Must do’s: What we like this week

Nora Ephron continues to inspire with "Wallflower at the Orgy," and "Project Runway" is bizarre but diverse

Topics: Our Picks: Books, our picks: TV, Our Picks: Movies, Entertainment, TV, Television, literature, Movies, Film, cinema, Novels, entertainment news,

Must do’s: What we like this week (Credit: Lifetime)


Before summer ends, Laura Miller recommends readers pick up “The Bone Season,” the perfect adventure-fantasy novel to inhale in two or three days. The book’s author, Samantha Shannon, may be young at 21, but she is not without strong storytelling instincts and discipline, demonstrated through her fetching phrases and ability to instantly latch the reader’s interest to the central character and her fate:

Paige Mahoney is a young Irishwoman living in an alternate-history version of 21st-century London run by a huge corporation called Scion. Her father thinks Paige works in a bar, but in truth she belongs to the syndicate, a network of underground gangs made up of clairvoyants. Their abilities, while innate, are criminalized, and any “voyant” picked up by the authorities is reputed to be either executed or conscripted into an anti-voyant police force. The clairvoyants come in a dizzying variety of types, and the book opens with a chart outlining the different subgroups, as well as with maps of Shannon’s re-imagined British citadel.

Nora Ephron was famous for her fierce intelligence, which spanned across the realms of films, plays, essays and even reporting. “Wallflower at the Orgy,” was Ephron’s first book — a collection of essays from her time as a journalist at the New York Post in the ’60s that provides “a window into a time of American chaos,” writes Kyle Minor. Just as the original was written “so beautifully and so unsparingly,” the newly released audiobook version of “Wallflower” provides another opportunity to witness Ephron’s well-known wit and humor:

The individual pieces in “Wallflower” are dispatches from the brief period in American history — the late ’60s — in which one culture was being displaced by another, a seismic development akin to the collision and overlap of tectonic plates. It was no small thing that Ephron was a woman in the reporter’s role, and it seems to the reader or listener, now, that she made great use of the way she was underestimated for her gender. As a result, she got as close to the action as any of her contemporaries, and the news she brought was truly news — not the facts we already knew, but a reckoning, and almost always a good-humored one, with the harder question of who and what made the things that passed for facts, and what it meant about them and about us.


Pick of the week: The housewife and the stripper

Afternoon Delight” is the debut movie breakthrough from writer-director Jill Soloway. Andrew O’Hehir credits his pick of the week as an “often hilarious female-centric social satire loaded with delicious talent from the TV-comedy pool”:

There are a lot of reasons to like this pleasurable and occasionally steely portrait of a middle-class Los Angeles marriage facing a sexless “dry spell,” but by far the biggest is Kathryn Hahn, a frank, funny and immensely enjoyable comic actress who’s had recurring roles on “Girls” and “Parks and Recreation” (and is probably best known for playing Lily in 115 episodes of “Crossing Jordan”). Hahn’s never played the leading role in a film before – I suppose she’s the character-actress “type,” though she’s plenty attractive — and Soloway deserves a big wet smooch from the universe for giving her the chance. Rachel, the bored and unhappy housewife heroine of “Afternoon Delight,” is an immensely demanding role. She’s sardonic, self-deluded, passive-aggressive and deeply misguided, all without entirely losing our sympathy and while clad in a depresso wardrobe composed of castoff elements from the last three decades: a horrible sailboat-print sweater, a Peruvian alpaca poncho, pantyhose and a subtly unfashionable skirt.


Why you should watch

Since Neil Drumming started as Salon’s new TV critic, he’s been catching up on episodes of “Project Runway,” — “one of the remaining reality competitions that requires combatants possess a demonstrable skill set in addition to a gluttonous appetite for attention,” he says. Not convinced? Take another look. It may still be extremely bizarre and still full of cheap reality show contrivances and theatrics, but between the middle-aged contestant, an on-air gay marriage proposal, a hearing-impaired contestant and his black sign language translator, the show is a surprising (and welcome) source of diversity, he writes:

I donʼt know her name, but sheʼs been in almost every episode this season. For the first few shows, it was jarring to see this black woman up there onstage, off to the side, but nevertheless right alongside “Runway” staples Gunn and Klum. For a moment, I thought perhaps newly stringent diversity requirements at Lifetime had forced the show runners to bring on “celebrity fashion stylist” June Ambrose full-time. Even as I quickly recognized her true function as aid to a deaf contestant, I still couldnʼt help thinking there was something progressive about her mere presence on my new TV. As weʼve already established, “Runway” is bursting with diversity — folks of all shapes, sizes and sexual orientation shrilly picking at each other and positioning each other under proverbial buses. This was something different. Forget “Runway” — I donʼt recall ever seeing another black person on television doing this particular job. Itʼs pretty cool.

Liz Fields is an Australian freelance journalist based in New York who has previously scribbled for Slate, ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald and more. Follow her on Twitter @lianzifields

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