Outside Reading — Our Little Group Has Always Been edition

Memoria: The Most Consequential Release Date In Alt-Rock Was 30 Years Ago Today by Michael Tedder

This splendid retrospective landed yesterday on Stereogum. With insight and ingenuity, Michael Tedder (who, I should disclose, I know personally, which contributes to my conviction that he’s insightful and ingenious when it comes to writing about music) accurately carbon dates the beginning of nineteen-nineties music to a particularly momentous day for record releases, led by Nirvana’s Nevermind. As some who toiled in the commercial-radio salt mines in the long, ugly aftermath, I can confirm that the shock blockbuster released thirty years ago this week had a long, long tail in the culture. There are dozens of ideas in this article, all swirling around the central premise in a way that offers the useful reminder that, much as we’re inclined to make sense of the world by ascribing change to singular events, there’s a whole lot of stop-start in the progression from one vibe to the next.

In America’s Restaurants, Many Are Hosting Till It Hurts by Priya Krishna

The flagrant irresponsibility of an alarming number of leaders — mostly those, it must be said, in the political party that identifies with lumbering elephants — has unsurprisingly led to the worst people feeling empowered to meet their fellow citizens with rampaging unkindness. Reporting for The New York Times, Priya Krishan describes the way the working structure of restaurants has caused public abuse to be heaped disproportionately on the generally entry-level staff who handle lead front-of-house duties. Managers, while complaining endlessly about a supposed shortage of workers, leave their staff to be verbally assaulted by entitled patrons who’ve been coached by right-wing media to express with banshee-like intensity their selfishness and lack of care for others.

Death in Her Hands (2020) by Ottessa Moshfegh

Ottessa Moshfegh’s follow-up to the splendid My Year of Rest and Relaxation sticks close to its central character, an elderly woman named Vesta who discovers a cryptic note in the woods near her home. The slip of paper declares a woman has been murdered and offers further explanation that her killer will never be identified or apprehended. The narrative spins at the speed of Vesta’s imagination. She conjures up entire scenarios around the mysterious victim and fancies herself an amateur sleuth in pursuit of justice, even as she does little more than construct a towering theory out of the bricks of pure speculation. Moshfegh rides the twisty train of thought all the way to the end, taking the well-established literary tradition of an unreliable narrator to the point where the individual most victimized by the shaky dependability is the spinner of internal yarns herself. The novel is an exercise that’s fascinating and well-crafted without ever fully succeeding as a narrative work. The interiority perhaps goes too deep.

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