A Sweet, Surrealistic TV Show

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Welcome back to The Daily’s Sunday culture edition, in which one Atlantic writer reveals what’s keeping them entertained.

Today’s special guest is Atlantic associate editor Morgan Ome. Morgan recently reported on the ripple effects of the U.S. government’s reparations program for Japanese Americans, and recommended five books that’ll fit right into your busy schedule. She’s also investigated the trend of “demon screaming” at concerts. Morgan has been watching a surrealist Boots Riley satire, revisiting Mitski’s “pithy, poetic” lyrics as she awaits the singer’s next album, and recovering from the heartbreak of an Eileen Chang novel about star-crossed lovers in 1930s Shanghai.

First, here are three Sunday reads from The Atlantic:


The Culture Survey: Morgan Ome

The television show I’m most enjoying right now: I’ll watch anything by the writer-director Boots Riley, who made the absurdist, anti-capitalist 2018 film Sorry to Bother You. His latest project is the seven-episode series I’m a Virgo, which follows 19-year-old Cootie, a 13-foot-tall Black man who is kept hidden from the world by his family until he escapes and explores his hometown of Oakland. Jharrel Jerome plays Cootie with a sweet earnestness that helps balance the over-the-top satire and surrealistic visual effects.

I’m also keeping up with the second season of The Summer I Turned Pretty, which holds a lot of nostalgic value for me. I read Jenny Han’s series in middle school, and I remember asking my mom to drive me to Barnes & Noble to get the second book when it came out. The new season deals with the ways that death and grief shape love, and it’s more somber and less frothy than the first season.

Best novel I’ve recently read, and the best work of nonfiction: Half a Lifelong Romance, by Eileen Chang (translated by Karen S. Kingsbury), broke my heart in the same way that the film Past Lives did. Chang’s novel follows star-crossed lovers, but perhaps more interestingly, it explores the way that family, class, and social norms in 1930s Shanghai mold two people over the course of 14 years.  In the novel’s introduction, Kingsbury writes that the Chinese title’s more literal translation is “fated to share only half a lifetime,” which “evokes both lifelong attachment and a sudden sundering.” How devastating, and how beautiful!

In nonfiction, I loved the audiobook of How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing, by KC Davis. At a basic level, the book gives practical advice on how to get chores done during difficult periods of life. But Davis also makes the argument for removing shame and judgment from care tasks such as laundry, cooking, and cleaning—failure to do these things doesn’t mean failure as a person. [Related: The juicy secrets of everyday life]

A quiet song that I love, and a loud song that I love: We’re in Love,” by boygenius, is the song I want to send to all of my loved ones. It’s the tenderest ode to friendship. (That Lucy Dacus wrote this for her bandmates, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker, makes me weak inside.)

On the loud end, whenever I’m mad, I queue up “UGH!,” by BTS, which is an angry song about … anger. This explainer breaks down the Korean lyrics, which are full of wordplay and idioms.

A musical artist who means a lot to me: Sad girls and Mitski. Name a more iconic duo—I’ll wait. With her new album, The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, coming out next month, I’ve been revisiting Mitski’s discography, which holds new meaning on each listen. I’m obsessed with her refrains: They can be lamenting, as in “Two Slow Dancers,” in which she mournfully croons, “To think that we could stay the same,” or joyful, as in “Nobody,” in which that word crescendoes and builds into a dance-y tempo. Her lyrics meld the visceral and the abstract in such pithy, poetic ways—a “washing-machine heart,” a body “made of crushed little stars”—and have this uncanny ability to describe feelings that I previously didn’t have the words for. Whether she is writing about her relationships with people or with her art, Mitski has given me solace and permission to sit with my own messy and complicated emotions. [Related: The dangerous desires in Mitski’s songs]

A favorite story I’ve read in The Atlantic: Since it was published, I haven’t been able to put Hanna Rosin’s 2015 cover story, “The Silicon Valley Suicides,” out of my head. It is an empathetic and deeply reported article that explores why so many Palo Alto high-school students have killed themselves. The story delves into the academic pressure and pains of adolescence that so many young people face, while acknowledging that there are some questions that don’t have straightforward answers.

