Stuff We Liked This Month: January 2019
Shirkers (Netflix, 2018)

We’re always interested in other people’s “media diets”—the books/movies/TV/podcasts that people seek out and spend their time with. Every month, we share a few things that meant something to us, made us laugh, made us think, and kept us company. (And yes, we watched both Fyre Fest docs but let’s talk about that in person.)

Books

On Writing by Stephen King (Scribner, 2000)
A humble, practical guide to writing, but also a celebration of “the ordinary miracle of attempting to create anything.” I cried on the last page. It made me feel like I could still write things that meant something—to myself, I guess—if I wanted to. —MML

Certain American States: Stories by Catherine Lacey (FSG, 2018)
Catherine Lacey is one of my favorite authors. Her tone is so unique, so in-the-key-of-something that it’s hard to place. The word that keeps coming to mind is “deadpan.” I found these short stories to be like her novels, but more potent. “Family Physics” is the collection’s crescendo, if you ask me. —MML

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Doubleday, 2018)
A simple novel about two sisters—one who is a serial killer and one who isn’t. One who is beautiful and one who is plain. One who is remorseless and one who is wracked with anxiety. It’s about the excuses we make for our family, for better or for worse. Short and sweet. —MML

Last Night At The Viper Room by Gavin Edwards (Dey Street Books, 2014)
A no-frills recounting of the sad, vibrant, and unconventional life of River Phoenix. I read this while on an extended trip in Los Angeles, a city I realized I could never live in. —JL

Guestbook: Ghost Stories by Leanne Shapton (Riverhead, out March 2019)
This one isn’t out yet, but boy did some of the stories spook me. Guestbook is scrapbooked together with found photos, artifacts, and oddities; you feel like a young person in a movie who has just uncovered some weird shit in an attic. There’s one about a troubled tennis prodigy and his “friend” Walter that will freak you out. I also read this in L.A., a city that I decided is way more haunted than NYC. —JL

Big Little Man by Alex Tizon (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)
Written by a Filippino-American who emigrated to the country as a child, this book is part memoir, part in-depth observation on what it means to be an Asian-American man. There’s a lot of stuff in here that makes me rethink what life might be through the lens of men like my brother or dad—the ruminations of masculinity were particularly eye-opening. I never knew Tizon’s work before this book, but I’m grateful to have read it; he died in 2017. —JL

Movies/TV Shows

Sex Education (Netflix, 2019)
Man, this show is so good. There’s a lot of sex in the series but it’s really about people sorting out the emotional baggage behind their sex-having. At the center of it all is a teenager, Otis, who is the son of a sex/relationship therapist (played by Gillian! Anderson!), who gives out sex/relationship advice to fellow classmates who seek it. I’m particularly obsessed with Otis’s best friend Eric. —JL

Corporate (Comedy Central)
Damn, there’s too much good TV coming back. But if I have to talk about one, it’ll have to be Corporate. It’s about two guys mainly, and how they fucking hate their jobs. It’s psychotically funny. —JL

Shirkers (Netflix, 2018)

Shirkers (Netflix, 2018)

Shirkers (dir. Sandi Tan, 2018, streaming on Netflix)
My friend Damon was like, “You gotta see this documentary Shirkers since you’re interested in screenwriting—the story unfolds in an insane way.” He was right. Do you remember being young and getting disappointed/heartbroken/rageful for the first time by an older person you respected who betrayed you in an unspeakable way? Shirkers is like that, but with charm, wit, and mystery. —JL

All the President’s Men (dir. Alan J. Pakula, 1976, streaming on Amazon Prime)
Watch if you like: government conspiracy, fearless newspaper guys, ‘70s style, terrible politicians being exposed for what they are. —MML

Podcasts

Dear John (Wondery)
I know I’m late to this one, but wow, it’s addicting. It’s good if you like stories of scammers, sociopaths, and murders. —JL

Plays

The Waverly Gallery (Kenneth Lonergan, 2000)
On a rainy Saturday night this month I sat in the last row of the John Golden Theater to watch the most recent staging of Lonergan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. It’s a story about an aging woman (played by Elaine May) slowly slipping into dementia and her family’s attempt to care for her despite the frustrating effects of her disease. Lucas Hedges was particularly wonderful as her grandson, who bears the brunt of her care as her next door neighbor. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking tale—with shades of humor—of family and memory and the passing of time and we all left the theater in tears. —MML

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