Staff Picks: Screaming Females, Bolaño, and Ned Beauman


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.

Glow by Ned Beauman

After reading Jonathon Sturgeon’s fascinating Flavorwire interview with Ned Beauman, I knew I had to get my hands on the author’s new book, Glow. Uniting sex, drugs, geopolitics, pirate radio, and atypical brain chemistry in a story of global capitalism at its most nefarious, Glow is the kind of work that’s all too rare in the 21st century: a countercultural novel that is as intelligent and insightful as it is fun to read. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Screaming Females’ Rose Mountain Jersey trio Screaming Females have a new record out this week, which means the rest of the world finally gets to hear one of the albums that’s been powering — and I mean powering — me through the miserable winter. I was relieved to hear the Screamales veering more off into menacing, metal-inspired riffs than the pangs of folk-punk that punctuated their most recent albums. Rose Mountain, coupled with the mid-career Sonic Youth kick I’ve been on since reading Kim Gordon’s excellent new memoir (Girl In a Band, also out this week), have been all I’ve really wanted to hear anytime I have to be outside. All that distortion makes for a cocoon against the elements. — Jillian Mapes, Music Editor

Antwerp by Roberto Bolaño

My first exposure to Bolaño, which I consumed in a few days, has been a gateway drug to his sprawling novels (2666, The Savage Detectives). (I finished it Saturday; I bought his novels Sunday.) But I was lucky to start with Antwerp, which was written in 1980 and published in 2002, because it is essentially a distillation of Bolaño’s eerie talent. In fewer than one hundred pages he creates a world both sexier than Fifty Shades of Grey and more surreal and fractured than anything dreamed up by David Lynch. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice

Kiss Me, Stupid

Billy Wilder’s 1964 comedy Kiss Me, Stupid (newly available on Blu-ray from Olive Films) has some of the uncomfortable hallmarks of a romantic comedy of its era; there are shots of misogyny here and there, and some decidedly old-fashioned ideas about a woman’s place. And those period touches really stick out when stacked next to the picture’s rather startling sexual sophistication, which got it on the wrong side of the bluenoses at the Catholic League of Decency; they condemned the picture, which actually meant something back then, and it ended up being a rare non-hit (critically or commercially) for the Some Like it Hot director. But thanks to the “morals” of the period, the outcome of its swinger-ish shenanigans packs a real wallop (particularly the gentle, knowing way Felicia Farr purrs “I’m not asking any questions” in the closing scene). And that’s not the only element ahead of its time here—decades before Curb Your Enthusiasm, Wilder casts Dean Martin as himself (well, as “Dino,” and he’s only referred to by the nickname), and Martin gamely sends up his own image a perpetually drunken, slightly “over the hill” sex addict who can barely tolerate interacting with common people. Couple that with the film’s many additional joys (Kim Novak playing trashily against type, Ray Walton as a husband prone to near-psychopathic fits of jealousy) and you’ve got an endearingly dirty and highly pleasurable forgotten gem. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

“Surround Audience” at the New Museum

The New Museum’s third triennial — “Surround Audience” — is underway. Now, the attached curators, Ryan Trecartin and Lauren Cornell, are enough to get me interested, but I have to admit that I had a lukewarm reaction to the museum’s second triennial, “The Ungovernables.” And I loathed the first: “Younger Than Jesus.” If Andrew Russeth’s just published piece is any indication, “Surround Audience” is a must-see exhibition that joins the “collapse and ruin” motif of much contemporary art with “an aesthetic that is shape-shifting, multi-valent, and in flux.” “In short,” Russeth writes, “it is very strong.”

I’ve come to trust Russeth’s take on contemporary art in general. Of special quality, too, are his recent pieces for ARTNews, where he is now co-executive editor. Here is a bit more of his take on the triennial:

“Strictly speaking, though, you can’t call it pleasurable. It’s too clear-eyed about contemporary problems and tensions (including racism, surveillance, and technological isolation), but many of its 51 artists, most born in the 1980s, approach our bleak present moment—a “soft dystopia,” New York artist Josh Kline succinctly terms it in the show’s catalogue—with equanimity. I left the museum feeling both uncomfortable and impressed, with the electric sensation that new ideas are on the rise.” — Jonathon Sturgeon, Literary Editor

Father John Misty’s “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)”

After years of desensitization to — and eventual disenchantment with — the indie-pop horn crescendo, it would have been hard to sell me, a week ago, on the idea that one such burst of exuberance would ever be able to move me again. That was because I hadn’t yet heard Father John Misty’s “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins).” A latecomer to the FJM fandom, I began listening to I Love You, Honeybear last week, and keep coming back to this song: with the mariachi horn, Josh Tillman has said he was trying to capture the idea of running around in Los Angeles during a bout of early love with his now-wife, Emma. Perhaps because the horn enters the song with purpose, grounding it in a specific place (while providing typical catharsis), it never feels like a superfluous — or worse, tired — flourish. Rather, it blasts in with the dizzied certainty of someone realizing they love someone enough to want that person “to take [their] last name.” — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë and The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

I am reading books by two writers who rhyme; Anne Brontë and Elena Ferrante. I’m re-reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the third Bronte sister’s blisteringly feminist critique of an abusive marriage, widely seen as a rejoinder to her sisters’ romanticizing of controlling Byronic hero types. The novel is told in nested narrative (letters within journals within letters) which makes the narrative feel really clever and self-aware. Meanwhile, I’ve just begun Book 2 of Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels (The Story of a New Name). Everything everyone says is spot-on; the overall story tightens its grip the further you travel with these characters who start to feel like your own friends, enemies, and love interests. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large