The "Essential" Dykes to Watch Out For comprises most (but not all!) of Alison Bechdel's lesbian-focused comic strip, which ran for an unbelievable 25The "Essential" Dykes to Watch Out For comprises most (but not all!) of Alison Bechdel's lesbian-focused comic strip, which ran for an unbelievable 25 years before being put on hiatus in 2008. The earlier strips she drew were quick one-offs on particular lesbian issues and jokes, but once she started bringing in recurring characters and developing plots then DTWOF really took shape. Being able to read the strips continuously helps you appreciate the character development over the years, as well as focus on her lively drawing style and small easter-egg jokes in the background of the panels.
Bechdel skillfully plays with counter-cultural stereotypes (wheat-free dairy-free pizza w/ no tomatoes!) without being mean, and the result is hilarious. The characters' dating lives, gripes about the political situation, and career highs and lows are most of the fodder, and become both one-liner jokes and moments of high lesbian drama. Most of the strips are light-hearted, but there are moments of blistering critique and moving humanity; her strip about 9/11 is perfect, and will probably make you cry.
And like most people who have read DTWOF, I wish she were still drawing it, only because our political situation is so ludicrous and we could use more of her sass.
Even though I didn't buy the book, at least I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it from Bunns and Noodle or Medusa.com, right? ...more
David Sedaris seems more nostalgic in his recollections for his latest collection, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. Once again there is the humor ofDavid Sedaris seems more nostalgic in his recollections for his latest collection, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. Once again there is the humor of getting older (and perhaps a bit grumpier), but his looks back at his childhood are warm, although never euphemistically told. He is still as weird as ever, enjoying his visits to his French periodontist and the taxidermist's shop more than the average person would.
This collection differs by throwing in a few short fiction pieces written in vastly different voices; I'm not sure they work, but a few deliver chuckles. It is certainly disorienting to think you're reading his story and instead discover it's in the voice of a slow-witted homophobic woman.
Some stories were so-so for me, but two are simply great: the Costco story and "Happy Place", about his colonoscopy experience. The latter is gut-bustingly (pun intended) hilarious....more
Who wouldn't want to be the restaurant critic for the New York Times, running around to every restaurant in the city wielding the power of the writtenWho wouldn't want to be the restaurant critic for the New York Times, running around to every restaurant in the city wielding the power of the written word and an enormous budget? Well, Ruth Reichl certainly had fun, based on her telling of her six years in the position in Garlic and Sapphires, but it wasn't always the dream we imagine such a job to be. Her quest to avoid recognition led to elaborate disguises, which led to the truth about how non-VIPs are treated at some high-end places. (Surprising? No, but always scandalous.) Most of the reminiscences are about how she got a bit too into character for some meals, including a hilarious turn as her fussy, bejeweled mother.
The main attraction is her delightful food description, which managed to make me hungry for just about anything she described - but especially steak, sashimi, and cheesecake (I must try her recipe). The sheer quantities of deliciousness in this book make up for the dialogue, which occasionally strains. But I like her - identify with her quite a lot, and might be really jealous of her escapades. Her "damn, I'm an asshole" moment is completely accurate for anyone invested in the NYC restaurant scene. ...more
**spoiler alert** The Girl on the Train (subtitle: Men are Terrible!) is an atypical thriller in its choice of protagonist and perspective. Said prota**spoiler alert** The Girl on the Train (subtitle: Men are Terrible!) is an atypical thriller in its choice of protagonist and perspective. Said protagonist, sad sack Rachel Watson, is not-so-recently-divorced and deeply alcoholic, like Bridget Jones without any fun. Her morning "commute" involves a train past her former house still occupied by her ex-husband and new family, as well as that of an unknown but seemingly unimpeachably happy man and woman couple; one day Rachel spies another man at the house with the woman, who then goes missing. This basic premise is muddied by Rachel's frequent bouts of excessive drinking and overall unreliability. But she isn't unlikeable - just pitiable, and you want to root for her.
Rachel gets way too entangled in the case of this missing woman, Megan, investigating the case herself, propelled by some big white lies. She also happened to be blackout drunk and in the town on the night Megan went missing, attempting to provoke a confrontation with her ex and his wife. Games of memory are definitely fun mystery fodder, and Hawkins plays up the gap, leaving morsels for Rachel to find as she retraces her steps from that night.
