This week, our selection consists of pieces that examine different notions of narrative. The writers of these pieces are, at once, deconstructing the narrative of someone else and using the materials to construct a narrative of their own. Certainly, this type of re-appropriation happens all the time across literature. These five pieces, however, do more than just reconstruct narrative — they generate meaning.
- “The Coen brothers: Hollywood existentialists“ by Noah Kumin, re-published by Salon, originally published in Full Stop
If you have yet to see “Inside Llewyn Davis”and abhor spoilers then do not read this article, as Kumin prefaces his discussion of the Coen canon with a lengthy synopsis of the brothers’ latest film. Kumin’s synopsis provides the reader with a much-needed refresher course on the film’s narrative. He doesn’t just recount the film scene by scene, but rather he fashions key moments into a shorter narrative that he embellishes by identifying some of the Coen’s most prominent historical allusions.
The scope of Kumin’s discussion is not nearly as overwhelming as the article’s nut graph makes it seem — “From “Fargo” to “The Big Lebowski,” their films’ true mystery is invariably man’s greater purpose on Earth.” In fact, the article isn’t so much an elucidation of the Coen philosophy as it is an exploration into the relationship between literature and humanity. Literature being a term used loosely — meaning books, art, music, film, the whole gamut.
In light of the 50 year anniversary since the publishing of “Harriet the Spy,” Holmes examines the similarities between Harriet and her more famous contemporary, Scout Finch. Holmes’ observations about these feisty little girls with hearts of gold speak directly to the debate regarding the lack of “strong female characters” in Hollywood films — particularly in light of Cate Blanchett’s comment during her Oscar acceptance speech, where she chastised “those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences.”
- “Geek Love at 25: How a Freaky Family Inspired Your Pop Culture Heroes” by Caitlin Roper, published by Wired
Roper’s piece is both a commemorative and a biographical feature. There are two characters of equal importance — first there is “Geek Love,” and then there is author Katherine Dunn. Roper distinguishes between the two as the book has taken on a life of its own since entering the literary sphere.
- “‘Portlandia’s’ Carrie Brownstein: ‘I want to poke and prod and prick people'” by David Daley, published by Salon
Daley interviews the female lead of “Portlandia,” now in its fourth season, about how her academic training in sociolinguistics has informed the world her character inhabits on the show. Brownstein is equal parts charming and self-aware in her responses — openly describing how “the show is all about ways that people curate their physical space and their life.”
- “‘A Dancer Dies Twice’: The Sad Challenge of Retiring From Ballet” by Maroosha Muzaffar, published by The Atlantic
The words, “A dancer dies twice,” can be attributed to Martha Graham. Muzaffar’s piece on the post-career struggles of dancers speaks to a much larger issue also faced by those working in other forms of entertainment, including athletes, actors, models and even to some extent filmmakers. Youth is worshipped in the business of entertainment. At some point, you “age out” — your image becomes less relevant, or in the case of filmmakers, the stories you want to tell “don’t have a market.”
Rapid fire is the publishing world’s new normal, but inspiring long-form content is not a thing of the past. Enter #LongReads: a weekly post published on Fridays containing what we believe to be 5 of the most compelling pieces of long-form, entertainment-related content produced that week.