Staff Picks: Flavorwire’s Favorite Cultural Things This Week

Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

employee of the month

Employee of the Month with Catie Lazarus

Catie Lazarus has been hosting the stellar Employee of the Month for the last few years, and each month she assembles a great lineup of people who love their jobs and are willing to talk about it. Tonight Lazarus will be taping her podcast live at The Bell House in Brooklyn with guests like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (with Robert Smigel, of course), cabaret superstar Lady Rizo, humorist Mo Rocca, and Tony-winning actor and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda. Where else will you find such a diverse group of smart, talented people? — Tyler Coates, Deputy Editor

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No Pryor Restraint: Life in Concert by Richard Pryor

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks working my way through No Pryor Restraint: Life in Concert, Shout Factory’s recent, massive (seven CDs and two DVDs, plus a bonus CD if you order direct from Shout) Richard Pryor box set. It was a purchase I resisted initially; I’m a huge Pryor fan, and having already purchased the now out-of-print And It’s Deep Too! box set (featuring Pryor’s complete Warner Brothers discography and an archival disc) and Revolution/Evolution (a two-disc compilation of his earlier recordings for Laff Records), I had some concern of double-dipping. No Pryor Restraint is very different from those completist collections, however — true to its title, it’s a survey, a kind of autobiography via the stand-up work of a performer whose art was always confessional. And with regards to my earlier concerns, there is a healthy chunk of new material; aside from the bonus disc, there’s nearly two hours of previously unreleased material, some of it altogether new, some embryonic versions of later bits. In those alternate takes, you can hear Pryor honing and refining his material — and you can also hear more immediate and personal variations, not yet removed from the prickliness of real life. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the development and process of stand-up comedy’s greatest artist. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

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The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon

This week I’ve been reading Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon, which bills itself as “an atlas of depression” and is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin — it’s an exhaustively researched and beautifully written study of depression, drawing heavily on Solomon’s own experiences and those of many others. It’s the best sort of popular science: accessible, fascinating and often deeply moving. — Tom Hawking, Music Editor

The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick (dir. Emiliano Larre)

Hardcore Philip K. Dick fans love to gripe about the authenticity of the numerous film adaptations Hollywood keeps churning out (I count Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly and Jérôme Boivin’s Barjo as two of the best), and the complaints didn’t stop at this 2007 TV documentary. The set-up of The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick is a little goofy, but since I’m feeling the 20th-anniversary X-Files love, I can live with the fictional FBI investigation used to frame the interviews and footage of the troubled author. This doc delves further into his personal life rather than his work, but luckily Dick was such a character that it doesn’t really matter. Former wives/girlfriends, high school pals, brain-fried writerly types from Dick’s Santa Venetia days, and others recall some crazy and entertaining stories. One thing I found myself oddly fixated on while watching footage of the 1977 Metz Sci-Fi Convention — Dick was a guest of honor and gave a talk about living in a computer-programmed reality (a real-life Matrix) — was the way he seemed to be salivating. It was probably just the drugs, but I always imagine Dick as one of those unassuming guys you wind up sitting next to on the subway. He’d casually turn to you to discuss Burroughs’ language virus theory or his own paranoid “exegesis” hallucinations with spittle flying from his mouth. You’d walk away almost believing him. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor

Sleepy-Hollow

Sleepy Hollow (Fox)

I’m weighing in as intrigued by Sleepy Hollow, in spite of initial skepticism. I’ll wait a few more weeks before delivering a final verdict, but I enjoyed the pilot. — Michelle Dean, Editor-at-Large

elliott-smith

“Blue Spark, Part I” by Nelly Reifler

I always have a mess of stuff to read. My Chrome bookmarks are probably numbered somewhere in the hundreds, and god knows I won’t get around to a lot of the intriguing articles I’ve set aside for myself. But once I found the first part of Nelly Reifler’s recent ode to Elliott Smith, I read it right away. Reifler was friends with Smith in college and during his New York days, but she takes no time to admit she doesn’t feel all that qualified to write about a figure who still attracts such cultish devotion. Yet Reifler says she’s long felt compelled to write an account of Smith’s place in her life, and as a longtime fan, I’m so glad she did. “Blue Spark, Part I” is the beginning of a revealing, incredibly compelling story, and it’s not just an intimate look at the personal life of an alt-rock legend, but a stark meditation on the falsehood of memory, the unpredictable trajectories of our friends’ lives, the near-fanatic ways we handle the deaths of people we know. I can’t wait for parts two and three. -— Sarah Fonder, Editorial Apprentice

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This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

I assume that no one reading this is seeing the name “Junot Diaz” for the first time; at least half of you have probably read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. But I admit to having neglected last year’s This Is How You Lose Her, his collection of interconnected short stories — because I’m no better than any other philistine who privileges novels over short fiction. Themed around the everyday tragedies of chronically unfaithful brainiac Yunior’s (the same character from Diaz’s previous work) love life, the stories expand to encompass everything from brotherly resentment to the diverse lives and fates of Dominicans, both in their home country and as immigrants in America. Despite its undertone of melancholy, This Is How You Lose Her is a quick and lively read; I finished it in under 48 hours and then was sorry I hadn’t spent longer savoring it. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

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AM by Arctic Monkeys

The first Arctic Monkeys track I ever heard was “Fake Tales of San Francisco.” It was on one of those Urban Outfitters sampler CDs that they used to throw into the bag with your purchase of plaid. (Yes, it’s hilarious that the song UO chose to include was a poseur takedown.) I’ve been a fan since then, elated and, for the most part, subsequently disappointed by the band’s new releases. But their new album AM took me back to that high school daze and then pushed beyond it. It’s an older, darker album that proves that the Arctic Monkeys had to eventually grow up, just like us. — Kevin Pires, Editorial Apprentice

daniel-higgs

Beyond & Between by Daniel Higgs

Beyond & Between by Daniel Higgs is one of those albums that functions perfectly as an intermediary between my summer and autumn listening habits. Soon it will be all John Fahey and Nick Drake, but for now I’m sticking to this marvelous solo outing by the Lungfish frontman. — Jason Diamond, Literary Editor