This was as hilarious and full of Wiseau-related antics as one could hope, but it was also surprisingly insightful and sweet- a reflection on two struThis was as hilarious and full of Wiseau-related antics as one could hope, but it was also surprisingly insightful and sweet- a reflection on two struggling actors and the weird support they found in each other. It's a great twisted American Dream tale. ...more
This book kind of naturally falls into two halves- the first deals with LRH and how he came to found Scientology, and the evolution of the church duriThis book kind of naturally falls into two halves- the first deals with LRH and how he came to found Scientology, and the evolution of the church during his lifetime. The second deals with the church after his death, and under the control of David Miscavige, who's the kind of monster that makes the abusive bigamist Hubbard seem sympathetic.
I'd read bits here and there about Scientology, including Wright's profile on Haggis in the New Yorker (from which this book sprang originally) and testimony from former members of the church. Everything I've found and read before about the church is contained herein, with lots more information and corroborating accounts (even though every assertion of wrongdoing is hilariously footnoted with the boilerplate denial by the CoS). The LRH biography section is really fascinating (it's also great to see how much of The Master is really super-accurate)- he was self-aggrandizing but also plagued by self-loathing, really strange ideas about human relationships and totally delusional. Miscavige is a terrifying piece of work- violent and totally psychopathic. The celebrity stuff is delightfully tawdry, including the accounts of the church's mission to find Tom Cruise a suitable girlfriend.
The lingering image, though, is of the physical abuses, the disappeared former members, the ideology of an organization that has built into their moral code that anyone can be declared an enemy (a suppressive person) and that those enemies don't deserve basic human rights. Stories of the RPF are chilling and convincing, especially in light of the total immunity from legal prosecution the CoS has acquired.
Well-written, tightly edited, super compelling. Read it and then let's all watch The Master together. ...more
I was a Beatles fan growing up, and never got too into the Rolling Stones (although I had the collection High Tides and Green Grass, and loved it, andI was a Beatles fan growing up, and never got too into the Rolling Stones (although I had the collection High Tides and Green Grass, and loved it, and Gimme Shelter and Wild Horses are among my favorite ever songs), but this memoir proves charming and engaging to someone with even just a passing interest in the band. I'm sure the ghostwriter had a huge task in wrangling all of the stories and history of Richards' life into a narrative, but he did so brilliantly, and the overall effect is of a very light touch- the book reads in Richards' inimitable voice, and wit and warmth shine out of every story. I loved his early history in post-war London, the litany of blues players who were his influences, and his romantic view of songwriting and music that comes across every time he talks about it. He's passionate and funny, and most of the time comes across as a guy it'd be great to hang out with (until he's talking about his junkie days, which are frankly kind of terrifying).
Also also I made a Spotify playlist of every song he mentions in the book [link to come] which functions as a great primer in the transition from rhythm and blues to early rock, and how those intertwining genres informed the Stones' musically.
Recommended for: anyone with any in 1960s/70s culture; people who like well-written, funny, thorough memoirs; Dads....more
Even though I'd read James Wood's essay before, I'd totally forgotten that the phrase "hysterical realism" was coined because of this book. The phraseEven though I'd read James Wood's essay before, I'd totally forgotten that the phrase "hysterical realism" was coined because of this book. The phrase had stuck with me in relation to DFW or Franzen and kept ringing in my head while I was reading this, appropriately so, I guess. It's not a bad thing, though there's something that makes me feel a little voyeuristic when I'm eating up all the lurid, winking details that these kinds of novels are stuffed full of. This sounds like complaint, but it really isn't. It's a kind of book I eat up, especially when it's also full of convincing emotional observation, like Zadie Smith accomplishes here. She's witty and wise and fun, and this book is hilarious and a pleasure to read. I think my only real complaint is that I'd have loved more time with any of the female characters. Irie is complex and relatable, but I was so curious about Clara's Westernization after her marriage to Archie, or Alsana's stubborness and more on her perspectives of relationships and gender, or even Joyce's twisted, weird liberalism that masks just layers of ignorance and bigotry. A bonus is that I read this while visiting England (though not London, the north) and locations like Archie & Samad's grimy local feel absolutely spot-on....more
I can see where the comparisons to Nickel & Dimed come from, and why basically every review on here has to mention the similarity. The premise andI can see where the comparisons to Nickel & Dimed come from, and why basically every review on here has to mention the similarity. The premise and structure are similar, as well as the relative privilege from which each of the authors come. McMillan, like Ehrenreich, does a good job of identifying he ways in which her privilege (being young, being white, having a financial safety net, middle class upbringing) either affects her perception or gets her out of situations that most people CAN'T get out of.
There's a good balance here between personal anecdotes and facts/history/policy stuff. The personal experience stuff won't be too surprising for anyone who's worked in food service (although her work in the fields is probably less familiar), but still a good read, and it provides the evidence necessary to reinforce her descriptions of how food distribution, production, and manufacturing have evolved over the past seventy years. ...more
I really loved this. Just in the first few pages, Strayed paints such an empathetic and raw portrait of her family, and the immediacy of her love andI really loved this. Just in the first few pages, Strayed paints such an empathetic and raw portrait of her family, and the immediacy of her love and pain is visceral. It's funny to see the reviews here criticizing her selfishness, because they only KNOW about her selfishness because Strayed wrote about it so honestly and self-critically. I think they're kind of missing the point?! There's a good balance between a memoir of loss and growth and a straight trail journal; the two elements are woven together well. Her self-deprecating, dry humor makes the truly wrenching moments even more powerful. For me, anyway, she completely avoided seeming self-indulgent. Also this made me cry in public, like, three times. Let's all read it and then go hiking together....more
It's Tina Fey, so it's as cutting and funny a memoir you could hope for. My only real complaint is I wish there was *more*. If you lose the pictures aIt's Tina Fey, so it's as cutting and funny a memoir you could hope for. My only real complaint is I wish there was *more*. If you lose the pictures and script excerpts (though I liked those) and the generous font size, this book is probably only like a hundred pages long. Nonetheless, it's sheer pleasure to read. There's a good mix of childhood anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stuff from SNL and 30 Rock. Weirdly, it goes pretty well with that Caitlin Moran book I just read, though Moran's politics are much more on display. <3 for brainy, hilarious role models....more
I'm not actually sure why this is a book. The first 3/4 or so are a handful of unrelated ideas (thin-slicing, trusting snap judgment) that end up seemI'm not actually sure why this is a book. The first 3/4 or so are a handful of unrelated ideas (thin-slicing, trusting snap judgment) that end up seeming to be contradicted by the examples he chooses. Like, whenever he writes about "the power of" snap judgments, the anecdotes involve experts who have decades of education and research influencing their instinct. Gladwell trying to frame it all as a self-help book doesn't help matters. In the last chapters, he talks about failures of snap judgment, like police shootings of innocent people, and the psychological elements of those situations which can actually be controlled. This is interesting! Again, though, it is a string of case studies that does more to contradict his point about "the power of thinking without thinking" than it does to build it up. At the end there's a half-hearted conclusion about understanding our own snap judgments so we don't act in kneejerk sexist and racist ways. This is also interesting! But has nothing to do with much of the rest of the book. So, yes. This feels more like maybe four or five separate long-form essays that he crammed awkwardly together and then gave it a self-help patina in order to sell more copies. But it worked so good for him I guess?...more
Oh I loved this. I loved the shifting styles and the nested structure, and I loved the part somewhere into the second chapter where you just start toOh I loved this. I loved the shifting styles and the nested structure, and I loved the part somewhere into the second chapter where you just start to figure out how the book is put together. By the middle of the book you're so far from where you began, but it never feels jarring, and the pieces fit together so satisfyingly. As I started it I sort of mentally compared it to "A Visit From The Goon Squad" which was on my mind since I only read it a couple months ago, and because it similarly shifts between characters and through time. Cloud Atlas never feels incomplete the way Goon Squad did, though, and Mitchell accomplishes a lot of storytelling without sacrificing characterization. The themes that tie the book together emerge gradually; by the end it's pretty apparent, but I don't think it ever felt forced or obvious (I'm being intentionally vague here because putting the pieces of this novel together are a big part of its charm.) The book was simply a pleasure to read, and kept me sane over a 40 hour plane journey (including some extreme layovers). ...more
I really enjoyed this book! I mean, it's total fluff. Make no mistake. But it's exciting and violent and pretty dark, especially for YA, and it totallI really enjoyed this book! I mean, it's total fluff. Make no mistake. But it's exciting and violent and pretty dark, especially for YA, and it totally passes the Bechdel test. Plotwise, it's basically Battle Royale, but rather than the violence being a metaphor for the pain of adolescence and the struggle between adults and teens, it's more about class warfare and reality tv. One thing I liked a lot is how constantly the lead is thinking about how to present herself for the cameras, even in these life and death situations. It's very much like how the second season of any given garbage reality show is inevitably that much more self-aware and artificial than the first (even if the first is pretty guilty of those things to begin with). Plus, so many people on the subway were also reading one of the books in the series and we kept exchanging little nods....more
Moments in this book were funny, and I like spec fiction generally, but it's neither sharp enough to be satire or original enough to be really speculaMoments in this book were funny, and I like spec fiction generally, but it's neither sharp enough to be satire or original enough to be really speculative. The "future" details are like bad joke punchlines. "Women dress more sluttily all the time, so in the future they'll be wearing CLEAR PANTS SO SLUTTY". Mostly it comes across as an old guy who doesn't understand the Youngs and this scares him!...more
I was so glad to revisit this. The first time around, this was the assigned summer reading for my sophomore year of high school. I was prejudiced agaiI was so glad to revisit this. The first time around, this was the assigned summer reading for my sophomore year of high school. I was prejudiced against anything I HAD to read, even though reading generally was/is my favorite thing. I hated the dialect and couldn't relate to the characters, and my sense of history was limited enough that I couldn't really put it into context. I remember feeling like Steinbeck was just heaping misery upon misery on these people I didn't really care about, and I'm certain I made some snide "well it's called the Great Depression for a reason I guess!" type comments.
This time around, however, Steinbeck's beautiful writing immediately grabbed me, his dialogue found natural rhythms in my mind's ear, and the family dynamics were heartfelt and true. Most importantly, the unmistakable politics of the story were apparent right from the beginning, and while Steinbeck makes his case plain and obvious, he never seemed to falter into bludgeoning the reader with his points. The Biblical allegory blends perfectly with his socialist message without becoming overwrought. It's maybe a cliche to say about any study of society that it's "more true than ever today!", but the labor movement made great gains in the decades following the publication of this novel, and many of those gains have slipped away. The race to the bottom of wages and quality employment is especially relevant in the wake of increasing coverage of abuses by behemoths like Wal-Mart and McDonald's.
Just from a stylistic perspective, I love the alternating chapters from an omniscient point of view. It hammers home the universality of the Joads' experience. The plural nouns linked with specific actions and snatches of quoted dialogue are so powerful this way. ("The men leaned on their fenceposts and squinted down the highway, wondering whether the truck would be sturdy enough to carry them as far as they needed to go, while the women were inside, sorting through belongings and deciding how many mementos would be left behind"- that sort of thing).
Anyway, so good. I envy the high schoolers who read it at that age and are able to appreciate it, but am glad I'm able to appreciate it now. ...more