Staff Picks: Kelly Link, Chapbooks and ‘The Americans’ as Self-Help

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.

Poet and Chapbook Festival organizer Sampson Starkweather... w/ chapbooks
Chapbook Festival organizer Sampson Starkweather… with chapbooks

Chapbooks

If you look up the definition of “chapbook,” Google will tell you that a it’s a short collection of poetry, often subject-centric. They can be about death, life, or, according to Google, Justin Bieber. Anyway, chapbooks are great. A chapbook is like an EP, but for poetry. A chapbook is also often beautifully designed, which is an amazing way to keep something viable in the tangible, non-Internet world (aka simply, the world). I can’t show you them here, because that’s not how physical design works, but I bought a bundle at last week’s Chapbook Festival in NYC, and I’ve enjoyed holding them in my real, meaty hands and seeing their printed words beneath true sunlight. Chapbooks are a light of life, and they’re usually only five dollars. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice


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Singles on Blu-ray

Sometimes, you revisit a movie from your teenage years after a long hiatus, and are startled to discover that you must’ve watched it more than you remember, since so much of its dialogue and ideas have become part of your own vernacular. (Or maybe it’s just me. Anyway.) Such was the case with my recent re-watch of Singles (thanks to its Blu-ray release this week, tied, like Empire Records’, to Record Store Day), prompting the realization that oh, right, that’s where “officially very late” and “Mr. Sensitive Ponytail Man” (to tick off just the two most obvious examples) came from. Cameron Crowe’s in-between movie—the one he made in-between his cultural touchstones Say Anything and Jerry Maguire—has aged surprisingly well, proudly displaying its ‘90s artifacts (the music, the clothing, the activism) while maintaining a freshness in style and construction. That was partly by design; Crowe subsequently wrote that he chose the vignette-heavy, graphics-and-chapter title structure to “loosely resemble an album,” and it works, while the free-wheeling, “thought-bubble” styled cutaways predate such flourishes on shows like 30 Rock. Crowe explores the logistics and games-playing of dating with wit, grace, and poignancy (he’s particularly insightful about the ways we transform ourselves for those we desire), and his ensemble cast—Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Matt Dillon, Sheila Kelly, Bill Pullman—is first-rate. Oh, and come to find out, the Pearl Jam guys have killer comic timing. Who’da thunk it? — Jason Bailey, Film Editor


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The Miss Manhattan Non-Fiction Reading Series

For the past year, New Yorkers have been gathering monthly in the back room of Niagara Bar in the East Village for a one of a kind non-fiction reading series curated and hosted by Manhattan-based writer and photographer Elyssa Goodman, of the blog Miss Manhattan. The space is small so you get to look famous (or semi-famous) writers in the eyeball as they read from their work, and Elyssa floats around the room giving out hugs and cracking jokes. The readings are always free, and the drink specials (two for one) will definitely keep you buzzed without punching your wallet. — Ona Abelis, Editorial Apprentice


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Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble and Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber

I am toggling back and forth between Kelly Link’s much-praised new collection Get in Trouble and the very silly second book in the Outlander series, Dragonfly in Amber. Link’s short stories treat fantastic subjects, from superheroes to ghosts, with the toolbox of literary realism, leaving us with feelings of wistful ambivalence. Some stories are more successful than others, but all are wildly inventive. Diana Gabaldon, meanwhile, tells her time-traveling story with the subtlety of a pickaxe, although there’s something to be said for turning a book’s pages for no other purpose than one’s own personal enjoyment. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large 


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The Americans as Self-Help

I was very late to hop on The Americans train, but now that I have, I certainly understand the hype: while they’re most known for being cold(ish) blooded killers and warm(ish) parents, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings are actually great time-management role models. Because I want to wholeheartedly love this show and its bizarre yet successful blend of emotional subtlety and at-times preposterous plotlines, I’ve decided not to take the characters’ wholly nonsensical schedule as an overlooked flaw, but rather as a life lesson. Somehow, what’s most baffling is that the couple have the time to put on their elaborate disguises. The rest, of course, makes total sense: make pancake breakfast, drop the kids off, say hi to and maybe play racket ball with the suspicious CIA neighbor (I’m still on season 1; am assuming this may change), go to work at the travel agency front, pick up the kids, get a babysitter, consult the spy overlord, poison someone, sleep(?). Yet with all of that they still have time to impeccably primp for each assignment — how, how, how do they have time for all the primping?! Putting my befuddlement behind me, I’ve chosen, like them, to attempt the impossible: to look, on occasion, put together, despite being “busy.” I may have blogging to do, but today, I combed a hair. Who knows what polished new me tomorrow will bring? A man with two hairs combed, perchance? Thanks, Russian spies! — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor


Binging on BBC Music Documentaries

There is no singular platform in the U.S. for music documentaries, as there is in the U.K. with BBC Four. I cursed this sad reality for a long time, despite the BBC having a wide, constantly changing selection of their music docs on their site. What a tease: you can’t watch them unless you have a U.K. IP address. After an international friend turned me onto the Hola browser extension, which allows you to modify your IP’s origin in order to access geographically restricted content, I went on a binge with Canadian Netflix and these BBC music docs. Later, I discovered the YouTube playlist embedded above, which includes a few of the all-time greats (seriously, watch the Rough Trade doc). How you see these documentaries doesn’t matter so long as you do. — Jillian Mapes, Music Editor