Must do’s: What we like this week

"Much Ado" about Joss Whedon's DIY Shakespeare, and "In the Flesh" is a refreshing take on the zombie apocalypse

Published June 8, 2013 2:00PM (EDT)

 (BBC/Des Willie)
(BBC/Des Willie)


Rachel Kushner's ambitious new novel scares male critics

Rachel Kushner has simultaneously stunned and scared male critics with her "virtuosic" new novel about a young woman named Reno navigating the 1970s New York art scene. "The Flamethrowers" is a bold contender for the Great American Novel, writes Laura Miller:

But the boldness of this novel has more to do with its voice than its subject matter; you get a heaping serving of Kushner’s virtuosity in the opening chapters, which describe Reno’s journey back west by motorcycle, as part of a nebulous art project. I could present samples of her writing here, but better yet, just see James Wood’s nearly gobstruck review of “The Flamethrowers” in the New Yorker; he is the maestro of the representative quote, after all. He does a good job of what may be an impossible task. It is fiendishly hard to nail down and demonstrate the quality that most distinguishes the work of a remarkable author — that is, her authority. Kushner has authority in spades, seemingly without reaching for it, as if she were just born that way.

Kyle Minor recommends a weekend tucked away with the newly released audio editions of Spanish author Roberto Bolaño's best loved novels:

Listeners new to Bolaño would probably be wise to begin with “By Night in Chile,” a short novel set in the midst of the repression and brutality of the early years of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, a Milton Friedman disciple responsible for the murder of political enemies at home and abroad and a policy of extreme economic austerity and privatization that by 1982 had left nearly 40 percent of the Chilean population vulnerable to starvation.

But for experienced Bolaño readers, the most interesting of the new audiobook editions might be “Antwerp,” a collection of brief vignettes and monologues and observations, which isn’t readily classifiable as a novel or a collection of stories or poems.


Pick of the week: Joss Whedon does Shakespeare

Joss Whedon's DIY, no-budget American film version of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" blends eras and aesthetics and "Sparkles with sex, wit and energy," says Andrew O'Hehir:

Whedon’s version was shot in 12 days, in and around his own Southern California home and using an ensemble of his favorite TV actors, as a private diversion while he was making the zillion-dollar comic-book adventure “The Avengers.” It was shot on digital video processed into black-and-white (by cinematographer Jay Hunter), and Whedon himself co-edited the film and composed the jaunty, sultry musical score, as well as writing and directing. (The dialogue and vocabulary are all Shakespeare’s, but Whedon readjusts here and there and doesn’t use every line of the original.) It’s not a perfect realization by any means, and never reaches into the most somber or sardonic areas of the play, but it definitely possesses that Whedon-esque nerdy energy, fizzing with humor, eroticism, booze and more than a hint of danger. I know this is obnoxious, but I’ll say it anyway: I enjoyed “Much Ado About Nothing” roughly twice as much as “The Avengers.”


Willa Paskin was at zombie-saturation point until she saw BBC America's three-episode series "In the Flesh," following a young suicidal, gay zombie suffering from post-traumatic guilt pangs.

“In the Flesh,” which starts strong and gets even stronger, is set in England after the zombie apocalypse. In its particular mythology, everyone who died in the year 2008 rose from the dead one day. They terrorized and ate people but could not multiply: Their bite had no bite. A cure was eventually found, and thanks to everyday shots, the former brain eaters have their brains back. They are “Partially Deceased Syndrome” sufferers, still in their janky bodies, but otherwise coherent, and they are slowly returning to the families and communities they once terrorized.

By Liz Fields

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

MORE FROM Liz Fields