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The Five: Plants, a mysterious death, and a brutal reevaluation

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"An Unexplained Death"
Mikita Brottman's complicated, twisty, and engrossing investigation-cum-meditation.
MacMillan

Five things you should read, watch, listen to or experience this week.

1) ‘An Unexplained Death’ by Mikita Brottman

 “An Unexplained Death” is a non-fiction investigation into the death of a Baltimore man named Ray Rivera. Everyone — Rivera's family, the police, his colleagues — can agree one thing: he fell to his death in 2006 at a historic building, the Belvedere. 

The question is: Did he jump or was he pushed? 

This isn't true crime: it's a history of suicides, a meditation on lonely life in the city, and a close examination of a shady investment business. It's a constant surprise, page after page. 

The audiobook is read by the author, Mikita Brottman, and her voice adds a layer of intimacy to the tale.   

2) ‘Malfunctioning Sex Robot,’ by Patricia Lockwood

I felt like you had to choose between John Updike and Philip Roth when I was a library-lurking teen. I was firmly in the Nathan Zuckerman-loving camp, so I was delighted to read Patricia Lockwood's scathing, funny, and thoughtful critique of Updike, the bard of midcentury upperclass WASPs. 

It begins, "I was hired as an assassin. You don’t bring in a 37-year-old woman to review John Updike in the year of our Lord 2019 unless you’re hoping to see blood on the ceiling." 

This is not a woman of our time looking back at a writer from another generation and judging him by contemporary PC-ness. It's about what makes a writer acclaimed in their time and what makes a writer acclaimed by future generations. 

3) Develop a green thumb with a hearty houseplant

Get a houseplant and buy a big one. Don't try to grow one from a three-inch pot. It’ll take you years. Get one 3-feet tall and robust and care for it. It will make your life better every day. Yes, you can buy them at Amazon and they will be delivered to you in good shape. But even better is a garden center where someone can help you choose a plant that will survive in your home. 

(ZZ plants are really hard to kill and look fantastic.)

4) Gary Gulman’s ‘The Great Depresh’

"The Great Depresh" is an HBO special by comedian Gary Gulman about life with crippling depression. It's very funny.

5) ‘Six’ comes to the Ordway

The premise of the new musical “Six” is that the wives of Henry VIII form a pop girl group and tell the stories of their lives. It will be playing at the Ordway from November 29th to December 22nd and then goes to Broadway. Here's Anne Boleyn's big number, "Don't Lose Your Head."