Welcome! It was the week when The Muppet Show came to Disney+. It was the week when Dolly Parton politely declined a statue in her honor. And it was the week when we got our first look at the origin story for a villain who’s one sick puppy. Let’s get to it.
Opening Argument: The Joys Of Losing Sleep To Finish The Story
I read a novel this week called Sorrow and Bliss, by Meg Mason. In it, a woman named Martha looks back on her marriage, from the way her family and romantic history laid the groundwork for it, through the unusual way her relationship with her husband, Patrick, began, to especially the way it was affected by her experience of mental illness.
It’s not a suspense book, and it doesn’t really leave you to question whether anyone will survive. Whether a marriage will survive is in there, I suppose, but mostly it’s a sharply observed story of a life. It’s also very, very funny in many places; here’s a quote I highlighted, in which Martha is describing one of the men in her life who is not Patrick: «He thought I was so uninhibited, fun, a skinny person interested in fashion, an attender of magazine parties, and I thought he had a sense of humor and didn’t take immense amounts of cocaine.»
I finished the book at 1:30 in the morning, roughly, after telling myself repeatedly that I needed to go to bed. (My ongoing arguments with myself about the fact that I need to go to bed are perhaps a book all their own.) For me, that is very late, because I am an old lady and this was a weeknight. But oh, what a joy it was to have that propulsive feeling of «I must,» and to feel it rewarded. (It’s a very good book.)
It reminded me that there are two different kinds of rushing to finish a story. One is this kind, the «I want to stay with this story as much as I can» kind, that’s both pleasant and tense, that has the ease and momentum — but also the adrenaline — of gliding downhill on a sled. The other is the kind I sometimes experience with Netflix shows, which is the «I desperately want to finish these next five hours and discover some payoff that justifies the five hours I have already invested.» That’s more like walking uphill with a sled, thinking, «Maybe when I get up there, there’s going to be something over the hill that will make it seem worthwhile that my feet are wet and my glasses are fogged up.»
I sometimes associate ideas of «I couldn’t put it down» or the employment of the eye-popping blurb word «unputdownable» (my eyes are popping right now!) with mysteries, or with stories where the risk is that somebody in the story is going to be murdered. This, on the other hand, is a family story, really, with this very compelling marriage at its center but other ones that feel important as well: Martha and her mother, her sister, her aunt. (Especially her sister. What a marvelously observed sibling relationship.)
It was a pleasure to defy my own commitment to getting some sleep. One can always nap; one cannot always find exactly the right book.
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We talked about WandaVisionon the show a few weeks ago (right before it began to reveal itself for real), and I hope you’re still watching it. I will admit many Marvel references have gone right past me, but I’ve sort of enjoyed taking the show in on its own terms, and then going and doing the reading online to find out what the subtext is for comics fans.
Speaking of doing the reading, I read Lauren Oyler’s book Fake Accounts, which begins with a woman discovering that her boyfriend is leading a double life as an online conspiracy theorist. I have tons and tons of complicated feelings about the book, but on the whole I do think it’s a fascinating read, which you should chase with Parul Sehgal’s fantastic review of it for The New York Times, which I agree with in full.
I love following the musher Blair Braverman on Twitter for dog pictures and outdoor life and how to live with the cold and all manner of things. But this week, she had the best news of all to deliver (so to speak): NEW PUPPIES! And there’s a picture of a lil puppy butt that is the cutest thing you’ll ever see.
On Tuesday, Glen and Bob Mondello talked about Supernova, in which Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci play a couple dealing with the onset of Tucci’s character’s early dementia. Glen also wrote a full review, which goes into more detail about the choices that make the film effective.
On Wednesday, we shared an encore of our chat with Tamara Keith about the very weird show Shark Tank. Sometimes you just get lucky in this job, and the first time I heard the words «Tamara Keith is into Shark Tank» was one of those times.
And on Friday, Stephen and Glen and Aisha and I all sat down to discuss the marvelous Nomadland starring Frances McDormand. I still think about that film from time to time months after I first saw it; I suspect you may as well once you get a chance to see it.
We’re still taking your questions about King of the Hill for an upcoming episode we’ll be doing, so please do send us a voice memo with your question to email@example.com.
Two things I want to say before we go: My heart is so heavy for those of you who are dealing with so many ongoing crises this week, especially in Texas. I gave money to a mutual aid organization in Houston, and I hope that if you’re able and you’re lucky enough not to be caught in that growing emergency, you’ll consider what you might be able to do to help.
But in much happier news, we have a new team member with PCHH for a few months! You’ve heard the great Mallory Yu on episodes including Cats and Crazy Rich Asians, and in their regular life they’re a producer on All Things Considered. But for a while, they’re ours, all ours, so please make them feel welcome.
What’s Making Us Happy This Week (and other show notes):
Every week on the show, we talk about some other things out in the world that have been giving us joy lately. Here they are: