critic's notebook
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A Reasonable Conversation About Taylor Swift's New Album, Which Is The Best Album Ever

JEN VAFIDIS: HI JANE. There is a new Taylor Swift album out today, and it is already totally undeniable. The first single is a #1 hit, the second single was #1 on iTunes within 10 minutes of its release, and Taylor has been teasing us via Instagram about these new songs for what seems like years. It’s only been a few weeks, but still. I love her, you love her, let’s talk about her.

JANE HU: When I tell people that 1989 is going to get me through the rest of 2014, I’m 100% not exaggerating. Even though the three pre-releases have really sent some MIXED SIGNALS about [...]

2

Henry James, Reviewed by Henry James

I immersed myself in a Henry James novel and then tried to review the book. This is what happened to my writing style.

To-day I pose to myself the task, at last, the matter, that is, of drawing a conclusion after a considerable interval of ploughing through the pages of Henry James’s “The Wings of the Dove,” accomplished despite the distraction of reading several less lengthy—and more contemporary, at that, works—such detours as are inevitably taken by a person in the course of a momentous, as it were, endeavor.

Of course, the book.., well, the book was quite formidable. But having finished my reading I ought to put it to [...]

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Excerpts From My Feminist Reading of Gravity, Before I Have Seen it

"As Dr. Stone (Bullock) hurtles into darkness, Kowalsky's (Clooney) panicked voice issues from the radio: "Houston, I've lost sight of Dr. Stone!" This is a desperate, impotent Kowalsky, stripped of one vestige of power man retains even in outer space—his gaze upon the female form."

"This film's imagery plays into stereotypical conceptions of the 'flighty woman'—so without substance that she is literally weightless."

"Dr. Stone scrambles to patch the tear in her space suit, visually encoding a fear of penetration—a desperate need to restore the metaphorical hymen. This indictment of female sexual autonomy takes place against the obvious backdrop of the destroyed shuttle. The wrecked vessel, probed too many [...]

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Canto Tell Me Nothing: A College Essay Comparing Kanye to Dante

Dayna Evans Professor Rock Medieval Studies 101 22 May 2014

Canto Tell Me Nothing and the Party of One: Why Dante Alighieri Is Still Alive and Living Inside the Body of Kanye West

Since the dawn of time, humans have sought to make lasting art for other humans to enjoy. Dante Alighieri once wrote, “In the middle of our life's journey, I found myself in a dark wood,” and that was how The Divine Comedy begins, Dante’s greatest contribution to society. Most recognize Dante Alighieri as the famous Italian poet responsible for The Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, but what most people don’t know is that Dante, who [...]

5

Ishmael: What a Man

The characters are as rollicking and fun as the ocean setting. The narrator, Ishmael, is just a really good guy, while Ahab, a ship’s captain, allows us to remember that anger happens when we don’t process our sadness, which is every bit as precious as our joy. Ultimately, “Moby-Dick” is a gripping story about a diverse group of men putting aside their differences to create lifelong friendships on a hand-crafted sailboat.

Hairpin pal Sarah Miller wrote a series of "positive book reviews" for The New Yorker. That lady sure loves Mitch Albom! [TNY]
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Nick Thune at The Bell House

If you talked to most of the people who went to Nick Thune’s comedy special taping at The Bell House, they would say things like, “what a really great show!” or, “I really liked his accent!” or, “he was really too tall!” I would be like most people, too, but unfortunately I burned my right eye with a considerable amount of battery acid the morning after I went to his “really great” show. Now I must live with singular heat beam vision, so if you talked to me, unlike most people I would say, 'screw the guy,' in a really funny accent.

Most people don’t know this, but I’ve actually met [...]

5

Anthony Lane Profiles James Franco

"Would it be construed as trespass, therefore, to state that Johansson looks tellingly radiant in the flesh? Mind you, she rarely looks unradiant, so it’s hard to say whether her condition [pregnancy] has made a difference." —The New Yorker, March 2014.

Poised on the edge of adulthood, James Franco is somehow all things at once, hard and soft, weathered and barely able to grow a beard, famous but quotidian, like a dumpling. Sitting by the fireplace in the Bowery Hotel and listening to the scruffy actor/ writer/ poet/ teacher/ artist/ intellectual provide meta commentary on his own celebrity, the intense glow on his face accents the sharp cheekbones that have [...]

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A Reasonable Review of One Direction's New Album, Which Is the Best Album Ever

Yesterday was the official release date for Midnight Memories, One Direction’s third studio album. Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Yessss!! No? Am I talking to the right demographic? It doesn’t matter. I’m here to talk to you about the important stuff, which is the music.

The music: holy smokes.

Our boys are still the same boys, even if they're now boys-verging-on-men, and they even helped write almost all the tracks on the new album. Let that sink in: it’s their very own words coming from their very own souls into my very own earphones.

Let's do this: track-by-track, first-but-not-final impressions.

(And if anyone can correctly list them in [...]