60 Books In 2019 #40: Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck

If I could pick anywhere at any time to go on vacation, it would be Paris, 1925-ish, get to hang out with the Lost Generation, and drink champagne and eat in cafes and where fabulous linen dresses.

I have no illusions about who those men actually were, assholes at best and monsters at worst, which is why I wouldn’t want to live among them, just go on vacation.

Hemingway’s Girl takes place after that glittering era, about ten years later, when a nineteen year old girl named Mariella Bennett gets a job working as a maid in Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West. Mariella becomes smitten with the author, despite his marriage and a growing relationship with a far more appropriate veteran working for the EPA just north of the island.

I have a soft spot for historical fiction about the women near the “great men.” There’s a silliness to it, but a great deal of fun too, and that’s what I had with Hemingway’s Girl, Mariella is a delightful heroine, strong and willful and a little bit out of her depth. Robuck’s picture of Hemingway is bright and fun and intoxicating. It also got me looking at Air BnB’s in Key West for the winter, so we’ll see how that goes.

This wasn’t a great book, by any means, but did get me thinking I should give Ernest another shot. (I hated him in highschool, and even though I got it a lot more in college, still would rather read Fitzgerald for my bare bones prose of that era.)

Up next is City Of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert which I have been waiting all stinking summer to read and I am so so excited. (It just came in from the library last week!) 20 Books left in my challenge which I feel pretty good about at the moment.

Advertisements

60 Books In 2019 #30: Sounds Like Me: My Life In Song (So Far) by Sara Bareilles

Sometimes learning about an artist you love distances you from the very visceral way their work hits you. Especially with music.

This was not the case with Sara Bareilles, where learning more about her life just clarified why her music has always spoken to me. Her idyllic childhood spent playing outside with her sisters and cousins. Her obsession with musical theater. (She name checks Chess!) Choosing to change schools for high school because she can’t stand the world she’s been in. (In her case she went the opposite, from Catholic school to public school…) Her battles with depression and anxiety and her search for her voice.

It’s a book of essays, each one centered around a song Bareilles has written, which is one of the more creative ways into a celebrity memoir I’ve seen. (I’ve read a lot of them. Many by people not nearly as notable or talented as Sara Bareilles.)

But that also makes it a hard book to talk about, because the only through line is those songs, which, I was recently reminded of the quote that, “talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” It’s really hard to describe how hard I cried the first time I heard “Many The Miles,” or “Vegas,” or God bless the woman, “She Used To Be Mine.” It’s this deeply cathartic feeling that I wasn’t alone, that someone not only felt the things that I was feeling, but could articulate them.

So we’re halfway there you guys! I think I’m going to do this. I’ve managed to only read 2.5 books by white men! (Crisis On Infinite Earths, Heretics Of Dune and Fosse) I’ve opened myself up to a genre I’d always slighted (Contemporary YA) and found some new writers that I like a lot.

Up next is Let The People See: The Story Of Emmett Till, by Elliot J. Gorn, because I guess the news isn’t upsetting enough these days, and I’ve decided to make myself more upset? Frankly, I’m in a bit of  a non fiction space and I haven’t read enough not by white women books in my mission. I’ve broken out of my white man thing, but I still have some work to do to branch out further.

60 Books In 2019 #29: Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

I missed reading, “The Book,” for a few years because after I stopped commuting into Manhattan but before I started writing about my reading here, I didn’t read much except for series that I was already invested in.

Where’d You Go Bernadette was the book in 2012, but it didn’t seem like something that I’d like. (I don’t know, there were no vampires in it, I guess?) I’m sorry for putting this book off because it’s a sheer delight.

Bernadette Fox is the kind of bohemian genius that gets pushed a lot in fiction. She’s utterly brilliant, completely unconventional and as an old friend puts it, due to her mental illness causing her to stop working, “a menace to society.”

Where’d You Go Bernadette? is focused through the eyes of the people around the woman herself, mainly her adoring daughter Bee.

In addition to being a traditional, crazy brilliant artist story, Where’d You Go Bernadette? has a sharp sense of humor about the city of Seattle, the tech industry and social striving. There’s also this whole thing about Antarctica.

I don’t want to talk to much about the plot, which unfolds quickly and is actually important to the impact of the book. I will note that lots of the story comes through emails and notes, which makes this technically! YES! EPISTOLARY! I love epistolary novels! You all know this, I’ve talked about it before.

Anyway, the movie of Bernadette comes out in a few months and I hope it’s good. Because this book made me so very happy. Just deeply joyful for the way writing and stories work.

Up next is Sounds Like Me by Sara Bareilles. I’ve liked Bareiles’s music since the first time I heard “Love Song,” in college. I’ve only grown to admire her more, and you know there’s the Waitress of it all. Where’

60 Books In 2019 #13: The Killing Moon By N. K. Jemisin

The Killing Moon is rich, interesting, compulsively readable, and full of the kind of things I love about fantasy fiction.

It has an interesting magic system, a Prince who is really a monster, wise and interesting women and a couple of queer dudes. I really couldn’t ask for more except that I’m so tired of new fantasy worlds right now that it took far too long to read this wonderful book.

Jemisin is a fabulous writer, even as I only had patience for ten pages here and there, I was in awe of her prose, over how propulsive and engrossing the plot was, how intriguing the main characters and mystery.

This is the first book in a series and of the three I’ve started this year, it’s the one that I’m most eager to pick up the second part of, which is saying a lot, as I also really enjoyed Throne Of Glass, as you’ll recall.

This is a short review, because the book didn’t blow me away and I took too long to read it, so I don’t have a lot of through line thoughts on it, but it’s a well written piece of fiction and I’m eager to learn more. So…yay?

Up next I take on YET ANOTHER new fantasy world, when I dive into A Wizard Of Earthsea.

RIP Luke Perry – And That Bummer Effect

I’ve made NO bones about how deeply I love a value the Primetime Teen Soap as a genre. I think it’s a wonderful, special style of storytelling that’s meant a great deal to a lot of people over the past three decades, and I think it gets undersold, because most of those people were girls when they fell in love with those shows, and as a culture we force girls to disown the things they liked as girls when they become women, while boys get “grown up” versions of their shit when they become men.

But that’s another point entirely. (And Ms. Shonda Rhimes, queen of my heart, did quite a bit to change this.)

It’s kind of impossible to overstate how important Luke Perry is to this genre, and how heartwarming and kind of sad the past few days of love outpouring for him and his work have been. While I’m immensely glad that the general cultural consensus is that Luke Perry’s performance as Dylan McKay was iconic and perfect, (Seriously, I rewatched the first few seasons last year, and he’s insanely good.) I hate that it took Perry dying for the entertainment media to get around to talking about it.

The time to talk about Luke Perry and Dylan McKay was goddamn every time there was a criticism of shows and movies aimed at teen girls having shitty love interests. It was whenever a show flailed after losing a key cast member, especially when said cast member was integral to a love polygon. “This has been done before, nearly perfectly, MODEL AFTER IT!”

And it was certainly time to talk about Luke Perry and Dylan McKay, two years ago, when Riverdale premiered and everyone who remembered him was so deeply and profoundly happy to see him again as Fred Andrews. (Honestly casting iconic teens as the parents was a masterstroke on that show’s part.) And it did start then. It’s certainly why I revisited Beverly Hills: 90210, and I’m sure it’s not a small part of why he got cast in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, the new Quentin Tarantino movie. (Also, because dude was a really good actor.) 

Anyway, I just don’t want us to sleep on other icons of this genre so that this happens again, that we forget to appreciate what they did for us while they were here. I send you light and love, James Vanderbeek & Joshua Jackson. I think you’re both quite talented and handsome. James Lafferty and Sophia Bush deserve all the goodness in the world. Don’t you dare disappear after Gotham, Ben McKenzie, we need your broody sneers! I hope Blake Lively and her beautiful perfect skinned children thrive, and Leighton Meister becomes the coolest of the cool indie girls. And especially to the cast of Beverly Hills: 90210, thank you. Seriously, it’s unfathomable that the world doesn’t give you and the show you helped form the credit it deserves. It was a wonderful, deeply special piece of our pop culture landscape, and I’m forever grateful for the way you inhabited those kids with dignity, intelligence and fun.

And Rest in Peace Luke Perry. Seriously, your work was incredible, and you will be missed. Thank you.

The First Annual Fangirl Airing Of Grievances

A very Happy Festivus to you and yours!

For the past few years, this has been a thing that I’ve wanted to do, and have always forgotten about it until it’s too late. While my best of 2018 will be coming in the next few days (hint, we’re going to be talking about The Good Place, A LOT) I thought it would be fun to whine about some of my pop culture issues from the past year, keeping with the traditions of Festivus.

giphy

The Purging Of The Defenders From Netflix

Who could have seen this one coming? OK, anyone who knows how corporate consolidation works and wasn’t blinded by “X-Men In The MCU!” and “Full Star Wars distribution rights!” as diversionary tactics probably did. But this is still a bummer. I’m behind on these shows, but they were well made and critically well received, so it definitely sucks.

Season 2 Of The Handmaid’s Tale

There is literally no reason why we needed a season 2 of this show, when season 1 was such an excellent mini series adaptation of the novel. While there was some gold in this season (Serena Joy and Bradley Whitford’s Commander realizing they’d built themselves terrible prisons. Moira trying to adjust to life in Canada after the trauma of her life as a Handmaid and at Jezebel’s) most of it shaved down and softened the bluntness of the allegory. And June’s choice to return to Gilead rather than escape was just plain awful.

Midge And Joel’s Reconciliation(ish) on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

NO! BAD AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO! BAD! If Midge was going to have ill advised casual sex with someone before heading out on tour it should have been Lenny Bruce.

(I don’t actually think that should have happened either.)

Riverdale…just Riverdale

Back after the season premier I wrote about how I was hopeful for the new season of everyone’s favorite silly horror show dressed up as a teen soap. Instead, within three week’s I’d already dropped it and decided I’d wait until the summer to binge it. Archie in jail? Betty maybe possessed or something? Veronica doing her best Chuck Bass impression and opening up ambitious restaurant concepts? I did catch up enough to watch the big flashback episode, which was fun, if only to watch KJ Appa and Cole Sprouse channel Luke Perry and Skeet Ulrich as we remember them so perfectly. But overall, I’m just not as excited about this show as I once was. (This may be because Cheryl has been sidelined…I will neither confirm nor deny it.)

The show remains as messy as it ever was, but the messiness isn’t fun anymore.

Tahani/Eleanor Shippers

The only thing that I have to complain about in The Good Place is the way the shippers are behaving. As a terrible trash ship person myself, I understand their zealotry. (My complete denial that Rose Tico is even a character in The Last Jedi surely illustrates this.) But my GOD people, it’s been illustrated time and again that although Eleanor is attracted to Tahani, and perhaps Tahani is attracted back (we don’t have confirmation) Chidi is her actual soul mate. Also, when someone ships a different pairing from you, even for a canonically queer character (Eleanor), that doesn’t make them homophobic. Especially since Eleanor isn’t a lesbian, she’s bi (or possibly Pan…). If you want to watch a tiny sassy blonde bi-sexual woman have a fulfilling relationship with a woman who is tall, sexy and her tempermental opposite, I suggest you watch Legends Of Tomorrow, because Sara and Ava are great! In the meantime, let me enjoy watching Eleanor and Chidi fall for each other over and over again as they strive towards enlightenment and salvation.

Penny Marshall Died

I mean, she was on the older side, but still. This is sad. She was a funny, talented lady. I wish I could find where I saw it but someone suggested she’s now in heaven having a laugh and a cocktail with her friends Carrie and Nora. I find this a delightful way to remember her. Also, Big and A League Of Their Own are rad, and Hanks’s best acting work is in Big.

Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams Leaving The DCEU

THE CAST WASN’T THE PROBLEM.

That said if this, and Armie Hammer being all popular serious actor man now, convinces Warner Brothers to make a Man from UNCLE sequel, all will be forgiven.

Selina Kyle leaving Bruce Wayne At The Altar

This is some BULLSHIT right here. Not to mention the reasoning being that “if they get married, he can’t really be Batman anymore.” NOOOOPPPPPEEEE.

I wanted the mainline universe to become a place where Damian was Helena’s OLDER BROTHER. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT PARTICULAR LEVEL OF AWESOME?

“Remake The Last Jedi,” “Solo sucks,” and the fall of Star Wars fandom

Star Wars is one of my favorite things in the world, Crystan once said, “Reenie’s obsessed with Game Of Thrones it’s her favorite thing to talk about.” I replied, “It’s not my favorite thing, it’s not Star Wars or Les Mis.” But this year, well, I didn’t like talking about Star Wars so much anymore. The sexist, racist internet bullshit overtaking my favorite conversation topic soured me on everything involved. I gave up even my cushiest and safest internet spaces, (The Mary Sue, though this wasn’t the only reason) when I found myself in a swirling argument with a man who was trying to convince me that Kathleen Kennedy deserved no credit for the successes of her producing career but did deserve to be fired for the faltering of Solo. Going so far as to claim E.T. a project that she shepherded and championed from day one, didn’t benefit from her involvement.

