Week in Culture 10/6

Justin Bieber fuels the fever with his memoir, 30 Rock goes live, and Lil’ Wayne gets in our heads from behind bars. Check out more can’t-miss film, TV, art, and music picks.

A Conversation with Mandela and Obama

For decades Nelson Mandela has been a voice of reason and a harbinger of hope for people all over the world, both through public speaking and a steady stream of political writing that has inspired millions. For the first time, this week the world will get a closer look at the Mandela not usually seen in the public eye, with the publication of Conversations with Myself, a collection of personal papers including letters and personal journals kept throughout his fight against apartheid, his 27 years spent in prison, and his time as president. A truly unprecedented moment in publishing, the stunning collection is introduced with a forward by Barack Obama further cementing Conversations with Myself as nothing short of a monumental historical document.
Conversations with Myself will be released on Monday, October 11.

Memoirs of a Teenage Dreamboat

Sure, Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela co-authored a new book, but let’s turn our attention to this week’s real literary heavyweight: Justin Bieber. Like Miley Cyrus before him, the Canadian crooner has taken it upon himself to impart the collected wisdom of his 16 years in Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever, much to the chagrin of grammar and punctuation sticklers everywhere. Fan fingers are surely crossed that the book includes juicy stories about his mentor Usher, tips on maintaining the bangs envied around the world, and maybe even a checklist for what qualities Bieber looks for in a girlfriend. But at the very least it will be filled with shiny, shiny pictures, thus passing the true test of a quality teen memoir.
Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever hits shelves and melts hearts starting on Tuesday, October 12.

Charles Sykes / AP Photo; Jeff Christensen / AP Photo

Molly Shannon Makes Her Broadway Debut

She notoriously sniffed her armpits on Saturday Night Live and recently appeared as Sue Sylvester’s rival on Glee as a high school astronomy teacher and badminton coach who enjoys the more-than-occasional drink. But Emmy-nominated comedienne Molly Shannon will take her resume to an unexpected place this week as she makes her debut on Broadway in the hit show, Promises Promises, opposite fellow Glee guest star Kristin Chenoweth and fellow former Will & Grace actor Sean Hayes. Shannon has big shoes to fill in the show as her predecessor, Katie Finneran, won a Tony Award for her portrayal as Marge MacDougal, another accomplished drinker. Finneran, who is expecting her first child, left the part on Saturday and Shannon steps into the part on Tuesday for a limited 11-week engagement. Along with Chenoweth and Hayes, Shannon’s final performance is on Dec. 26 so don’t miss the opportunity to see these one-time co-stars reunite on stage in song… sans jazz hands.


Molly Shannon joins the cast of Promises, Promises on Tuesday, October 12.

Marilyn Monroe Says Her Piece

There are few things more invasive than reading someone’s diary—but nearly 50 years after her death, the same rules regarding privacy seemingly do not apply. Screen siren Marilyn Monroe was one of the most iconic and idolized actresses in the past century, but a new book, Fragments , culls excerpts from her diaries, letters, poems, and even recipes, to show the darker side of the woman constantly in the spotlight. The 250-page tome includes Monroe’s scribblings on hotel stationery and notebook paper from 1943 (when she was a 17-year-old brunette married to marine James Dougherty) to shortly before her death in 1962. Monroe’s literary prowess in expressing the often reported sentiments of anguish and unhappy in her own words proves she is nothing like her usual blond bimbo persona on screen. 

Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe comes out on Tuesday, October 12.

Letters from a Grieving Nation

Back before the art of letter-writing was subsumed by the art of texting, over 1,250,000 letters of condolence were sent to the White House after John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 including one from Winston Churchill, who wrote, “Never have I been so filled with revulsion, anger, and sorrow as when I heard of your husband's death.” The letters have since been catalogued in the Kennedy Library as a key part of American history, and a selection will be published this week in Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares Its Grief. Seeing the immediate responses from across the world to an event that became one of the biggest turning points of the 20th century is as poignant as ever, and a welcome dose of perspective in the midst of today’s increasingly uncivilized political climate.
Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares Its Grief, Letters November 1963 is available starting on Tuesday, October 12.

Susan Boyle is No “Scared Wee Lassie”

Let’s get something straight: Just because “Boyle Fever” doesn’t sound nearly as good as “Bieber Fever” is no reason that Susan Boyle, that other viral singing sensation of the past year, shouldn’t have her own autobiography, too. After shocking the judges with her polished performance on Britain’s Got Talent in April 2009, Susan Boyle instantly became everyone’s favorite heartwarming YouTube clip, and in the process shot to worldwide notoriety that led to a tabloid-reported “emotional breakdown” and a subsequent hospital stay for “exhaustion.” Presumably no longer exhausted, she’s now chronicling the whole thing in The Woman I Was Born to Be: My Story, and said, “When I strutted on to the stage for that audition, I was a scared wee lassie […] I think I’ve grown up a lot in the last year, become more of a lady, and I’m not so frightened anymore. I’m writing this book to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” Say it with us now: ‘awwww!’
The Woman I Was Born to Be: My Story comes out on Tuesday, October 12.

A Comedian’s Painfully True Stories

Collections of biting-but-ultimately-touching essays sometimes feel like a dime a dozen in the age of David Sedaris, but it’s still one of literature’s most satisfying genres when done well. Further proof of this fact arrives this week in the form of Sleepwalk With Me: And Other Painfully True Stories a new collection from comedian Mike Birbiglia, most often seen telling embarrassing stories about himself on Comedy Central and as a frequent guest on NPR’s This American Life. The essays go far beyond the territory of cheap laughs though, and This American Life host Ira Glass gushed, “Mike Birbiglia was always a very funny guy who told stories onstage. But in the last two years it's been inspiring to see the stories get bigger and more complicated and emotional as he turned himself into a real storyteller and—with this book—a real author as well.”
Sleepwalk With Me: And Other Painfully True Stories hits shelves on Tuesday, October 12.

Linda Nylind

Frieze Magazine’s Art Jamboree

Only eight years after Frieze magazine editors Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover first staged their contemporary art fair in London, the event has become one of British’s most popular cultural festivals. Although the two originally intended for the Frieze Art Fair to serve as a way for artists to sell their work in 2003, it’s since become a spectator sport with nearly 80 percent of its more than 60,000 attending simply to take it all in. In previous years, Claudia Schiffer, David Bowie, Yoko Ono, and even the late Alexander McQueen took part in the event in London’s Regents Park. For its 2010 incarnation, a record-breaking 170+ international galleries will be taking part and in all likelihood, some big names as well. 

The Frieze Art Fair kicks off in London on Thursday, October 14.

Art Streiber / NBC

Live From New York, It’s 30 Rock

Tina Fey is returning to her roots to bring her scripted NBC series back to the top of the comedic television hierarchy. Since the relative antics of Modern Family and musical numbers of Glee have infringed on 30 Rock’s untouchable top comedy spot, Fey is using her Saturday Night Live experience to do a live episode of the Emmy-winning show. "For a couple of years we talked about the idea of trying to do a live show, because we felt we had sort of interesting personnel for it," Fey, 30 Rock’s star and executive producer, explained of veteran SNL host Alec Baldwin, fellow alum Tracy Morgan, Broadway actress Jane Krakowski, and improv comedian Jack McBrayer. After the infamous TV writer’s strike lead to a live benefit performance of 30 Rock, Fey and co. decided to give it a go—twice (once for the East coast and once for the West). "I think we'll probably try different jokes, but the two versions will be the same basic story and cast and everything," Fey explains. Count us in for both—thanks, Internets! 

30 Rock’s live episode airs Thursday, October 14 at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.