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I interviewed Daniel Mendelsohn for Virginia Magazine.  It was a treat to sit down with a critic whose work I’ve admired for a long time and talk about how he approaches his work. The headline comes from his take on Love Actually.  I’ve always loathed that movie, but on his urging, I’m going to try to let my guard down next Christmas when it’s on TV.


Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 8.16.29 PMDo you believe in “guilty pleasures” of cultural consumption?

I really do believe that the high-low distinction is more invidious than not. The aesthetic components of “guilt”-inducing pleasures are usually melodrama and sentimentality. I have a great aversion to the aversion to sentimentality. To me, what made Mad Men unbearable was its own incredible overweening need to be cool. And because it was so cool and so cynical about everything, I just didn’t care about it, whereas in the first five minutes of watching Friday Night Lights, I thought I was going to die if I didn’t know those people were going to be okay.

Why not love something like Love Actually? What’s so terrible about just caving into your crazy human heart every now and then? You don’t always have to be armored.

 

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The weather is crisp and the reads are hot.  Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore put a smile on my face, All Gone made me thank my lucky stars, Familiar tripped me out, The News From Spain tugged at my heart and Do the Movies Have a Future? got me thinking about just how strange and tenuous cultural criticism can be in the first place.  Check out this week’s reviews for The Daily Beast.  Bonus feature: I recommended A Free Man for Newsweek’s round-up of essential new books on India.