Murakami and Flash Fiction: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Bernat Armangue / AP

Haruki Murakami’s Lonely Men
Jess Zimmerman | The New Republic
“It’s only when surrounded by light surrealism that the characteristic Murakami detachment can achieve its ambition. When his writing is at its best, his characters act as a fisheye lens through which to scrutinize a slightly off-kilter world that surrounds them. The soft armor of their unknowability lets us examine their loneliness up close while still feeling far away.”

When What Was Good for Bill Cosby Was Good for Black America
Gene Demby | NPR
“As the dozens of rape and sexual assault accusations against Cosby have piled up, both he and his lawyers have tugged at that sense, trying to rally black support by suggesting that the claims are at least in part fueled by racism. Other black luminaries have played this hand—Clarence Thomas and O.J. Simpson, most notably—but Cosby’s invocation has a different weight, however one might feel about its legitimacy.”

Netflix Is Turning Into HBO
Angela Watercutter | Wired
“This is no longer the company that brought back Arrested Development and Wet Hot American Summer just to make people happy; it’s the company pursuing its biggest rival. In 2013, when the streaming network released House of Cards (its first prestige show!), the goal, according to [Ted] Sarandos, was ‘to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.’ Back then, it put about $300 million into original programming. This year, that figure is $6 billion—a nearly 20-fold interest in four years.”

The Adaptability and Sustainability of Flash Fiction
Sean Hooks | The Los Angeles Review of Books
“Flash fiction is highly adaptable, as likely to evoke Raymond Chandler as Raymond Carver. Some critics link flash fiction with Hemingway, whose possibly apocryphal ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’ is often cited as the most extreme example of the flash form, but it can be just as reflective of Faulkner—not the Faulkner of Absalom, Absalom! (some of whose winding sentences exceed the length of a single piece of flash fiction) but the hardboiled Faulkner of Sanctuary. Flash fiction is the descendent of haiku and Oulipo, and cousin to modern-day experiments such as David Mitchell’s and Jennifer Egan’s use of Twitter to tell a story.”

Tom Cruise Is Still Great, Even After The Mummy
Ira Madison III | Daily Beast
“Sure, there’s always the notion in Hollywood that white men get to fail multiple times and still get another chance, but Cruise is still a bankable star overseas so it means he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. But if anything, the domestic failure of The Mummy should be an invitation for Cruise to get back to the reasons America fell in love with him in the first place. As a fresh-faced kid in films like Risky Business and Top Gun, Cruise sold audiences on his cockiness and sexiness, not on whether he could grip a gun and take on aliens.”

How Bachelor in Paradise Reflects The Bachelor
Kathryn VanArendonk | Vulture
“This alleged scandal does cast Bachelor in Paradise in a new light. It looks less like goofy, sloppy fun and more like producers let choreographed drama escalate into something potentially criminal. And more broadly, the scandal makes it uncomfortably hard to forget how the same gross tactics and thirst for terrible behavior operate within the glossier corners of the Bachelor-verse.”

Why The Graduate Unites Warring Generations, 50 Years on
Ellen E Jones | The Guardian
“Many of today’s graduates would envy the kind of laid-on opportunities that Braddock rejects. A job for life in the growth field of plastics sounds very attractive compared with low pay and zero-hour contracts. Yet whether the young are excluded from their parents’ party by economic barriers or cultural ones, there is always room for a coming-of-age film that asks: What is so good about growing up? In the age of lackluster ‘adulting,’ The Graduate must be even more welcome.”

The Bumpy Telling of The Handmaid’s Tale
Alison Herman | The Ringer
“The most glaring issue with The Handmaid’s Tale — even in its first, very strong episodes — was its changes to the novel’s tone. The jarring undercurrent of what The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum called ‘go-girl defiance’ seems fundamentally at odds with Atwood’s depiction of near-numb surrender. Part of the novel’s horror is that narrator Offred has all but accepted her fate, but a TV show requires both an active, participatory protagonist and a dynamic plot that looks forward to future seasons rather than simply orienting us in the present.”

How Kim Kardashian Pushed the Boundaries of Celebrity Pregnancy
Anne Helen Petersen | BuzzFeed
“Before Demi Moore, the paparazzi generally respected the boundaries of the pregnant female celebrity … All that changed within the decade—when the combination of digital photography and Us Weekly not only created a market for pregnancy photos, but helped turn ‘bump watch,’ and the cultivation of the ‘cute pregnancy,’ into one of the female celebrity’s primary modes of publicity. Suddenly, the taboo of the pregnant body turned into a spectacle that could be stylized, exploited, scrutinized, and interpreted as emblematic of a woman’s overarching success or failure.”