The last museum or gallery show that I loved: I stumbled across John Akomfrah’s Purple at the Hirshhorn Museum, in Washington, D.C., and was completely mesmerized by the video-art installation playing across six large panels. Sitting on a beanbag chair, I watched archival film of factory workers and coal miners juxtaposed with scenes of breathtaking wilderness around the world. When I emerged from the dark room, I appreciated how the installation had captured the loss and anxiety brought on by environmental devastation and the climate crisis, while still allowing me to cherish and admire our planet.

A painting, sculpture, or other piece of visual art that I cherish: My favorite paintings, Chiura Obata’s Evening Glow at Mono Lake and Paul Klee’s Blossoms in the Night, evoke serenity and are just plain gorgeous.

A poem, or line of poetry, that I return to: The simple rhymes in “Harlem,” by Langston Hughes, make it perfect for memorizing and keeping in the back of your mind, and the question it asks—“What happens to a dream deferred?”—makes me return to it again and again.

A good recommendation I recently received: While having dinner with an old friend in June, I lamented that our hometown has become less and less recognizable over the years. I missed the many places of our childhood that no longer exist, I told her. “Do you listen to Noah Kahan?” she asked. I shook my head. “I think you’ll like his latest album,” she told me. I’ve played the album, Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever), on loop ever since. Kahan is reminiscent of The Lumineers and Bon Iver; his lyrics have Taylor Swift’s specific-yet-universal quality, and his voice strains just enough to convey angst and yearning. The album’s closer, an extended version of “The View Between Villages,” starts off slow before swelling into a cathartic chorus that captures the melancholy of honoring the people and places who represent our past. Listening to Kahan’s album feels like looking up and seeing my childhood self in the back seat of a car, driving past me. I wave to her, and she waves back.


The Week Ahead

  1. The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, a murder mystery by the author James McBride, begins with a skeleton found at the bottom of a well (on sale Tuesday).
  2. The third season of Only Murders in the Building, a comedy series about three Upper West Side neighbors who bond over their love of true crime, begins streaming on Hulu this Tuesday.
  3. Heart of Stone, a new movie featuring Gal Gadot and Jamie Dornan, follows an intelligence operative as she tries to stop a hacker (streaming on Netflix this Friday).

Essay

Donald Trump on a couch
Photo-illustration by Joanne Imperio / The Atlantic. Source: Getty.

Putting Trump on the Couch

By Scott Stossel

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association established the so-called Goldwater Rule as a response to the many mental-health professionals who had ventured glib and florid diagnoses of Senator Barry Goldwater during his 1964 presidential campaign. “I believe Goldwater has the same pathological makeup as Hitler, Castro, Stalin, and other known schizophrenic leaders” was a representative comment; many other psychiatrists and psychologists deemed him schizophrenic, a “megalomaniac,” and “chronically psychotic.” In the four decades between its enshrining and the 2016 election, the Goldwater Rule—which prohibits psychiatrists from issuing diagnoses of public figures they haven’t seen as patients—was mostly honored.

But from the earliest moments of Donald Trump’s campaign, his behavior, falling far outside the boundaries of conventional candidate comportment, raised the question of whether he could be adequately assessed in purely political terms. Where did politics end and psychology—or psychopathology—begin?

Read the full article.


More in Culture


Catch Up on The Atlantic


Photo Album

A stork perches on a tree branch as the moon rises near the Hamzabey Dam, in Turkey.
A stork perches on a tree branch as the moon rises near the Hamzabey Dam, in Turkey. (Alper Tuydes / Anadolu Agency / Getty)

A trampoline championship in England; a flooded St. Mark’s Square, in Venice; and more in our editor’s selection of the week’s best photos


Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.

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