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Posts Tagged ‘TV’

Or, the Modern Prometheus

October 29, 2013 | by


Anyone watching the CW’s Hart of Dixie last night will have noticed, at the 1:40 mark, an unexpected cameo by our very own digital director, Justin Alvarez. (You may know him as the mind behind our Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, among many other things.)

Allow us to set the scene. Dr. Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) and Joel Stephens (Josh Cooke), in the Rammer Jammer, pass a poster for a one-man stage adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Joel: Oh my—[laughs] I have to send this to my friend Justin at The Paris Review. He is going to flip out. Also, we must go.

Dr. Hart objects, on the grounds that said production is some four hours long and features a third act in German. But this proved to us that the writers of the show know what they’re talking about; Justin (who has an MFA in playwriting, a fact we imagine will figure in his character’s trajectory) is indeed a fan of experimental theater with an enviable attention span.

Our in-office research has informed us that the character of Joel is supposed to be a New York intellectual, and is apparently not a fan favorite.



Recapping Dante: Pilot Episode, or Canto 1

October 7, 2013 | by


This fall, we’re recapping the Inferno. Read along!

Really, this is how you want to begin? With a trope? And do you really think that we’ll let you get away with it because you decided to double down, fold it over on itself, and begin not only in medias res but in the middle of your life, too? We see what you’ve done there. Very fancy; but couldn’t you have at least started at the end, like Sunset Boulevard?

“Midway in the journey of our life”—the cascade of allusions, and all in a single line, creating some sort of referential trifecta, or fourfecta, or whatever the highest number of fectas is. Is it meant to alert a reader that this probably isn’t an airport book—to chase away the ill-suited, like the opening sequence of ?

So far this character has no name, but for the sake of it, let’s call him Dante I. He finds himself in a dark wood, and that he isn’t quite able to remember how he got there feels a bit like an easy, preemptive fix to a plothole. Nevertheless, he goes on his “firm foot always lower than the other” (watch out for phrases like these; it’s safe to assume that whenever any piece of satellite or even self-explanatory information is given, it is probably a giant X telling the savvy reader to dig in that spot).

Suddenly our character is accosted by a leopard, or lonza (a lion-leopard superbeast), and obviously he’s a bit disoriented and doesn’t want to deal with it, so he walks away. But then, a lion appears, and then a she-wolf, and it’s by now such a strange mix of creatures (do they even have leopards in Italy?) that we are left to assume either Dante blacked out and came to in a zoo, is witnessing an ecological disaster miracle, or that these three beasts have some sort of metaphorical significance as well. There’s a chance the beasts each represent a sin, but that feels like a bit of a stretch, so let’s just say that the leopard is Florence; the lion, France; and the she-wolf, the papacy. (Dante, though a Florentine, was in the middle of a battle between two warring houses, and so even at home there were enemy forces out to get him.)

Dante takes off. As he flees, he comes across a figure, and Dante speaks to it. Have mercy, he says, but the English subtitles obscure the fact that Dante is in fact saying this as Miserere, in Latin, and this is when things start to get out of hand. Read More »


Fall Sweeps

September 30, 2013 | by


Something is gnawing at the nape of your skull: on the one hand, your favorite fall shows are coming back. But you just read an article about synaptic pruning, the process by which your brain eliminates neurons that don’t get any exercise. And whether or not there’s any truth to this neurological use-it-or-lose-it theory, you’ve nonetheless come to the conclusion that your brain is on the brink of self-destruction. Which is to say: it will get rid of every neuron that hasn’t got anything to do with watching Netflix, looking at Buzzfeed, or eating food that’s terrible for you past 3 A.M.

You want to watch Boardwalk Empire—what will happen to Nucky Thompson, or Richard Harrow? You want to catch up on The Walking Dead, but then you remember that synaptic pruning, and a frightening question about the difference between you and an actual zombie floats through your head.

