Mentions | Summer 2024 ​


The Diceman Cometh |


Those interested in understanding the roots of our so-called crisis of masculinity can consult any number of writers and theorists from Barbara Ehrenreich to Susan Faludi. Or they can watch shock jock Andrew Dice Clay act it out on stage. His 1989 HBO special — an hour of sexual boasting (“I got my tongue up this chick’s ass, right…”) delivered, between cigarette puffs, in a Guido accent — is pure heterosexual camp. Dice Clay’s affected macho persona is a mash-up of Elvis, the Fonz, and Danny Zuko, but more sexist, and it teeters between endorsement and parody. The ambiguity is largely lost on Dice’s frenzied, howling audience. “I don’t write my material,” he liked to tell his fans. “You write it for me.”


Trust |


​​Nineties independent cinema shouldn’t just bring to mind Baumbach and Stillman and their talky bourgeois realism. In this 1991 Hal Hartley film, one character’s whole deal is that he hates television. Although the rejection of any semblance of relatability paired with the grim reality of the human behavior depicted can be alienating at first, if you stick with it, you can begin to feel fond of the types of guys that nobody talks about online — after all, Twitter is just a place for wannabe Chris Eigemans.


“Take Me Home, Country Roads” |


It was only a matter of time before Americana queen Lana Del Rey released her own piano-backed rendition of this 1971 folk classic. With her affecting performance of mid-Appalachian yearning, she joins the list of over a hundred singers who have covered John Denver’s smash hit. This ostensible ode to the great state of West Virginia (later revealed to have been inspired by a road in Maryland) has become a de facto national anthem, one also inexplicably adopted around the world, by everyone from ska bands (“Almost heaven, West Jamaica”) to Oktoberfest crowds. In 2023, the song was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress, which occasioned an interview with songwriter Bill Danoff (the mind behind another American classic, “Afternoon Delight”). Of the unexpected endurance of “Take Me Home,” he remarked: “People all over seem to like those ‘country roads’ that promise to go to the place you belong.”


Slow Horses |


This AppleTV+ adaptation of Mick Herron’s Slough House spy novels follows Jackson Lamb, a bedraggled, farting, unwashed Cold War hero played by Gary Oldman. He heads the titular group, made up of MI5 fuck-ups who have been banished to a dilapidated building to push paper while they await their long-postponed reinstatement in the field. Slow Horses cuts the cliches of the spy genre to size, poking fun at the supposed necessity of international intelligence agencies, as well as Britain’s post-Brexit xenophobic turn. The slow horses face ax-wielding white nationalists, indigestion, and their own internal bickering, hoping they’ll eventually redeem themselves. Fortunately for the audience, that seems unlikely.


The Grid |


The titular poem in Eli Mandel’s debut book is an epic retelling of the life of the uncommonly gifted Brooklyn College philologist Alice Kober, who, before her death at 43, almost deciphered the ancient Mycenaean writing system Linear B. In numbered paragraphs that signal some hidden, accretive logic, Mandel interweaves narration, quotes from Kober’s correspondence and philological work, and translated bits of classical authors (Homer, Pindar, Horace, Josephus). The rich mixture reads like Sciascia crossed with Sebald, expressed in a poetic prose and free-ish verse that shuttle between John Ashbery and Anne Carson. Like Kober, Mandel is as much in dialogue with the past as with himself. The book’s final section nods to Ovid’s letters from exile: “Most of your poems, it seemed to you, formed around a borrowed phrase, / a citation you knew and did not know where to put to rest.”