All week, I have been using the Epilogue to keep you up to date on the pop culture news of the week. Starting on Fridays, we are going to try something new. This roundup is going to focus instead on whatever I am reading, watching or listening to this week, but that I am not quite ready to write about at length. If you want, you can use the weekend to catch up. And I would love it if you used the comments section as a place to make recommendations to me for the week to come.
1. “The Group,” by Mary McCarthy: This novel, about a group of Vassar graduates from the class of 1933 and their first decade out in the adult world, is something I know I should have read a long time ago. On vacation, I decided I would finally get around to it and read the book with quick breaks for sleep and transportation to the airport. In a way, McCarthy’s most famous work feels a little bit like reading “Casablanca”: Its DNA shows up in so many other places, from HBO’s “Girls” to Meg Wolitzer’s “The Interestings,” that it almost feels like a cliche. But McCarthy typed with brass knuckles, making the blow of her work unique. The sentence that begins the last sentence is one of the toughest things I have ever read.
2. An anti-reservations food culture, courtesy Tom Seitsema: My colleague has a long piece on the rise of a new norm in the Washington restaurant industry: a refusal to take reservations for seatings after 6 in the evening, or at all. It is an interesting lens on one way of thinking about what it means to have a devotion to food. In the view of Washington restaurateurs, getting a seat at the hottest tables in the city is apparently an endurance test. But after a run of disappointments in Washington restaurants, and a vacation where it was surprisingly easy to get reservations at well-reviewed restaurants with a little planning, I wonder how appealing this kind of showing off actually is, and how long the hostility to consumers can actually last.
3. “The Visionist,” by Rachel Urquhart: I am not sure how well I think this novel, which alternates between an exquisitely wrought vision of life inside a Shaker community, and a mystery investigation that feels too conscious of its status as a period piece, actually works as a whole. But the sections that are focused on Shaker spirituality and the discipline of work have their glorious moments. The book reminded me how much I wish film and television would turn their considerable assets to a more consideration of the divine.
4.Opera singer Joyce DiDonato: I have been trying on and off to learn more about opera, which can be a tricky medium for someone like me, who is intensely oriented toward words and language. But the production of “The Magic Flute” currently at the Kennedy Center and performed in English, rather than feeling more comprehensible, actually made me think I need to try harder to learn to read emotions in a language I do not speak. So I am revisiting the New Yorker’s profile of Joyce DiDonato and checking out some of her albums.
5. “New Year’s Eve,” by Adelle Waldman: Waldman made a splash last year with “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.,” a scathing little novel about the romantic life of an up-and-coming figure in the New York literary scene. The inside of the titular hero’s head could be an unsettling place, particularly as he ended a relationship with a woman who challenged him and settled down with one who ceded intellectual superiority to him in exchange for his emotional attention. In this prequel, Waldman gives us a new perspective on Nate, that of his closest, and really only, female friend Aurit, upsetting our perceptions of both him and her.