I love Bethenny Frankel! But unfortunately, having said that, I am here to tell you that this book is not great. It is too bad, really, because there...moreI love Bethenny Frankel! But unfortunately, having said that, I am here to tell you that this book is not great. It is too bad, really, because there is a lot of material here that could make for a worthwhile read, but it is all told and not shown. It is all scattered by this weird formatting of having to formulate self-help rules. O for the chance to get together with Bethenny and re-write this book! So many stories with so much potential. And I would promise not to be afraid of her and to be a tough editor! You hear me, Bethenny? PM me if you have another book in the pipeline.
So, there is this thing that a lot of married couples, smug or not, do, that I find kind of disingenuous, and I am under the impression that it is the premise of this book. The male version of it goes something like this [real story from a friend’s parents]: “When I saw her, I knew she was the one, but I lived in New Jersey and she lived in Manhattan. I was so poor that I could only afford to go into Manhattan and take her out for a nice dinner about once a month, so I would save and save, and then drive in to the city, pick her up at her doorstep, buy her dinner, and then drop her off on her doorstep again. That is how you know a man respects and loves you.”
The female version of it goes something like this [from the book p. 109-10]:
“Our meeting wasn’t fairy-tale. It was ultimately modern, just like us. It was us. I wouldn’t trade it for ten Prince Charmings on ten white horses.
“As people often say when they tell the story of meeting the right one, I wasn’t looking for a man. That night, I was running around with a group of friends from out of town going from one event to another. One of our stops was at a nightclub, and when we tried to go inside, they said I could go in, but my friends couldn’t – I guess they looked like they weren’t from New York. I was furious. I knew the owner of this club, so I decided to call him and complain. He told us to come back, and that we could all go in. . . .
“This confrontation had fueled the attitude I already had – I walked into that nightclub as an independent woman who frankly didn’t give a damn, and it showed.
“And there he was, my beautiful-inside-and-out future husband, working his magic. I was posing for a photo, smiling when the cameras were up and going back to my usual smug face when they were down. He took one look at me and said, ‘Are you ready to get that stick out of your ass now?’ . . .
“He was actually working some other girl that night, and he did go on a date with her after we first met. I went on a few dates with other guys after that night, too. But somehow, in retrospect, it was always all about the two of us, more than either of us realized when we danced that night . . . .”
So, I am not against this type of story as a rule, but I feel that these are the two stories I hear over and over from a man or a woman selling romance to me. And, frankly, I find them to be weird and off-putting. The male version sounds to me like, “She had boobs; I spent money; *chestpound.*” The female versions sounds to me like, “Daddy hits mommy because he loves her, and mommy was a very bad girl.” So, that is obviously not actually what is going on for the teller in either of these stories, but there is something fundamental about them that I do not find romantic. I do not understand why a man would think it is romantic to put such a high price on a date that he never actually gets to talk to the girl he thinks he likes. I do not understand why we women think a dude being an asshole means he thinks we are special. Actually, no, that is a lie. I understand why we all think those things, but I think if we give it two seconds’ consideration, we do not think those things anymore.
The thing I think people are really trying to convey in these stories is the sense of their own coolness: the man who is a hard worker and a high roller; and the woman who is not perfect, but still has people. And, I think that is totally valid and the reason we love the stories. It is the reason I would sit at the feet of any couple, or any single, telling a story about some kind of triumph: because it is hopeful, and hope is wonderful. But the male version still sounds to me like he is talking about an iPad he camped out for at BestBuy on Black Friday. And the female version sounds like love = humiliation for women. So, actually, both of them kind of sound like that, which is why it is depressing to hear people’s “love” stories. I would rather hear about what the man did if he ever realized the woman wasn’t an iPad, and I would rather hear a woman tell about someone who openly admired her as a human.
Anyway, the book is mostly about how Bethenny has been alone and a failure for a lot of her life, but now she has it all because she stopped believing that she was a bad person. In a lot of ways I like that. I’ve seen other people complain that her advice isn’t valid because she doesn’t have a very accurate concept of what it means to be poor. On the one hand, I think that is a legitimate complaint, but on the other hand, I don’t really feel that people have issues with money based on an accurate scale of poverty to wealth. Rich people feel poor all the time and I don’t think we have no right to discuss it just because our concept of wealth is inaccurate.
Basically, I don’t think that people fail or win based on their positive or negative thinking. That makes no sense. But, I do think that people self-sabotage and that unless self-criticism is constructive, it is probably destructive. I think that a lot of women opt out of life because we think badly of ourselves, so I like that Bethenny speaks against that. I think she speaks as someone who started with a really damaged self-image and who has been slowly patching and repairing that self-image into something productive and interesting and even beautiful. In that way, I think her message is effective and positive.
Just, not in this book.
The publisher provided me this copy of the book, but not in exchange for any goods or services. (less)
In most ways, this book was absolutely written for me. It is LOST + Miss Congeniality + Susan Faludi’s Backlash. Sarah Palin and GW stand-ins make app...moreIn most ways, this book was absolutely written for me. It is LOST + Miss Congeniality + Susan Faludi’s Backlash. Sarah Palin and GW stand-ins make appearances to be generally villainous. It has lovely, lovely girls, lots of action, and some pretty hilarious jokes. Oh, and hilarious jokes in the footnotes. (Because why use endnotes, people? No need to be coy.) There is one about putting dolls on a pedestal that is my favorite joke in the book, if you want to know. The odd thing about the book is that it mixes slapstick detachment and satire with some pretty touching, beautiful moments. Sometimes that is jarring. Sometimes the girls are caricatures of social stereotypes, and other times they are breathtaking hope for the future. It was difficult for me to transition between the two, but in general, I really loved both moods of the story.
So, this is not going to be a fair review. I’d say it’s even going to be borderline hypocritical. I did a lot of sputtering about a feminist critique of Bridesmaids because WTF, people, does everything have to be the ideal feminist mantra? Sometimes a story about girls is just a story about girls. The tough thing about this book is that I feel like it was making some pretty purposeful feminist statements, so I think it opened itself up to more criticism because of that. It’s not really fair that I feel that way, and I found the things it did really thought provoking, but the book’s going to get some extra scrutiny over it.
First, I love Mary Lou. I love love love her. Even though I will not get over my bitter disappointment about pirates this easily, I love her story. I think the writing is electric around her. I love her.
I love the other girls as well, but Mary Lou is special. I think each girl in the story represents overcoming some kind of stigmatized female experience. Maybe Mary Lou’s experience was more real to Ms. Bray because I found it absolutely vivid, where the others seemed researched. In the way that all the girls are reactions to misogyny (and by that I don’t mean sexism from men. I like how Bray is clear about how women perpetuate misogyny, too.) the story made me a little sad. I always look for those beautiful female characters who are not reacting to anyone, but just being wonderful in who they are. I like seeing women who aren’t putting on a show. I think it would be easy to compare these girls to Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, but I really think Elle remains herself throughout the movie. She doesn’t have a moment where she turns on herself and says, “Oh wait. I am an idiot because I care about pretty things.” That is who she is in the beginning and it saves the day in the end.
I also love how Adina talks about girls looking to romantic relationships for self-definition. If someone desires us, it makes us desirable. It makes a relationship more than it is, and something it shouldn't be. I love how she identifies it and says that it is not how she wants to be.
A few things that troubled me, though. This book starts with the premise that a girl would only do pageants because of a social or emotional disturbance. As the story unravels, the girls reveal, one by one, the social or emotional wounds that led them to be in the pageant. I don’t know how I feel about that assumption. I like the idea that pageant girls can kick ass, too, but I don’t love the idea that being pretty is the sign of psychological disturbance. To be fair, on a few occasions, Bray does very consciously make the point that it’s okay to like being pretty, but the assumption is still there, underlying the whole book.
The other premise that shows up in the book is that girls need an island to overcome what we're socially trained to be. That's more of a thesis of the book, as Penny very correctly points out. I'm not totally down with that idea either. It has this kind of hopelessness, like culture is so entrenched in unhealthy expectations for girls that there is no room for real girls in culture. That idea bums me out, and I don't think it's true. There is an Awakening quality to it that I hope strong female writers get past, and that I think some have gotten past. We are here! The world is for us too!! Don't give it up, girls, and retreat to your own private islands. I mean, I love The Awakening and I love The Yellow Wallpaper and The Bell Jar, but I think there also needs to be room for girls in culture. There need to be elbowing and kidney-kicks to people who try to tell girls that the world isn't for them. I don't think floating away to an island is the answer for girls becasue it is aka suicide, for those of you who are not up on your hopeless women writers. And that is not the answer.
Anyway, back to the girls. I don’t want to spoiler who all the girls are for you, because some of the reveals are pretty fun. None of them are surprising, but they are pretty fun. Unfortunately, I think that the way the girls end up is really important to the way I’m looking at the book, so I’m going to hide a little bit of my discussion of it. I’d really say go read it for yourself before you read my spoilers because what I’m saying will probably get into your brain in a way that will make your reading of it less fun. So, come back once you’ve read it, and we’ll discuss.
(view spoiler)[It was a little troubling to me that it seemed in the end like the girls mostly settled down, had two and a half kids, and then drove them to soccer practice. (I know only one really did the soccer thing, but I feel like that idea was there for a lot of them.) It was just a little anti-climactic.
But, Adina and Taylor actually really made me sad. I am reading this book Motherless Daughters – because that is what I am – and it is a devastatingly poignant book for me. Those two girls are the motherless daughters in the book (Taylor from physical abandonment, and Adina from emotional abandonment), and it made me really sad that they were still so lost at the end of the book. I know there is a sort of power in the way they are lost, with Taylor as the jungle queen, and Adina refusing to sell her soul for emotional affirmation from men. Still, though, they made me sad. They were that stigma of the motherless daughter, the thing we can’t talk about because it is too devastating. What if all of our mothers left us? It doesn’t seem fair to me to think of those girls as being unable to emotionally connect with other people in a sane and mutually giving way.
And Shanti and Nicole felt a little funny to me in that way, too. The book goes into how marginalizing the token ethnic friend thing is, but just because you’re recognizing it doesn’t mean you’re not doing it yourself. It was just slightly uncomfortable. I mean, those girls were lovely, and I really like them, but I felt like, rather than be the sassy ethnic friend, they were only a reaction to the sassy ethnic friend. They didn’t have much more dimension than that.
Jennifer and Petra were a little better than that, I thought. They both had more humanity and specificity, even thought they were so purposely put in the book so that there would be one of each. I’m okay with that, though. Again, I liked the girls. (hide spoiler)]
It’s tough because there were a lot of characters in this book. It was difficult to give them all humanity and depth, I’m sure, and so some worked out better than others. There were a couple of points where, if I had put the book down for a little while, I would come back to it and forget who Miss New Mexico or Ohio were. There was a lot going on. Still, though, it was really fun and funny, and tear-jerky at a couple of points for me. It will definitely not be a five-star book for everyone, but I had a beautiful day out in the hammock reading it, so it is giving a halo to the experience. Also, as I guessed from the moment I first saw its cover, I am the intended audience for this book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Part I of this story is in many ways a grown-up The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I read the Narnia stories when I was little, and to be honest, I...morePart I of this story is in many ways a grown-up The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I read the Narnia stories when I was little, and to be honest, I think C.S. Lewis will always have a place in my heart. To me, he’s a sort of philosophical grandpa, whom I ignore when he’s spouting cultural faux pas, but who brings out something lovely and profound at least as often as he says something unfortunate. Anyway, this book is not about C.S. Lewis, but I think the affection I feel for Narnia made a difference in my read of this book. I also don’t think I need Lewis to be 100% correct all the time, and that probably made a difference in me liking the way Kay made the (view spoiler)[Christ (hide spoiler)] story his own.
I spend a lot of time complaining, I think, about when authors throw together a really bad recipe for a book – when they mutilate and mix ingredients that should never go together. I really liked the use of the ingredients here. There’s Narnia; Henry IV / rakishness; some wild-west, bow-and-arrow stuff; a very decent hair-color change; law and folklore; a magical mystery animal; and a giant black swan that smells like garbage. Basically pretty good. I’m not a lover of fantasy (sorry!), so I have to get past the orcs and dwarves and elves to like a story like this (and I don’t care if you call them different names, they’re still orcs and elves). I’ll probably talk more about that in my review of the second book in this series, but with this book it’s pretty easy to look past to some genuinely good stories.
Unfortunately, at this point, probably most of what I have to say is a spoiler. (view spoiler)[I thought the use of the Christ story was really lovely. I particularly liked the disagreement as to whether the sacrifice on the Summer Tree was for good or evil. I am a little disappointed that the questioning of the good of the Summer Tree ended up being wrong (maybe this will turn around in the next couple of books, I don’t know), and that the argument never really gets addressed again after Paul comes back from the dead. I think it’s more interesting and tragic if it had turned out to be a clear mistake. I do appreciate, though, that the leader of the CBS Orchestra for the Late Show with David Letterman is the Christ figure in this. I mean, who else would you choose when you’re Canadian? (this book is Canadian, fyi, but you probably know that if you clicked the spoiler button.) Here’s the thing that bothers me about it: you’ve got this guy who feels a lot of guilt, (like, torturous guilt) so he volunteers to commit suicide to save the universe, and it’s a really good idea. I don’t like that, to be totally honest. (hide spoiler)]
Okay, maybe fewer spoilers than I thought. The other problem I have with this is the characterization of the gods. Maybe this is just a personal pet peeve, but a lot of times I don’t like the characterization of deities in gender roles (the obvious exception to this is The Iliad, which, of course, rules); I prefer the Julian of Norwich god who is both male and female because I'm less likely to see the female god relegated to the kitchen. There’s some other gender stuff that goes on in these books that makes me a little put off. I don’t think it’s insidious, or anything, I just think it takes away from the entertainment. Like, the priestesses are dangerous and suspicious, but the magicians are noble and trustworthy. But, then when everything gets sexy, the girls aren’t scary anymore. I’m not saying it stays like that the whole time, but, I don’t know. It just has a little bit of a male-culture feel that isn’t super entertaining to me. (view spoiler)[ Like, also, when they’re all out hunting in the fields and glorying in their manhood and then the kid gets the best spirit-animal EVER and it’s a unicorn/Pegasus? What is up with that? Like, dude, She-Ra did it better. (hide spoiler)]
Anyway, I feel like I’m kind of ragging on this book, when I really did like it. I really like the Henry IV storyline, and I like the Seer stuff. I like that they’re all a bunch of Canadian kids and that there’s a law student who really needs to study for Evidence. I like how it assumes the vital importance to the WHOLE UNIVERSE of Celtic folklore. That’s pretty cool. I think Jennifer’s story isn’t really fair, and even though I’m almost through the second book, I still don’t really get it. (view spoiler)[So, the Satan character targeted Jennifer because destroying her is really important to destroying the universe? Or, just because she’s pretty and he doesn’t have a grander concept for it? If he's willing to waste his time like that, he doesn't seem so intimidating to me. Also, there’s something about her getting tortured that seemed really blunt. I don’t know how to explain my confusion better than that. (hide spoiler)] But, in general, I think the story used some really great legends really creatively. I liked it. I think I should have felt more emotionally attached to the characters, but I think that has more to do with how I feel in general right now than the book itself. Especially if you like fantasy, and especially if you're willing to commit to thousands of pages of fantasy reading (because there is a mammoth cliffhanger at the end of this book), it is worth picking up.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Proper British lawyers + orgies = win! I love these ladies like they were my legal sisters. My sisters-in-law, if you would. Bah dum tsss. Thank you f...moreProper British lawyers + orgies = win! I love these ladies like they were my legal sisters. My sisters-in-law, if you would. Bah dum tsss. Thank you folks, I’m here all week. Anyway, they are so wonderful. Instead of hilarious Shakespeare jokes, like the first book had, this book has some impressive Homer references. I wouldn’t really say they’re Homer jokes, but it’s possible I’m missing some of the hilarity, not being the Homer scholar that I wish I was. It’s more like Homer wit. Like the first in the series, this is just a perfect book. No complaints that I can remember. Again, I can’t give it five stars, but this is a really, really, really high four stars.
You can read this one as a stand-alone. You will not know as much as you should about Julia’s clumsiness or passion for beautiful profiles, but I think you’d still be able to catch up. Likewise, you will not have a background in the particulars of the rest of this Scooby gang, but I’m sure you’d figure them out really quickly. The stories only build on each other slightly. And, if Homer’s more your man than Shakespeare, this one would be perfect for you!
Funny note about these books: the women lawyers are called by their first names and the men are called by their last names. I get this. We all have to call each other Mr. This or Ms. That in our first year in law school, so some people I still call by their last names. I wouldn’t say I tend to do this more with girls or guys, but I bet it was more natural, back in the dark ages of the 1980s, to call women by their first names because if they married, they would change last names. It is difficult to start calling someone a new name when you’re used to an old one.
Law is a difficult field for women, though, imo. I was talking to one of my women professors last week, and she told me that when she graduated, I believe in the 1970s, she was first in her class, editor of the law review, and passed the bar with the highest score, but she couldn’t get a job. That totally sucks. Even now, I think law is pretty entrenched in some insidious hierarchical ideas that the rest of society doesn’t necessarily buy into. So, there’s also the option that women were called by their first names as an unconscious disrespect. That would be sad. It’s not distracting in the book, though, because these ladies are seriously amazing. I really love them.
Seriously. A lot of people should read these books. Especially people on goodreads.com. These books are, like made for us. If there were LOL Cats in 1985, there would be LOL Cat references in these books, I’m pretty sure. Classical literature and comedy . . . AND! Even tragedy! And sweet political commentary, but in a funny way – not heavy handed. Come on, people! Why are you not reading these books more?! I know there aren’t faeries or vampires in them . . . but maybe there are!!! You don’t know! And there are hilarious stories that are mysterious, but have a point in the end. I am such a fangirl for Sarah Caudwell. If I’m ever a lawyer, I want to be just like her.(less)
I’m nearly caught up on all of the important law books I need to tell you about from this year. I’ve been saving this one because I love it so much, b...moreI’m nearly caught up on all of the important law books I need to tell you about from this year. I’ve been saving this one because I love it so much, but now I’m in the summer. I’ve got my beach books, I’ve got my beer, and I’ve got my Bachelorette. I’m ready to tell you about constitutional law casebooks. It’s kind of like Jane Austen, where you have to give the ubiquitous hierarchy of favorites, so here it is:
Have I mentioned how lame the Sullivan/Gunther is? It’s really lame. The edits are the most mangled, choppy atrocities you’ve ever seen. They pulled out fingernails just because they didn’t like the nail polish. It’s the City of Bones of constitutional law.
This one, on the other hand, is like poetry. It’s beautiful. The edits are clean and powerful. I am glad I read the Braveman first because it has far fewer edits, so you have to work for the information you’re getting, but the Stone is like reading Hemingway on the Constitution. It’s lovely.
I read this one for the constitutional law class I was tutoring, and I loved every minute of it. Tutoring was fun, too, in the end. I don’t love teaching, but I love reading and debating constitutional law. The kids in my class are geniuses. About a third of them were political science majors in college, and they were all amazing. The guy I sat next to in the class looked like Marty McFly’s dad. Like, when you look at him, things turn black and white, and you transport into the 1950s. He wears a trench coat and a suit every day, and he carries a brief case, in which he has a tin where he keeps brownies that his mom made. And then he started bringing me coffee almost every class, so that was one reason it was awesome to be the tutor.
I’ve already told you tons about constitutional law, so I won’t go over it all again. Judicial review, separation of powers, federalism, commerce clause, the fourteenth amendment, etc. In this class, the professor, Dreamy McDreamerson, introduced § 5 of the fourteenth amendment before talking about due process, so that was confusing. Don’t do that.
And then there was the mistake about INS v. Chadha. That case is about the legislative veto. The legislative veto is where Congress passes a law that requires implementation by the executive branch, but then Congress gets to review the executive implementation. So, like, they said, in this case, that certain people have to be kicked out of the U.S. Then, the INS let this one guy stay. Then, the House of Representatives said, no, that’s not what we wanted, and decided to kick the guy out. Then, the Supreme Court said that the House of Representatives isn’t the boss of how the executive branch executes the law, and so the legislative veto is unconstitutional. But, Justice White pointed out that the decision is pretty wrong, and I agree. I won’t go into it now, but trust me. He’s not right about the whole thing, but he’s right.
Professor McDreamerson agreed with the Powell concurrence, though. That’s pretty legit. It’s a really well-reasoned concurrence. There’s this apocryphal story about it that I’ll tell you now, too. So, Justice Burger wrote the majority opinion (made me hungry every time we talked about it). And Justice Burger was totally pissed that Justice Powell didn’t sign on to the majority opinion and wrote his own concurrence instead. So, years later, Justice Powell was writing a pretty important opinion (I forget which one), and Justice Burger dissented from it. Justice Powell really wanted the whole court to agree, but he couldn’t get Justice Burger to sign on. After they issued the opinion, Justice Powell went to Justice Burger’s chambers and was talking to him. He asked if there was anything he could have done to persuade Justice Burger to sign on to the opinion.
Justice Burger said, “No, you were completely in the right. I agreed with you. I was just getting you back for the Chadha opinion.”
Or so they say.
Anyway, that’s not from the book. I just heard the story from an unnamed source this year and thought it was a good one. Oh, those silly Justices! I love ‘em. The lesson from all of this, though, is that if you read a constitutional law casebook on your own, in your spare time, read this one.(less)
I guess I have mixed feelings about Saving Francesca. I like the friends, and I like the way Marchetta tells the friends. I like the way she talks abo...moreI guess I have mixed feelings about Saving Francesca. I like the friends, and I like the way Marchetta tells the friends. I like the way she talks about camp because that felt real, and there was one moment in the book where I thought, “Ahh, truth.” But, I thought Francesca was mostly annoying. She pushed a lot of the buttons that were permanently welded to my framework in high school. They are mostly rusted over and useless buttons at this point, so I wasn’t really bitter at Francesca, but she does bother me. On the one hand, yeah kid, that’s pretty rough, and I’m glad that you get to freak out and still come back to people who love you. On the other hand, as Mike Meyers said to Nicole Kidman, “You’re surrounded by a lot of positive support.”
And I don’t want to be bugged by a kid who is feeling alienated and then reassured by all the people who love her. That seems good, so I feel bad to be annoyed. I think this is one of those situations where I had a best friend in high school who was a poor little stunning supermodel, too, and sometimes people in her house were unhappy and the world would end. I don’t know, I ate a lot of tuna fish sandwiches in sixth grade, too, and now even a really good tuna sandwich sounds gross to me. And this book is a really good tuna sandwich. Mostly I’m probably annoyed with my own callousness in reaction to this story. I think Marchetta gets it though. I think she gets that Francesca mostly doesn’t know or appreciate what she has and this story is kind of her journey to learning to appreciate people.
Part of my problem, I think, is that I am left feeling like this book is a debate over whether Francesca’s feelings are valid or not. Like, whether her family situation is bad enough for her to act like a brat. Because sometimes she is sad and other times she needs to be slapped. And I think part of the point of the story is, Francesca, look at the people around you who are not surrounded by so much love. But, I think it’s a false standard to compare sad life experiences. I don’t think us acting like brats has to do with whether we have a hard home life. Not that it isn’t valid to act like a brat, to be depressed, to despair. I think those things are more like growing pains of our souls, though, than injuries. It kind of bothers me that Marchetta links all of the depression in this book to events, and once the characters acknowledge the events, they can get past the depression. I just don’t think life is usually that clean, and I don’t really think it should be.
Jimmy seemed really true to me, though. I liked that even though Francesca was so devastated by her family becoming messy, Jimmy could still see that her family was worth awkwardly inviting himself to dinner. I liked that to Jimmy it was valuable to just sit and chat with Francesca’s mom, even though she was in her jammies (o the horror!). When Jimmy said that what you miss, when you lose everyone, is having someone to hold you, that was true and vivid to me. I am skeptical that a high school boy would say that as he’s jumping on a bus, but still it was true.
I definitely approve of this book, but I didn’t really enjoy reading it. I was mostly like *facepalm* throughout, but it is still good. Some books make me think this, this is why fiction exists, but I wondered throughout Saving Francesca why anybody would seek it out to read. I’ve heard it’s because you should read it before The Piper’s Son, so that’s what I’m doing. Plus, it’s short and cute, so there’s really no reason not to read it. After re-reading this paragraph, I'm left thinking that is probably how people feel about me, too. Sigh. (less)
This term, I was the tutor for the dreamy constitutional law professor. He’s one of those people where you don’t necessarily realize how dreamy he is...moreThis term, I was the tutor for the dreamy constitutional law professor. He’s one of those people where you don’t necessarily realize how dreamy he is at first, and then later, when he’s saying something ridiculous about INS v. Chadha, you get a little weak kneed and nervous, even though you totally disagree. You know what I mean. Anyway, in our first meeting this year about the tutoring, he asked me about my classes. I told him I was taking a federal courts class (or “fed jur” to those in the know), and he asked me if we were reading the Heart & Wechslers, which he explained has tormented law students for eons. He said to skip this book and read Chemerinsky's Federal Jurisdiction instead. I went through them both, and while the Chemerinsky is definitely helpful, as always, I still appreciated having the actual cases available.
It’s true, there is a lot of torment in this book, but I have to say I basically like it, if only from association with this super-amazing class. It’s really the only class I’ve taken, where everyone I’ve ever talked to who has taken the class has said they like it. BECAUSE IT’S SO STUPENDOUS. Oh, except I'm seeing now, below, that Lightreads did not love it. :( Well, I totally loved this class. We had this spectacular professor, who is something of an expert about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and she explained everything in a way where I'm convinced she is pretty genius and I know she is a great teacher.
My random thoughts about the topic:
1. The Judiciary Act of 1789 basically sucks. Why write something in 500 words that you could write in 10? It’s ridiculous jargon. But, Chief Justice John Marshall is the man. I know he was kind of sneaky, but I’ll fight anyone who says he didn’t save the union for the years he was Chief Justice. He rules.
2. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is in an interesting place right now. The Ninth Circuit has ruled that any time the military fires someone under the policy, it has to show that the person’s actions were actually undermining the military. The First Circuit has said that it doesn’t have to show that. This creates a real implementation problem for the military. When different circuits interpret laws differently, sometimes it works out okay for the executive branch. Like, with the EPA, different interpretations of forestry laws, for example, don’t create a big problem because forests stay in the same place. With DADT, it’s different because military personnel move around a lot. So, say someone is gay in the Ninth Circuit, and their gayness isn’t actually undermining the military, their partner could potentially receive benefits of a domestic partnership. But, what if that person travels between bases in the First and Ninth Circuit? The easy answer would seem to be to stop firing people in both circuits, but that is not the road the military has chosen so far.
3. Indian law. Man, tribes, I really think you guys should sign onto the Constitution. This is outrageous, and I don’t think the sacrifices you make are worth the benefits of not signing having the requirements of the Constitution.
4. International law. This is what my final paper was about. I think we’re coming to a place where the structure of international law and its application to local administration of justice is going to require a more organized and binding form of international government. I wonder if this will happen, and, if so, whether it will look like what we have now and just have more authority, or if it will require an entire restructuring of the UN.
That’s a brief summary of my thoughts on this book. The book itself is . . . not totally clear, but the class is amazing. Learning law is funny because the topics with interesting fact patterns tend to have boring legal questions, while the topics with boring fact patterns have fascinating legal questions. This topic is definitely the latter. They say it’s civ pro on crack. That’s pretty true. It’s like the crack baby of civ pro and con law. Total favorite for me. I don’t know what I’m going to do next year without constitution classes. Outlook is bleak. (less)
The art business seems to me like this weird cross-section of fashion and property. I read this book for a class that I loved with this really great p...moreThe art business seems to me like this weird cross-section of fashion and property. I read this book for a class that I loved with this really great professor who has the quietest, most monotone voice of any professor I’ve had. It was a lovely class, though. I played Bejeweled 3 through most of the class sessions so that I wouldn’t space off from what the professor was saying, and it worked. He is one of those professors who has been doing this for so long that it seems almost boring to him, except you can tell he loves it so much. He’s great. Anyway, I’m not in love with this book, but it does give a helpful overview of the art business, if that's something that interests you.
It makes me kind of sad to discuss art in this way, I guess, because, despite whatever the harsh reality is, I do still think of it as sacred or religious in some way. Thompson talks a lot about Damien Hirst (as you can tell from the title) and other branded artists. The art business sucks because, as with a lot of other creative ways to make money (I’d think), the actual artists aren’t really the ones making money. For example, say an artist makes a painting (or a pile of gumdrops, or whatever we’re calling art at the time), and sells it on this cool website, artquest.com, that the book talks a little about. So, that artist sells the painting, or pile of gumdrops, for, like $1,000, which is a pretty good price, I’d think, if you’re making money from something you love. Then, it turns out that the pile of gumdrops is total genius and changes the way artist work for all eternity, so the dude who bought it for $1,000 now sells it for $12 million. According to this book, that’s pretty typical in the art business. So, the people who know what art to buy are the one’s making the money, not the artists.
In Europe, they’ve tried to counteract this somewhat by making it law that every time art gets sold, the artist gets a cut. That’s nice, except it really only benefits artists who are already famous. Also, the cut the artist gets isn’t very much money. It’s not often that art changes hands frequently, especially if the artist is not branded, so the law really only increases the wealth (very slightly) of older artists. As a rule, it doesn’t help younger ones. It’s pretty rare that art sells for millions of dollars, and it seems like the high prices have more to do with marketing than with the value the art community places on the work.
It’s not uncool. It’s definitely cool. But its coolness lies more in its shock value than its technique. I probably shouldn’t talk, being one of the only people in the universe to have not read A Million Little Pieces when Oprah said to, or when she said not to. I don’t hear the book discussed for its writing, though, I hear it discussed for its content. The shark is similar, I think. It is, as they say, conceptual. Anyway, both artists made a shit-ton of money for their concepts where artists relying on technique can fail in the business of it all.
I guess the lesson here is that you get money if you understand money, not necessarily if you do things that are socially valuable. It’s kind of cynical, but probably true. (less)
I had a dream the other night that there was a word a person could say that would end the whole world. I have a great awe of the power of words and th...moreI had a dream the other night that there was a word a person could say that would end the whole world. I have a great awe of the power of words and the power of dreams, and here they converged. And, after all of the violence of wars, injustice, prejudice, resentment, and misplaced passions, I turned to a friend and said, “Now is the time. Say it.” She said the word, and the earth was engulfed in pale yellow mushroom clouds. And then I woke up.
I know what that dream was about, and it is really nothing to do with this book, other than the resonance of the idea that there could be this single deadly beauty or murderous pleasure, unbearable to humanity. In my wondering about a word or a dream that could change the world, I think there is something similar to that idea as it is in Infinite Jest of the deadly power of pleasure, the video or the scientific stimulation that kills.
Otherwise, I think if my father were to have written a book, or if we were to go back and compile the group emails he sends out, they would look something like this. You would have to substitute some kind of seminary for the tennis academy, but otherwise you could have pretty much left things the same and you’d have the stories of my childhood. That did not endear this book to me.
Rather, that part in To the Lighthouse where Mrs. Ramsey reads The Fisherman’s Wife to James kept running through my head: “Nothing would make Mr. Ramsay move on. There he stood, demanding sympathy.” There he stood, demanding sympathy: sympathy for the evils of commercialism, the evils of addiction, the evils of entertainment, the evils of having and not having pleasure.
I have heard from many people that drug court is the most successful program in the Oregon court system. Defendants sentenced to drug court have to regularly check in with the courts and describe their progress, go through treatment, and attend meetings. Apparently, it is far more successful in actually treating addiction than incarceration has ever been. I have observed drug court a couple of times, and the judges who conduct it are very sympathetic a la Mrs. Ramsey. They congratulate the defendants for a morning clean, for not using in front of their kids, for merely being honest when they used that morning in front of their kids. They remind defendants how valuable they are as people, and how staying clean helps everybody around them. Defendants spend a couple of nights in jail when they can’t manage to stay clean, and they can be revoked from drug court, but mostly the program is about rehabilitation and sympathy. I can’t handle it. I’ve threatened a worker’s comp claim for the carpal tunnel to my eyes from listening to defendants whine about every possible thing a person can whine about. If you have read this book, you can imagine the type of thing I’m talking about, but I listened to one woman cry and cry about something to do with having bought a horse and the amount of time she did or didn’t have to ride the horse at the stables her mom was paying to care for the horse. I absolutely see the value of drug court, and I even more clearly see the value of my bad attitude staying far away from it.
I think my problem is that I don’t have a sense of pity. My theory is that in order to be a whole person, you should have a sense of selfishness, empathy, sympathy, and pity, and I am lacking in the pity. I used it up when I was too young, listening to these stories at my father’s knee. And, from me, it would not be sympathy, but pity, that the book is asking. I have my own problems and fuck up in my own ways, but the cartoonish quality of the troubles in this book don’t inspire the sense of identification that exists in sympathy. I imagine that very few people lose their parents to microwave and snake-in-a-can deaths, so while I have lost my parents, this book is asking me to look at its clownish loss, alien from mine, and say, “You poor thing. What suffering. Can you even imagine?” Or, it is asking me to somehow laugh at these Yoricks as sad clowns, and I don't really have the schadenfreude that is the other side of the pity coin, either. So, this book stood there for the two and a half years it took me to read it, and it demanded pity, a thing I do not have to give.
But, in that two and a half years, I will say that some of these stories weirdly and vividly imprinted themselves on my brain. Last year, one day, I was talking to my friend in the halls at school about some liability issue, and I said, "Oh that reminds me of that case we read in Torts. Do you remember it? It was about the kids who would go down to the railroad tracks and compete to see who could jump across the tracks closes to the trains. But, then, a lot of them lost their legs through the game and they became a sort of gang in wheelchairs." My friend looked at me like I was crazy because of the absurdity of that story and said he didn't think that was a case we read in Torts. It took me the entire day to remember that I was thinking of Les Assassins des Fauteuil Rollents.
As a matter of just the writing itself, I would say this experience felt to me like having Vince Vaughn yell the thesaurus at me. I like Vince Vaughn, but this was a little much, Vince Vaughn yelling the thesaurus at me, demanding pity.
Probably, though, if there were a word that could end the world, it would be here in this book, and I did not find it, so that is a mercy.(less)
This book makes so little sense that it was almost painful to read. Admittedly, I finished Blood Red Road about two seconds before I picked this one u...moreThis book makes so little sense that it was almost painful to read. Admittedly, I finished Blood Red Road about two seconds before I picked this one up, and it has the same basic premise, but is one of the best books I’ve ever read. They are both post-apocalyptic and about twins cruelly separated, trying to find each other. I wasn’t going to mention the twin thing because of karen’s unreasonable prejudice, but I’m kind of okay with people being prejudiced against this book because it sucks. Not even just with the unfair comparison to Blood Red Road. It kind of sucks on its own, too.
So, you’ve got this pretty complicated post-apocalyptic society here, where they’ve solved cancer, but now all the girls die at age 20 and all the boys die at age 25. (None of this is really a spoiler because it’s all background that you learn fairly quickly and that has no real connection, as far as I can tell, to the actual story.) Also, somewhere along the history, somebody destroyed all of the continents except North America . I’m no scientist – I’m not even a fan of science – but even I could tell you that none of that makes sense. I don’t really want to hear arguments from the peanut gallery about how technically you could destroy all of the continents and not throw the earth off its axis or some shit like that. It just seems weird to me, and the author did not convince me otherwise. And I know there are hints that the continents are not actually destroyed, but what I’m telling you is that this is a serious issue to me, and I would have appreciated it if Lauren DeStefano had spent less time describing bubble baths and party dresses and more time telling me whether in the future there will be continents.
I guess that’s my main problem. The post-apocalyptic garbage was extraneous to the story, which, surprisingly enough, was basically about polygamy and babies. (I know, I can’t get away from the polygamy topic.) This story could have been set in the present day and it would have made more sense.
That reminds me of another of my many beefs with this book. It is so annoying to me when something is set in an alternate reality, and then a character is like, for example, “What you’re saying reminds me of ‘Halloween,’ which I have obviously never experienced myself, but I know about for some random reason.” Dumb. Stilted.
I was on the Kendwa beach, on the north coast of Zanzibar, when I hand-wrote most of this review in my travel journal, and I made a note here that I was a little drunk. But seriously, I had been reading this book off and on for the whole week and hating it all the way. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a book about pregnancy, polygamy, and bath salts, disguised as a post-apocalyptic adventure. Here are a couple of ways that it could have been re-written to make more sense:
1. Lose the post-apoc business and make it a story about contemporary polygamy and child brides. However, whether the story featured me or a man, this would require that the polygamist actually be culpable in acquiring the brides (or grooms), rather than just being a lovable idiot, but I’m in favor of that anyway because the lovable idiot thing totally offends me.
2. Focus on the post-apoc business, but drop the polygamy nonsense. It makes zero sense that a society dying like flies would be collecting brides for the rich and shooting the rejects. But a society dying in its twenties could be interesting with an entirely different story.
I could continue. This book is ridiculous. The bad guys are unconvincing; the good guys are morons; the twin thing was irrelevant to the entire story. I know it’s setting up for sequels, but even the idea of a sequel, considering the way the book ends, makes me crazy. Other than being a really helpful guide for me in my future concubinage endeavors, this book is pretty useless. If, however, you want to read a book about a bunch of idiots eating candies that turn their tongues colors, then giving birth and being judgmental about lactation techniques, this is the story for you.
______ (A friend gave me this as an ARC to read while I was in Zanzibar. Thank you, friend!!!)(less)
Beautiful. I woke up on the morning I started reading this book and went down to my first breakfast at the new resort I was staying at for the last le...moreBeautiful. I woke up on the morning I started reading this book and went down to my first breakfast at the new resort I was staying at for the last leg of my trip to Zanzibar. The girl I was with slept fourteen hours every night (hi, Miranda!), so I always had the mornings to myself at that resort. I went up to the waiters to find out how to order breakfast because it was never the same at any of the hotels.
The mustachioed waiter said, “This is where you write your order,” and showed me the sheet of paper.
“But what are my options?” I asked.
The non-mustachioed waiter said, “Optionsssssss! You have many options!” and then grinned at me conspiratorially because we were already kind of friends. I had a Spanish omelet, which they guarantied me was the best. I got to the table and pulled open my Kindle to take a look at the first couple of pages of Angry Young Man. My plan was to move on to something else if it didn’t catch my interest. I was immediately hooked, though, and spent the rest of the day inside of this so beautiful story.
As a sibling story, this reminds me of J.D. Salinger’s and David James Duncan’s writings. It has that cadence of family lingo built from years of affection and harassment. One brother is the sensitive one in this story – the Seymour Glass, Holden Caulfield, Irwin Chance, or Bill Bob Orviston – the magic brother. The other is the more mainstream brother, who has ancestors in the Salinger and Duncan stories as well. The mainstream brother tells the story, but with so much love for the heartbreak of the sensitive brother that I fell for them both a little. It seems more similar to Brothers K than the Salinger books because it pokes fun at the drama of the sensitive brother, even while sympathizing with him. Salinger takes the anger and alienation more seriously.
I think that this book has the potential to be controversial like Catcher in the Rye is controversial, though. The other day, a friend of mine posted a quote on facebook that made me think of Angry Young Man and Catcher. “Ultimately . . . any text speaks through its reader. . . . Consequently the meaning of the text is often only as moral as its reader. If the reader is intolerant, hateful, or oppressive, so will be the interpretation of the text." It’s from Khaled Abou El Fadl in an article titled “The Place of Tolerance in Islam.” It’s easy to blame books for violence, and this feels like a book that will get blamed for violence. I don’t think it should be, though.
I just found out that my financial aid for this term of school is set to be about one-fourth of what it was last term, and the aid office is being very frustrating about it. And it makes me so angry! It is so infuriating to have people be cavalier with your livelihood. I don’t think we’re intended to endorse or condemn the boys in this book, but they seem so realistic to me, so like how you react when your family and home is threatened. I get who they are and why they do what they do, and I am them right now, shaking my fist at the financial aid office. And they’re realistic in this lovely way. Lynch tells you just the right things about who they are and what they do.
Also, there are some great women in here, even though it is not about them.
Despite the ultimate seriousness and social relevance of this story to American society, which contrasted weirdly when I was reading it with drinking soda and cider in a tiki hut down by the beach, it was sort of wonderfully lighthearted and entertaining. I guess it kind of reminds you that most of us are somehow displaced and imposed upon by the injustices of the world. It made me look at the waiters, both mustachioed and non-, who worked from 6:30 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m., and wonder if they don’t feel something like the brothers in this book. Like you can’t just not do something about so much injustice.(less)
!!!!! This book kicks my ass. Moira Young has gotta be the Beatrix Kiddo of y/a writers. She comes in here, probably blindfolded or some such, turns t...more!!!!! This book kicks my ass. Moira Young has gotta be the Beatrix Kiddo of y/a writers. She comes in here, probably blindfolded or some such, turns the conventional rescue story on its head, and then writes it all out in solid, beautiful dialect because that’s just how badass she is. The effortlessness alone is enough to make me think we’ve arrived in some new country of storytelling. Suddenly, we’re in the middle of it, and I didn’t even realize the tour bus could go there.
I don’t even want to talk about all of the incredible women in this book because the telling of it is so nonchalant and so free from politics that it seems a shame to freak out about it. Even though it does make me freak out. We should have been talking about women like this the whole time. These girls are so legit. They talk to each other like girls talk. They kick ass the way girls kick ass. They are smart, but they’re not trying to throw it in your face. They’re just incidentally as cool as actual girls.
I won’t tell you much about this book because I don’t want to spoil all the transitions from one kind of beauty to another. I don’t want to spoil the easy absence of agenda, the genuine relationships, or the well-timed action.
As I said before, this book kicked my ass, so I’m still in the fetal position, spitting blood and reflecting on the wussiness of my life and writing. However, I will pull myself together enough to reflect that, aside from being a post-apocalyptic story about how to be a sister and how to be a woman, this book is incidentally also about power and slavery.
Don’t get me wrong, though. This story is not allegorical in the way the Hunger Games is. (I really don’t want to compare the two books, though, even though they are somewhat similar. The comparison really annoys me because I feel like it comes down to the scarcity of books with truly badass female characters. Comparing the writing would be like comparing Zora Neale Hurston and Willa Cather. Why would you? Both are wonderful and wonderfully different. It seems vulgar to compare authors only because they talk about women living in similar settings.) I am reading in a message about slavery here because, while this book contains slavery, it is ultimately about adventure, not about slavery or morality or politics.
I am studying slavery in Zanzibar right now, though, so I’m going to comment on it. Estimates say that there are about 30 million slaves in the world right now – more than all of the slaves in the 19th century trans-Atlantic slave trade. Most of them are women and children. They process our sugar and coffee and chocolate. They work in fields and in brothels and in homes. They live all around us. The Oregon State Bar estimated that in 2006, slave traffickers made more money than Nike, Starbucks, and Microsoft combined. Slavery doesn’t just exist in post-apocalyptic dystopias. And, as this book gracefully illustrates, it is perpetuated by both men and women. Young does a lovely job of showing the grotesqueness of feeding off violence and humiliation. She also shows the beauty of revolution.
My only complaint about this book is that I think the second half loses steam. Spoiler alert? There are many excellent parts still, but it doesn’t have the magic of the first half. It felt like the plot got heavy, and she sacrificed some of the story-telling to a checklist of what characters needed to die to fulfill y/a requirements. It didn’t feel as careful as the first half. I think I would have preferred to leave more unanswered questions than to tie the plot up so neatly and formulaically. **End possible spoiler alert**
I’m not sure I’m even complaining about that, though, as I still enjoyed it. If I had loved the second half as much as the first, I think this would have become my favorite book of all time. As it is, this book is still probably in my top 10.
_______ (I read this as an ARC on my Kindle that a friend gave me before I went to Zanzibar. Thank you, friend!!!)(less)
I’m just going to say what we’re all thinking: what the hell is wrong with this book? I don’t know about you, but I want my pirates to be more like th...moreI’m just going to say what we’re all thinking: what the hell is wrong with this book? I don’t know about you, but I want my pirates to be more like this:
This book argues that pirates are actually like this:
I read this book for a class on pirates that I took in Zanzibar. “Crimes of the high seas” is how the class was billed. It was like one of those freaking Jerry Bruckheimer movies where there’s more action in the preview than in the feature. I don’t know how I could have had higher expectations or how they could have been more brutally crushed. Maybe if we hadn’t spent two days watching The Amistad it would have been worse. I’ll let you in on the secret: pirates are outrageously boring. Tax assessors of the sea. Worse. I apologize to tax assessors. Pirates are more boring, according to this book, than doing taxes - just sitting there, slowly counting their gold coins and measuring the dimensions of their boats. Kill me now.
I mean, pictures! Pirates need pictures. And if you’re going to tell me the dimensions of every freaking pirate boat that ever existed, give me a diagram to tell me what it looks like, don't just use your words. UGH. And if the only other thing you want to tell me about is the exact inventory of all of their booty, at least lay it out like the Ikea catalog. With pictures!
This book is maybe out of print. I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just an on-demand book, or something. They (I don’t know who “they” is, but I think it’s the universe) ran out of copies while we were buying them for class, so not everyone had the book. I don’t necessarily think that made any difference in terms of what they learned, though. This book should be out of print. Sorry, Angus Konstam. I believe that you know everything there is to know about pirates, but it turns out that pirates are more like really bland sausages than I’d expected. You should have hired Richard Donner to present the information to me.
I’m also kind of not sorry, though. One of the main points of this book is that pirates are not fun, like in pirate movies, but that they are actually boring instead. It is beyond me why you would write a book with that thesis. It’s like writing a kid book about how Santa Clause is actually Newt Gingrich. IF THAT’S TRUE, I DON’T WANT TO KNOW.
The other really crap thing about this book is that I was so excited about it before we went to Zanzibar that I put some really personal, irreplaceable, memory-type items in it as bookmarks. I think I thought something like, well, I’ll obviously want to read this whole book all the time on the trip, and every time I’m reading it, I’ll also look at this comforting memento. That did not happen. Then, after I took the final for the class, I was so brain dead and excited to never look at the book again that I put it on the pile of giveaway books as soon as I walked out of the class. I didn’t remember that the mementos had been in the book until I was in an entirely different city trying to find the mementos. I’m really, really bitter at this, and I’m blaming it on how boring this book was.
Sorry, Johnny Depp, you’re still hot, even as a pirate, but I’ve defected to Team Ninja.(less)
Okay, is this where the random bolding phenomenon is coming from?? Have you all known this and not told me? Is it just so you can laugh behind my back...moreOkay, is this where the random bolding phenomenon is coming from?? Have you all known this and not told me? Is it just so you can laugh behind my back? See? I can’t even randomly bold if I try. It always ends up being for emphasis.
This book is about don’t give kids guns. That’s pretty much it. But, sometimes, you know . . . zombie apocalypse . . . sounds like a good idea to give a kid a gun. And if you think that, you’re an idiot.
My dad used to keep a lot of guns in the house at one particularly precarious point in my childhood, and the parents would leave my brother and I alone for the day while they went to work. One day, my brother found a gun and shot the wall. My mom flipped out, and all the guns got sent out of the house, but I think ultimately it somehow got blamed on the X-Men. Anyway, don’t leave guns in the house.
This was definitely better than the show because not as much emphasis on the love triangle. Also, I like the sounds the zombies make. They say, “Gak” and “Iligh” and other non-zombie-sounding noises. That is pretty great.
As an unmarried person with many married friends, I have heard my share of lectures and seen my share of demonstrations about how to have a successful...moreAs an unmarried person with many married friends, I have heard my share of lectures and seen my share of demonstrations about how to have a successful (or repair a broken) marriage. I get why you would have to talk about marriage lessons after you learn them because it really is an accomplishment to realize something about relationships. But I never realized until I read this book that it would be SO MUCH MORE FUN if they told their stories with ZOMBIES!!!! Yaaaaay! Not that I wish they had to fight zombie hordes (well, maybe I do wish some of them would, if we’re being completely honest . . .). But, sometimes I bet half of what they’re saying is made up anyway, whether they know it or not, so add some freaking undead, people!!
So, yes, I’m giving this book a very inflated 4 stars. This is another casualty of the Skye O’Malley tragedy. This is probably more of a 3-star book, but it’s so much better than all of the other RBR reads! I’m suspicious that it is better because it’s not actually a romance, but we’ll choose to turn a blind eye to that for now. The minute I held this book in my loving little hands at Powell’s in Portland, I knew we had a connection, though. This is my kind of self-help. Self-help with BRAAAaaaaAAAINS!!!
My only complaint is that there is a great part with a cult, but the cult was not nuanced enough for my taste. I like to see a cult that has some draw at first and then later chains you up. The cult leader in this book was a little too stranger-danger for me to feel sorry for them when they got locked up. Don’t worry, I won’t tell you what happens then.
I think that complaint goes to how I still think watching zombies is a more pleasing overall experience than reading about zombies. Like, if the cult leader guy had been on the TV, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me that he was too obviously loony tunes. Horror movies are so flash-bang that you don’t have the time to pause and want a little more complexity. And I don’t want to want complexity with my zombies! If I get it, great, if not, then I get omg-we’re-all-gonna-die instead, which is just as good. So, basically, I’m bothered by my being bothered.
There’s not a lot to say about this particular piece of litratuhr, and my fellow rippers have done an excellent job in their analysis already by noting the references to Whedon, Zombieland, and Shaun of the Dead. I was satisfied by those references. Jesse Petersen knows her shit. Also, she knows where her book is going to land in the continuum of zombie stories. That’s a bonus. But, now I am off to explore the complexity of the human spirit in The Egg Said Nothing and This is Not a Flophouse. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about those two because I can already tell they have a beautiful mix of subtlety, nuance, and flash-bang. (less)
Sometimes, I will wake up from a dream, and it will take a long time to shake off the emotion or realize it wasn't real. The second night I was in Tan...moreSometimes, I will wake up from a dream, and it will take a long time to shake off the emotion or realize it wasn't real. The second night I was in Tanzania, I suddenly woke up with a sobbing, shuddering gasp from a dream in which I was mourning the deaths of two of my favorite people. I remember lying in bed thinking that such an evil world, where those people didn't exist, couldn't be real, but I was still so inside of the dream that I couldn't escape it. It took a long time to come back to reality. It strikes me that writing these stories might have had something of that feel for the author. There is a lot of residue of feeling here, filtered through purposeful weirdness. The shadow of evil unreality crossing into something real.
I read this on the planes, and at the gates during layovers. Apparently, according to my notes, I finished it just after I arrived at the Mövenpick Hotel in Dar es Salaam. We had traveled for something like two days. The day before we left, the woman coordinating the winter study abroad program for which I was leaving contacted me saying that, according to the handlers in Tanzania, my flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, (weird thing: when you're there, they pronounce it "Addis Abiba." Why is it spelled differently?) didn't exist. Lufthansa, however, assured me that it did, so we continued with plans. Sure enough, when we got to Ethiopia, the flight didn't exist. This didn't seem to bother the Ethiopian Airlines people, though. They just hand-wrote us boarding passes for the next flight to Dar es Salaam. Hakuna matata, I guess. Even though they don't speak Swahili in Ethiopia. Whatever.
Anyway, it was a little surreal. Then, when we got to Dar es Salaam, we were, like, totally set up. Fancy hotel. Crazy good food. We slept for an entire day, which you might say was a waste of time, but I say was very necessary. The only thing we woke up for was breakfast. So, we went downstairs to this fancy breakfast, and we looked outside of the restaurant, and there was this huge bouncy house. It was so incongruous set against the pool and immaculately manicured lawn that you couldn't stop staring at it. The student assistants for the program were sitting at another table, and they were staring at it, too. One of them was this assholey Jersey dude, who I got along with, but who objectively is kind of an asshole. He is a cross-eyed, light-haired, man, and he climbed Kilimanjaro last week. So, this guy stood up, went outside, stood in front of the bouncy house for a minute, and then reached his hand straight out with his fingers flat and extended and poked the bouncy house. He stood there for a minute more and then came back inside. Later, this became more funny when we realized that this guy is a pretty serious, cynical dude.
Coming back yesterday and the day before (fifty hours of travel this time, if you want to know), I met a woman from Tanzania who now lives in Boston. She had gone to Tanzania to search for her father, who got her mom pregnant when she was fifteen and then took off. While searching for her father, this woman stayed at her uncle's palatial villa on the coast of Tanzania (fully furnished with antiques and stuffed animals and elephant tusks), attended two weddings, and had a miscarriage. She had recently broken up with a long-term boyfriend because it turned out he had a wife in Haiti, who he decided to bring to the US. Her new boyfriend is living in DC, but he's from the same village that her father's family comes from, so he helped her coordinate the trip. She has five kids, one of whom is autistic. She didn't find her dad. It was kind of exhausting to listen to her story.
The way I'm pretending to incorporate these stories into my review of this book, is that these people, these circumstances, are really weird to me. Life is weird; people are weird. I don't understand creating weirdness for the sake of itself, so I have to say that I don't think this here bizarro genre is really for me as a rule. For example, I think most people are weird in one way or another (unless they are extremely normal, which itself is weird), so it kind of bothers me when someone brags about being weird. I think very few people are notably weird or notably normal, and when people try to be one or another, it's awkward. Like middle-school kids going through fashion fads. I mean, usually when we self-evaluate, we just look silly. Maybe it just stands out to me when people self-evaluate as weird because I don't know whether they are intending to compliment or insult themselves. I prefer people to just say what they have to say without a lot of self-consciousness.
Generally, I think Jeremy Shipp walks the line on this. Sometimes, his message is forcefully clear; other times I'm totally lost. Probably, that was intentional within each story, but it created a sort of static feeling to me. With very few exceptions, the relationships in these stories did not develop. The characters, likewise, did not develop with much complexity. Mostly, these stories are a pageant of the carnivalesque with a background of worldbuilding. The weirdness is in the costuming and the set design, and the characters and events are less important. People decide to be evil or not in the stories, but plot and characters are secondary to situational shock. This doesn't really groove with me, but it might with you. Many of the stories are about characters working through some kind of psychological healing, and the weirdness is some kind of corporeal embodiment of their pain. You might like that, but for whatever reason it was a little alienating to me.
Ultimately, I feel indifferent about this collection. There are vivid images here, but even their vividness didn't resonate with me. They were very direct, but still managed to talk past me somehow. I have a feeling that if you care a great deal for the Lord of the Rings, this collection will be more meaningful to you than it was to me. There is something Gollum/Smeagol about many of the characters, and the static atmosphere here reminds me of how I feel about Tolkein. I can't find fault with either collection of stories, but I don't have the gene necessary to appreciate them.
I think usually when you find weirdness in life, there is some kind of functionality to it that informs the person or event that is being weird. Like how the student assistant is someone who mostly bitches about things, but sometimes he pokes a bouncy house. Like how so far my experience with Africa is that it is a place where things won't necessarily happen when you expect them, but where people will get you where you need to go and not be bureaucratic about it. Like how all of our family histories are unique and painful and weird. I don't get how the purposeful weirdness that I think is the bulk of the bizarro genre helps tell stories. There are obviously exceptions to this, but this collection of stories is not one of them. Again, though, I think there is probably a substantial audience for this book. Maybe you are part of it, even though I am not.(less)
I’ve been sleeping with famous Goodreads Author K.I. Hope for almost a month and a half now, so I probably can’t write an unbiased review of her work....moreI’ve been sleeping with famous Goodreads Author K.I. Hope for almost a month and a half now, so I probably can’t write an unbiased review of her work. I’m specially thanked in this book, and in her inscription to me, Ms. Hope *finally* proposed (I said “yes!” it's romaaaaaaantic!). So, a lot of important, sentimental memories revolve around Flophouse. Pretty fitting for the book itself, I think. As an objective reviewer, though, who takes her job very, very seriously, I think I can tell you that this book is a philosophical, reflective, jaded portrait of American society. K.I. Hope is Norman Rockwell’s spiritual doppelganger.
I think this book is a misfit drama after the tradition of Carson McCullers. In A Love Song for Bobby Long, Pursy asks Bobby why he gave her mother a copy of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. He answers, “This is stories of misfits . . . invisible people. It's beautiful.” I would describe Flophouse just like that. It is about misfits and invisible people. And if they make it into a movie, I hope they cast Gabriel Macht as Maslow. That’s not a note about the book, but it’s important nonetheless.
Unfortunately, Carson McCullers really isn’t my bag. If she is your bag, Flophouse will probably make you break into rapturous song while you are reading it (or stare despondently into the void, or whatever McCullers fans are allowed to do to express appreciation). It has that unflinching griminess contrasted with carnivalesque weirdness that McCullers does so well.
My personal problem with this type of book is that I don’t feel like I ever get a proper perspective on the characters. There is no comfort and enjoyment to contrast the unpleasantness and evil. The characters don’t go from comedy to tragedy; they go from unpleasantness to evil. So, I don’t get that sense of surprise or drama that I get from the larger contrast in a comedy-to-tragedy story; and, I'm not good at picking up on the more subtle contrast between unpleasant and evil. I pretty much expect the worst the whole time because all the characters are assholes. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t actually hate any of these characters, but I was largely indifferent to their struggles because they were perpetual and monochromatic. There were moments, yes, where I felt real compassion for them, but mostly I felt detached because the ugliness was continuous. Although there was also definitely some flash-bang to this book, it was flashing and banging through a dirty window.
Also, Ms. Hope suggested I mention that at the beginning of the story, one of the characters has carpet in her kitchen and is really careful about not crushing it. But, it's carpet in your kitchen, lady! What do you think is going to happen to it? It just gives you this sense of menace. brrr. Things that start with protecting kitchen carpet can't lead to anything good.
The calculation I made to come up with the star rating, if you want to know about it, was (objective quality – personal enjoyment + marriage proposal) x (A - Q) / (October + March) = four stars. The last thing I would like to tell you is that K.I. Hope is a fucking hilarious person. I don’t think her comedic genius is fairly represented in either of her two novels, except for a couple of parts in this book. I’m copying one of them here because I almost LOLed at it (I prolly would have if I hadn’t been so depressed by the context).
Never had anything so blasphemous been uttered under this roof. The roof of the home which was so holy to Joe and Mary it might have been constructed by Jesus himself. Jesus, the Mexican immigrant who patched holes in their roof last year after the flood, had commented on the bounty of crucifixes hanging inside the home, figuring that only the cruelest of sinners would show such displays of their affections for God.
Just a little taste of the cleverness for which you’re in store when you check out this gem. (less)
I totally fucking love this book. I’m not even lying to you because I’m trying to schmooze you into buying it or anything. People never want to read t...moreI totally fucking love this book. I’m not even lying to you because I’m trying to schmooze you into buying it or anything. People never want to read the books I like, anyway. They always want to read the ones I hate and then tell me to read them again. It’s the cross I bear. So, I pretty much consider this, my choice to give The Egg a rave, the kind of ironic curse that I can only liken to a shadowed figure crouched in the hallway of this book’s apartment building, waiting to take its head off with a shovel. It’s circular and self-destructive like that. It’s a meta, testosterone-powered, masochistic bloodbath with a lot of thought-provoking insight into manhood and womanhood. Mostly manhood. Oh, I mean the book. This review? It’s nothing the book couldn’t take if it heard it sneaking up from behind.
This book is written by The O’Malley. It must be read.
Obligatory digression: I met this girl who is in my law school class. I really want to tell you her name, but I feel like I could get needlessly racist against redheaded people and strippers by doing that, so I’ll leave it off. She was the girl who first heard about the Zanzibar program that I’m going on over winter break, so I automatically liked her because of that. I have come to think that perhaps she is suffering from something like a girl version of the affliction suffered by the character in The Egg, so I’m going to call her Womanny (Caris, if you hate that I’m doing that because you are way subtle and I’m being way not subtle or totally misunderstanding you, tell me, and I’ll come up with something else). I invited her out to a movie with a bunch of girls and me in the summer, and she couldn’t keep her mouth shut during the entire show, so that should have been a sign, but I was giving her a benefit of the doubt.
I ended up at a restaurant with her later because we were supposed to be saying goodbye to a friend who was moving away the next day, only apparently Womanny hadn’t told him we were coming by, or something. I’m not totally clear on what happened, all I know is that it was very important to her for me to come say goodbye to this guy, and I ended up at a restaurant with this girl and a stranger 1L. So, Womanny starts going on about how she is an anti-feminist, and how she is in love with the sexist Mormon guy and is best friends with the pantsless Santa guy in my class. All horrors I had not previously imagined. The stranger 1L and I explained to Womanny that these things were impossible and do not exist.
A few nights later, Womanny sent me a text. “u awake?” she asked. “Yep, what’s up?” I responded. So, she called me.
In a reluctant and mumbley manner she said, “I just wanted you to know I didn’t mean to call you a hen.”
Because that is such a spectacularly awesome thing to say to a person, I started giggling a little bit. I figured that she was calling to tell me she didn’t call me a hen in order to let me know that she did call me a hen. So, I was already digging this conversation. “What? When did you call me a hen?” I asked.
“Well, earlier, when I said that thing on facebook, I just wanted you to know it wasn’t about you.”
I thought back and realized that I had clicked “like” on a post from [Betty White] to Womanny, saying that she had been accepted into the Zanzibar program. I had been out all day after that, and, though I got about twenty updates from that post, I don’t think I got the one Womanny was referring to, or at least I hadn’t seen it. So, I asked, “What are you talking about?”
She explained about the post and how a lot of girls had responded and said they wanted to come on the trip, and Womanny didn’t want to go with one girl because she complains too much and didn’t want to go with another because her porridge was too cold, or something. Finally, she responded to the entire thread, “I was going to Zanzibar to get away from all of you hens!” (I’m imagining that post was in all caps and that that she actually followed the sentence with a good ol’ “!!1/1!!?!g!!”)
I asked, “Why don’t you want [Betty White] to go on the Zanzibar trip?”
“Well,” explained Womanny, “[Betty White] and I were friends until she tried to destroy all of my happiness.”
So, I started laughing again at that. I was at the knee-slapping stage at this point. “How did she try to destroy all of your happiness?” I asked.
“I liked a 3L boy,” Womanny told me, “And [Betty White] told me that he was hitting on all of the red-headed girls.”
I paused, waiting for the rest of the story. When it was clear that she wasn’t planning to continue, I asked if anything else had happened and if [Betty White] possibly could have had motivations for saying that other than simply destroying Womanny’s happiness.
“No,” she said, “She knew I was happy, so she wanted to destroy my happiness.”
Since then, Womanny decided Zanzibar wasn’t for her (for logistical reasons, of course). [Betty White] and I are still going, and I remain pumped.
I partly tell this story because I wanted to, and partly I think it does relate to The O’Malley’s novella. There’s this whole wonderful criticism that Caris does here, I think, about how masculine self-loathing turns a dude in on himself. Maybe I’m reading too much into the story, but that’s what I took from it. I think the same can be true of women. With stereotypes of men, the shape self-loathing takes is physical violence, and with stereotypes of women, the shape it takes is cattiness and interpersonal paranoia. Are any of us really that? Do our parents make us that? Does society and ignorance? Does this review contain conceptual spoilers? This book will tell you the answers. No, just kidding. But you should still read it.(less)
Okay, the star rating is a lie.Twilight rox. But you know what does not rock and gets only one star? Real-life Twilight experiences. Twilight tells t...moreOkay, the star rating is a lie.Twilight rox. But you know what does not rock and gets only one star? Real-life Twilight experiences. Twilight tells the basic creepy-old-man-stalks-young-girl story. You know the one. It’s everywhere. He woos her by being vaguely threatening and manipulative. She sees his condescension as the patient musings of a wiser soul. It’s fun in a book, but when you see it in real life, walk the other direction. In my experience, it is possible for creepy stalkers to come around almost anywhere, and the internet is no exception.
I don’t want to get lecturey on you, but I think that, especially for people who are the typical targets of stalkers (all you Bellas out there), but really for everyone, it is important to be aware and smart and even suspicious. Don’t give your address to people you don’t know. And don’t think that a compliment is always what it seems. Sometimes compliments are manipulation. If someone makes you uncomfortable or seems suspicious, don’t be afraid to tell them that. Don’t feel pressured to keep yourself in an uncomfortable situation or to talk to people who skeeze you out. You don’t have to be afraid, just remove yourself from the situation. If a friend tells you to watch out for someone, give that advice a chance. I know it’s obvious to say, but I like being reminded every once in a while that you can’t control other people’s actions, but you can control your own.
As an example, I’ll tell you a story of one time when I wasn’t smart and didn’t remove myself from a situation. This is a pretty specific situation, and it takes place in Ukraine, but I really think things like it could happen anywhere.
So, my friend, Vanessa, lived in the middle of the country, and I was going to visit her. We met in Kyiv to take the bus back to her city. The bus we got on was old and rickety, and the only seat was right in the front. We were exhausted and Vanessa fell asleep against the window. The bus driver kept looking at us in the rear-view mirror, but I didn’t think anything of it because we were American and got stared at all the time. He must have been going about thirty miles an hour the entire way there, because I think we got in about two hours after we were supposed to. Vanessa told the driver, in Ukrainian, where to drop us off, but he drove right past the stop down to the regular station. We got out at the station and Vanessa was pissed. It was really late, and it would have been easy for them to let us off at her stop. She had just woken up, too. We had both been sleeping off and on.
We got out of the bus to get our luggage, and as we were grumbling and trying to find our bags, the driver’s assistant came up to us and explained that they were actually going to let everyone off and drive us BACK to her stop. Oh! We slapped our foreheads. That makes so much more sense. We got back into the bus. (NEVER GET BACK INTO AN EMPTY BUS.) Duh. We were really tired, so that’s some excuse, but not much. Anyway, the driver’s assistant got behind the wheel, and took off in the opposite direction of the town. So, there we are, driving out in the middle of the country (but really the middle of nowhere because there aren’t even houses or lights or anything) with these two old, creepy Ukrainian guys.
Vanessa was freaking out a little bit, and started gathering weapons around her. She had her keys out and some kind of antenna from the dashboard. I don’t remember what else, but that is exactly what you should do if you find yourself in a situation like that. Self-defense 101. The driver, now freed from his driving responsibilities, sat across from me and asked us the Ukrainian for “do you girls like to party?” We quickly answered “no.” He told us that he had a stash of vodka stored in the back of the bus for just such an occasion. He slid his hand over onto my leg. Vanessa immediately slapped it off. You could see the gears in our brains turning. What if we were murdered, there in the Ukrainian countryside, and just left out to rot? What if we escaped, but spent days wandering in circles in the empty fields and eventually died of thirst? Could we jump from a moving bus? Why did we get back on the fucking bus?
Then, after about ten or fifteen minutes, they pulled up to a gas station – in the middle of friggin’ nowhere, mind you – got gas, and headed back to town. We were fine. We were shaken, and it wasn’t a safe situation, but we were fine.
What I’m telling you is this: it’s not your fault if you are the victim of unwanted attention, but there are a lot of things you can do to be smart and safe. Take a self-defense class. Be honest with other people. Listen to your instincts. Block people on the internet if they are making you uncomfortable. Don’t harass people yourself, but if you’re uncomfortable, be smart. Learn from your mistakes.
Twilight is fun. I’m the first to admit it. Fictional Edward is a boyfriend you could buy at Claire’s™. How much does that rock? But in real life Edward is just an old, bossy man with a thirst for blood. That’s not romantic. It’s gross. While awesome, fictional Edward got into Bella’s home through her window, gross, real-life Edwards get into our homes through our computers. (Not literally, although, oooo sci-fi fan-fic waiting to happen?)
It recently came to my attention that a member of goodreads was accused on another website of using Goodreads(.com) and other places on the internets to harass people - basically he was accused of being a real-life Edward. (I expressly claim the content of that link, though I apologize for its graphic nature. Goodreads(.com) does not claim the content of that link. : this should in no way constitute legal advice to anyone, including Goodreads(.com) or affiliated agencies, but according to §§10, 12, and 14 of my and the accused member's contract with Goodreads(.com), as well as U.S. federal law, 47 U.S.C. sec. 230(c)(1), and U.K. law, Defamation Act of 1996 §1(3), Goodreads(.com) is only a content provider, not a publisher of my statements, and has no liability for what I say on here. Although Goodreads(.com) may not be convinced that any users of its service are creepy, I am persuaded. We are separate. Please don’t blame it for what I say. I have talked to both parties involved in the incident. Below are the accused’s responses to me. The girl who originally posted the accusations has asked that we not contact her, as all of the harassment she has received from questions about that post has been just about as awful as the original harassment. I hope you will respect those wishes. I would be glad to answer any questions I can about this either in the thread below or in a private message.
You might not think that the accusations are true, and that is entirely valid. I did the investigation I needed to do in order to confirm for myself that the accused member of Goodreads is creepy, you can do what you need, or ignore the situation entirely, as you like. I understand the importance in a trial of presuming someone innocent until proven guilty, but I do not believe that I need to wait to have an opinion about someone until that person has gone through a trial. I can have an opinion based on whatever standard of evidence I like, and the testimony of a witness, combined with my own experience, and countered by nothing, is enough evidence to persuade me. Also, I am willing to err on the side of caution where the potential for harm is either exposing Bellas to stalking and harassment, or exposing an innocent man to loss of business. Both are horrible, but the former is more horrible to me. Again, everyone should balance that for themselves. Honestly, beyond blocking him myself, I'm not very interested in this particular person, as I don't think he's at all unique. He serves as a symbol in this review, yes, but a symbol of something much larger and more ubiquitous. If someone STARTS harassing the accused member because of the things I wrote here or for whatever reason, I will think that harassment is as stupid as any other harassment.
The community manager of Goodreads(.com) has informed me that the appropriate way to deal with a potential predator on Goodreads is to inform the community manager of where the offensive posts exist, and he will delete them. That seems to me like just about the worst way possible to deal with situations like this. Not only does it cover up for the offender by erasing evidence, it also makes it difficult to warn people in the future of patterns. I think the stupidest (bless their ‘lil hearts) way to deal with stalking is to pretend you can stop it by erasing it. I have already blocked the accused member because I don’t want him to access my friends through my profile, but I think censoring his account or his comments is a ludicrous way of “dealing” with a situation. Also, I frankly think that crazy people have the right to read books and talk about them, too. Just because I don’t want to be friends with the accused member, doesn’t mean other people, who are not in danger of being targeted by him, shouldn’t. Plus, deleting his account or comments doesn’t accomplish anything, as he can make a new profile, or write new comments. The point is that we should all be careful (especially the Bellas). Again, trust your instincts and learn from your mistakes. If you have bad instincts, trust your friends. Do the opposite of what Bella does because Edward, in real life, is the opposite of what Edward is in fiction.
I’m a big fan of the Take Back the Night movement, but I don’t think the night is the only thing that shouldn’t be dominated by fear. So this is your call to take back the internet. When goodreads originally took down this review and the others like it, I had invited people to copy my review and write about their own experiences with real-life Edwards. I invite you to do that again if you would like. You are definitely responsible for whatever you copy or change from this review, but you are welcome to it. The world is there for all of us to enjoy, for men and women. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to let their kids use the internet. We are real people on here and should treat each other as such. Don’t let people gain power through fear.
POSTS from me to the accused Goodreads(.com) member
Do you have a response to these accusations? More specifically, have you given attention to other people that they have perceived as unwanted or offensive, or have you threatened people? I'm also specifically interested to hear what you have to say about the accusation of racism.
For myself, I'm not very concerned about being friends because if you harass me, I can always block you. I don't want my posts to expose other friends of mine to that kind of harassment, though. If you don't respond to this with some kind of reasonable explanation, or if you delete this post, I will probably block you. I would rather not block anyone, but I don't want people I care about to feel uncomfortable posting on my threads. I look forward to your response.
message 11: Sep 28, 2010 07:54am
I had hoped you would be upfront about answering the livejournal accusations because it seems both childish and overly formal to need to set a deadline for you. However, because you have not responded, I will be more clear. I am willing to wait until 11:59 p.m., PST, on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 for you to provide a reasonable explanation for the accusations listed on the livejournal link in my comment below.
If you delete either of these posts, or if you do not respond by that time, I will understand that as you acknowledging that the accusations are true. At that point I plan to block you as a user and do what I can to make it known on goodreads that you have acknowledged the accusations. I recommend you post your explanation here on your own profile for future reference in case this issue comes up again.
(At this point, the accused member sent me a PM with the quoted language in the message below.)
message 12: Sep 28, 2010 01:45pm
[The accused member] Wrote: "I saw the first line on your comment to me and couldn't read any further. I don't read or discuss Bad News. I cannot read anything that will be hostile or minatory or derisive."
It surprises me that you say this, given the books you seem to usually read. I'm left to assume that you mean that you cannot read anything derisive about yourself. I think it has come to a point where you might need to learn how to read that type of material, as many people, including myself, are prepared to take your silence on the topic as admission of guilt. (less)
This book is cool 'n' stuff. I don't know what to tell you about it. It's about a teacher. He goes to people's houses and talks to them about homescho...moreThis book is cool 'n' stuff. I don't know what to tell you about it. It's about a teacher. He goes to people's houses and talks to them about homeschooling. The structure of the book follows Kunzman's interviews with various homeschooling families that live in states following all of the different regulating schemes available in the U.S., from zero regulation to required standardized testing and reporting. Some parents are good teachers; some parents are bad teachers. Some teachers are good teachers; some teachers are bad teachers.
I had an eclectic education. I went (in chronological order) to a private school owned by a cult, a Montessori school, a Seventh Day Adventist school, and a public high school. Before and between all of those, I was homeschooled. Probably, the public school was my best experience in terms of education. Above all, though, I learned almost everything I know from TV. I can sing O Come All Ye Faithful in Latin, so homeschool was good for that; I read The Catcher in the Rye in public school, so that made everything worth it; but, mostly my educational masters were Darkwing Duck and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I'm doing some research on homeschooling regulations in Oregon, and I came across this article that talks about the traditional parens patriae obligations of the State. Basically, parents have rights over children, and the State has rights over children (called parens patriae) because children have almost no rights of their own. So, that's the theory under which the State can take kids out of the home in situations of physical abuse. But what about educational abuse? Is there such a thing? Most people agree that it exists, but almost no one agrees about what it looks like. It strikes me that any educational system, no matter how public or private, could be guilty of educational abuse.
The largest subset of homeschoolers is made up of conservative Christians. According to Kunzman, the documentary Jesus Camp puts the figure at 75%, but that is likely an exaggeration promoted by the Home School Legal Defense Association (p. 2). I have seen statistics in other articles that range from 72% to 86%, but it is undoubtedly a large number. All of the families Kunzman interviewed in this book were conservative Christians, but they each had different strategies for schooling and seemed to be in different economic classes.
Homeschooling gained popularity after the 1972 Supreme Court Case Wisconsin v. Yoder, where the Court held that members of the Old Amish community could take their children out of school earlier than a state statute allowed. It became the interpretation of Yoder that parents have the sole right to direct the education of their children, though that right can be regulated by the state if it shows a sufficiently compelling interest.
Apparently, according to the parens patriae article (which I believe was written by a Canadian, so take it with a grain of salt), the attorney who defended the Amish in the Yoder case (and who got the Court to significantly limit the State's parens patriae rights), William B. Ball, was buddies with Michael Farris, who co-founded the HSLDA in 1983. So, the conspiracy theory, as I understand it, is that they're part of that Falwell/Reagan/Schaeffer group that turned American politics into the fundamentalist Christian slumber party it is today. It's an interesting theory at least. That's not really part of this book, though the book vaguely hints at conspiracy theory in more of an, "OMFG, how did this happen?" way.
What Kunzman does talk about, and I think it's absolutely fascinating, is the relationship between support for the homeschooling movement and racial integration of public schools. Although right now, African Americans are said to be the fastest growing subset of homeschoolers, "[t]he 2003 NCES data suggest that 77 percent of U.S. homeschoolers are 'white, non-Hispanic,' compared with 62 percent of the rest of the K-12 population" (p. 160). So, the idea is that not only is homeschooling a conspiracy theory, but it's also a racist way to avoid desegregation of schools.
Probably, almost no one now would say that they were homeschooling in order to be racist. But it is interesting to me that the roots of homeschooling sound as dramatic and plotting as an episode of The Real Housewives of D.C.. Okay, maybe not that dramatic. Actually, Kunzman is not very critical of the choice to homeschool. It's obvious that he comes to the issue with skepticism, but he's very generous to the families, and it seems to me that he manages a great deal of objectivity in reporting their methods of education and contrasting them with his experiences as a public school teacher. The book ultimately has that ambivalent feel that I see whenever I read studies of socially stigmatized political minorities. He doesn't really advocate a solution in the end but more asks whether the social stigma is based in an overreaction of stranger danger, or actually based in bad education choices of homeschooling parents.
It strikes me that a good solution would be for states to develop a definition of educational abuse that could be attributed to any type of educational system. It could have definitions of literacy, numeracy, and other vital educational goals, and ages by which children should achieve those goals or be tested for learning disabilities. A lot of the home v. public schooling debate involves playground finger pointing that basically comes down to, "No YOU'RE worse!" I think that the focus of regulation should be on actually educating TEH CHILDREN, not where the kids are sitting when they get educated.(less)
You know how we’re always saying that we love reviews that just summarize the plot of a book and then say whether the reviewer liked the book or not?...moreYou know how we’re always saying that we love reviews that just summarize the plot of a book and then say whether the reviewer liked the book or not? I know, you just sighed and your eyes turned into hearts when you thought about them. Oh, no wait, the opposite. So, this book is the legal version of that. I don’t know whether it was meant to be a study guide, rather than a casebook, or what, but it is the worst casebook I’ve ever read. I hate it. I find the way it is laid out and edited so arrogant that I can’t help but think that Kathleen Sullivan is a pseudonym for Harold Bloom. It’s like the longest law review article ever written. I hate this book.
Most casebooks that I have read will set out a case with some sections edited out. Then, between cases, there will be questions and possibly summaries of other cases that are relevant to the topic, but less important. This book edits within the sentences in the cases. Like, if the judge who wrote the case opinion wrote, “Thus, the plaintiff should win,” the casebook will say, “[T]he plaintiff should win.” So, there are tons of random brackets throughout all of the cases based on how the casebook authors thought the judge should have written the opinion. That’s obnoxious. Also, most of the cases are only summaries written by the casebook authors. THAT DRIVES ME CRAZY!!!! I hate this book.
I’ve really only read about a fourth of this book. Maybe half. So, no one tell VirJohn. It was the text we used for my Con Law II class. The text for my Con Law I class was immeasurably better. Also, this class went sooooo slooooow. I’m really interested in the topic and I like the professor as a person, but I feel like the class moved so slowly that I probably missed some of what I should have learned. Here are the basics of what I know:
The Fourteenth Amendment says, “No State shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” So, equal protection, like due process, only applies to laws of the states. Citizens can discriminate as much as they want (trickier, though, when the private citizen is offering a public service). State laws are unconstitutional if they discriminate, but that doesn’t really mean anything if you just say it like that. Or, rather, it means something way more broad than what the Court has said the Amendment actually means.
When the Court reviews a state law to see if it violates equal protection, the Court either uses strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, or a rational basis test. Strict scrutiny asks whether the law is (1) narrowly tailored to (2) serve a compelling state interest. Rational basis asks if the state had any reason whatsoever to pass the law. So, strict scrutiny almost always overturns laws and rational basis almost always upholds them. Intermediate is in the middle.
When the law involves race discrimination, courts have to use strict scrutiny. When laws involve sex discrimination, courts use intermediate scrutiny. When they involve sexual orientation (and almost everything else), courts use rational basis.
Speech is protected, except when it’s not. I don’t feel like talking about this because I got sick of it during the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named debacle. First Amendment is still totally my favorite ever, though.
That’s basically all I learned. We talked about money contributions and Citizens United a little bit. We read Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which is now my favorite opinion ever. I literally hugged it while I was reading it. Otherwise, I mostly messed around on the internet, panicked that I missed important things, and then realized that I didn’t miss anything because the class went so slow. There is a rumor that people who took this professor for both Con Law I and II never learned about substantive due process and the right to privacy, so that’s . . . unfortunate. I kind of want my money back for the class, but I’d pay, like 20 bucks for the jokes and shooting-the-shit parts of the class. I’m not stingy. (less)
Did you hear about how Pac Man was almost named Puck Man, but they decided not to because Puck can so easily be mistaken for another word? Yeah, I thi...moreDid you hear about how Pac Man was almost named Puck Man, but they decided not to because Puck can so easily be mistaken for another word? Yeah, I think something like that was happening with Fu*k the Reluctant. Elaine Knighton was trying to bring back the laughter that the video game gods had taken away. For teh children. The story itself isn’t really a knee slapper, but it’s about characters named Fu*k, the Iron Maiden, and the Hurler, so that makes up for a lot. Ironically, the Hurler doesn’t hurl, the Iron Maiden is not the band (I know, bogus), and Fu*k . . . well, he gets it on less than his name would suggest. He’s reluctant, you see. They all are.
I had to do a senior project in high school, so my friend and I decided to make ours a theater project. We taught script-writing classes at the local middle school, and then had the kiddos act out their plays after they had written them. It was fun. This one girl wrote a play that was probably pretty ahead of her time. She didn’t have a sense of . . . time continuity? The story was about a girl who had to go out in the woods and fight these wizards to earn some kind of prize (I forget what). It was basically a video game. My favorite part, though, was that at one point a stage direction had the girl sitting down in front of a tree to eat seven apples. Take that, Samuel Beckett! Seven apples! Try doing that for a matinee and evening show. You’d have to cast Nicole Kidman, or something.
There were a lot of awesome moments in this book that kind of remind me of that. It gave me that feeling like, well, I’m happy for you, characters, that you were conveniently able to eat seven apples, but did I need to be part of that experience? No. It’s boring. A reader must skim.
Having said that, I’m pretty sure that this book is what so many people wished Mockingjay had turned out to be. Fu*k is about a feisty young woman, abused by the world, who wants to protect her kingdom with a quiver of arrows. She meets a man who she thinks is her enemy, but who is actually her friend, and then she can’t make up her mind how she feels about him. DON’T WORRY, I won’t spoil for you what she ultimately decides. But the book is about these two people deciding whether or not to fu*k, and how their deciding to fu*k brings political peace to the realm. oh, cr*p, spoiler. I think that’s what some people wanted Mockingjay to be about. It’s not gut wrenching, and with every twist, you know you’ll get back on the path to a happy end.
This is actually one of the best bodice rippers that I’ve read in my limited foray into the genre. It has a lot of the good ol’ anti-feminist propaganda, like when the Iron Maiden says, “no,” she really means, “yes.” She's not genuinely confused, she just can't express desire. And through all of her psychological trauma and misery, it turns out that what she really needs in order to heal is Fu*k’s penis. Sexual healing. This is the opposite of the wikimagvag, but it’s more familiar, right? We were all like, “WTFu*k?” when we started coming across this phenomenon of mystically healing lady parts, but when I read this, it was immediately familiar. Women who are good at stuff just need to have sex in order to remember how to be women again (aka, not good at stuff). Duh. We all know that. So, then, was Judy Blume actually being consciously subversive to this rhetoric in Wifey? I still refuse to give her credit, but I find myself more perplexed. Is it subversive to say that men need women, instead of saying that women need men? It seems more like a playground shouting match where everyone ends up saying, “no YOU are!” Which is totally respectable. None of us really know who is more needy than the rest. If you start pointing fingers it might not end up being you.
This week, three different women, whose lives I don’t particularly envy, but don’t despise by any means, asked me when I’m going to start having bab*es. Maybe because they know that I’m hating my second year of law school as much as I loved the first. And if you are unhappy, pregnancy is probably the answer. That’s the basic moral of this story, too. It’s a classic. It makes my soul die a little bit, but it’s a classic. And it’s not that I’m against children, other than their being evil little no-neck monsters. But I am as bad at relationships and people as I have been good at law school, so it’s probably not good to sic me on helpless innocents. And I can’t ask these women, in return, “When are you going to start going to graduate school?” It’s strident, and if I’m strident, I’ll have to have even more bab*es later to make up for it. Fu*k.
I don’t know if I’d say I generally like this book. I can’t give it the three stars I’d like to (to put it above Pleasuring the Pirate) because it’s not fair to other three-star books. It was totally not awful to me. At worst it was boring. At best it was silly. And there’s one kind of dashing part of galloping away on a horse to go camping, and I liked that. And some nuns. They were cool. Everyone talked like Yoda. Oh, and a weird part with a mystical shepherd. That was pretty nice and Monty Python-esque. Fu*k is pretty disapproving of me, but I can take it. It would like to see me off having bab*es, but for now it will have to settle for reviews.
I think this book is has some kind of mental disability. I kind of don’t want to make fun of it because, you know, it’s not playing the game with a fu...moreI think this book is has some kind of mental disability. I kind of don’t want to make fun of it because, you know, it’s not playing the game with a full deck of cards. But, at the same time, it does not have such a significant learning disability that it needs to sit in a separate classroom from the other stories; it just has this confluence of creepiness and then some kind of mild mental challenge. So, I kind of do want to make fun of it because, you know, you probably don't have to be this uncomfortable to be around, book. It's a tough call. There was this guy in my high school graduating class like that. I’m going to tell you about him in this review. I really, honestly apologize ahead of time if I offend anyone here. I especially apologize to Cassandra Clare, who I see is a GR author. I'm not meaning to disparage anyone who has a learning disability, and I have great respect for people who share their writing with others. And I'm not equating learning disabilities with mental illness or with being creepy, just to be clear. I just knew a boy who happened to have a learning disability and be creepy, and he reminds me of this book. Also, this isn't to say that people shouldn't read The City of Bones. You actually should read it, maybe, and play the really fun game, Where Did the Mangled Body Part Come From?
Anyway, back to my story. For purposes of this illustration, I'm going to call the creepy high school boy David Caruso (any resemblance of that name to the name of a real person, living or dead, is purely coincidental, of course). I felt bad for David because he was so picked-on, so I tried to be nice to him. One day, he started leaving notes in my locker on notebook paper in a child’s scrawl, asking things like, “If I’m sad, can I have a hug?” He found out where all of my classes were and would be waiting outside them when the bell rang. He lived about a block away from me, so he would walk home with me from school sometimes. After the hug note, we had a serious talk about boundaries. That night, I had to take a makeup Chemistry test, which lasted about an hour. It was pouring outside, and he waited in the rain for me, standing under a tree. When I finally left, he followed me home, walking about ten feet behind me the entire way.
As I was turning to the road that led directly to my house, David desperately cried out something like, “Why don’t you love me?!!!” This was a relatively common experience with him. There was another girl he was following around for a while around that same time, and he went down on his knees outside of the cafeteria, saying something similar. She got a restraining order against him.
I’m not saying that I believe in originality, because I don’t, but The City of Bones made me realize that there is a line somewhere, where the flow of literary inspiration and use of traditional themes can turn into a Single White Female incident. Rather than being a fun re-imagining of Star Wars, this story was a haphazardly sewn together pop-culture Frankenstein. Eeeet’s ALIVE!!! Basically, the characters from The Gilmore Girls hook up with non-vampy, but still campy, versions of the characters from Twilight, and re-enact Star Wars. Seriously, there is a Luke Danes character, and his name in this story is still Luke. And, it turns out, it is very possible to make the Luke and Leia Skywalker relationship grosser. I'm not sure why you would want to . . . Also, I feel like there are a bunch of other stories that The City of Bones is stalking, and it seems like some other reviews list them, but I forget what they are right now. My point is that this book has killed them and is walking around wearing their skin.
The other weird thing is that I’m pretty sure there’s a misquote from Star Wars in here. Isn’t Han Solo the one who says, “I know”? This book says that Leia says it. And I don’t mean that the Leia/Rory character in here says, “I know” while re-enacting the Star Wars storyline. I mean the book literally says that Leia says, “I know.” If you’re going to SWF a story, at least get it right. Better yet, don’t SWF a story because that’s creepy.
I listened to half of this book on audio, driving to and from a wedding, then I read the rest on the page. Neither were good. Reading on the page is a little better because you can skip the boring parts. I’m not going to lie, though. It was actually a great experience. It was completely refreshing to read something awful. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not sure why, but it renewed my hope for writing.
Still, all you young stories out there, if a stranger story with shifty eyes comes up to you and asks for a hug, it’s okay to say no. Set some personal boundaries, or you might end up the victim of this kind of literary massacre. I hate to be a fear-monger, and use your own judgment, but be smart. Some of these stories obviously waited too long to take out their restraining orders.(less)
David Sedaris is such a fudging ray of sunshine. I’m using the uncomfortable word “fudge” in this review as much as possible because I find it extra-o...moreDavid Sedaris is such a fudging ray of sunshine. I’m using the uncomfortable word “fudge” in this review as much as possible because I find it extra-obscene and sweetly domestic at the same time. Kind of like Sedaris. (Also, weirdly, I just found out that amazon.com will allow "fudge" as a replacement for "fuck," though to me there is a more obscene quality to "fudge," despite the fact that it is a yummy desert.) Anyway, I never realized before that it could make Sedaris' stories even more hilarious to anthropomorphize some animals in them WITH IAN FALCONER ILLUSTRATING. Holy crap. Warms the fudging heart. The O’Malley family basically nailed it when they said this is a book of fables about a bunch of assholes. It gets pretty touching and complex on the asshole theme. Especially for something that takes, like, two hours to read. I’m not saying this is better than his other books, because that would probably be a lie, but I think it’s at least as good as most of them.
There are so many things in my life to free associate with these stories because he got it all so fudging right, but I’m going to narrow it down to just a couple. First, Sedaris obviously understands what sociopaths bunnies are. The bunny story was so so true. So so true. And something that people need to know about.
Second, childbirth. I have never born a child, so my opinions about child raising and childbirth have more to do with observational studies than actual experience. One of the stories in Squirrel is about a crow, and she’s a mom who’s not in love with the job. Then she meets a sheep, who is also a mom, but a mom totally impressed by her own momness. This is something I’ve seen happen. So, the sheep mom reminds me in many ways of a dear, dear friend of mine, who I totally love, and who is a sometimes goodreader. I feel pretty okay making fun of her about an incident that happened with us because I’ll make fun of her to her face about it, and because I knitted her a bunch of baby sweaters, so that's gotta count for something. This story is probably going to horrify you, though. Consider yourself warned.
So, the sheep mom in Sedaris' story explains to the crow mom that after her child’s birth, she ate her placenta because it promotes bonding with her child. Now, I know that this is not the reason for eating placenta after childbirth – the real reason is that it contains natural opiates, so if you’re bummed out by childbirth (and, really, who isn’t?), it makes you feel better about the whole ordeal. I guess that promotes bonding, though, so maybe the sheep was right. How do I know this information? Because one of my dear friends cares a lot about people eating placenta. Like, she cares a lot. Granted, she was a midwife in India for a while, so it makes some sense. Still, though.
A few weeks after my friend had her first baby, she had worked her way through the placenta pills that the midwife made for her, and she sent me the email below. The subject line was, “does she ever kiss luke?” I have another friend, who is a non-placenta-eater, but who has a son named Luke. I thought it was from that friend and was freaked out right away that she was asking me if someone was kissing her son. The rest of the email made no sense in or out of that context. She said,
I really only called you to tell you to marry that guy who likes pam, get pregnant and eat only organic foods, no drugs (meaning like advil) and then give me your placenta....I only have 6 pills left...what to do otherwise?
I will start the Common Reader today.
Do we need to renew the library books?
I finished the color of water.... [signature]
PS Do Luke and Lorilie ever get together....it is killing us!!
I realized after I stared at the email for a while that all of the people she mentions are characters from TV shows that I had loaned her. I told her, though, that if I ever see her down a dark alley, I’m putting a stake through her heart. No questions asked. Anyway, this story came up during semennacht, and I told Elizabeth I would tell it sometime. So, there you have it.
This friend just had her second baby, who is just as snuggly and adorable as the first, and now her thing is that she’s not going to use diapers, but she’s going to constantly monitor the baby, learn her signs, and hold her over the toilet when she has to pee. Again, I love this friend, but that seems really inconvenient. When she reads Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, one of the things she will probably realize that doing silly, inconvenient, and gross things for her child does not necessarily make her a better mother. But, if she thinks it’s fun, whatever. I think it’s fun to write book reports, so who am I to judge?
You probably already know by now if you like David Sedaris or not, so I’d be silly to try to sell him to you. My strategy here has been more to embarrass a personal friend while kind of grossing you out. Making his style my own, if you would. If you haven’t already read Sedaris, my advice is to read Me Talk Pretty One Day first. I think that’s the best intro to him. This one has taken its place as one of my favorites of his for fudging sure, though. (less)
This is Professor Leslie Harris, who wrote this book. She runs family and child law stuff at the University of Oregon. Maybe she runs family and child...moreThis is Professor Leslie Harris, who wrote this book. She runs family and child law stuff at the University of Oregon. Maybe she runs family and child law stuff in the world, but I am not qualified to give definitive information about that. I think it’s safe to say that there is some tension between her and me that I won’t get into now because that’s not really the point. She did give me a Child Advocacy Fellowship for this year, and it’s paid, and that was nice of her. In that clip, you miss the part of the presentation where she spends about ten minutes trying to shut down the slide screen and ends up turning all of the lights off in the room. That was pretty funny. At the second event we did this year, she ended up turning all the lights off again. I hope it happens at all of the events during the year.
What I do want to talk to you about is my new theory about how to choose law school classes in your second and third years of school. This is probably not a really interesting topic to you since, like, almost no one here is in law school, but I’m going to tell you anyway. The first year of law school classes are all required, which makes it easy because you just have to suck it up and take them. It’s a lot harder to try to figure out what you want to take because, let’s face it, how do you know if you want to take Land Use Law instead of Natural Resources Law until you’ve taken them? The thing I realized, though, is that the first year isn’t really about the topics you’re learning. It’s about learning how to read cases and find the law. So, once you’ve learned how to do that, you can pretty much do it for any topic within the law. What you should do, then, in your second and third year of law school is take classes from professors you like, or in areas of the law that you find challenging. Unless you are really driven in a particular area of law, in which case you’ll obviously follow a certain track, I don’t think it matters so much whether or not you come out of law school with complete coursework in a particular area of the law. You can teach yourself an area of the law later if you need to.
And that’s my point. Particularly with kid law and family law, you can teach yourself this stuff. Probably, you could teach yourself Administrative Law, too, but that’s a little less likely, I think. After having taken Administrative Law from a professor I really like, and still having no idea what that topic is about, I would hate to encounter it on my own. There are minotaurs in there. Kid law, though, is doable. So, I think, if you look at a class title and think, “I have no idea what that means,” you should take that class. If you look at a title and think, “I can pretty much picture that,” you probably don’t need to take it.
Also, if you work for Aspen Publishers, I want to work for you and edit your casebooks. Will you give me a job? I want to reform your casebook editing department because shape up, people. Why are you releasing these books with weird errors? Actually, it was the family one that was so bad, not this one, to be fair.
Anyway, kid law is about how parents have a fundamental right to care for and raise their kids, but the state also has a parens patriae interest in caring for children. Kids don’t have rights themselves. The stuff we do to kids is terrible, both on the state side and the parent side. It turns my stomach. If kids get bad parents, it pretty much just gets worse and worse for them in general as far as I can tell. The juvenile court system is separate from the criminal court system in the US, so juveniles aren’t protected by the Constitution in the same way as adult criminals. In many ways, they are more protected today than they have been in the past, but still not as much as adult offenders.
I guess, my frustration with the juvenile justice system is similar to my frustration with the criminal justice system in general. I feel like it’s not a productive solution to put people in boxes when they’ve done something harmful. I don’t have a better solution, but this seems like a bad one. And, with kids, it seems like they grow up in a bad environment and either they get removed and put into foster care, which often is worse than their original homes, or they wind up in juvenile detention, which is worse, too. So, kid law is depressing.
Next term I’m taking Trademark Law and Federal Jurisdiction. I’m crossing kid law and environmental law off of the list of potential futures for me.(less)
It is difficult to understand what administrative law is all about, but as far as I can tell, it’s about OMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE unless somebody write...moreIt is difficult to understand what administrative law is all about, but as far as I can tell, it’s about OMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE unless somebody writes something on a certain size paper or doesn’t, or sends somebody a letter or doesn’t, or talks to somebody or doesn’t. Like, really, omg we’re gonna die, because this topic is all about unelected officials who make most of the rules we have to follow and how weird their accountability is to elected officials. But, if we didn’t have agencies, we probably really would have died way long ago, so on this Thanksgiving weekend, I think you should be thankful for regulation by government agencies. Because the alternative is the Great Depression. Oh, crap.
Anyway, this is what I did this weekend, if you want to know:
I believe the audio of this book is read by Santa Claus, so that is nice. Not nice enough for me to finish it, though. I tried the printed copy and th...moreI believe the audio of this book is read by Santa Claus, so that is nice. Not nice enough for me to finish it, though. I tried the printed copy and the audio, and while I made it slightly farther in the audio, I just can’t do it. I think listening to this in the car creates a severe hazard because of the imminent danger of me falling asleep.
Having read Olive Kitteridge and this, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Pulitzer committee is looking for books about bumbling old people whose kids may or may not like them. It’s probably a somewhat universal theme, except for someone like me who knows how I feel about my parents and does not have children, but is it a compelling theme? After a while, I don’t really care whether the kids like them or not. I just want them to stop talking about how bread was cheaper in their day, uphill both ways in the snow barefoot.
It seems like there are two completely valid reasons this book would be a compelling read for a person. First, I can hypothetically see how the nature of an older father writing to a young son before the father dies might hit some kind of nostalgia button for people concerned about their own or their parents’ death. That seems understandable. I don’t really have anything to say about that or feel that way, but maybe the rambling nature of this book would hold some kind of charm if you felt like that. Maybe if this old gentleman were my grandfather, I would feel more interested. But, then again, maybe not. Maybe I am just hardened to this type of thing.
Second, I think there might be something about the religious and spiritual ideas in here that might seem charming and identifiable to either someone who hates religion altogether or someone who is surrounded by unreasonable religion. Again, that seems fair, and I don’t really have much to say about it.
I don’t think I am in any of those spaces, so this book to me was more like someone approaching me on the street, when I’m late to an appointment, and trying to tell me about how he recently bought gum, and what the clerk who sold it said to him, and his various thoughts about sprinkling versus emersion baptism. I am happy to say I have no opinion about those things, nor do I think they are interesting. Luckily, I have the option of walking away from this rambling stranger and moving on to other strangers who might be talking about things that are more actively interesting to me.(less)
This book is the outtakes from every David Lynch movie. Not the blooper reel, but the scenes that Lynch cut to shave some minutes or just because they...moreThis book is the outtakes from every David Lynch movie. Not the blooper reel, but the scenes that Lynch cut to shave some minutes or just because they were unnecessary and boring. It is, in that way, a found-art piece of all the scraps of daily life and all the momentous decisions people make to be boring.
To me, Blume got the inner life of this cowardly woman, Sandy, all wrong. And I can understand why that would happen. I think women, especially married women, but actually most of us, learn to protect ourselves from judgment and ostracism by writing so many layers of narrative about our selves, and then wrapping our real, vulnerable selves up in those narratives. Eventually, something that we were playing at becomes who we are in an instinctive way. But, I don’t think it becomes who we are in a complete way.
For example, Sandy’s outer narrative is the happy homemaker, and Blume’s inner narrative of her is the scared little girl who longs for sexual freedom. Sandy chooses to abandon the ephemera of sexual freedom because she is a coward. She realizes that she would be equally unhappy in any marriage, so she chooses to stay in an abusive one. She is a threat from Judy Blume to every unhappy housewife who doesn’t value her own sexuality. At the same time, she is Blume’s symbol of the futility of women fighting for freedom in a biased world. She is Blume’s cowardly version of Edna Pontellier.
I don’t buy it, though. I just do not believe that people are that boring. I think there is more that is villainous and more that is heroic in every person than Sandy’s outer and inner narratives allow. Honestly, I’ve thought a lot about these inner and outer stories because Sandy is exactly what my mom’s story of herself always was. That’s not to say that it was a revelatory experience to read this book. It was more like a joke I’ve heard so many times that I forget the end is even a punch line. My mom left her Norman and chose her Shep, but that is neither here nor there, really, in the story. ***END SPOILERS*** And I guess that’s my problem. No woman’s story is actually about her relationship to men. When women frame them that way, I think it’s a smoke screen for an inner life of which they are honestly ashamed, or even of which they are so proud and protective that they can’t share it. Blume sets up an outer, Republican Sandy, and an inner, Democrat Sandy, thereby keeping all of her selves shallow and political.
That is to say that this story about the inner life of a suburban housewife, written by a woman, fails the Bechtel test (credits to Ceridwen and Sock Puppet for bringing that wonderful invention to my notice). And I get that sex is the point of the story, but even in the lesbian adolescence scene, Blume describes one girl as the man and one as the woman, clear that the conduct is about preparing for later heterosexual sex, not about the relationship between the two girls. Then, the description quickly jumps to Sandy’s uncle feeling up his sister-in-law.
And I guess I’m making these criticisms because I don’t think it’s fair to compare this book to bodice rippers or paranormal romance. This book is not silly by any stretch of the imagination. It is not about sunsets and dragons and symbolical fantasy. It is about reality and real fantasy. So, it fails. It’s not true. Sandy’s inner reality is garbage, just like her outer reality. I do not believe that an experience between two adolescent girls lying naked in a bed would contain as little intimacy or feeling as Blume describes. I’m not saying that Blume is lying, I’m just saying that her writing here is as cowardly as Sandy. And I think when women do the zombie act, it’s just that – an act. On some level, I’ll accept that it is a coping mechanism, but it is not real. Maybe it is just my paranoia, but I think feminine cowardice is a lot more sinister than it looks. It is a passive-aggressive version of ambition.
At its best, this book has the atmosphere of Romeo and Juliet - some morons trying to work out their feelings, while the world crumbles around them. At its worst, this book is Eat Pray Love’s mom – trying to show that women aren’t idiots by working with the premise that women are children. After all, who protests the most about not being children? Children. Ultimately, even if you look past all the garbage of Sandy’s fantasies and shallow turmoil, this book still commits the ultimate sin. It is boring.
Also, all the food they eat is really gross.(less)
Semen, blood (menstrual and regular), pussing sores, placenta, vomit, rape, murder, hamburgers. This book has a lot of classic conversation topics. Ge...moreSemen, blood (menstrual and regular), pussing sores, placenta, vomit, rape, murder, hamburgers. This book has a lot of classic conversation topics. Generally, I liked it. Well, I’m not sure it’s fair to use the word "like" in relation to this book because it’s about as unpleasant as it gets. But it’s elegantly gruesome. I lived in Manhattan when the Sensation exhibit was at the Brooklyn Museum, and it was kind of the Thing to go see it, so my roommates and I went one night. hector reminded me a lot of walking through that exhibit, but in reverse. Like, not walking through backwards (duh) because that probably wouldn’t make that much difference, but absorbing the horror in reverse.
The most memorable and disturbing work in the show to me, and (according to Wikipedia) one of the most controversial, was Myra. brrr. I’m not sure if my memory is grossly distorting the experience, but I’m going to tell it like I remember it. I walked into an exhibition room, with maybe 20-foot-tall ceilings, and a black-and-white painting of a 1950’s blond, angry, momish woman took up the entire wall opposite me. It was kind of pretty, but a little ominous if only for being so huge and pissed off. It was a relief, though, from the other, brighter elements of the show – the dead animal halves in formaldehyde and beheaded mannequins - so I was drawn to it. As I approached the painting, I could tell that it was made of handprints – you know, like the picture of Obama made of teeny pictures of Obama? Or the one with the Olson twins made of teeny Olson twins? A mosaic. But it wasn’t until I read the placard that I understood it was horrifying. The picture was of a woman convicted of murdering children, and it was made of the handprints of a baby. Yesh, creepy.
So, aside from this book having some murder elements and some killing babies elements, the general experience of reading it was similar to viewing the Myra painting. The difference is that with the Myra painting, I saw it first from a distance, framed by other works of art, and it was inviting, even mundane. As I got closer, it became gruesome. hector, in contrast, starts with a close-up of horror that gradually pulls back, and as I understood the perspective of the horror, it became somewhat mundane. I’m not meaning to say that the ultimate reveal and perspective of hector is not horrifying, only that perspective is everything, and compared to the early, close-up horror, the pulled back horror was less shocking.
There is a story about Roman Polanski making Rosemary’s Baby and shooting the scenes so that the audience was always trying to look around corners and see what was happening just outside of the camera’s perspective. That’s how I felt reading this story. I was craning my neck to look down a hall that wasn’t there and around the pages to see who was talking.
The one critique I’ll make of this story is that I think it’s more effective to start with something identifiable that draws the reader in and end with something horrifying, rather than doing the opposite. This book is basically the story of a woman prisoner, and you don’t know who she is. She is everywoman. Ultimately, when I realized who she was, when she really took on an identity, it made her treatment seem comparatively less barbaric than I originally thought it was. I apologize for saying that, because I genuinely do care about the topic of this book, but I care more about who I thought she was than about who she turns out to be. I may change my mind later, but I have given great consideration to that value judgment.
It was kind of like coming to me and tragically, frantically telling me, "THERE'S A BOMB!!!"
"Where?! Where?!" I ask you.
"Oh, whew!" But, wait. Should I be relieved about that? No, it's wrong, but there you have it. There is always a bomb in Jerusalem.
I’m trying to be cryptic because I want you to decide for yourself whether you want to read this book spoiled or unspoiled. If you want to read it spoiled, the Afterward is a statement of purpose. If you want to read it unspoiled, like I did, you’ll still get the point by the end of the story. It’s probably better to resist the Afterward because you have the “ah ha!” experience. It’s up to you, though.
Anyway, this may sound cynical, but my impression is that people are most motivated to care about this particular topic if they understand how caring benefits them, rather than through descriptions of its brutality. We’re just desensitized. Regardless of whether I’m right about that or not, this is a particularly relevant message about a particularly timely topic. And I think the words are beautiful, even if the images are intentionally disgusting. Our lovely GR author, K.I. Hope wrote it, so you should read it. It is artistic and worth your trouble. Probably, don’t read it if you’re pregnant, though.(less)