I won't give away the plot entirely, but I think the novel's tripartite perspective works well up until the end, where it flubs the denouement. That last first-person narrative on Megan's part wasn't necessary, and took the chill out of the final scenes. ...more
More Dykes is similar to the first collection, but starts to introduce some recurring characters. It's still lighthearted but also conscious of debateMore Dykes is similar to the first collection, but starts to introduce some recurring characters. It's still lighthearted but also conscious of debates over radical versus assimilationist lifestyles, and the impact of daily homophobia. The open discussion of AIDS must have been really groundbreaking!...more
Alison Bechdel's earliest work, the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out for, is surprisingly as mature as her later books. This first collection doesn't haAlison Bechdel's earliest work, the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out for, is surprisingly as mature as her later books. This first collection doesn't have a plot line to speak of, but provides a hilarious series of gags and vignettes about lesbian life in the 80s. Bonus points for the original "Bechdel test" comic strip!...more
The most convincing character in Birds of Paradise is Miami, a florid, mischievous landscape which intrudes into the lives of semi-oblivious humans. TThe most convincing character in Birds of Paradise is Miami, a florid, mischievous landscape which intrudes into the lives of semi-oblivious humans. That is a roundabout way of saying that I didn't think the people in this book were well-drawn; there was something flimsy and artificial about each of them. I often had to break from reading Avis Muir's expository lectures to another character on ridiculously elaborate pastry to think, Do people really talk like this?, and concluding from my frequent distractions that some plausibility had been lost. Don't get me started either on boring Brian, whose existential crises were inexplicable.
Although Felice, the runaway teen daughter, was provided with an inner life that prevented her being a mere foil to her parents' anguish, her motivation didn't seem strong enough to match her actions. She was a fascinating mix of teenage contradictions and knife-edge danger, though, which kept me looking forward to her perspective after wading through unwanted breaks to her family members' thoughts.
After an unconvincing climax, the story rallies at the very end: the family reconciliation is surprisingly moving. But to get there I am not sure is worth the travel....more
Audre Lorde was wiser than most of us get in our lifetimes. Reading this collection of essays and speeches (and one interview) allows great insight inAudre Lorde was wiser than most of us get in our lifetimes. Reading this collection of essays and speeches (and one interview) allows great insight into the brilliance of this late poet and activist, into how incisive a thinker she was in the domains of feminism, lesbian rights, anti-racism, and anti-colonialism.
"There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives."
Lorde has a beautifully creative way with her prose (a poet's touch) and a engaging way of speaking directly to the reader. In pieces like "Man Child", about raising a boy as a lesbian mother, she speaks purely from her experience but calls up universal issues on how oppression affects children. "Uses of the Erotic" is a more abstract essay but deeply personal as well, and my favorite in Sister Outsider. If you read only one piece in the collection, read "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House." That short, punchy critique and call to arms is necessary reading.
I do think the collection could have been curated/ordered better - while the chronological order of the pieces makes sense, I think there could be better juxtapositions in reading. And I'm not sure her reflections on a trip to Soviet Russia have aged well, but they are still interesting. ...more
With a title like Barbara the Slut, Lauren Holmes is immediately provoking the would-be reader: you might have your hackles raised, or perhaps you hopWith a title like Barbara the Slut, Lauren Holmes is immediately provoking the would-be reader: you might have your hackles raised, or perhaps you hope she's making a bold feminist statement. In this short story collection she does some of the latter, and a bit of the former. Each story concerns the lives of young people - millennials, if you must. What works is her perceptive writing, which gives each character a soapbox to expound on some phase of their life, whether it's unemployment, a relationship turned sour, or coming out.
There's also a heaping, unapologetic dose of sex. The title story is a great example, with the eponymous Barbara having sex because she likes to, while dealing with sexist hate from her immature high school classmates. Another favorite was "Desert Hearts", about selling sex toys and lying about who you are to discover what you love doing. But many of the stories were not as memorable and insightful as these, and a few, like "My Humans" (written from the perspective of a newly adopted and slightly dumb dog) were risks that did not pay off. Unfortunately I can hardly remember "I Will Crawl To Raleigh If I Have To" or "New Girls" either.
But this is a great quote:
"I was thinking I might want to study public health, but I was also thinking I might want to move to the forest and eat berries and mushrooms and hibernate with the bears in the winter."...more
A number of adults orbit around teenage Christopher Boone's profoundly autistic center of gravity in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeA number of adults orbit around teenage Christopher Boone's profoundly autistic center of gravity in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - adults with their own flaws and emotional disconnections with each other. Christopher is has near-savant mathematical abilities, but has irrational hatred of the colors yellow and brown, and can't stand hugs. But the adults that want to hug him and connect with him emotionally, like his father, seem scarred by the experience of caring for and interacting with him.
Christopher's self-narrated book telling the story of his investigation into the killing of his neighbor's dog provides insight into life within autism, but I felt some discomfort reading it, as if there was something exaggerated or almost offensive about the portrait. I'd be interested in what those further down the autism spectrum think about Christopher's voice, and whether they agree with my assessment.
But my strongest reaction to the book was sadness - sadness at the situations Christopher is in, and how the adults in his life fail to support him, for reasons their own and those stemming from a societal misunderstanding of autism. The book functions largely as a PSA, and the didactic element can be occasionally irritating, but is nevertheless enlightening.
[The stage adaptation, however, manages to exceed the book's limitations. It's visually spectacular in the way the book can't be, and makes a deeper emotional impact.]...more