub — Cera is 26 but passes just fine — he digs so far into the character’s drugged-out disappointment you see only the shadows of it rippling the surface. Surprisingly that’s enough; he’s a triumph.
Elisabeth Moss is returning to Broadway to star in a revival of Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles, the show's producers told the New York Times today. This is the first Broadway revival of the show, which won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony in 1989. Moss will play Heidi, an art historian reflecting on her life; Jason Biggs will play Scoop Rosenbaum, a writer in Heidi's orbit; and Bryce Pinkham, a Tony nominee for his role in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, will play Peter Patrone, Heidi's gay BFF. Moss had been in negotiations for the role since this spring, but now it's a done deal, with the show scheduled to begin performances in February. Given that timeline, it now seems unlikely that Moss will be one of the leads on the second season of True Detective, but if you really want to see her in a murder show, you can still watch Top of the Lake.
Last year, the Man Booker Prize — the most prestigious book award in Britain and probably the world — announced it would, for the first time, consider any book written in English and published in the U.K. On Tuesday, its judges made good on their threat; on their final “short list” of six books are two Americans: Karen Jay Fowler (for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves) and Joshua Ferris. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Ferris’s third novel, is the often hilarious, often depressing existential howl of a New York dentist embroiled in a pseudo-ancient religion. We called Ferris up yesterday to talk about his new accolade.
It’s official: DC and Warner Bros. are developing a Shazam movie, and given that it’s DC, it could very well end up being full of explosions, collateral damage, and costumes that look like somebody turned the brightness way down in Photoshop. But nobody wants that. Instead, DC should look for inspiration in Shazam's early adventures in the 1940s (the so-called Golden Age of Comics), when he dressed in bright red and yellow, his comics outsold Superman's, and he fought giant yeast monsters, a super-intelligent worm who kept trying to take over the world, and troubling lengths of string.
This is the strange joy of Golden Age comics, and Shazam — or Captain Marvel, as he was known until 2012 — is the best of the early superheroes. He is the alter-ego of a 10-year-old orphan newscaster called Billy Batson, who shouts the word "SHAZAM" whenever he wants to transform. His best friend is a neurotic tiger. Here are some of the weirdest, greatest, most ridiculous moments from Captain Marvel Adventures.
My editor told me I could go down to Washington on the train and go meet Judy, and I bought a ticket and went, and I got to talk to her and her husband and we had lunch and they were really nice. I thought I might meet her son Alexander or her other son Anthony or her other son Nick, but they were grown up and had to go to work. The train home was slow and the man at the snack bar was weird and mean to the lady next to me. He was nice to me, though. I got a Snickers bar.
There aren’t many protagonists in children’s literature like Judith Viorst’s 6-year-old Alexander. He’s been having a recurringly terrible, reliably horrible, no good, very bad day since 1972, when he slammed into the children’s-book universe with a whiny yawp. Alexander is the rare junior protagonist who reads like an actual bright kid, cranky and charming by turns. He talks realistically, too, in run-on sentences that jump from enthusiasm to bleaggh and right back, and he’s not shy about saying when his parents are annoying, or his brother is being rotten to him, or he’s bored-bored-bored! There are no talking frogs or anthropomorphic mice in these books, and more than 7 million copies of them have been sold. In terms of canonical stature, Alexander has taken his place alongside Eric Carle’s ravenous caterpillar and Mo Willems’s wisecracking pigeon, and maybe even Maurice Sendak’s Max and Dr. Seuss’s nameless behatted cat.