Lynn Nottage’s ‘Sweat,’ Comey, Cosby: This Week’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. This week, we’ve got pieces on everything from the new scarcity of music in Twin Peaks, to Lynn Nottage on her Tony nominated Sweat, Jia Tolentino writing about the Bill Cosby trial and what his accusers are going through in court, and of course some writing on what James Comey revealed yesterday in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In the lead up to the Tonys (this Sunday, June 11), E. Alex Jung interviewed double-Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage for Vulture. She has a massive playwriting career behind her, but Nottage’s latest play, Sweat, is her first on Broadway. Despite the costly shellack with which we affiliate Broadway, her gaze lingers on working individuals, and makes space for characters you might not see on this stage. Sweat centers on women who’ve worked in a Reading, PA, steel mill, and takes place at a local bar. Nottage tells Jung:

I’m interested in the notion of working and how that is in some ways very connected to our identity, and that a large swath of the country makes their living by their hands. Those are not stories that you often get to see on the stage, at least not in New York City. A lot of the stories that you see on the stage are about the people making policy or the people who have discovered something incredible. Very rarely do you see the trials and tribulations of the people who do very simple tasks who have these beautiful stories. I think that’s why I gravitate towards working people…I feel like Sweat arrived on Broadway at the moment that it needed to. I feel like a commercial audience was not prepared for Ruined or IntimateApparel, for many different reasons. I think that Sweat also looks very different than my other plays in that it’s an ensemble play, and it’s multicultural.

Plenty has been written about Angelo Badalamenti’s score of the original Twin Peaks — some of which makes very select, strategic recurrences in David Lynch’s new, 25-years-later iteration of the series. But the way the show uses music overall has changed drastically — nearly every scene in the original was underscored by a deliberately overwrought, genre-hopping score, making the moments of silence all the more noticeable. In the new Twin Peaks, it’s the inverse: silence is the main score, so when music does come along, it really stands out. Evan Minsker writes further about the new series’ (occasional) soundtrack and sustained silences for Pitchfork:

Scenes where new characters are introduced — Robert Forster as the new Sheriff Truman, Michael Cera as Wally Brando, or Matthew Lillard as a school principal questioned amid a murder investigation — are all ambient noise and dialogue. Occasionally, the quiet hum of synthesizer atmospheres will make their way into a scene, but these moments tend to fade back into vast stretches of quiet. The lack of sound is occasionally overwhelming. From the scene in “Part 3” where the good Dale Cooper appears back in the real world, there’s over 15 straight minutes without any music—just uncomfortable sonic stillness as the fake Dougie Jones shuffles obliviously from place to place. But silence is a perfect device for the show’s return, which requires focus (and multiple re-watches, honestly) to keep track of about a dozen loosely intersecting plotlines in a single episode.

With all of the writing reporting on the testimonies of Andrea Constand and Kelly Johnson against Bill Cosby, The New Yorker‘s Jia Tolentino has penned a piece that focuses predominantly on what Cosby’s accusers are going through. It reporst on the types of questions Cosby’s defense attorneys are asking, and speculates — based on how Tolentino, herself, would feel — on how hard it must be to make yourself vulnerable to that type of scrutiny and legal manipulation in the first place. She writes:

It is the defense’s job, of course, to make such arguments: these are the most effective ones available. But the better they do their job, the more I find myself thinking about how rape has a way of defying the process of adjudication… Though [Constand’s] cross-examination was scattered and slow, and, all things considered, probably easier than it might have been, Constand has nonetheless been a remarkable example of what it takes to stand up to the essential difficulty of this dynamic, in which an alleged victim, after being forced to participate in a sexual encounter, is implicated by the fact that the sexual encounter occurred.

And, in case you were shocked to read a “recommended reading” list with no mention of writing on James Comey testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee about Donald Trump’s alleged attempts to derail the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn’s Russian affiliations, we arrive at that expected section. Democracy Now! hosted a roundtable on the subject, and the commentary from multiple sources provides one of the better overviews of the possible takeaways from yesterday’s news. Here’s part of Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan’s take:

From a political point of view, we know that one of the biggest flaws in Donald Trump’s presidency, his candidacy, his ability to be president, is that he’s a serial fabricator. Now you have the former top law enforcement officer of this country going in front of the Senate, under oath, saying he—that, you know, “Those are lies, plain and simple,” he said, referring to Trump’s description of his firing. He said, “I was worried he would lie.” He says, “I was worried about the nature of the man.” I mean, this is pretty damning stuff from a lifelong Republican and an FBI director.

Meanwhile, in the New Republic, Laura Reston writes that “Comey is far from the only watchdog Trump has tried to silence.” She elaborates:

Since the day the president took office, he has quietly been waging war on inspectors general—the federal officials charged with ferreting out government waste, fraud, corruption, and mismanagement. In a startling break with tradition, Trump has rescinded the nominations of four inspectors put forward by Barack Obama without offering replacements, threatened to fire those already in office, dragged his feet on filling vacancies, and left a dozen key departments without a permanent watchdog in the top job. Some of the departments that are now operating without independent oversight—including the CIA, the NSA, Defense, and Interior—have harbored some of the biggest scandals in American history, from Teapot Dome to Abu Ghraib. “Trump is creating a politics of impunity,” says John Wonderlich, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a leading champion of government transparency.