Sam Shepard and Confederate: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Sam Shepard
Charles Sykes / AP

My Buddy
Patti Smith | The New Yorker
“Sam [Shepard] liked being on the move. He’d throw a fishing rod or an old acoustic guitar in the back seat of his truck, maybe take a dog, but for sure a notebook, and a pen, and a pile of books. He liked packing up and leaving just like that, going west. He liked getting a role that would take him somewhere he really didn’t want to be, but where he would wind up taking in its strangeness; lonely fodder for future work.”

Confederate: Will a Grassroots Movement Sink the Controversial HBO Series?
Jake Nevins | The Guardian
“Perhaps, for HBO, it is [a risk worth taking], if only because even a version of Confederate that confirms our worst suspicions couldn’t sink TV’s most formidable cash cow. … The team behind Confederate seems to be cautiously optimistic that the rewards and provocations of alt-history fiction—its ability to jolt us into consciousness, to recognize parallels between the past and present and force audiences to reckon with them—outweigh the risks.”

Remembering Editor Judith Jones
Ellen O’Connell Whittet | Literary Hub
“While those familiar with 20th century literature may have heard of Maxwell Perkins, editor to Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald (or seen the 2016 film Genius about his editing), Jones recognized a new type of genius, the diamonds in the rough, often women, who had not found editors who took their kinds of work seriously.”

The Nicest Evil Girl in the World
Allison P. Davis | The Cut
“In person, [Aubrey] Plaza is less deadpan, less caustic, less sarcastic, maybe even goofier, than the onscreen persona that made her famous. Still, she tells me, she’s well aware that I expected her to be a total jerk during tennis. It happens to her all the time, even now, at 33, almost a decade after she first played April.”

What’s So Hard About Casting Indian Actors in Indian Roles?
Kevin Noble Maillard | The New York Times
“‘Redface,’ the manufacturing of ersatz images of Native American identity, has long been a problem in Hollywood, and there’s a well-documented history of hiring non-Indians for Indian roles. But [Taylor] Sheridan’s solution is thorny, too. When vetting is a challenge even for tribes, which can become embroiled in controversies over identity, how can casting directors do it?”

Why Don’t Dystopias Know How to Talk About Race?
Angelica Jade Bastién | Vulture
“Most dystopian films end up ignoring the thorny politics of entrenched systems of oppression in favor of signaling out one lead character who gloriously resists and somehow survives—a conservative narrative that suggests oppression can be overcome if people just try hard enough. There is something disturbing about filmmakers portraying white characters as both those most harmed by oppression and the sole heroes able to dismantle it.”

How Charlize Theron Became the Greatest Action Star in the World
Kevin Fallon | The Daily Beast
“The truth is that Lorraine—and Charlize’s performance—stands on its own, a one-two knockout following her turn in Mad Max: Fury Road that cements her as the greatest action hero currently working in film. She boasts the athleticism, depth, magnetism, and wanton disregard for convention that intensifies her appeal, and the lack of which makes so many other action stars so bland.”

The Complicated Life and Death of Hideki Irabu
Ben Reiter | Sports Illustrated
“[George] Steinbrenner, though, didn’t pay him $12 million for just above average, nor did [Rudy] Giuliani hand him a crystal apple for just above average, nor did Yankees fans applaud him for just above average. As it turned out, there were many things about the failed ace that none of them grasped.”