Staff Picks: Flavorwire’s Favorite Cultural Things This Week

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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.

Justin Vivian Bond’s Tranniversary at Le Poisson Rouge

Last night I saw Justin Vivian Bond celebrate 20 years of living and performing in New York, and it was a fantastic evening — a show that lasted for three wonderful hours. Joined onstage by various special guests like Kate Bornstein, M. Lamar, Julian Fleisher, Justin Sayre, Nico Muhly, and Nath Ann Carrera, Bond’s celebration was, like most of V’s shows, an astounding performative event. One stand-out moment occurred when Bond was joined onstage by Sherry Vine and the two recreated a 15-minute medley of pop hits from the ’60s first made famous by Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett. But the truly amazing moment was when Bond and former performing partner Kenny Mellman revisited their alter egos, performing classics like David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” It was a truly transformative experience! —Tyler Coates, Deputy Editor

I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell Whatever medium he’s working in, there are a few things you can count on from New York punk legend Richard Hell: intelligence, rawness, wry honesty, moments of stunning insight. That’s what sets this autobiography, published last year and released February in paperback, apart from everything else you’ll read about the 1970s CBGB’s scene. His analysis of his tortured friendship with Tom Verlaine is fascinating, and there’s a beautiful passage towards the end that explains the attraction of heroin addiction without denying the havoc it caused in his life. It even makes Hell’s insistence on rating each of his conquests on a scale from “just laid there” to “really liked fucking!!!” tolerable (hey, at least he noticed, I guess). —Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year

Elisabeth covered this the other week, but I’m seconding it — everyone, especially if you have any sort of literary ambition, should read this book. You should read it if you’ve ever dated a pretentious intellectual asshole. You should read it if you’ve ever felt lost, career- and otherwise. You should read it if you’ve ever been intrigued by reclusive greats like J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee. I don’t like that some people are comparing the book to Girls, because it’s not remotely the same thing. Girls can be difficult to watch — you want to shake all the characters out of their navel-gazing stupors, and I still don’t quite believe Hannah Horvath’s great “talent” because she’s such a moron in everyday life. You don’t feel that way about Joanna Rakoff in this book. Sure, she’s a little lost, as most people are at 24. But she’s smart, ambitious, and hardworking — and at least the latter of these really isn’t present in Girls. My Salinger Year made me remember the magic of New York City, living and working alongside ghosts of idols past. It’s also one of those books that makes the shittiness of being broke in NYC feel a little romantic. —Isabella Biedenharn, Editorial Apprentice

Black Grass by Little Wings

Black Grass by Little Wings has been really helpful as I attempt to transition from spring into summer. It’s the perfect type of album to put on the minute you go home after being out in the muggy late-spring weather. —Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

“Doppelganger” by The Antlers

The amazing new album by The Antlers, Familiars, is now streaming on NPR First Listen. Immediately, I was struck by “Doppelganger,” a song whose somnolent tone riffs on that set by to my personal favorite from Burst Apart, “No Widows.” I approach every Antlers album with an expectation that singer Peter Silberman will meet a high quota of chilling falsetto “oooohs” — this song alone fulfills that quota. He sweeps his voice higher and higher as trumpets melancholically belch the song forward. As he sings about some monstrous alternate self, we sense the singer’s ultimate disappearance into his doppelganger: “Paranoia backward whispering on my shoulder/ like a wasp is getting nervous, so if I shiver… man, it’s over.” Indeed, he’s been swallowed: his voice is absent for the final two minutes of the song. If you’re in need of sonic melatonin or a depressing summer album to keep your glee and jorts in check, listen now! —Moze Halperin, Editorial Apprentice

Criterion’s Blu-ray version of All That Heaven Allows

The Criterion Collection has been releasing new titles and upgrading previous ones on Blu-ray for going on six years now, so it’s sort of shocking that it took them this long to give us an HD version of All That Heaven Allows , the gorgeous Douglas Sirk melodrama known — as much of his work was — for its lush, vivid colors and knockout cinematography. But this isn’t just a visual showpiece; Heaven remains an achingly earnest love story, the tale of a modest widow (Jane Wyman, splendid) who breaks away from the horrid country club gossips and lechers to take up with an earthy, working-class — and impossibly handsome — gardener (well played by Rock Hudson, who brings his own heavy subtext about keeping up appearances). It’s rich with symbolism, from the literal glass house to the shattered teapot to the none-too-subtle jabs at television. But it never topples, thanks to the clean efficiency of Sirk’s storytelling (note the way he contrasts the party scenes) and the ornate beauty of his images. Bonus features are copious: a 1979 BBC profile of the director, a 1982 interview for French television, a 2007 interview with co-star William Reynolds, a new commentary by film scholars John Mercer and Tamar Jeffers-McDonald, and the provocative 1992 documentary essay Rock Hudson’s Home Movies in its entirety. A genuinely great movie, and well worth the Blu-ray upgrade. —Jason Bailey, Film Editor