What We’re Loving: Strokes, Sex Appeal, Splenetic Surfers


This Week’s Reading

If you saw American Hustle with your parents, as I did last Christmas, you will have noticed something that set it apart from pretty much every Hollywood movie of the last few years. I refer to the sex appeal of Amy Adams. Her hotness was a blast from the past, and not just because of the disco décolletage. For some reason, Hollywood doesn’t really do sexy these days, at least not in female roles—and certainly not compared to the French. Just think of Lola Créton in Goodbye, First Love or Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue Is the Warmest Color—both playing teenagers with a soulful teenage horniness that’s taboo in American movies—or Marion Cotillard as a double amputee in Rust and Bone, or best and most recent of all, Emmanuelle Devos, the fifty-year-old star of Just a Sigh, who’s never looked better (which is saying something), and who smolders so intensely for Gabriel Byrne that the poor guy just sort of disappears off the screen. Until the actual love scenes, you hardly notice: this is a one-woman show. —Lorin Stein

Rodrigo de Souza Leão died shortly after the publication of All Dogs Are Blue, an autobiographical novel detailing his time in a Rio de Janeiro mental asylum. Souza Leão uses a kind of language his schizophrenia has taught him, creating a poetry that’s at one moment absurd—his two recurring hallucinations are Rimbaud and Baudelaire—and the next heartbreakingly self-aware. (“Is it the kiss of Judas? Will I betray my father in my madness?”) It’s an innovative, original book, though not an easy one to read. But then, as Souza Leão writes, “The truth can be a sloppy invention and still convince everyone.” —Justin Alvarez

When will spring arrive‽ Isn’t all this cold weather lovely though⸮ I love it—I hope it never ends؟ If you’ve been feeling that we have a lack of punctuation marks at our disposal—we don’t have a way to represent, for instance, an ironic question—then why not revive the obsolete irony mark⸮ It has a long history of failure in mainstream typography that you can read all about in Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks, by Keith Houston. But if you believe that to point out irony to an intelligent reader would defeat its purpose wholesale, perhaps you would prefer the percontation point, which was invented by the English printer Henry Denham in the nineteenth century—it’s meant as a visual indication of a rhetorical question. Or the interrobang, which combines the feeling of the exclamation point with the function of the question mark. Or my favorite, the love point, used to denote deep affection. —Anna Heyward

Geoff Dyer was not killed, or even, apparently, seriously impaired by his recent stroke, and he writes buoyantly about the experience for the London Review of Books. Ten days into his new life in Venice Beach, his vision went weird and his coordination abandoned him, and he stumbled about half-blind in perfect weather. His is a kind of coming-of-age story that reminds you how many such stories make up a life, whatever your age. —Zack Newick

If Girls has begun to grate, tune in to Broad City, written by and starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, produced by Amy Poehler. In many ways the anti-GirlsBroad City follows also-IRL best friends Ilana and Abbi as they blunder their way through New York: buying marijuana “like a grownup,” for example, involves the stashing of said marijuana in a very grown-up body part, while attending a roof party full of beautiful people has deeply weird consequences involving a pair of bearded DJs. Though the show is more sketch comedy than high-concept, the chemistry and timing alone of these two feckless oddballs make for some refreshingly killer comedy. —Rachel Abramowitz

On May 3, 1987, the Butthole Surfers played a show in Trenton, New Jersey that has since become the stuff of legend. This week, I read “How Did It Come to This?,” an oral history of the concert published online a few years ago. The Buttholes, as fans call them, really knew how to pull out all the stops. (And how to put them in; Gibby Haynes, their frontman, liked to remark onstage, “Don’t you hate it when your dad walks in and you have a wine bottle up your ass?”) They poured lighter fluid on the cymbals and lit them on fire; “there was the naked woman onstage and then Paul from the Buttholes pulled his pants down and was flipping his dick around.” When a security guard tried to put a stop to the madness, Gibby Haynes covered him in lighter fluid, too, and threatened to ignite the guy. For anyone interested in the singularly splenetic alt-rock subculture of the late eighties, this is an invaluable resource—and it is, in the extremity of the events it describes, almost endlessly quotable. “The Butthole Surfers’ music was totally over my head,” says one attendee. “It just sounded like a jet landing—forever.” —Dan Piepenbring