At the moment, I’m interested in art that takes gentleness seriously as a subject without diminishing the bewildering amount of anxiety and hurt that comes with existing in the world right now. I chose works that demonstrate varieties of this quality.
Dancing on a Weeknight
Gondelman’s latest comedy album is an affirmation of the immense skill needed to craft an aesthetics of gentleness. When comedy comes at no one’s expense, it feels like getting something for free. Gondelman’s gift is finding humor in goodness: he never punches down at easy, historically marginalized targets, and he refuses to exchange fundamental good-heartedness for a cheap laugh. Instead, he generates laughs from the day-to-day ways we consider, accommodate, and live alongside one another, and demonstrates how we can laugh at kindness without making kindness laughable.
As vivid and eerie as an overheard fairy tale, this deliciously weird little oyster of a book is a defense of hopefulness and wonder. After a child named Lanny disappears, a mythical figure from local folklore named Dead Papa Toothwort eavesdrops on the boy’s village and finds it succumbing to bitter closed-mindedness and sour suspicion. Even hardened cynics may be tricked into hoping for Lanny’s safe return in order to disprove the villagers’ conclusions about what’s happened to him; the momentum and structure of Porter’s narrative insist that we appreciate and defend the luxury of such optimism.
Last January, on the way home from a London house party at 3 a.m., I sat by myself on the top deck of a bus and watched a herd of deer and then, later, a family of foxes cross the empty highway as it snowed around us. This lightly melancholic after-party anthem distills all the introspection, longing, and tentative delight of a ride home, and bottles that feeling into a snow globe, ready to be shaken.