Novak Djokovic and Bounce Music: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Christophe Ena / AP

What Happened to Novak Djokovic?
Chris Almeida | The Ringer
“Djokovic’s path to victory never seemed to hinge on a single part of his game, a big first serve or a low-margin forehand blast. Instead, he ground his opponents to death, stacking small victories of stamina until the collective weight of his blows became unbearable. Djokovic’s edge seemed to be in his mind and in his preparation, rather than in low-margin winners. His machinelike consistency made it seem like his reign would last forever.”

Arundhati Roy Returns to Fiction, in Fury
Joan Acocella | The New Yorker
“Roy’s scenes of violence are hallucinatory, like the chapters on the Bangladeshi independence movement in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, or the union-busting at the banana plantation in García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. She’s often said to have learned from Rushdie, and she may be a little tired of hearing that, because it is to García Márquez (who surely influenced both of them) that she tips her hat, describing post-colonial India as ‘Macondo madness.’ In fact, all three writers are practicing variant forms of magic realism, which, for each of them, is, among other things, a means of reporting on political horror without inducing tedium.”

What Was Bill Maher’s Big Mistake?
Wesley Morris | The New York Times
“The insult to injury here involves the conflation of Mr. Maher’s transgression and the umbrage he feigned at being asked to work in the fields. As my sister might say: Oh, he fancy now. For a long time, black people have deployed slavery-derived hierarchies as a social and psycho-political sorting mechanism. A house assignment might have won a slave less arduous work but more suspicion and contempt from her counterparts in the fields. No one self-identifies as a house Negro—unless that person is making a joke. And even then that person probably shouldn’t be Bill Maher.”

In New Orleans, Party Busses Drive the Legacy of Bounce Music
Ben Dandridge-Lemco | The Fader
“A common cliché about New Orleans is that music emanates from every street corner. That’s not altogether wrong … New Orleans is a place of traditions, and its status as the birthplace of jazz is a constant point of emphasis at annual festivals and in tourism campaigns. But at today’s second lines, alongside the tuba and trumpet, another sound is just as prevalent—the unmistakeable samples, rapid drum patterns, and explicit chants of New Orleans bounce.”

Stranger Than Fiction
Siddhartha Deb | The Baffler
“If fiction has been unable to come to terms with our steadfast rapaciousness, it is because to truly represent the ravages of the carbon economy involves understanding capitalism, and even nationalism, as failures, and this is not something contemporary fiction is capable of doing.”

An Oral History of Reading Rainbow
Jake Rossen | Mental Floss
“Hosted by LeVar Burton, the show grew from modest trials at PBS affiliate WNED in Buffalo and Great Plains National out of Nebraska. It ran for 150 episodes and 26 years, making it one of the most enduring children’s shows to ever air on public television. If Sesame Street taught kids the alphabet, Reading Rainbow helped them develop a love of words, paragraphs, and narratives.”

What Is Going on With Universal’s ‘Dark Universe’?
Kevin Lincoln | Vulture
“With the Dark Universe, Universal essentially seems to be splitting the difference. It wants to make a movie universe that’s propped up by its shoo-in overseas appeal, pinned to the backs of [Tom] Cruise and [Johnny] Depp, that also allows it to push and prod the concept in a way that the more disciplined and consistent Marvel can’t. How broad can a cinematic universe be? How many different styles and diverging threads can it accommodate?”

Why Wonder Woman Is a Masterpiece of Subversive Feminism
Zoe Williams | The Guardian
“The fighter as sex symbol stirs up a snakepit of questions: Are you getting off on the woman or the violence? An unbreakable female lead can be liberating to the violent misogynist tendency since the violence against her can get a lot more ultra, and nobody has to feel bad about it, because she’ll win … This is tackled head on in Wonder Woman.”

Jennifer Lopez Doesn’t Need to Be the Best at Everything
Bim Adewunmi | BuzzFeed
“It takes work, but J.Lo is no stranger to work, especially when the rate of return is so solid. That implicit and surefooted knowledge—knowing when to sit back, or forge ahead—is what sets Lopez apart, and keeps her relevant and likable, despite dramas that might permanently damage a lesser star. Not being ‘the best’ hasn’t harmed Lopez. Instead, her versatility when it comes to wearing many hats has been her saving grace. The Jennifer Lopez Way is to shine without apology, artfully weathering the waxing and waning of her audience’s interest, while keeping us transfixed.”