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.
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Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him by David and Joe Henry

I’m a giant fan of Richard Pryor, and appreciate him as both a comic genius and a rich subject. So I approached David and Joe Henry’s new book Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him with a mixture of interest and jealousy; it sounded like these guys wrote the Pryor book I’d always wanted to pen myself. I got over the pettiness by around page three. This is a sharp, well-written, incisive work, full of insightful commentary, terrific stories, instructive interviews, and facts that took even this super-fan by surprise. A terrific and valuable book for fans and newbies alike. —Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Scientology/Going Clear

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

I finally got to finish Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief this week, and think it’s the type of book that I’d go ahead and buy random strangers so they can read Wright’s brilliant piece of journalism that shines a bright light on the world of Scientology. —Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

How did I reach the 29th year of my literature-loving life, you might well ask, without reading this classic? It’s not that I think Austen is vapid and girlie (I mean, come on) or despise a marriage plot or just am not into 19th-century English lit. If I’m honest, it’s because Colin Firth drives me up a wall, and thus Mr. Darcy mania has always given me hives. Well, as the many of you who have surely read Pride and Prejudice know, that is an incredibly stupid reason to avoid the book. In fact, while the central romance is just fine, it’s Austen’s resonant characters and eerily timeless insights into human nature — and the crystalline prose through which she articulates them — that make this a classic. Austen abstainers, take note. —Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

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The Tape Music Fest in San Francisco

I wasn’t able to attend the Tape Music Fest in San Francisco last week, but a friend filled me in on the highlights. There was a presentation of The Sounds of Earth from the Voyager’s Golden Record, which was launched in the 1970s and is currently traveling through interstellar space. It’s basically the equivalent of the old message in a bottle, intended to reveal a taste of Earth’s culture and sounds (animals, rain, voices) for any extraterrestrial life forms that may find the records. The noises are familiar, but at times alien and surreal. For the festival, the record was played for audiences in total darkness, through 24 loudspeakers. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor

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MisterWives

MisterWives is a self-described “Soul/Dance/Pop/Folk” group from New York. Their debut EP, Reflections, was released yesterday, and I haven’t been able to remove it from my ears since. I discovered them a few months ago from their song “Coffins,” a dreamy, wandering track backed by tambourine and gorgeous strings. Aside from “Coffins,” the rest of the EP is full of foot-tapping, upbeat songs, into which lead singer Mandy Lee has poured her perfectly raspy voice. Best of all, the single “Reflections” is free on iTunes this week, so if you’re feeling post-holiday broke, at least you can treat yourself to that. —Isabella Biedenharn, Editorial Apprentice

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“Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” performed by Oscar Isaac

[Spoiler Alert] Oscar Isaac’s crowd-silencing performance of at the end of Inside Llewyn Davis accomplished the impossible: making Bob Dylan seem, comparatively, like a hack, to such an extreme that, for a split second before I came to my senses, I found myself bemoaning the success of that soulless, flaccid-voiced “folk” poseur. Since seeing the film, I’ve been listening to Isaac’s rendition on repeat. In this cover of a traditional folk song, Isaac throws his gravelly voice into the open space of strategic reverb, making him sound alone in a box that just happens to be dangling above an abyss. It’s a testament to the recording’s perfection that this simile is likewise applicable to Llewyn’s constant state of being. —Moze Halperin, Editorial Apprentice

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Treme

Whoops, I forgot to watch Treme the entire time it was actually airing, so now I’m that guy a week after its series finale who says, “Hey, have you seen this show? Pretty good!” (I think it also helps that I didn’t start the show when it began with post-The Wire expectations, which I think certainly hurt its appeal.) While it’s certainly not The Wire, it does share similarities with that series (as well as David Simon’s HBO miniseries, The Corner, based on the book he co-wrote with Ed Burns) in the sense that it feels more like Dickensian journalism that a dynamically entertaining drama series. And while it can drag on at times and focus too much on one particularly obnoxious character (*cough*SteveZahn*cough*), as a whole it is stellar television that went fairly under-looked during its four-season run. —Tyler Coates, Deputy Editor