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Black Wave
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2017 TOB -The Books > Black Wave

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message 1: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy (asawatzky) | 1590 comments space to discuss Black Wave by Michelle Tea


message 2: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo | 429 comments i'm going to buy this one from powell's in 5, 4, 3


Ehrrin | 114 comments I'm sad that Black Wave faces Underground Railroad in the first round. I'm curious if anyone has a good sense of whether the judge is likely to go the way of UR as critical darling or push a big upset?

I'm kind of hoping that BW wins the first round, but then UR returns as zombie (or vice versa, but I don't think BW has the kind of buzz necessary to be a zombie pick).

I really loved Black Wave. I'm a queer femme who grew up working class, and it really speaks to me on that level. I also had some wild years in my early twenties, and can relate a little to that, too. But I really am charmed by the stuff about how to write a memoir when it affects the people in your life. And that she worked an apocalypse into this memoir-ish is novel is just, well, really novel!


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 541 comments Ehrrin wrote: "I'm sad that Black Wave faces Underground Railroad in the first round. I'm curious if anyone has a good sense of whether the judge is likely to go the way of UR as critical darling or push a big up..."

I haven't been able to write my review of this one yet but it really blew me away. I almost didn't even try it because of the description, because I'm not keen on drug culture, and thought it was going to be "another one of those." Ha! Where she takes it and how she also manages to comment on the lit world and who we take seriously... all of it, I was right there, hanging on every word. I loved the ending. I loved the chapters leading up to the ending. It's amazing they were in the same novel but it still worked. I haven't been taken on a journey like that for a long time. I'm really upset that it's up against a novel that has SO much acclaim because I think it could be dismissed in the first round. I definitely voted for it as the zombie pick so we'll see.


message 5: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen | 125 comments Ehrrin wrote: "I'm sad that Black Wave faces Underground Railroad in the first round. I'm curious if anyone has a good sense of whether the judge is likely to go the way of UR as critical darling or push a big up..."

This is my hope too Ehrinn (that BW wins the round and UR comes back as a zombie).

Black Wave surprised and delighted me. It didn't start out great for me, so I can't say I loved it throughout, but by the end I was hooked and so impressed by what the author accomplished. It's one of those books I love the ToB for, I would not have likely read it otherwise.


nomadreader (Carrie D-L) (nomadreader) | 68 comments I, too, was devastated to see Black Wave up against Underground Railroad in the first round. UR is next in my pile, but I heard Colson Whitehead speak about it at ALA last summer, and it sounds wonderful too. I have to hold out hope Kirstin Butler might go with Black Wave, but it's a longshot.

At the very least, I hope she struggles with the decision and gives Black Wave a lot of love in her decision so it can find a larger audience.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 541 comments nomadreader (Carrie D-L) wrote: "At the very least, I hope she struggles with the decision and gives Black Wave a lot of love in her decision so it can find a larger audience. "
True! At the very least!


message 8: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan (janrowell) | 1037 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "nomadreader (Carrie D-L) wrote: "At the very least, I hope she struggles with the decision and gives Black Wave a lot of love in her decision so it can find a larger audience. "
True! At the very l..."


Ditto. Even though I loved UR, I'm gonna pull for an upset because I'm sure it would come back as a zombie, and BW is just such a surprise on so many levels.


Matthew | 74 comments Jan wrote: "Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "nomadreader (Carrie D-L) wrote: "At the very least, I hope she struggles with the decision and gives Black Wave a lot of love in her decision so it can find a larger au..."

I'm right there with you both! I am not ready to see Black Wave go out in round one. Too many fun match up possibilities down the line; would be cool to see several rounds of discussion about this book. There's much to dive into. UR as a zombie would be interesting as well. Who knows, maybe a BW/UR rematch in the semis? I know I'm getting carried away... :)


Kristina (kristina3880) | 34 comments This is why I love the tournament so much. This is a book I would have never picked up by description. This was so well written and a nice surprise. Just like football, I love a good upset. I would also agree that it would be fantastic if this book moved on and UR came back in the zombie round.


