If all you know about Elizabeth Gilbert is Eat, Pray, Love, you are missing out. Though that book is decent as a frothy, escapist read, her other book...moreIf all you know about Elizabeth Gilbert is Eat, Pray, Love, you are missing out. Though that book is decent as a frothy, escapist read, her other books are so much better. I loved Committed when I read it last year, and I absolutely loved The Last American Man. As someone very caught up in urban, mediated life, I appreciated reading about someone who is devoted to a life of nature and self-reliance in the wilderness. Gilbert's portrait of Eustace Conway is incredibly compelling; you root for him the whole time, even though his flaws and shortcomings are obvious. I would never want to lead Conway's lifestyle, but I loved learning about it.(less)
Really excellent memoir. Not only does Boylan write beautifully about her own experiences, but she's able to get inside the head of her wife and her f...moreReally excellent memoir. Not only does Boylan write beautifully about her own experiences, but she's able to get inside the head of her wife and her friends and explore their perspectives as well. That can't be easy for any writer, even the most talented ones. She's Not There is one of the best books about gender identity I've ever read. It's funny and emotional and honest and conversational, and Boylan never sugarcoats the tough parts to make herself look better. I highly recommend it.(less)
I think that part of the reason that I didn't love this book as much as I had hoped is because it's a bit outdated. It was published in 1998, and cert...moreI think that part of the reason that I didn't love this book as much as I had hoped is because it's a bit outdated. It was published in 1998, and certainly the queer and gender equality movements have changed dramatically over the past decade. Had I read this book closer to when it had been written, it may have resonated with me more.
Female Masculinity is incredibly well-researched and includes a lot of fascinating information about the history of female masculinity. Several chapters focus on pre-twentieth century female masculinity, which I found particularly interesting, as most of the information in those chapters were completely new to me.
My favorite chapter is the second to last chapter, which explores masculinity as performance and the drag king culture. Halberstam did an excellent job of highlighting the differences between the ways that masculinity and femininity are performed and how these performances are illustrated in drag culture. I've always been a fan of drag, but I am much less familiar with the drag king world than I am with the drag queen world, and reading about "kinging," as Halberstam calls it, has made me very interested in learning more.
It's also important to mention that Halberstam's writing is very approachable, and, as a whole, Female Masculinity is one of the most accessible academic texts I've ever read. It's very theoretical, of course, but it contains much less jargon than other books I've read on similar topics.
My biggest problem with Female Masculinity is that it exclusively explored masculinity in queer women. While the relationship between female masculinity and lesbianism is critical and worthy of extensive examination, I was hoping to read about a more diverse assortment of female masculine identities. One of my biggest pet peeves is when gender identity and sexual orientation are conflated, and I felt that the exclusive focus on lesbianism perpetuated that kind of conflation. The implication that only queer women are masculine is incredibly problematic, and though I don't think Halberstam meant to imply that, it does come across that way at points.
I was also troubled by the way Halberstam compared butch female identity with trans male identity. Again, I don't think Halberstam meant to imply that masculine-presenting women and transgender men have the same identities and struggles, but there are moments where the arguments come across that way. Since trans men are men, and not masculine women, I felt the comparisons between trans men and butch women to be oversimplified and not entirely accurate.
Overall, I enjoyed Female Masculinity, but it is not the definitive text on the subject I was hoping it would be. I am curious to see what else has been written on the subject since this book's release.(less)
This was a challenge, but I really enjoyed reading it. I liked Derrida's writing style, and he raises some fascinating questions about the nature of l...moreThis was a challenge, but I really enjoyed reading it. I liked Derrida's writing style, and he raises some fascinating questions about the nature of language and communication (can anyone "own" the language they speak? how does one quantify languages?). But what I loved most about Monolingualism of the Other is the way in which Derrida discusses the connections between language and cultural assimilation, particularly with regard to his Jewish heritage. He devotes a lot of time to exploring how his identity as an Algerian Jew made him less connected to the French language than other native French speakers. Though I've read a lot about cultural assimilation and Judaism throughout my life, this particular perspective was new to me, and I really appreciated reading it. I'm curious to read more of Derrida's work and learn more about him.(less)
It's hard to rate a book like this. I appreciated it, as it's clearly influential in how it addresses the changes in the way we perceive knowledge, an...moreIt's hard to rate a book like this. I appreciated it, as it's clearly influential in how it addresses the changes in the way we perceive knowledge, and it's very well-written. But did I "like" or "enjoy" it, necessarily? I'm not sure. I'm also not terribly well-read when it comes to postmodern philosophy, so once I read more of it and become more accustomed to that style, I may understand my reactions to Lyotard's writing better.(less)
This is the first book I've read in the 33 1/3 series, and I already want to read another one. This really is the ultimate pleasure reading -- what co...moreThis is the first book I've read in the 33 1/3 series, and I already want to read another one. This really is the ultimate pleasure reading -- what could be more fun than reading a short book all about why one of your favorite albums is so great?
Needless to say, since I love Joni Mitchell's "Court and Spark," I enjoyed this book. It felt like the literary equivalent of late-night, inebriated conversations I've had with friends in which we analyze our favorite music. And that's not a bad thing. It just means that this book is a lot more about personal responses to the music and the author's personal theories on what Mitchell's songs are about than it is about the actual history of the album. The style is very stream-of-consciousness, and while some of the diversions are confusing, I liked the conversational, personal nature of Nelson's writing.
The last chapter lost me a bit. He closes the book by talking about the Mitchell's decline as a musician after "Court and Spark," and while that may be true, it was a bummer note on which to end the book. I could've done without most of that chapter. But otherwise, I enjoyed Court and Spark quite a lot. I'd recommend it to any fan of Mitchell's music.(less)
If you are at all interested in feminist film analysis, this book is a must-read. Though I wish Clover had spent more time explicitly exploring the qu...moreIf you are at all interested in feminist film analysis, this book is a must-read. Though I wish Clover had spent more time explicitly exploring the queer subtext of her arguments, I learned a lot from reading this book and appreciated her insights. Like Laura Mulvey, Clover's work has been clearly influential on feminist film theory -- whether or not you agree with everything she says, the text is groundbreaking and set the stage for the conversations we're having today. Really interesting read.(less)
I tend to love critical analyses of media that were not created to be critically analyzed. So, as you can imagine, I loved this book. It tells you muc...moreI tend to love critical analyses of media that were not created to be critically analyzed. So, as you can imagine, I loved this book. It tells you much more about Celine Dion than you ever wanted to know, but more than that, it's a study of taste. Wilson goes beyond criticizing Dion's music (which wouldn't have made for a particularly engaging book on its own) and questions why people like what they like and why music that appeals to mass audiences can be completely "uncool." These aren't new questions, nor are his observations groundbreaking, but his writing is so engaging that you hardly notice. Wilson's style is also highly entertaining, witty without being too snarky or condescending. This is music writing at its best.(less)
Cabaret is a musical filled with metaphor and symbolism. Goodbye to Berlin, the source material on which the musical was based, is far more literal bu...moreCabaret is a musical filled with metaphor and symbolism. Goodbye to Berlin, the source material on which the musical was based, is far more literal but just as powerful. Isherwood masterfully weaves characters through a collection of short stories, depicting the art and decadence of Weimar Germany while the Nazi party begins to assert power. Beautiful writing and storytelling.(less)
In all honesty, I probably could have appreciated it more if I hadn't needed to read it so quickly (I'm w...moreOf course I loved this book. How could I not?
In all honesty, I probably could have appreciated it more if I hadn't needed to read it so quickly (I'm writing about it for class). But it's a really excellent primer on the New Queer Cinema movement of the 1990s. It opens with B. Ruby Rich's essay "New Queer Cinema," which sets the stage and the players well, and then the rest of the essays are variations on that theme/responses to Rich's work. It's a device that may not have been intentional, but it works well.
I borrowed this book from the NYU library, but I hope to purchase it because it is a book I will probably refer to often throughout my graduate and professional career. It's an excellent introductory book to read if you have any interest in this subject.(less)
Palestine was a really challenging book for me to read, which is exactly why I'm glad I read it. Because it's an excellent book, and an important one....morePalestine was a really challenging book for me to read, which is exactly why I'm glad I read it. Because it's an excellent book, and an important one. I anticipate it's going to take me a long time to fully digest this one. I hope to come back and write more about it later, once it sinks in more.
One thing I will say, though, is that I love how terribly Sacco presents himself. Though he's obviously sensitive to the traumas he's witnessing (he couldn't have written the book if he wasn't), he often portrays himself as incredibly cynical and opportunistic. He believes that, as a Westerner, he is doing Very Important Work, and it's refreshing when he realizes that most of the Palestinians he interviews don't think he's doing anything very special at all. It takes a smart, talented writer to be that self-aware and critical, so I applaud Sacco for that.(less)
My feelings about Written on the Body are identical to my feelings after seeing The Tree of Life earlier this year -- the story is really nothing spec...moreMy feelings about Written on the Body are identical to my feelings after seeing The Tree of Life earlier this year -- the story is really nothing special or even interesting, but it's told really beautifully.
I picked up this book because I'd heard that the reader never finds out the narrator's name or gender, which is pretty cool. And it works. It's refreshing to read a book where gender, ultimately, is irrelevant to the story. It wasn't enough to keep the story fully engaging for me, but it's a neat storytelling device.
Written on the Body is worth reading for the language itself, not the story. But don't read it at all if you don't like reading continuous declarations of love. If overly romantic stories make you roll your eyes and gag, this is not for you.(less)