I'm supposed to put a disclaimer up here: I won this book through Goodreads First Reads.
I think that this style of research is going to become more rI'm supposed to put a disclaimer up here: I won this book through Goodreads First Reads.
I think that this style of research is going to become more relied upon in the future, and I think it's important. Unsolicited data (i.e. information provided willingly by website users, without an agenda in mind by anyone) has got to be the most authentic of all available data. It should be able to tell us a lot about ourselves and cover a lot more ground than the smaller sample sizes of university studies. I think data like this is also a great way to get people to confront taboo subjects that are infuriatingly glossed over in fits of political correctness. There are some hard facts out there that aren't going to improve unless we are willing to address them.
This book really sucked me in, and it would be a 5-star book if not for the couple of assumptions I believe the author made, which makes me wonder if there were other assumptions/biases I did not notice.
I'm referring to the star rating system on OKCupid. Rudder uses the star ratings to assess users' overall view of other users' attractiveness, but what makes him think that those ratings are based on looks alone? I've been on that site and you could just as easily rate a person for their profile w/o even looking at a picture. That may be unlikely, but I don't think you can say that 5 stars equals beautiful and 1 star equals butt ugly.
Rudder also discusses the importance of good looks for women in applying for a job. He states that female applicants via shiftgig.com are called in for substantially more interviews if their looks are rated highly, but nowhere does Rudder tell us how their looks were assessed. Did he conduct a survey? Where is the Appendix? This was one of the most serious and interesting charges, and as such I think it requires a good deal more background and data.
Aside from those objections, this was a very compelling read. I hope more books are published with this research method at play. ...more
I am no arteest. I've always envied people who have a natural talent for drawing, even if it's just making an apple look like an apple, and not an anaI am no arteest. I've always envied people who have a natural talent for drawing, even if it's just making an apple look like an apple, and not an anatomically correct heart.
When I was little, I was so bad at drawing that I would only ever make a series of dots on a paper and then connect them until I saw an image - sort of like looking at clouds until an image emerges.
At some point in my late 20s, I decided to kick up the habit again. A friend gave me a cutesy little Korean notebook, and I started to make a series of marks on the pages until I saw connections in them. Sometimes I would elaborate on those connections, but mostly I just let them be and would assign some bizarre name.
Sometimes I would see a more meaningful connection.
Sometimes my connections were direct, and sometimes they led to bullshit.
This book started out promising, but quickly slipped into pseudoscience and self-help. The author is a "Reiki Master" and her faith in the mystical really puts a damper on what I think can be a fun and useful exercise.
I've known reiki folk. They think that they can take bad energy away from you by pulling it off of your aura. They interpret dreams, and no dream is ever just a mishmash of the day's events. They see meaning where there is no meaning, and they encourage others to as well. I think it's generally a bad idea to encourage people to remember trauma when it might have been forgotten, moved beyond, or rendered insignificant. The author's "clients" find meaning in her interpretations of their sketches because they want to find meaning in them.
I've always had a thing for unpeopled urban landscapes and nameless gritty buildings. The stories I told as a kid focused on the atmospherics of someI've always had a thing for unpeopled urban landscapes and nameless gritty buildings. The stories I told as a kid focused on the atmospherics of some run-down structure in my run-down neighborhood, and Edward Hopper and Tales from the Crypt have never not mesmerized me.
I also enjoy getting a peek at someone's notebook, so this book jumped out at me in the library. What first stood out were the lists of daily activities, sentence fragments, and small epiphanies incorporated into highly rendered sketches. When I got the book home and found that some pages included flash fiction, I was less excited. Most of the fictional bits didn't work for me and I'm not entirely buying Madonna's method of juxtaposing unrelated images and text. I do, however, support the exercise, and I also think he's right about illustration being redundant when it does match a text (but I'm going to do it anyway).
So, I was going to give this three stars. But then I was driving down Mass Ave in Cambridge yesterday, stuck in traffic of course, and with nothing else to do while waiting at lights, I started focusing on the architecture. For probably the same reasons I like to peer into notebooks, I became fixated by this apartment building, wondering who lived behind the curtains on the creepy upper floor:
If I were moving into the neighborhood and had to choose between this place and the building across the street, I would move across the street so that I could always look out and wonder about these apartments.
Then a mile or so down the road, I came to the Metropolitan Storage Warehouse. From the angle where I was stopped, it read: METROPOLITAN RAGE WAREHOUSE, IRE PROOF:
I wished I were able to sketch; I think this is the sort of subtle detail Madonna might work into a narrative without explicitly drawing attention to it.
When I got to the poster in the back of the book, my voyeurism kicked into high gear and I decided to give this four stars. Not because the art for this one was so compelling, but because he's imaging fragments of the the lives of the occupants of an apartment building, and that's something I can't get enough of.
Another reviewer has said that the lack of people in these illustrations gets lonely after a while. I think that's what works for me, though. I've never been as interested in people themselves as I am in what people might be. Looking at a person straight on, you have a good enough sense of what they're doing. Viewing them through a window, or having them entirely out of sight, you imagine a whole host of scenarios. Near as I can tell, this collection features exactly one person, and that person's face is obscured as they peer over a balcony. A penny for your thoughts, grab bags, the ocean, what's behind door number three, a masquerade. We want what we cannot have. ...more
There's a poem here about a big black woman playing tennis with a small white woman and how Tony's friend wanted the black woman to win and how Tony couldn't help but root for the white woman. He's imagining the match as a representation of times past and ends by pointing out that feelings of tribal solidarity have no place in the 21st century.
When I first read it, it made me uncomfortable. I imagined the black woman as a Robert Crumb drawing: all pink lips and gorilla features. I read some reviews here and more than one criticized Hoagland's depiction of the black woman as a "beast" or an "animal".
But the thing is: that never happened.
I went back and looked at the poem, and that description isn't there. It's not even hinted at.
I don't know how to break this to you guys, but this is a problem, and I think it's what Hoagland was trying to get at. We have a host of preconceptions and with them an artillery of side-steps and diversion tactics. I think it's what "white privilege" really is, in that it's white people most often employing the term and if you hint at a "methinks thou doth protest too much", prepare to be eviscerated, because "only a bigot would question another's racial bias."
I belong to a sect of society that would describe Hoagland's poem as "another white guy trying to talk about race" and, while I don't find the poem to be terribly delicate, I am disturbed by my initial willingness to go along with that sentiment.
A couple of days ago, I reviewed Tim Seibles's book "Fast Animal" and the issues with calling Seibles an "African American poet." For different reasons and so for the same reasons, these designations have got to go. Good. Bad. Crass. Understated. Fine. If the author isn't using an Argument from Race, why do we try to attribute everything that way?
I was just reading an interview with Owen Pallett about the Arcade Fire's album Reflektor. If you're not familiar, that album is all kinds of supported and attacked for reasons of "cultural appropriation". But that's just a term bandied about by the paranoid and self-effacing. Pallett says that "talking about people’s skin color is a very uniquely American thing." I don't know much about that. Can someone confirm? I can say, though, that it's not not an American thing. I think it comes from the right place, but in coming from that place, it takes a hideous detour and winds up in a distorted realm that obscures the path back and where the mere mention of being lost gets you strung up by your toes and lashed with unfair accusations. ...more
I'm not comfortable with the descriptor "African American poet" plastered all over for this guy. Isn't it a lot like "Asian correspondent Trish TakanaI'm not comfortable with the descriptor "African American poet" plastered all over for this guy. Isn't it a lot like "Asian correspondent Trish Takanawa"?
Maybe he signed off on it and maybe it's just in my world that that special mention is distasteful, but when a writer is defined by their race, I think of these sorts of lines:
She asks why we always read books about black people. (I spare her the news she is black.)
That's from a poem by Sapphire. As far as I'm concerned, inelegant, granfallooning, and condescending authors like Sapphire can keep the special designation. If they feel marginalized, what can you do?
But I don't think Tim Seibles needs to be put in some separate category. In "Last Poem About Race" he writes,
. . . white people have done so much to so many and get 'pretty tired of hearing about it.' I'm not trying to be mean. I've got some white blood in my veins - and really, whiteness is just a shadow of its former self, but still, I'm kinda scared, confused about what to do with History . . .
He goes on in that poem:
It must be a riddle being white, knowing and not knowing what's what . . .
Taken out of the context of the poem and the rest of the book, those lines might seem a little aggressive, but when I finished this book, one phrase kept going through my head. I couldn't remember if it was from the book or if it was something I had extrapolated. I went looking for it and found it early on. I think it's as good a summation of the book as any: "You can't know what you're becoming.
I hear my voice coloring, filling in and I feel sure the way a seed feels sure shoving a root
into black dirt: you can't know what you're becoming
You can't know, because it's not given to us to know what we are, what we're made of. We can think we're built on history, but we can't pinpoint anything for sure, despite trying very hard to. We don't even know where we are right now. A lot of his poems talk about how he ought to have been aware of his blackness growing up, but that so much else got in the way. He knows there is history to be dealt with, but he doesn't seem comfortable deciding either what that history is or how best to go about it. Those who adhere to militant philosophies probably regard that uncertainty as weakness. But it's only weakness if it's feigned. If it's sincere, it's integrity, and that's the exact opposite of weakness.
I get that I don't get to determine when a thing is specially defined, but I find "African American poet" to be an unhelpful dichotomy in this case. ...more
As I finished this book, I understood why, when I was a teenager, my mother locked her bedroom door.
Wolf In White Van is a powerful reflection on justAs I finished this book, I understood why, when I was a teenager, my mother locked her bedroom door.
Wolf In White Van is a powerful reflection on just how unlikely it is to come through adolescence unscathed, yet how incredible it is that we're able to get so far past it as to find our younger selves almost completely unrelatable.
After suffering both emotional and, then, physical trauma, the main character devises a by-mail role playing game in which players work through an elaborate maze in order to reach a safe, fortified center. Make the wrong choice, and you could die, though it takes a number of wrong choices to amount to that.
Each of us is trapped in such a maze, never more so than in adolescence. That our entire adult life hinges on decisions we make as impulsive teenagers is pretty terrifying and, if you've made it out alive, you should consider yourself lucky. I think that may be one of the messages of this book, if not the primary message.
John Darnielle's trajectory can be traced, and I don't think we've yet reached the bell of the parabola. His first book, Master of Reality, seemed to sketch in the way of All Hail West Texas, namely The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton. It let you know that there are kids on mysterious paths and that you never have the full story, but it didn't quite explore that full story.
Wolf In White Van is more mature, like his Life of the World to Come with heavy traces of The Sunset Tree. For whatever reason, John seems to have decided that it's important to flesh out these realities after all. I'm glad he has. Now we get to sense, if not exactly understand, how emotional trauma works.
There was a lot I liked about this book. The writing is as good as you'd expect it to be. That it's something of a retread of his themes made it wear on a little more than it might knowing nothing of his other works. I liked the details we got of those playing the main character's game, but I guess I feel like not much came of them.
"As newspapers and magazines become more obsessed with shorter, breezier stories and visual gimmickry, readers adopt that sensibility as normalcy. We"As newspapers and magazines become more obsessed with shorter, breezier stories and visual gimmickry, readers adopt that sensibility as normalcy. We are losing the ability to understand anything that's even vaguely complex."
And yet Klosterman's essays are breezy and gimmicky. They're also vague, but in no way complex.
This book was profoundly annoying in that Klosterman sets up arguments on topics of absolutely no cultural significance and then somehow ends up being wrong, too. Essay after essay, the man manages to be wrong about things of no importance. That's asking a lot of a reader. If these had been compelling topics and he failed to do them justice, at least we'd have had some big ideas. Klosterman's ideas were dated even in 2003, when this was published.
But that's not the most objectionable aspect of this book. What really bothered me was how easily he criticizes mentally ill homeless people, describes people as retarded, bestows the label non-human (Pamela Anderson, somehow also "the most important woman of our times"), or needlessly identifies people by their race. The worst example was, "That black dude from Reading Rainbow." That black dude? First of all, there was only one host. You could simply say, "The guy from Reading Rainbow." Second of all, that's Levar Burton, god dammit. I'll bet the universe carries waves of Klosterman uttering, "That black guy from Picture Pages."
I'd be surprised if Klosterman isn't embarrassed by 70% of this book now that he's over 40 years old. I read that he recently apologized for his constant use of the word retarded, so maybe he's grown up some. ...more