Flavor of the Week: Clint Eastwood, Lance Armstrong, Brenda Shaughnessy, and the New York Philharmonic
Date posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Weekly picks from Construction’s staff.
Editor’s note: Welcome to “Flavor of the Week,” a new feature where, every Wednesday, we recommend stories, books, articles, poems, films, videos, events, activities, and more and more and more.
“The Eastwood Conundrum,” Tom Junod, Esquire, October 2012
Even without the somewhat bizarre performance at the Republican National Convention in August, Clint Eastwood would still be a household name. The staggering body of work in front of and behind the camera is already the stuff of legend, and most of Clint’s iconic roles have made him a nearly peerless Hollywood legend. In recent years, though, most Americans have seen him as little more than a grumpy old man. Although the latest characterization is probably warranted (Gran Torino, The controversial “Halftime in America” car commercial and the aforementioned RNC performance), it’s a little too easy to let the most recent dustups in the mainstream media overshadow the man and his legacy. In this Esquire cover story, Tom Junod attempts to recontextualize Clint Eastwood by filtering our most recent memories of the man through the larger prism of his entire career. Understanding Clint’s approach to making films becomes the best way—at least in Junod’s mind—to not only explain what the iconic actor was doing talking to an empty chair on national television, but also seeing how if you live long enough, you can transform yourself from an icon into an iconoclast. If nothing else, you’ll at least come away from this article pretty convinced that this grandpa could almost certainly beat up yours.
—Mike Dell’Aquila, Contributing Editor
Our Andromeda, a collection of poetry by Brenda Shaughnessy
In his New Yorker review of Brenda Shaughnessy’s third collection of poetry, Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press, 2012), Hilton Als writes that the book “makes a hash of those tired superlatives that will no doubt crop up in subsequent reviews.” Fortunately, I am not tasked with reviewing the book here, only recommending it. I ordered the collection the day it was published, read it immediately (am still reading it), and have recommended it to every poet I have spoken with since. Shaughnessy writes candidly about motherhood, g_d, and frustrated possibility in uncanny and, at times, devastating ways. The experience of reading the title poem of the collection is, forgive the tired superlative, transformative.
—Justin Sherwood, Associate Editor
“My Life With Lance Armstrong,” Mike Anderson, Outside, August 2012
If you came across this article seven years ago, you’d steel yourself for what would certainly be a glowing portrayal of the world’s greatest cyclist and cancer-awareness fundraiser. But that was seven years ago, when Lance Armstrong had just won his seventh Tour de France and when seemingly everyone in America wore a yellow silicone gel Livestrong wristband. Today, the United States Anti-Doping Agency considers Armstrong a disgraced doper and has nullified his Tour titles and banned him from competing in any sport that uses the World Anti-Doping Code. Armstrong, who for years furiously fought the USADA on grounds that he never failed a drug test, has accepted his punishment, though not without maintaining his innocence. All in all, it amounts to one of the most high-profile “he said, she said” controversies in sports history—the American hero vs. the faceless, lording agency. Whose side you taking? Mike Anderson, a former personal assistant of Armstrong’s, encourages us to see Lance as doggedly vengeful prick, someone who bemoans his duties as a cancer-awareness spokesman, reneges on his business promises, and cuts off anyone who crosses him, including his wife. But the most interesting question isn’t about whether or not you believe Armstrong is a jerk or even a cheater. It’s about whether or not you excuse personal and professional failings for both the myth of athletic heroism and the very real dollars raised to combat cancer.
—Nathan Schiller, Editor
The New York Philharmonic, 2012-13
When I was a kid, the start of the New York Philharmonic season filled me with dread. My dad liked to go, and insisted on taking me with him at least once a year so he could inject me with “a dose of much needed culture.” As newly-arrived Russian immigrants, we couldn’t afford good seats; ours were always the ones in the upper boxes along the sides of Avery Fischer Hall, and I’d hardly even bother to look at all those tiny musicians with good posture playing their instruments all at once; instead, I closed my eyes and resigned myself to two hours of daydreams, hardly noticing the music playing into my left ear—a favorite pastime was to replay, from start to finish, the movie Pulp Fiction, which I had memorized to the point where visualizing it felt like watching the real thing. Now, years later, I am dating a classical music nut who is not only making me go to the philharmonic this year, but making me go three times. Last night we heard Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Our seats were no better than the ones my dad and I used to get, but my musical tastes have evolved. I was willing to crane my neck as far as it could go to watch the 21-year-old Danill Trifonov’s fingers dance over the piano, and was utterly transfixed while Albert Gilbert conducted Scheherazade, turning to my boyfriend every so often and saying, “This is just so beautiful.”
—Masha Udensiva-Brenner, Editor[pinit]