I know, I know... I was supposed to love this! The audio performances were phenomenal, and it was a cool book, but ultimately I think World War Z is bI know, I know... I was supposed to love this! The audio performances were phenomenal, and it was a cool book, but ultimately I think World War Z is best for people who love action and world-building stories. And points for lots of juicy speculative elements, too.
For me, though, the story's structure as oral histories came at the cost of more interesting character development and wordplay, the two things I usually love most in books. So while I enthusiastically liked this, I wouldn't put it up there with my favs. Glad I gave it a shot....more
Imagine that you're reading transcript after transcript from Ira Glass' This American Life. This will give you a little bit of an idea what's in storeImagine that you're reading transcript after transcript from Ira Glass' This American Life. This will give you a little bit of an idea what's in store for you as you curl up with Gig.
My sis gave me this book for Christmas, and it got me through some cold, dark, lonely winter days. These were my friends: the Wal-Mart Greeter, the Slaughterhouse HR Rep, the Hat-Store Owner, the Film Director. The most fascinating tales often came from the people with the most dull-sounding jobs, like the University IT Security guy.
Some of these people were really sweet, some were really boring, and some were just plain awful, soulless, money-grubbing jerks. And of course, some were actually happy while some probably never will be. But, as I read, I found it comforting that we're all just out there, trying to make it all work out....more
From the masculine equestrian outfits that made her Louis XV's favorite, to the regal counterrevolutionary gowns in green and violet that exposed herFrom the masculine equestrian outfits that made her Louis XV's favorite, to the regal counterrevolutionary gowns in green and violet that exposed her as an enemy of the state, Marie Antoinette's fashion statements were always unfailingly both fabulous and controversial. In Queen of Fashion, Caroline Weber paints a comprehensive portrait of the fashion icon, from Dauphine until death. Weber is not only a brainy Barnard scholar, but also a fashion connoisseur herself, and her fastidiously researched political fashion memoir satisfied both my inner Vogue subscriber and my inner history nerd.
Anyone who's watched Sofia Coppola's film Marie Antoinette as many times as I have can easily rattle off the basics of her biography: born an Austrian, Marie Antoinette disavowed her native country in a political alliance with France to become its eventual Queen. A newcomer to the highly ritualized and chic court at Versailles, she navigated her tepid political reception as a suspect foreigner in the best way she knew how -- in impeccable style. And although it all started out as fun and games, eventually it cost the Autrichienne her head on the guillotine. From her powdered, sky-high hairdos to her divine selection of costly satin footwear, Marie Antoinette won over her adoring public at first, but quickly became a lightning rod for criticism of the French monarchy’s decadence during a national economic recession (... sound familiar?).
Weber takes her time cataloging the earlier, more playful era of Marie Antoinette’s youthful fashion exploits: her androgynous redingotes ("riding coats") and her architectural "poufs" that popularized towering ladies' hairstyles in commemorative shapes such as naval ships and gigantic birds in flight. Did you know that legislation was introduced to raise the standard height of a Parisian doorway to accommodate the hairstyles' extra footage? But these playful themes take a somber--albeit fascinating-- tone in the latter half of Weber’s book, as she traces the onslaught of political tumult through the headwear of the ladies of Paris. From the hat "au collier de la Reine" that signaled disapproval of Marie Antoinette’s role in the scandalous Diamond Necklace Affair, to the bonnet "a la Bastille" that celebrated the pivotal revolutionary prison-siege, to the royalist "coiffure a la Reine" that belied fatal counterrevolutionary monarchist sympathies, Parisian women expressed the changing political tides via what they wore on their heads.
Page after page, Caroline Weber captivated me with arcane facts and insights into the symbolic weight of ladies’ fashions during a period of political upheaval. As a scholar first and fashionista second, she drew me into the political saga of the French Revolution, but always faithfully brought it right back around to fashion and the ways women--especially Marie Antionette--leveraged their power by what they chose to wear on their bodies. Ultimately, Marie Antionette was the consummate 'Fashion Victim,' and ended her life with "the most brilliant fashion statement of her political career." What was it? You’ll have to read the book to find out!...more
Teaching to Transgress might be one of the most important books I’ll ever read. When I picked it up, I’d been wrestling with the decision to become anTeaching to Transgress might be one of the most important books I’ll ever read. When I picked it up, I’d been wrestling with the decision to become an academic or a civil servant. bell hooks has written that “education is the practice of freedom,” and she inspires me to transgress the boundaries of conventional education and practice what is closest to my heart....more
In my job at the library I've been moderating a monthly book group, which has given me the chance to try out some titles that aren't usually on my radIn my job at the library I've been moderating a monthly book group, which has given me the chance to try out some titles that aren't usually on my radar. Earlier this year we read The Post-American World and Black Elk Speaks, and more recently I got to read James McBride's The Color of Water.
It made for a really short and sweet read. McBride, a black jazz musician and writer from New York, wrote it in tribute to his white Jewish mother, who lived a pretty eccentric and difficult life. Her story is actually pretty dark, involving a lot terror, violence and abuse at the hand of a patriarchal and misogynist father, yet McBride somehow manages to tell it all so gently. In fact, I found it a little too gentle, and would have liked for him to take a few more risks in exposing the heart of this far-from-usual story.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this memoir is McBride's discussion of identity politics as he and his dozen-or-so siblings all struggled to define themselves in relation to their bi-racial parents during the heyday of the Black Panther movement. Again, this is another place where I wish McBride had been a little more gutsy.
Ultimately, he strikes a very positive, inspiring note in loving tribute to his mother, and it works. I'd call it a safe, gentle read for groups who are interested in discussing race and/or abuse, but in a controlled and structured way....more
Borderlands is so sad, so defiant. But I think about all the women Anzaldua has given courage to, all the mixed people, all the transgressors who dwelBorderlands is so sad, so defiant. But I think about all the women Anzaldua has given courage to, all the mixed people, all the transgressors who dwell in Borderlands:
A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants. Los Atravesados live here: the squint-eyed, the half-breed, the half-dead; in short, those who cross over, pass over, or go through the confines of the "normal."
There are so many things to love about this book. The code switching between at least 4 different kinds of Spanish and English, the poetry to the serpent woman Coatlalopeuh, the radical untamed subjectivity, the divisions, multiplicities, and deep longing to be whole. This is pretty much exactly the book I needed to read, exactly now....more
I like to think of myself as a modern woman -- cool, level-headed, doesn’t cry easily, likes Duran Duran, but not too much.
Leave it to Rolling StoneI like to think of myself as a modern woman -- cool, level-headed, doesn’t cry easily, likes Duran Duran, but not too much.
Leave it to Rolling Stone editor Rob Sheffield and his ruminations on Pat Benatar, Whitney Houston, Sleater-Kinney and Pavement to make me cry like a baby. It also wreaked havoc on my bank account as I went on an iTunes downloading spree. Hanson's "MMMBop," anyone?
In Love is a Mix Tape, written half a decade ago, Rob Sheffield chronicles his marriage to a punk rock, hell-raising Appalachian girl; a love affair that ended tragically when she suffered a pulmonary embolism with no warning at the age of 31. Sheffield writes about their relationship in the best way he knows how -- each chapter is prefaced with the tracklist from a mix tape that describes each phase, from their first meeting at a South Carolina bar (Big Star’s Radio City) to the painful process of grieving and becoming a young widow (Sleater-Kinney’s One More Hour).
It’s a device that you suspect might get tired after a few chapters, except it doesn’t, because Rob Sheffield is a music critic god -- a brainy guy with a pop culture sensibility that infuses each sentence of the book. On his sexual awakening at the junior high dance: "It was a painful night, but I got the message: Let the dancing girls dance. [...] By the second verse of 'Bad Girls,' it was obvious everything I knew was wrong. 'Toot toot, beep beep' was meaningful on a much deeper level than I could have fathomed." And so on.
As a fellow purveyor of pop culture, and someone who agrees that stories and songs are mostly meant to connect us to each other (and also to keep the girls dancing), I stand by Love is a Mix Tape as the perfect little summer book. Check it out, but make sure you’ve got your credit card handy. You might be downloading a lot of Debbie Harry and TLC over the weekend....more