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Agenda Newsletter - May 23, 2007


Agenda Top Pick Lydia Davis writes short stories very, very well
Varieties of Disturbance
By Lydia Davis; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; $13; New fiction; Buy it

Some of Lydia Davis’s stories are very, very short. Others a little longer. A few are normal-size. Many don’t seem like stories at all. At their best, they coolly parse feelings (and grammar) to the point where everything is dizzying—and yet freshly, disconcertingly clear. But her work isn’t nearly as pretentious as that last sentence is. One story, a brisk two-pager, is all about an inconclusively sourced fart.

Populist R&B vixen conflates driving, intercourse
Shut Up and Drive
Pop’s been conflating the operation of motor vehicles with sexual intercourse for the better part of a century, but Rihanna sings this track from her imminent third album like she's the first R&B vixen to giggle at the word "driveshaft." She also sounds blissfully unaware that she's lifted the melody from New Order's “Blue Monday” and her deadpan asides from Shania Twain. But what she doesn’t know doesn’t hurt her—this is perfect summer pop.

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Indieist Peter O’Toole lost. Now get the DVD.
At Oscar time, the question was whether Peter O’Toole would win a statue for playing a decrepit London actor craving one last stab at glory (with a saucy young woman). Now we can simply savor the fact that Hanif Kureishi scripted one of the most profanely hysterical courtships in recent movie history—and coined a few sage epigrams. On mixing the perfect cocktail: "Once acquired,” O’Toole says, “it's a talent that will serve you for life. Like typing."

Review  »
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Square Find out why war is hell—at home
Letters From Iwo Jima
We’re not saying David Edelstein would suggest that you skip parts of Clint Eastwood’s second take on World War II, though our critic did write that it’s when the characters “start to die that the movie comes alive.” In fact, that’s merely evidence of the “slow pacing” paying off. You get a sense of what it’s like to be a Japanese soldier: “parched, starving, on the verge of being killed”—only now, with an all-powerful remote in hand.

Warner Bros.
Review  »
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Aesthete Discover inside dope on Picasso
1907 / 2007: Poets on 'Les Demoiselles d’Avignon'
We’ve long wondered what Picasso carried in his pockets (and we’re still stuck at keys). The inaugural event in this 100th-anniversary celebration of the painter’s era-defining Les Demoiselles d’Avignon will answer these questions and more. Biographer-translator Mary Ann Caws will read Picasso’s own poetry and prose as well a snippet from Max Jacobs on the pocket question; poet Jerome Rothenberg, writing by Picasso’s friends and associates, including Apollinaire and Gertrude Stein. Berets, neckerchiefs, and Gauloises encouraged.

6:30 p.m.
Tickets  »

Kids Get them on the historical-architecture train
Old Penn Station
Kids love trains; ipso facto, they’re interested in train stations. Granted, we’re the ones who thought their obsession with Ferraris would get them to clean out the garage. But this gorgeously illustrated new book will make an impression: From the half-million cubic feet of pink granite that went into the original station’s construction to its final resting place in New Jersey’s marshlands, it tells a fascinating story. Maybe they’ll grow to appreciate unhappy endings, too!

By William Low
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Wednesday May 23, 2007
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