shani-o: This week I’m endorsing Jamie Foxx’s third album (y’all ain’t forget about his first, 1994’s Peep This, did ya?). I don’t listen to much contemporary pop, so when I find an album I like I’m pretty impressed. Intuition has delivered on the promise of Unpredictable. It’s mature, but not too serious; sexy, but not ‘girl-bend-over-and-lemme-put-it-in-ya’ explicit; and radio-friendly with a little edge. Foxx’s voice is solid, though unremarkable, and the guests do a decent job. The first half, up-tempo and bass-heavy, is a lot of fun although the second half drags by the third or fourth baby-making track. Best use: working out or driving. (Also, have you seen the video for ‘Blame It?’ Changed my life. True story.)
slb: When I was about fifteen, I saw noticed a small paperback novel on my aunt’s bookshelf. On its cover: an illustration of a black teenage couple with afros and floor-length dashikis. “What’s this?” I asked. “You’ve never seen that?” She was almost incredulous. “That’s The Cotillion by John Oliver Killens.”
“John… Oliver… Killens?”
The Pulitzer-nominated writer wasn’t on my radar. My aunt found that tragic and decided to give me her copy of The Cotillion.
Fifteen years later, it remains one of my favorite books. A satire about Yoruba, a Harlem girl whose prim mother insists on registering her for a cotillion, in hopes that introducing her daughter to the upper-crust of black society will improve the entire family’s social standing, The Cotillion is told from the perspective of the guy Yoruba falls for, a black nationalist sailor-poet, hellbent on freeing her from the tyranny of her mother’s elitist demands.
Love, classism, assimilation, tradition, dated ’70s slang. I mean, really. What more could you ask for?
quadmoniker: On this week’s Slate Culture Gabfest, the panel discussed a new book about the plight of the female novelist, and whether that plight still existed and what to do about it. They mentioned Jane Austen, who has rightly risen to be among the most important writers in the English language, woman or no. If your last encounter with Ms. Austen was during high school, you likely think of her books as slight, romantic tales of women pining over absent, taciturn men while they endlessly take turns together through some sort of oddly named estate (moors and heaths were more for the Bronte sisters). If that’s how you feel, it’s time for you to look again. As Stephen Metcalf pointed out, Austen wrote on an incredibly tiny scale, but revealed a universe. After listening to their discussion, I picked up Persuasion, which I haven’t read in awhile. But my all-time favorite is Sense and Sensibility. You may think it’s about the Dashwood sisters and their problems with Edward, Willoughby and Colonel Brandon but it’s really about Elinor and Marianne.
universeexpanding: Anyone who wants an up-close look at the terrible way juvenile cases are handled should check out the documentary Mario’s Story. Mario Rocha was convicted of murder in 1998 at 16 years and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences based solely on questionable eyewitness testimony. The documentary follows Mario over the course of seven years as his lawyers fight to have his conviction overturned. Watching Mario’s endure setback after setback is as inspirational as it is frightening. He got a happy ending —many others do not. Just as easily, he could be be your son, your brother, or you.