Joan Didion and Rolling Stone: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Joan Didion
Kathy Willens / AP

Joan Didion Is Ready for Her Close-Up
Dana Spiotta | Vogue
“What struck me, as a young person, was how unapologetic [Didion] always appeared, how self-possessed. She, like Susan Sontag—another writer who didn’t seem to mind getting her photo taken—remade for me what was possible for women. They were intellectuals who also seemed to understand what their physical selves signified for the culture. We gazed at them, and they gazed back.”

The Original Shock of Rolling Stone
Amanda Petrusich | The New Yorker
“That pop music dominates the cultural conversation is evident and presumed. Yet, in the 1960s, rock records didn’t command column inches in serious publications. Back then, [Jann] Wenner’s insistence on the music’s significance and import—its relevance to the Zeitgeist, its abundance—was a lunatic gesture.”

Beware the Open-Plan Kitchen
Caitlin Flanagan | Vulture
“Bristol and Aubrey Marunde are the stars of Flip or Flop Vegas, and they have brought the HGTV formula—an endless loop of television in which the dreams of women are made manifest by the swinging sledgehammers of men—to the quivering edge of reductio ad absurdum. They love one another; they never quarrel; they worship together at the Church of Home Depot in the Parish of Lowe’s.”

Who’s Laughing Now?
Tom Bissell | Harper’s
“At the end of the 2004 show [of SNL], after Trump wishes everyone a good night and the credits roll, he can be seen embracing Seth Meyers, who, 13 years on, would emerge as one of his chief comedy antagonists. … And there’s Trump shaking hands with, of all people, Questlove from the Roots. And then there came a great earthquake, and the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth.”

Harry Dean Stanton: Fully Inhabiting Scenes, Not Stealing Them
Manohla Dargis | The New York Times
“His role as Travis [in Paris, Texas], who’s on a redemptive journey, certainly elevated Mr. Stanton’s profile and helped make him an emblem of cool. … Yet even as Paris, Texas brought Mr. Stanton a measure of fame, he remained a quintessential character actor, a performer who ranged wide and far (Laverne & Shirley!), imparting something real and true called Harry Dean Stanton.”

Jeff Bridges Will Be ‘the Dude,’ Now and Forever
Caity Weaver | GQ
“Jeff Bridges isn't turned off by this, as some already famous actors might be—by the fanatical, undying popularity of a weird thing he did once, back in 1998, that no one has ever forgotten, that people quote at him ad nauseam. He’s too imperturbable, too Dude for that. Bridges is famously cool with the weighty Lebowski legacy. It’s obvious why within moments of meeting him.”

From Ghost Town to Havana: Two Teams, Two Countries, One Game
Rick Paulas | Longreads
“The resulting documentary about the weeklong trip tells the stories of two coaches and two baseball teams, but more than that, it exposes ways in which the American model of youth development has fallen short compared to Cuba. For starters, having the security, both economic and social, … that allows the time to coach, as opposed to the U.S. model of relying on the good hearts of volunteers, which is to say, those with enough money to have the free time to do so.”

The Many Arms of Takashi Murakami’s Career
Mengna Du | Hyperallergic
“Murakami always strives to complicate conventional dichotomies created by institutions—between the low and the high, the marginalized and the mainstream, the East and the West—but the minute he succeeds, he fails. From his earliest attempt to subvert Nihonga through Nihonga itself, to his embracing of the formerly marginal otaku subculture, he seems never to be able to escape the cycle of resistance, cooptation, retreat, and repeat.”