The convenience of hour-long shows is that they often air on Sunday night, when you have nothing to do. We have a compromise. Don’t spend an hour on the latest would-be cable sensation; instead, tune in for the first season of The Divine Comedy, the hot, new (relatively speaking) series by Dante. Every week, ideally on Sunday at 9 P.M., read one canto—often less than 140 lines!—of what may be the best poem ever written. Season 1 is called the Inferno—think of it as your new Home Box Office.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a teaser with fast cuts and a voice over about one man’s trip through hell that can be embedded into this post, but here are some positive early reviews:

“Dante’s masterpiece is one of the supreme works of art that the ages have witnessed.” —Theodore Roosevelt

“I love Dante almost as much as the Bible. He is my spiritual food, the rest is ballast.” —James Joyce

“Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third.” —T. S. Eliot

And just as every landmark show requires a thorough recap (had you really seen an episode of Mad Men until a a blogger pointed out all the “themes”?), so too will we bring you Dante recaps every week. Go to Barnes & Noble, or BookCourt, or use your parents’ Amazon Prime membership, and pick up the Inferno. We prefer the Hollander translation. The premiere is this Sunday.

To catch up on our Dante series, click here.

Alexander Aciman is the author of Twitterature. He has written for the New York Times, Tablet, the Wall Street Journal, and TIME. Follow him on Twitter at @acimania.



What We’re Loving: Aliens and Birds

April 12, 2013 | by


“Repressed Soviet writers had the chance to become political heroes, even when (as in the case of Joseph Brodsky, for instance) their writing was not explicitly political. Every ‘unofficial’ story or poem became an act of bravery, of protest. Illicit literature was circulated among friends and smuggled abroad; the sheer effort devoted to reading and sharing samizdat texts was a testament to their significance. America has its share of homegrown graphomaniacs, hellbent on becoming the next John Grisham or Jonathan Franzen, but it’s just not the same.” In The Nation, our frequent contributor Sophie Pinkham asks what happened to Russian writing. —Lorin Stein

Lately I have been returning to the work of John Thorne. Thorne, who has published an idiosyncratic and resolutely un-foodie newsletter for thirty years, is acknowledged in the trade to be one of our finest food writers. I think he’s one of the best essayists working, full stop: humane, eccentric, incisive. Start with his book Simple Cooking, although you can’t really go wrong. As Thorne writes in his essay “Perfect Food,” “Our appetite should always be larger and more curious than our hunger, turned loose to wander the world’s flesh at will. Perfection is as false an economy in cooking as it is in love, since, with carrots and potatoes as with lovers, the perfectly beautiful are all the same; the imperfect, different in their beauty, every one.” —Sadie Stein Read More »


Digital Book Signings, and Other News

February 27, 2013 | by


  • “Why do so many novels get adapted into screenplays at all, when their essential quality, the persuasive and enthralling power of prose, always must be stripped—and the final product is always left in some state of diminishment?” Ian Crouch on that modern institution, the miniseries. 
  • At three P.M., Toni Morrison is conducting a “digital book signing.” (Really more of a Google hangout, but still.)
  • What are the ten best books you’ve never read? (I, for one, have never finished The Ginger Man.)
  • While we’re ranking stuff: your favorite film about a writer? (Barton Fink.)
  • “Rather than limiting discussion of a certain book to a digital room in e-readers such as the Kobo or Kindle, Socialbook lets all your friends in your personal digital network know what you’re reading and invites them into the conversation. Furthermore, Socialbook puts participants right into the text of the book, where they can scribble notes in the digital margin of the book, highlight portions, pull out quotes and even rearrange the content.” To coin a phrase, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”


    When You Need Ten Feet of Books…

    January 28, 2013 | by

    I once knew a man who bought antique books by the foot to fill the majestic library of a new house. He was completely unembarrassed by this fact, which is, I guess, the only way to be, and there was something very eighteenth century about the whole thing. (On close inspection, a lot of them proved to be bound sermons, in many volumes.) The idea of insufficient books to fill shelves is a novel idea to most apartment dwellers, certainly in New York. I was, therefore, fascinated to read about the Strand Bookstore’s Books by the Foot program, in which the New York institution furnishes volumes for films, magazine shoots, private buyers, and, presumably, decorators. Read More »