Tempest, Bob Dylan
A few days ago on a stage in Big Flats, N.Y., Bob Dylan sang "All Along the Watchtower" for the 2,064th time. It says so on bobdylan.com, where an astonishing chronicle lists each Dylan song, the number of times he's played it, and the dates when it was played first and last. There are 458 songs on the chart. It’s a damn miracle the man has anything left to say. Yet here he is, at 71, still weaving tales of love and catastrophe. Riddled with bodies, Tempest is said to be Dylan’s darkest record yet (its title track is a 14-minute, 45-verse depiction of the Titanic disaster; the closing track recounts John Lennon’s murder). It’s also a testament to his storytelling prowess, utterly undiminished by the decades. Says Mojo: “No one gets inside the human heart like Bob does.”
This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Díaz
When Junot Díaz began This Is How You Lose Her, he hadn’t yet lost her. Part of the Dominican wunderkind’s two-book deal signed 17 years ago, this short story collection aimed to trace “the rise and fall of a young cheater.” It features Yunior, “whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness — and by the extraordinary women he loses.” In reality, the doomed relationship that would compel the Pulitzer-winning author to finally finish the acclaimed book came much later, and failed out of indifference, not indiscretion. As Díaz revealed recently to a reporter, “I committed the most unpardonable sin, which is that I made her unhappy.”
Keep the Lights On
While writing the screenplay for Keep the Lights On, filmmaker Ira Sachs (and a co-writer) mined the journals he had kept over the course of his decade-long love affair with a train wreck. It’s no secret Sach’s crack-addicted lover was literary agent Bill Clegg, who unspooled his side of the story in the 2010 drugs-and-sex memoir Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man. The film follows Ira/”Erik” (Thure Lindhardt) and Bill/”Paul” (Zachary Booth) through the birth and agonizingly slow death of their volatile relationship. It’s a poignant portrait of dysfunction, addiction and shame — or what one reviewer called the film’s actual subject: “the rot of secretiveness.”
WORTH THE TRIP
Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe
Actors and acrobats, comics and clowns, musicians and dancers, performance artists and performers who defy definition take over Philadelphia for 16 days each September. Boasting a mix of local and world-renowned artists, this avant-garde grab bag has emerged as one of the city’s most provocative, if unpredictable, cultural events. One likely highlight: Food Court, where performers with “perceived intellectual disabilities” present the story of one woman’s struggle with bullying and body image. It is, as the artists themselves describe it, “a near-death experience in a suburban wonderland where a small fatality of dignity takes place between The Asian Hut and The Juice Bar.”
NBC, September 10 & 11, 8 p.m. EDT
Fans who spurn Idol for The Voice chalk it up to the latter’s lack of histionics and embarrassing auditions. But the sideshow in the swivel chairs is every bit as entertaining as the talent and impossible to ignore: Xtina oozing out of spangly get-ups; Cee-Lo accessorizing with exotic creatures; all the bantering and bickering among the diva and “the boys.” This season NBC will launch a new knockout round, allowing coaches to pluck a loser from the reject pile and amp up the drama.
Pamela Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles.