LeVar Burton (left) with Donald Glover on Community (Photo: Adam Rose/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

The podcast to listen to

LeVar Burton Reads, “Graham Greene” by Percival Everett

Reading Rainbow is back, baby! Or rather, not exactly: More like the guy from Reading Rainbow is hosting an eponymous podcast where he reads short stories with mild cursing and adult themes. Yes, LeVar Burton Reads is the rare podcast that can be described in full by its three-word title. Each episode Burton retells a different work, drawing on his well-(La)forged skills in narration to evoke the layered moods etched into the prose. He does voices, there’s background music—the whole effect is quite atmospheric and captivating. The readings are bookended by bits of context and author analysis from Burton. In ‘Graham Greene’ by Percival Everett, he tells listeners that the author has a habit of keeping readers off-kilter and throwing them at the conclusion. The story is a mystery of sorts, which kicks off when a 102-year-old woman, in the last week she has to live, tasks a man she barely knows with tracking down the 82-year-old son she hasn’t seen for 30 years. All the man has to go on is a name, Davey Cloud, and a youthful photograph of a man resembling Graham Greene. Not the author, but the Native American actor.”
Read about the rest of the week’s best podcasts here.


The album to listen to

Tyler, The Creator, Flower Boy

“[Tyler, The Creator’s] flow has tightened up, and for a man whose voice basically destined him for rap stardom, he’s become even better at stretching his booming baritone into novel shapes, employing a plethora of flows (his knotty, dense cadence on ‘November’ mimics the tight corners he raps about navigating in his vehicle). His production, too, has further blossomed out of hagiographic dedication to replicating N.E.R.D.-era Neptunes sounds and into Tyler’s own singular aesthetic. The plush orchestration of ‘See You Again’ gives way to a massive crunch before finding a symbiosis later in the song, balancing the delicate and the heavy. His clobberers still pack a punch, too: ‘Who Dat Boy,’ which features a particularly locked-in ASAP Rocky, lurches with menace, managing to transform the flute into the nightmarish; later on ‘I Ain’t Got Time!’ he turns the accordion into a fun-house mirror, warped and disorienting.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The book to read

Svetlana Alexievich, The Unwomanly Face Of War: An Oral History Of Women In World War II

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“Gang rapes, limbs amputated with carpenter’s saws and no anesthetic, partisans drowning their own bawling babies, prisoners of war being stabbed and brained to death, suicides dangling from village trees—the revised edition of the Nobel Prize-winning writer Svetlana Alexievich’s landmark book about the experiences of Soviet women during World War II, newly translated as The Unwomanly Face Of War, is as much an oratorio of horror as an oral history. It begins, more or less, with a cacophony of nameless, faceless voices: pages and pages of out-of-context interview material, the worst of the worst, censored from the original Soviet edition or cut by Alexievich herself. Who are these people? Are they interviewed elsewhere in the book? Did she make them up as some kind of rhetorical device? Before this comes a very brief history of women in the military—from ancient Greece to World War II—and a few diary entries. But it’s the stomach-churning danse macabre of anonymous story fragments that makes the point. Then, the first proper chapter, a morbid duet: two long interviews with female snipers. By the time The Unwomanly Face Of War gets to the place where one might expect an oral history to begin—that is, a chapter where dozens of interviewees recall enlisting in the Soviet war effort in paragraph-sized chunks—the reader has already been led deep into the dark regions of the war, its psychological and social aftermath, and the Soviet psyche.”
Read the rest of our review here.


The show to watch

Room 104

“The absolute best Room 104 has to offer is a theatrical experience in and of itself, a new-wave dream ballet written and directed by Guggenheim fellow Dayna Hanson in which a housekeeper (Dendrie Taylor) relives a painful memory through movement and moody lighting—and eventually a pas de deux with her younger self (Sarah Hay). A later installment in which two mixed martial arts fighters treat room 104 as their own personal octagon hits harder with its camerawork, but it’s Hanson’s episode that proves just how much space there is to move around the anthology series’ fixed set of twin beds and dressers. As the fantasia unfolds, the appeal of tuning in to Room 104 and not knowing what you’re going to get really sinks in. The idea of someone flipping by and getting sucked into this expertly staged, artfully edited experiment in the middle of a late-night lull is even more exciting.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The video game to play

Pyre

“Landing somewhere at the intersection of religious parable, visual novel, and Tecmo Bowl, Supergiant Games’ latest, Pyre, takes its time revealing itself to be the studio’s deepest story to date. The game invites players into the inhospitable prison realm of the Downside, a dangerous yet visually stunning wasteland populated by castoffs whose crimes range from desertion and betrayal all the way up to the horror that is literacy. Players take on the role of one such bookish criminal and serve as a kind of priest/team manager for a rapidly growing crew of eclectic, brightly drawn characters. They’ve been brought together by the promise of freedom from their purgatorial woes, via participation in an elaborate religious competition known as the Rites. Presided over by a sneering commentator—voiced, expertly as ever, by Bastion and Transistor star Logan Cunningham—these mysterious ceremonies take the form of a fast-paced three-on-three sports battle that plays like a hybrid of basketball and football or, more to the point, Powerball from American Gladiators.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The movie to watch

Menashe

“Before making the film Menashe, Joshua Weinstein donned a yarmulke and explored Brooklyn’s Borough Park, getting to know the stories and personalities of New York’s Hasidic Jews. That was the easy part of the process. It was trickier when Weinstein returned to the neighborhood with a camera crew to work with the locals he’d hired for his cast. In this insular society—which for the most part has kept itself purposefully cut off from popular culture—the whole project seemed morally suspect. Weinstein reportedly lost locations and actors as the shoot went on, and left some people’s names out of the credits so that they wouldn’t bring shame to their families. Throughout, the movie’s key collaborator remained steadfast. And thank goodness he did. Menashe Lustig brings warmth and a lumpen charisma to the lead role, giving life to a film based in part on his own experiences.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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