Brangelina and Celebrity Memoirs: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about entertainment

Martin Bureau / AP

Brangelina Is Dead; Long Live Angelina
Anne Helen Petersen | Buzzfeed
“Increasingly, Jolie’s vision of have-it-all-ness felt less disruptive, more desirable. She seemed to have softened. She wasn’t playing minxes anymore. She was into directing; she had a double mastectomy, and wielded what could have been spun as the end of her sexual potency into a narrative of cancer awareness. She had no publicist and rarely wore makeup, which combined to make her seem even more authentic, even less manipulative.”

Edward Albee Saw Life As a Cosmic Joke
Jesse Green | Vulture
“He often told me, because I refused to believe him, that he did not so much write his plays as transcribe them from his imagination; he said he would find himself ‘knocked up’ with an idea, which then, after a few months’ or years’ gestation, he would birth full-grown … The discovery of his gayness was thus tantamount to living openly as a homosexual; the idea made it so, and prevented any backtracking.”

Making Sense of Modern Pornography
Katrina Forrester | The New Yorker
“Whether you see porn as just another sector disrupted by the internet or as a still powerful engine of profit-driven exploitation depends on a thornier set of debates that shape how pornography is understood. To talk about porn purely in terms of costs and incentives is not, as Tarrant suggests, neutral. Even to stress the work involved is a political move.”

A New Literary Genre Critiques the Most Unbelievable Part of Life in China—Reality
Adrienne Matei | Quartz
“Like magic realism, the ultra-unreal reflects the experience of daily life in communities often dominated by centralized powers, wherein bizarre events become normalized. However, rather than introducing actual magic into its narratives, the ultra-unreal focuses on real-life events, not supernatural occurrences.”

What Becomes a Legend Most?
Nell Beram | The Awl
“But beyond the death of modesty and the publishing industry’s understandable campaign to sustain itself, there’s another force pushing for the celebrity memoir today: Celebrities tend to write (or ‘write’) when their careers are waning or at a low ebb — and note that we have an unprecedented number of celebrities now, what with reality television and Instagram and the rest of it.”

The Talk Show That Time Forgot
Rob Harvilla | The Ringer
“[Conan O’Brien’s] historical instincts are admirable, until you watch him religiously for a week or two, at which point you might conclude that distilling hour-long late-night talk shows down to the funniest 90 seconds and watching them on the internet the following morning is one of the best ideas millennials ever had. Conan just wasn’t made for these times, which is a scathing indictment of the times.”

How Comic Novelist Colson Whitehead Found His Way to the Grim Underground Railroad
Christian Lorentzen | Slate
“Whitehead hasn’t only put a check on his comic talent but also placed an almost impossible challenge to his ability to detect moral ambiguities: nothing ambiguous about the institution of slavery not quite two centuries since its abolition. Yet without resembling any of Whitehead’s previous books as a whole, it partakes of aspects of them all.”

The Camus Investigation
Ryu Spaeth | The New Republic
“This inversion of his sympathies, this upside-down world, would seem to belie the notion that the depiction of the Arabs in The Stranger reveals Camus’s true feelings toward Arabs—that they are incidental, less than human. In fact, Kaplan shows that Camus’s treatment of the Arabs was very deliberate.”