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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 our Science editor Sarah Laskow. Sarah recently investigated whether salsa is gazpacho—and whether gazpacho is salsa. She’s also explored how America’s lost crops rewrite the history of farming.
Sarah is enjoying the sincerity in The Golden Bachelor, despite its cringiest moments; regretting her Shins phase as a New Jersey teen; and thinking about the incredible quantity of oranges consumed in a wonderful children’s book.
First, here are three Sunday reads from The Atlantic:
The Culture Survey: Sarah Laskow
The entertainment product my friends are talking about most right now: Killers of the Flower Moon. I think if you say the words “Martin Scorsese is adapting a David Grann book,” a certain sphere of people will accept point-blank that they have to experience that.
The best novel I’ve recently read, and the best work of nonfiction: On the plane to a friend’s wedding in Greece, I decided that as a mom leaving her kids behind to spend time in Athens, I might as well reread Rachel Cusk’s Outline, which begins on a plane with a mom leaving her kids behind to spend time in Athens. I’m not divorced and did not meet a Greek shipping heir on the plane, but I did end up later having drinks with someone who told a story about their complicated relationship with a Greek shipping heir, which I swear Cusk could have written. I wondered if that was why I loved this book even more than the first time I read it. But really I was just so swept away by the way the book works: The narrator is constantly listening to other people tell her stories about their lives, sometimes invited, sometimes less so, which means the novel is both a collection of vignettes with many narrators and a portrait of the narrator, who’s defined as much by what she doesn’t say as by what she does. It’s truly incredible that Cusk wrote this book in three weeks (although three weeks without children does sound like a luxury of time).
On that same trip, I also read Rick Steves’s Pocket Athens, and specifically the chapter that guides you through the National Archaeological Museum. It is a peerless work of a very specific genre of nonfiction. It does exactly the job it needs to, illuminating the story of Greek sculpture for the casual tourist who has no background in the subject. (A friend recommended the guide-museum combo, which made me wonder the same thing about Rick Steves that I wonder about bird-watching: Is it getting more popular, or am I just getting old?) The highlight of the museum, for me, was the Mask of Agamemnon—I’ve seen so many images of it over the course of my life, but the real thing was so shiny and beautifully made; seeing it among the other burial objects with which it was discovered made me imagine the excitement of an archaeological dig where piece after piece of gold emerged from the ground after being buried for thousands of years. [Related: Rachel Cusk won’t stay still.]
The television show I’m most enjoying right now: On the theme of ancient treasures, I’m obsessed with The Golden Bachelor. I haven’t been a particular fan of the series—in fact, I identify with the subset of semi-clueless contestants on this season who need to be reminded what the roses and date cards mean. The show can’t quite escape itself: It’s still about a group of extremely groomed women fighting over a man. But I find this particular iteration compelling as a portrait of Boomers and how they imagine the later stages of life. The bachelor in question, Gerry, comes across as both disarmingly genuine and gratingly of his time. I cringed when he ordered food without really stopping to ask what his date might want. That old-fashioned tinge, though, is part of why I’m watching. Like the best reality TV, the show has just enough sincerity to make me root for at least some of these very cheesy people.
A cultural product I loved as a teenager and still love, and something I loved but now dislike: Whitney Houston’s Whitney has always been one of the best albums to listen to, and belt along to, even if, like me, you are a terrible singer. On the other end of the spectrum is the Shins’ Chutes Too Narrow, which just had its 20th anniversary—and which I listened to on repeat at one point in my life. Something about the band’s wordy music spoke to my suburban–New Jersey teenage dissatisfactions, although I always felt a little betrayed that the Shins’ fame was so closely tied to Garden State, a bad film. (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle is a much more true portrait of Jersey vibes.) But now I mostly find these songs whiny and can’t stand to listen to any for more than 20 seconds.
Something I recently revisited: My brother-in-law and nephew recently started reading My Father’s Dragon; my 3-year-old isn’t so interested yet, but when I reread the first few chapters—in which Elmer, the young protagonist, meets a cat, learns about a captive dragon, packs his bag with two dozen pink lollipops, and stows away on a ship—I remembered why I had loved it as a kid. One detail I had forgotten is just how many tangerines Elmer consumes after landing on the island of Tangerina. At one point he puts 31 in his bag, then later eats eight in one go and then three more a few hours after. I can eat a lot of small citrus fruits, but that’s a lot of tangerines.
The Week Ahead
- The Gilded Age, a period drama set in New York City during the economic change of the 1880s, comes out with its second season (premieres on HBO today).
- In The Reformatory, a novel by Tananarive Due, a boy who is sent to a segregated reform school in Jim Crow Florida sees ghosts—and the truth (on sale Tuesday).
- Priscilla tells the story of the teenage girl whom Elvis Presley fell in love with, and the life they built together (in theaters Friday).
The Hero Gen Z Needs
By Elise Hanuum
Snoopy was everywhere when I was growing up, in the early 2000s. On TV, the cartoon beagle appeared as a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and starred in the holiday specials my family watched; in real life, his statues were all over Saint Paul, Minnesota, a hometown I share with the Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. After I left for college, Snoopy largely disappeared from my life. But recently, I’ve started encountering him all over again, on social media.
The TikTok account @snooopyiscool, also known as Snoopy Sister, went viral earlier this year and has more than half a million followers. Other Snoopy videos on the app regularly rack up thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of views. This online resurgence, primarily among young people, has mostly been fueled by short, shareable Peanuts clips set to surprisingly apt contemporary music. In them, Charlie Brown’s intrepid pet beagle tags along on the kids’ adventures—they often face some sort of problem but aren’t always left with an easy solution … It seems that a new generation is finally seeing Snoopy for who he really is.
Read the full article.
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Catch Up on The Atlantic
Shrimp fishing on a Belgian beach, the WNBA-championship victory parade in Las Vegas, and more in our editor’s selection of the week’s best photos.
Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.