Chris Cornell and Personal Essays: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Casey Curry / Invision / AP

Chris Cornell Was His Era’s Greatest Frontman
Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib | MTV News
“Chris Cornell was an experimental songwriter, but an honest and emotive lyricist. It is difficult to find someone who walked that line as delicately and gently as he did, particularly in his often-maligned solo work. Soundgarden’s songs would often fit runs of key changes, tone shifts, and interval jumps into small spaces, creating an urgent and frantic vibe around the band’s early work. But underneath all of that, in his best moments, Chris Cornell was opening honest dialogue with a listener about fear, anxiety, romance, and small revolutions.”

How Everything, Everything Is Changing Young Adult Fiction
Hannah Giorgis | The Ringer
Everything, Everything feels at once snarkily modern (Olly’s email address is ‘’) and charmingly timeless. The book is unique in its clear, complex depiction of young love — even and especially when the stakes are impossibly high. Everything, Everything weaves the mundane and the improbable with close attention to how its characters connect as they experience both.”

How American Gods Changed the Game for Gay Sex on TV
Brandon Cook | The Guardian
“In mainstream gay television, sex is presented as something wielded with reckless abandon in shows like Queer As Folk or, more recently, Looking. It’s the same hyper-sexualized imagery that feeds gay nightclub advertorials and community events: images of ripped studs and beefy bodies, a focus on aesthetic glory. In our fight to gain the freedom to be sexual, and in defiance of societal typecasting, we’ve abandoned sensitivity in favor of eroticism, and embraced sexiness over sympathy—and sometimes even over soul.”

The Personal-Essay Boom Is Over
Jia Tolentino | The New Yorker
“For some writers, these essays led to better-paying work. But for many the thrill of reaching an audience had to suffice. And placing a delicate part of your life in the hands of strangers didn’t always turn out to be so thrilling. Personal essays cry out for identification and connection; what their authors often got was distancing and shame.”

Why Does Hollywood Keep Equating Beauty With Virtue?
Zachary Pincus-Roth | The Washington Post
“Some might argue that Hollywood is a business—let them put the pretty people on screen and let the people pay to see them. Our preference for classical beauty is to some extent socially influenced, but it’s also hard-wired, dating to when clear skin meant no parasites, for instance. But [Nancy] Etcoff compares this attitude to our desire for fast food—another remnant of evolution that’s unhealthy.”

Queer Kids Deserve Better Than PWR BTTM
Sasha Geffen | Pitchfork
“PWR BTTM’s music and behavior have always been inseparable. There is no Pageant without the hundreds of shows that preceded it, where young people in dresses and glitter found joy and hope by being told to ‘be their damn self.’ There is no way to hear a song like ‘Big Beautiful Day’ without envisioning Hopkins, in sparkling cobalt eyeliner, flipping off some transphobe. There is no easy line to draw between PWR BTTM and their new album, much of which is written in the second person to address their trans fans directly.”

Netflix by Netflix: On Sense8
Sijia Li | The Los Angeles Review of Books
Sense8’s vision of the self acquires identity in relation to others. Any self that exists alone is a lesser being. To be folded into a social system—embedded into one’s true family or community—is the ultimate reward. The sensates’ connection to each other is a social system taken to its most extreme, an empathetic bond so intense they literally take one another’s place. But for the rest of us, the internet—and its infinitely expanding garden of TV genres—is close enough.”

Jimmy Fallon Was on Top of the World, Then Came Trump
Dave Itzkoff | The New York Times
“The program is still profitable and strongly supported by advertisers, so if Mr. Fallon faces any crisis, it’s an existential one: What if the broader shift to a more partisan, more openly anti-Trump late-night isn’t temporary? If it has a longer life and a bigger impact than anyone foresees, what does he want his show to be?”

When Cookbooks Treated Meals as Medicine
Deena Prichep | NPR
“Almost without fail, these cookbooks outline how to create an environment for optimal healing. It's not just what you serve, but how you serve it. Providing ample dining options (presented in small servings and whisked away when finished), speaking in hushed tones, ensuring proper ventilation, and choosing pleasant conversation topics are all recommended, with the attractiveness of the serving bowl given equal weight as the broth it contains.”