Welcome to the latest edition of BuzzFeed News’ culture newsletter, Cleanse the Timeline! You can subscribe here.
When life gives me lemons (I feel like I hate everything), I make lemonade (fixate on celebrity drama). If you’d never heard of the Try Guys before this week, then you might need an explainer. I did, but that has not stopped me from thinking about the way we develop such intense and particular expectations of the people whose content we voraciously consume.
The Kardashians are obviously the masters of ingeniously spinning our parasocial regard into a veritable empire, cashing in on our obsession and judgment. In today’s Cleanse the Timeline, Scaachi Koul picks up on the latest revelations about the Tristan Thompson paternity scandal. And for those who would like to opt out of the timeline completely, Tomi Obaro revisits John A. Williams’s 1967 bestseller, The Man Who Cried I Am.
Take good care,
Estelle Tang, deputy culture editor
Please enjoy this edition of Feudwatch, a column wherein Scaachi Koul talks about a feud she is enjoying, engaged in, or perhaps: both.
Tristan Thompson vs. the most basic human decency
In Canada, where I am regrettably from, there used to be a show called The Adventures of Dudley the Dragon about a dragon named Dudley. Dudley was friends with a bunch of loser kids who were always yammering on about the environment, and one, Sally, was of particular note because she had a trusty bag of tricks (literally). Whatever the gang needed, Sally could pull it out of this unassuming, average-sized bag. “I gotta get one of those bags,” the other kids would say.
This is how I think about the great well of Tristan Thompson’s personal depravity. He’s Canadian, and we’re the same age, so maybe he, too, watched Dudley and Sally and thought, I gotta get one of those bags. But his version is much darker. It is a bag of tricks with no bottom, one you can reach into anytime and pull out one more shitty thing he (allegedly) did. Khloé Kardashian is very rich, and as such, I should not have this much sympathy for her. But I do, because: Jesus Christ, Tristan, what is your problem??
Season 2 of Hulu’s The Kardashians has so far largely focused on Kardashian’s surrogate fiasco from late last year. While she and Thompson were working on having a second baby with a surrogate, he had already gotten another woman pregnant. Even worse, this was news to Kardashian at the same time it was news to the rest of us; she only found out he was having a baby with another woman a week or so after the embryo implantation. Rough.
The latest news? It turns out Kardashian and Thompson were also secretly engaged at the time.
I don’t know that much about Thompson beyond his public relationships. What’s the deal? Can he dunk the ball as hard as he is dunking on this woman he has claimed, repeatedly, he loves?? How many times can this man reach into his bag of tricks and pull out yet another personal indignity? I don’t know why I’m so consistently surprised by the failures of men in their early-to-mid-30s, but here I am, gagged every time. I remain sincerely and horrifically interested in what fresh hell he’ll unleash next.
Winner in spirit: Khloé Kardashian. It appears they’ve broken up, hopefully for good. Consider it a bullet dodged, Koko! Who needs him! I hope Michele Morrone blows her back out and feeds her spaghetti in bed with his big meat paws.
Winner in actuality: Hulu. I can’t believe they got me to watch this stupid show. —Scaachi Koul
Welcome to Read This, where we recommend something old or new to add to your ever-growing book pile.
The Man Who Cried I Am by John A. Williams
I’m fascinated by the afterlives of books — the degree to which their receptions ebb and flow over time. The Man Who Cried I Am was first published in 1967; it was a bestseller, then it went out of print. The author, John A. Williams, had a reputation for being “perennially underrated” and was frequently compared to contemporaries like Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin but never achieved the widespread acclaim of those writers.
Upon reading The Man Who I Cried I Am, I can see why it was successful when it came out, but also why more contemporary readers might find some elements of the novel unseemly. It’s a compelling historical account of the pervasiveness of racism in Black life, a political thriller, and a gossipy ode to the publishing and news industries of old all wrapped in one novel.
Max Reddick, a novelist and foreign news correspondent, is in Amsterdam; he has cancer but has come to settle the final affairs of his friend and literary rival, the late Harry Ames. Pinging back and forth in time, we see Max in his prime as a young writer, meeting Harry for the first time at a party on Long Island, and later Harry’s attempts to further his career with a prestigious fellowship that is inexplicably revoked, he believes, because he is married to a white woman. We follow Max as he travels on reporting trips — first in the South, where he witnesses firsthand the savage anger of white segregationists, then in Europe, Nigeria, and Congo.
There’s a plot point involving the death of a Nigerian diplomat and a shady political alliance, but to me the most compelling parts of the book are observational. The scenes set in Nigeria and Congo are written with admirable specificity, and Max’s brief stint as a speechwriter for a president who’s never named but seems to be based on Kennedy goes far in demonstrating the hollow bromides of many white liberals in that time period. Williams’s depiction of New York’s publishing and media industries, riven with racism but flush with money, is fascinating to read from the vantage point of 2022.
The casual sexism and pervasive anti-gay sentiments in this novel are another matter, though. Williams deploys the f-word throughout in shockingly callous and casual ways. According to the New York Times’ obituary of the author, he saw Norman Mailer and John Updike as his true contemporaries. He certainly replicates their misogyny and homophobia. You could argue he was a product of his time, but that has always felt like a cop-out to me.
The presence of these two elements makes it hard for me to recommend this book full-throatedly, but I really did enjoy reading it for the most part. As a historical record, it is worthwhile. —Tomi Obaro
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