The Full Politicization Of My Pop Internet Spaces

I get it. I do. I hate 45 as well. Truly. But when I’m going to a pop culture space online, I’m not going to see commentary on the political process. A think piece on how a piece of work converses with the political moment, sure, but I read news sources to learn about the goings on in Washington. The blurring of the lines between politics and theater (which isn’t to say political theater, in both senses of the phrase, politicians taking advantage of humanity’s  tendency to create narrative and “theater” commenting on the political hasn’t always existed) is part of how we all got into this mess.

No Game Of Thrones

Silly me, hoping against hope, I thought we might actually see The Winds Of Winter this year to make up for the fact that we got no new episodes of Game Of Thrones but no. I’m sure Fire And Blood is quite good, though I haven’t gotten around to reading it, but man, it hurt me not having the show around this year.

That’s it! That’s what I’m annoyed about this year. What about you, fair readers? Anything in pop culture righteously piss you off?

 

 

 

45 Books In 2018 #45: TV: The Book By Alan Seppinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz

Guys! I did it! (And that’s not include shit I reread, so really, I did it a while ago.) And there’s still two weeks left, one of which has a long weekend, which means, I’ll probably clock at least three more books.

But it seemed somehow fitting to top off this year with TV: The Book, since my deep love of television is what kept me from reading seriously for a while. But I’ve long believed that TV has been the media some of the best literature this century (and indeed the one that preceded it.) so I was psyched to read some intense critical discussion of the medium. (I’ve got a few other cultural studies books lined up now too, because critical analysis is the main thing I miss about being in school.) (Also the flexible schedule)

I’d read Seppinwall and Zoller-Seitz many times before (Sepinwall’s Mad Men coverage was legendary and Zoller-Seitz was one of the cohosts of the dearly departed Vulture TV Podcast.)  The idea for the book sprang into being when both were working for The Star Ledger (which is apparently the paper that Tony Soprano reads, which kind of annoys me, since The Ledger is more of a Shore paper, and The Sopranos are from where I grew up, Bergen County. Tony should be reading The Record, but I digress…) Their attempt to create a canon of American TV shows is entertaining, thoughtful and steeped clearly in their love for television and each other.

The book reminded me why I loved quite a few shows with it’s observations. (30 Rock’s live action cartoon aspects only really work because Jack’s mentorship of Liz is a grounded reality. Mad Men is actually a story about a daughter realizing who her parents really are.) Made me shake my head in annoyance a few times, (Mad Men’s refusal to marginalize it’s female characters makes it a richer and less warmed over story than Breaking Bad. I know The Wire is awesome but my college roommate’s annoying boyfriend wouldn’t shut up about it, when we just wanted to watch Star Trek so I never fully engaged with it, and stop making me feel bad for not watching it damnit!)

I’ve even decided to start filling in the blanks on the all time greats I haven’t watched. That means I’ve started Deadwood (and it’s wonderful.) And I’ll get around to The Sopranos and The Wire too, I guess. I’ve already watched most of the top comedy (Save The Simpsons, which is just too big for me start on now.) due to my parents being massive comedy fans.

Anyway, I liked reading the book. I’m watching Deadwood now, and I’m sure I’ll write about it. I’m proud of myself for meeting my reading goal for the year, even if my project sort of fell by the wayside. I’m going to keep blogging about what I’m reading. My goal for 2019 is 60 books, 52 of those 60 cannot be written by straight white men. (I’m giving myself the 8 book leeway because I’m a coward…also, I want to finish Dune someday)

I think I’ll be able to pull it off. Hell, even if I just read Anne Rice, I’d be like halfway there. (I will not just be reading Anne Rice…probably…)

Sometime in the next few weeks I’m going to break down my reading list a little bit and talk about what I loved (Crazy Rich Asians, The Witching Hour, Dune) what I didn’t but am glad I read, (David Copperfield, Don Quixote) and what I hated, (Ready Player One, Lasher, Infinite Jest, which I hated so much I didn’t even finish it, something I never ever do) 

Anyway, in the immediate aftermath, I’ll be reading Red Rising by Pierce Brown, Joe and Mary are in love with this book, so I’m gonna give it a shot.