Staff Picks: Knausgaard, ‘The Magicians’ and ‘Hand Foot Fizzle Face’


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.

Karl Ove Knausgaard on time, meaning, and knowledge

I’m still just a third of the way through the first volume of Knausgaard’s endlessly debated My Struggle series, but it only took 11 pages for the book to stop me in my tracks with this wholly original insight:

As your perspective of the world increases not only is the pain it inflicts on you less but also its meaning. Understanding the world requires you to take a certain distance from it. Things that are too small to see with the naked eye, such as molecules and atoms, we magnify. Things that are too large, such as cloud formations, river deltas, constellations, we reduce. At length we bring it within the scope of our senses and we stabilize it with fixer. When it has been fixed we call it knowledge. Throughout our childhood and teenage years, we strive to attain the correct distance to objects and phenomena. We read, we learn, we experience, we make adjustments. Then one day we reach the point where all the necessary distances have been set, all the necessary systems have been put in place. That is when time begins to pick up speed. It no longer meets any obstacles, everything is set, time races through our lives, the days pass by in a flash and before we know that is happening we are 40, 50, 60… Meaning requires content, content requires time, time requires resistance. Knowledge is distance, knowledge is stasis and the enemy of meaning.

Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

The Magicians Trilogy

Vacation reading can be tricky: substantive enough to last the whole trip, but fun enough that it still feels like, y’know, *vacation* reading. Enter The Magicians, a three-part fantasy series that’s simultaneously an homage to and a deconstruction of genre classics like Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. “Boy wizard goes to magic school” and “young people travel to alternate universe” may sound familiar, but Grossman uses these tropes to craft a tribute to the power of imagination and childhood obsessions—and what happens when those obsessions run up agains the hard realities of adulthood. I missed train stops in three different cities thanks to The Magicians, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s ever fantasized about a magic wardrobe or a Hogwarts letter. — Alison Herman, Associate Editor

Piehole’s Hand Foot Fizzle Face

Going into a play titled Hand Foot Fizzle Face, it’s hard to know what to expect. And, it turns out, coming out of a play titled Hand Foot Fizzle Face, it’s also hard to know exactly what you experienced. Performance collective Piehole’s experimental play at JACK in Clinton Hill (whose run unfortunately ended last week) is an adaptation of Samuel Beckett and Jasper John’s rare ($30,000 a copy rare) collaborative book, Foirades/Fizzles, a collection of etchings and five prose pieces referred to as “fizzles” — which the play explains, like life, start with a certain momentum and keep going until they…fizzle. The play’s non-characters are also called “fizzles” and clumsily dance around, like children doing show-and-tell, but instead with Beckett’s mercilessly bleak and spare prose (they’re even backed by comically rudimentary demonstrations — filmed live — on a projector). The performances here are exquisite, especially that of Emily Jon Mitchell, who plays an elderly “fizzle” sitting in a chair for most of the production, before the live-filmed demonstration eerily focuses on her body, crawling up to her neck, at which point she ends the play with an unexpectedly direct monologue. Props also go to the text-to-speech voice that opines about Clinton Hill bars with more bizarre earnestness than any local. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Lewis Black in Inside Out

I was out of town when Pixar’s latest screened for critics—good ol’ Sarah Seltzer was kind enough to step in, and do read her piece on the film if you somehow haven’t. I found it (prepare for the #hottake) delightful, which shouldn’t come as a surprise; director Pete Docter did one of the great movies about being old (Up), so of course he’d make one of the great movies about being young. It’s a clever, warm, and wonderful movie, and the voice talents are all well cast (seriously, A+ to whoever thought of Amy Poehler for Joy). But seriously, how did it take Pixar this long to hire Lewis Black, one of the most distinctive voices in comedy? Then again, maybe they were just waiting to cast him in the perfect role—which they certainly did here, as his famously apoplectic line readings and ticking-clock rage turn Anger into one of the funniest characters in the movie. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Boss Bitches of History

From the same people who brought you Thug Notes, Wisecrack’s new show Boss Bitches of History started yesterday. The series says it’s “dedicated to celebrating emboldened women throughout the ages who bucked the system and boldly faced the sexist powers of their time.” I was happy to see a non-white representation of Cleopatra. And I’m hoping they profile some women I’ve yet to discover. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor