Staff Picks: Kate Berlant and John Early, ‘The Gentrification of the Mind,’ Annette Bening

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. Scroll through for our picks below.


The Gentrification of the Mind by Sarah Schulman

Novelist, playwright, and AIDS activist Sarah Schulman wrote this memoir-slash-jeremiad in 2012, and it’s pretty revelatory to read it today. The book, subtitled Witness to a Lost Imagination, is a lamentation of our failure to properly document the AIDS crisis and the people in the LGBTQ community who fought — often with their lives — to stop it. Schulman links this failure to a general passivity in American culture and civic society, “an inability to recognize one’s self as a powerful instigator and agent of profound social change.”

This mental process, Schulman argues, is analogous to the rapid gentrification that has swept so many cities in the past 20 years. Cultural production becomes institutionalized; truly diverse communities are replaced by representatives from minority groups who are palatable to the general public but don’t really challenge norms. Combined with actual gentrification of urban spaces and the whitewashing of the history of AIDS and its consequences, this results in a kind of “spiritual gentrification” that leads marginalized people to believe that “social and artistic change” are impossible. The book is a fast read and, at the moment, a very convincing one. — Lara Zarum, TV Editor


Annette Bening on WTF

I will not rant again about Annette Bening not getting the Oscar nomination for 20th Century Women, I will not, I WILL NOT, I’M NOT GOING TO DO THAT. Let’s spin this into something positive: I legitimately didn’t think I could love Ms. Bening more, and then I listened to her loose, charming chat with Marc Maron on WTF, and it turns out I was wrong. She’s funny, charming, brilliant, and seems incredibly grounded for someone who’s spent most her life famous (and married to someone who is also super-famous). And she conveys an approach to the work that is both serious and free of bullshit. It’s a great interview, from a great actress who doesn’t get enough recognition for her brilliance and ahhhh there I go again. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor


Kate Berlant and John Early at Joe’s Pub

I got to interview Kate Berlant and John Early (said discussion incoming this week) this afternoon, after having caught their collaborative comedy set at the Public Theater’s Joe’s Pub last night, at which I laughed myself to tears. Sure, it could have been compensation for months of having a hard time laughing at anything, but I think my hysterical reaction was actually the relief of finally finding the right thing to laugh about for the given moment. (They’re also performing tonight through Friday at the New York venue; luckily, if you’re nowhere near here, the performances are in support of their Vimeo series, 555, which can of course be experienced anywhere.)

If you’re familiar with their comedy, both Berlant and Early take an almost physical-theatrical approach to their comedy, jerkily pantomiming and mugging their way around the stage like marionettes at the mercy of a coked out puppeteer. Berlant tends to find humor in hyperactive pseudo-intellectual jargon, while Early embraces, with equal strangeness, the low-brow and every day — with an impeccable and grotesque Britney Spears impression, or a post-verbal account of the banality of first dates. But their comedy was also sharply attuned to the current moment last night, and while never compromising the oddness and stylization of their performance, they made their set the perfect kind of viscously — and pretty relentlessly — political. I’m both excited to see them live again — whenever that happens — but also, simply, to write about them more at length. — Moze Halperin, Senior Editor

Female Film Critics

Last year, we counted the Female Film Critics Twitter account as one of the signs of hope for culture. Founder Diana Drumm continues to grow her mission of highlighting the works of frequently overlooked women writers with a Patreon goal (we’d listen to a podcast!) and newsletter. The first one compiles reviews from this year’s Sundance Film Festival written by women and non-binary critics. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor


The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn

I’ve finally found something that’s properly distracting me from the mess in the world (besides lying on the bed with my eyes closed and a cup of tea); my friend and fellow Jane-ite Kathleen Flynn’s time-travel/historical hybrid novel, The Jane Austen Project, which hits shelves later this spring. It’s about two people from the future who travel back to Regency England to secure a rediscovered Austen manuscript that’s been lost to time. Jane Austen hasn’t shown up yet, but the book is already satisfying in its homage to her wit — plus, so far I haven’t been able to discern a single Trump allegory. — Sarah Seltzer, Deputy Editor



Escapism is one of those things that’s always been a guilty pleasure, but the state of the world these days is such that moments of escape from it are more the subject of gratitude and joy than guilt, especially if your day job involves eight hours of reading and writing about how fucked everything is. And so it is that I feel absolutely fine about the fact that I’ve spent hours on end this week playing a card game, one that doesn’t even involve real goddamn cards. Gwent was a game-within-a-game in The Witcher 3, the excellent Polish medieval fantasy-based game that swept Game of the Year awards in 2015, and it’s being released as a standalone game this year. It’s been in beta for the last few months, and I’ve recently gotten obsessed with it all over again. If you fancy a game, hit me up — my user name is thawking. It’ll make for another two minutes that I don’t have to think about our descent into fascism. Yay! — Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief