Recently Consumed

2021.01.25 by Josh Erb; 590 words.

As a member of modern American culture, the characteristic that defines me most within the eyes of society and my peers is what popular media I consume. Thus, I am sharing a few recent experiences I've had with popular culture. After all, as a famous French intellectual once noted:

"... the spectacle presents itself simultaneously as all of society, as part of society, and as instrument of unification"
— Guy DeBord, Society of the Spectacle


This past weekend, I had the pleasure of spending an evening with the directorial debut of Emerald Fennell. Promising Young Woman advertised itself as a femme fatale, revenge slasher film. If you're not quite sure what that means, feel free to watch the trailer.

I was settled in expecting an over-produced film that reveled in the fantasy of an on-the-nose reversal of the power structures that exist. Without going too much into it, I'll just say that this film is not that. It subverted my expectations at almost every turn. The one exception being a somewhat predictable, plot point that reinforces the deeply cynical message of the film. Highly recommend.

Also worth noting, this was my first time during the pandemic lockdown renting a "box office release" at home. It really does leave something to be desired, compared to the shared experience of seeing a movie in a theater. But when the movies well done, that only becomes a minor annoyance.


I recently finished reading the novel Dancer by Colum McCann. I had previously encountered McCann's writing in his compelling work Let the Great World Spin, which I enjoyed immensely. However, with Dancer I was pretty disappointed.

While the writing technique is still strong, it feels poorly suited to the subject McCann tackles. I prefer books where the structure and prose are chosen because they are well suited to the subject-matter, but in reading a second book by McCann I have come to strongly suspect that the structure and style that suited Let the Great World Spin so well are merely McCann's formulae for approaching any of his subjects[1]. And besides, the tortured, misunderstood genius qua subject of a 300 page work of fiction quickly becomes an incredible slog. Ultimately, I give it 3 out of 5 stars. Rudolf Nureyev is an interesting historical figure because he sits at the nexus of so many historical currents; most notably the Cold War and the AIDS epidemic. If you find him interesting, I recommend a biography.


Speaking of spinning, I've recently stumbled on an intriguing post-punk band from Ireland called The Clockworks. They're so new onto the scene they don't have any full length LPs out, or even an EP. But the few singles they've released through their label since signing are intriguing. Definitely worth keeping an eye out for them in the coming year.

  1. I think the thing that bothers me most about the realization that McCann's "creative" writing style is most likely repeated from novel to novel is exactly this: it feels formulaic. McCann already writes like an author who has attend several classes on how to write "correctly" in that special way that's sure to catch a publisher's eye. That Iowa Writers' Workshop[2] style that has been coached and polished until it loses all sense of creativity and invention.

  2. No offense to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., who I greatly admire and was on faculty of the Workshop.

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