Patti Smith and the Mariah Carey ‘Problem’: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

The singer Patti Smith performs Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, 2016.  (Jessica Gow / Getty)

How Does It Feel
Patti Smith | The New Yorker
“The evening’s proceedings went as planned. As I sat there, I imagined laureates of the past walking toward the King to accept their medals. Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann, Albert Camus. Then Bob Dylan was announced as the Nobel Laureate in Literature, and I felt my heart pounding. After a moving speech dedicated to him was read, I heard my name spoken and I rose. As if in a fairy tale, I stood before the Swedish King and Queen and some of the great minds of the world, armed with a song in which every line encoded the experience and resilience of the poet who penned them.”

The Album of the Year Is the Other Frank Ocean Album
Sean Fennessey | The Ringer
“There are many reasons to love Endless, especially as a musical statement — it’s the rolling tide that carries in Blonde’s crashing wave. It takes its time, it ebbs and releases — it’s inconsistent and unpredictable. It is, in many ways, music in 2016. It’s also an artistic statement that is unrivaled — a power move leveraging technology and corporate structures against one another to engender personal freedom. That may seem haughty, but it is true. Frank Ocean is free because of Endless.”

The David Foster Wallace Disease
Sasha Chapin | Hazlitt
“Wallace snares transitory, forgettable milliseconds with unforgettable prose. That’s what I envied most. If I had this particular gift, I felt I would finally break the boundary impeding my making great art—the artlessness of my own life was composed almost exclusively of the kind of bland lack that Wallace articulated so well. I was a filthy, whiny child who had become a loud, sensitive nerd … But if I had the Wallace magic, my artistic power would become boundless—compelling writing would fall out of my fingers. I could make something profound from the nothing I lived in.”

Why Do We Keep Trying to Solve a Problem Like Mariah?
Pier Dominguez | Buzzfeed
“It is often said, intended as criticism, that Mariah Carey lives in her own time, even her own reality. But our culture is finally catching up with her. It is not an accident that Mariah’s World is full of clips of Mariah moments from the Rainbow era—including the “Heartbreaker” video—because reality television is the perfect stage for the campy contradictions that define her.”

How 2016’s Movies and TV Reflected Religion
Alissa Wilkinson | Vox
“Perhaps recognizing that a myopic view of religious people results in underwritten characters, many shows have developed the sense that, as with gender or race, a character’s religion is part of their identity, one in a series of overlapping layers.”

Rihanna, Rock Star in Repose
Doreen St. Fèlix | MTV News
“Fighters carry a serenity in the body that contradicts that of dancers, who are their parallels in terms of movement. Preparation, for the dancer, is the limit; not so for the combatant, whose stage is many things, including the square of battle, but also the opponent buzzing around them and those fights that have been internalized. They’ve got to be permeable to risk, and resigned to chance. Rihanna moves more like a fighter than a dancer.”

Obama: On the End of a Literary Presidency
Jonathan Reiber | Literary Hub
“Literature gives us something on which to fall back when the straightforward path gets lost. The legacy of the last eight years and the writings of prior eras can help us imagine our way through whatever may come. To plot a course for our politics as well as our lives.”

The Gun Industry’s Lucrative Relationship With Hollywood
Gary Baum and Scott Johnson | The Hollywood Reporter
“The [NRA’s ‘Hollywood Guns’] exhibit highlights the sometimes uneasy but fruitful partnership between the gun industry and Hollywood, where firearms are an integral part of life and storytelling. Meanwhile, gun manufacturers say that there's no better way to brand, market and sell a weapon than to get it placed in a big Hollywood production. And most of the time, it's free—product placement at its finest.”