Kristi Yamaguchi and Cornbread: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about entertainment

Kristi Yamaguchi at the opening ceremony of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in 2002 (Reuters)

What I Learned From Kristi Yamaguchi
Nicole Chung | The New York Times Magazine
“Representation, when you finally get it, can be life-changing, allowing you to imagine possibilities you never entertained before. If you’re seen as irrelevant, on the other hand, or rarely seen at all—if your identity is reduced time and again to a slickly packaged product or the same tired jokes and stereotypes—it can be harder to believe in your own agency and intrinsic worth.”

Why Does Sugar in Cornbread Divide Races in the South?
Kathleen Purvis | The News & Observer
“La’Wan’s corn muffin and Lupie’s cornbread are humble things. But they represent something deeper: The dividing line between black Southerners and white ones. As examples of one of the defining staples of Southern food, they also are a marker of food history that speaks volumes about origins and identity, about family and what we hold dear.”

Is This the End of the Era of the Important, Inappropriate Literary Man?
Jia Tolentino | Jezebel
“This type of writing can be essential as an act of artistic catharsis, but it has never functioned as official denunciation—as it did for many women who had been waiting for it, and in practice, for Iowa too—until now. VIDA did not ask us to hold their post to a journalistic standard, but they wanted the post to stand with journalistic strength. And they are not alone in blurring the line between activism and journalism.”

Soul Survivor
David Remnick | The New Yorker
“What distinguishes her is not merely the breadth of her catalogue or the cataract force of her vocal instrument; it’s her musical intelligence, her way of singing behind the beat, of spraying a wash of notes over a single word or syllable, of constructing, moment by moment, the emotional power of a three-minute song. ‘Respect’ is as precise an artifact as a Ming vase.”

Will Commercialit Ruin Great Fiction?
Tom Leclair | The Daily Beast
“All of these novels have at least one character who is either an English teacher or a writer, the existence of whom in the text implies that the novel must be literary. But the literariness of the four is a patina of fictional sophistication scumbled over conventional and therefore commercial components. Even if the characters don’t end up well, at least some readers do—entertained, unthreatened, and pleased to feel they’ve not been reading commercialock: commercial schlock.”

Is Friends Still the Most Popular Show on TV?
Adam Sternbergh | Vulture
“The world of Friends is ­notable, to modern eyes, for what it encompasses about being young and single and carefree in the city but also for what it doesn’t encompass: social media, smartphones, student debt, the sexual politics of Tinder, moving back in with your parents as a ­matter of course, and a national mood that vacillates between anxiety and defeatism. (Not to mention the absence of any primary characters on the show who aren’t straight or white.)”

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Foolishness, Happiness, and Josh Chan
Linda Holmes | NPR
“It really is a story about happiness. It's using serialized television in an ambitious way to explore what it means to try to be a happy person. Those are the stakes. Not national security, not violence, not war — the stakes are individual quests to be happy within ordinary lives. And the show has been willing, along the way, to make everybody seem unappealing at times, and also unappealing to each other.”

The People vs. O.J. Simpson as Historical Fiction
Nicholas Dames | Public Books
The People v. O.J. is candy-colored pulp, not above playing for jokes, and has no glamour. The taupes and pastel pinks of its sets; the lime green and pale yellow shirts, the wide, baroquely patterned neckties; the beige-toned sofas, bloated French Country furniture, and boxy, disposable-looking cars—all of that mid-1990s ephemera seems cheap even when it’s expensive, and more than a little embarrassing, a bottle of Zima instead of Don Draper’s Old Fashioned.”

The Next Big Thing in American Regional Cooking: Humble Appalachia
Jane Black | The Washington Post
“It’s all part of Milton’s grand plan to use food to ignite economic development in the region and end, once and for all, the pervasive stereotype of Appalachians as a bunch of toothless hillbillies … It’s a scrappy, intelligent way of cooking that, out of necessity, embraced preserving, canning, fermenting and using every part of the animal long before all that was trendy.”