American Ninja Warrior and Hustlers: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about entertainment

David Becker / NBC

Is American Ninja Warrior the Future of Sports?
Jason Gay | Wall Street Journal
American Ninja Warrior has earned that 21st-century buzzy buzzword, relevance, and it made me wonder if there was something about this wacky obstacle-course show that could be applied to older games to make sure they thrive in the future. What if legacy sports just need some ninja lessons?”

Requiem for a Hustler
Justin Tinsley | The Undefeated
“At its most powerful, rap is a series of artists detailing the battle zones many called home. The poverty, and the soundtrack of gunshots in Brooklyn’s Marcy Housing Projects when he was growing up, when he was surviving and manipulating situations during the crack-cocaine era—all of that, even now as we see him on yachts and such, stays with him. A recurring symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder is flashbacks, and Jay Z’s cocaine dreams are, in their own way, his version of PTSD. Working through it is a lifelong process.”

Inside the BeyHive
Alyssa Bereznak | The Ringer
“The BeyHive is massive — more than 17,000 members strong, and that’s just the active participants on the forum, not the hangers-on (one must apply for access to the group). But the club’s intense organization and tactical offense suggest it is a well-oiled machine. So how does such a huge, entirely remote body move with such precision, and what technology does it use to do so?”

Fandom Is Broken
Devin Faraci | Birth Movies Death
“But there’s something else going on now. Once upon a time the over-identification was between the fan and the creator—it’s why so many celebs get stalked ... The corporatized nature of the stories we consume has led fans—already having a hard time understanding the idea of an artist's vision—to assume almost total ownership of the stuff they love.”

The Clique Imaginary
Alana Massey | The New Inquiry
“‘Clique-y’ is the pejorative used to describe young women in a friend group that is perceived to be exclusionary. But this dismissal dehumanizes them and disregards their personal reasons for maintaining a tight-knit circle of friends. The suspicion aimed at cliques targets female intimacy, particularly when it shared between women with social capital.”

We R Cute Shoplifters
Tasbeeh Herwees | Good
“Like the original Bling Ring—immortalized in the 2013 Sofia Coppola film of the same name—Tumblr’s lifters captivated outsiders not just because they were criminals but because they were, purportedly, teenage girl criminals. The effeminate nature of their crimes—the stolen lipsticks and bras, purses and panties—as well as the exhibition of their criminality online lent a glamour to what they did.”

Actually, Criticism Is Literature
Jonathan Russell Clark | Lithub
“Critics have struggled to develop their voices and dealt with the same humbling critiques of their work that they offer to others. They are—if my point’s not hitting home—just like the people they write about. In fact they are so similar that the gap between critic and non-writer is much more substantial than that between critic and artist.”

Ocean Vuong | The New Yorker
“I had read books that weren’t books, and I had read them using everything but my eyes. From that invisible ‘reading,’ I had pressed my world onto paper. As such, I was a fraud in a field of language, which is to say, I was a writer. I have plagiarized my life to give you the best of me.”

All the Songs Are Now Yours
Dan Chiasson | The New York Review of Books
“In fact, ‘listening’ was not enough; Copland wanted his readers to ‘listen for’ what he called the ‘sound stuff’ of music: to clear the mind not only of external distractions and mental obstacles, but of all nonessential sonic wadding that surrounded it. Music required targeted attention, the state of mind you might enter when doing a word-find or watching, through binoculars, for a migratory bird.”