Bob Dylan and Oscar Bait: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Bob Dylan performing at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1975 (Rat Stubblebine / AP)

Bob Dylan, Master of Change
Greil Marcus | The New York Times
“Songs move through time, seeking their final form. What happens on that path is only partly up to the writer, the singer, the musicians. It may be partly up to the audience hearing the songs, watching them as they are performed, reshaping the song. That is why, perhaps, it is the fact of Bob Dylan’s songs moving through time, and the way they have taken on elements of those times as they moved through them, that matters most on this interesting occasion.”

Bob Dylan Is a Genius, But He Shouldn’t Have Gotten the Nobel
Stephen Metcalf | Slate
“The distinctive thing about literature is that it involves reading silently to oneself. Silence and solitude are inextricably a part of reading, and reading is the exclusive vehicle for literature.This is historically contingent in every way: Literature as a silent and lonely activity is scarcely older than the printing press.”

City of Women
Rebecca Solnit | The New Yorker
“In a subtler way, names perpetuate the gendering of New York City. Almost every city is full of men’s names, names that are markers of who wielded power, who made history, who held fortunes, who was remembered; women are anonymous people who changed fathers’ names for husbands’ as they married, who lived in private and were comparatively forgot­ten, with few exceptions.”

The Long Coming-Out of the NBA’s First Openly Gay Male Referee
Kevin Arnovitz | ESPN
“In Kennedy's mind, it was no real deprivation to stay in the closet on the courtfor a while, at least. He might not have declared himself openly gay, but when did referees publicly declare anything about themselves? They are the most visible, least known people in sportsalways present, never heard.”

What’s Love Got to Do With It?
Emily Gould | The New Republic
“We watch these shows the way we spread dark gossip, as an inoculation against our worst fears about marriage and ourselves. These shows tell the truth about what happens in the months and years after the papers are signed, the wine is drunk, the guests scattered.”

Sin, Cinema, and Nate Parker
Alissa Wilkinson | Vox
“The most important and even appropriate thing a film like The Birth of a Nation could do now, in the wake of all this mess and morass, is to convince just a few people that just because the Bible is quoted by someone, even a powerful guy with a lot of money and an out-of-control will to power, doesn’t make whatever it’s supporting true, right, or just.”

Is There Even Such a Thing as ‘Oscar-Bait’?
Mark Harris and Kyle Buchanan | Vulture
“Sometimes, ‘Oscar bait’ is just a careless catchall meant to describe all fall films, but more often, it’s used the same way a snooty critic might say ‘Sundance movie’ as a pejorative: There’s an implication that what appears to be prestigious is, in its own way, as formulaic as a Marvel blockbuster.”

How Steph and Ayesha Curry Became the ‘Good’ Black Family
Israel Daramola | Buzzfeed
“The Currys have become exemplars of an innocuous, extremely marketable family—close-knit, attractive, Christian, and charming with a tendency towards corniness. But their popularity has proven controversial. Any family would buckle under such pressures—and so, the cracks in the Currys’ image have begun to show.”