Teresa (teresakayep) | 17 comments I liked this a lot, too, although I nearly gave up in the first half, which I found kind of boring. (Intentionally so, I think, but still not something I'd want to read for 300 pages.) But the turns it took in the last half really delighted me! I liked Underground Railroad, too, but I'd like to see this win. UR is virtually guaranteed a zombie spot anyway.


message 12: by Drew (new) - rated it 5 stars

Drew (drewsof) I'm struggling to finish BW, not because I don't like it - in fact, quite the opposite - but because it is so viscerally upsetting to me in its back half. I don't mind apocalyptic stories and in fact quite enjoy them when they're as well written as this one... so why the hell am I WIGGING OUT on the train while reading?

The answer, of course, is that I'm reading it now as opposed to even a month ago, when I probably would've found the apocalyptic stuff diverting and fictional. As opposed to altogether too possible, based on any given handful of news stories these days.

It's a great example of reading being affected by time/place/circumstances. I wonder how many other folks this book might strike differently in the pre/post-Jan20 dichotomy. In particular, I wonder about the judge: I'm pretty sure first round judgements come in by mid-January. And I'll bet heartily that if I'd been the judge, I would've picked Colson in early January - but I think I'd pick Michelle in mid-February.

Weird.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 541 comments Drew wrote: "I'm struggling to finish BW, not because I don't like it - in fact, quite the opposite - but because it is so viscerally upsetting to me in its back half. I don't mind apocalyptic stories and in fa..."

Yes, good point. I prefer my dystopias fictional.


message 14: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan (gentlyread) | 67 comments I really liked this book, and I wasn't expecting to. (Like, ugh, I didn't want to read about real celebrities as characters. Even now I still feel weird about the mass suicide of real Scientologists. And also kinda conflicted about Matt Dillon.) It was vivid and visceral enough to mess with my dreams. It also kind of screwed up my ability to read any other books these past few days; even The Vegetarian isn't able to get a grip on me, not when I'm still parsing out the metaphors and metafiction of Black Wave.

It kind of feels like there's a whole multiplicity of ways to read Black Wave, and they're all interesting to me, and I want to read multiple rounds worth of judgments about it. So I wish I could change my zombie vote. :) Though one thing that interested me about both The Underground Railroad and BW was how they each turned a metaphor into something literal--the railroad, the apocalypse--that propels the protagonist through to different glimpses of futures and consequences. I feel like there are more comparisons to be made by readers smarter than me. So I'm looking forward to the judgment--though I really hope BW ekes out an underdog victory.


message 15: by Neighbors (new)

Neighbors (neighbors73) | 69 comments Basically, I finished it and thought, "huh."

Although there was a lot I liked about Black Wave, it just totally went sideways for me in that last quarter in a way that didn't really work for me. However, I agree that there will likely be lots of super interesting conversation about it!


message 16: by Drew (new) - rated it 4 stars

Drew (drewlynn) | 416 comments I'm not finished yet but am really enjoying this book. Plus, I've now got a new phrase to describe royally screwing up: "Dropping the bagel."


Katie | 127 comments I just finished this tonight and man it was weird (especially at the end) and I'm not 100% sure I even know what happened. Like are they in a dream world/parallel universe or did it all end or is this something she's writing that isn't even real? I don't know but I enjoyed the ride. And I didn't expect to - existential writers writing about writers isn't really my thing but I enjoyed this one. The Maggie Nelson plug in the beginning probably did frame me to want to like it because I love The Argonauts and her work so much. But I liked this one and it was fast. It has kept me up too late tonight finishing it.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 541 comments Katie wrote: "is this something she's writing that isn't even real? "

If you're reading it then it must not have happened.... mind... blown. :)


message 19: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo | 429 comments as a consequence of reading this book i have developed an abiding love for michelle tea. anyone else? if you know her, what is the book to read next?


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments I also wasn't expecting to love this one -- I don't enjoy either apocalypse or a lot of drug use. But it drew me in, I kept wanting to find out what happened next, and at the point that it turns metafictional, with Michelle trying to figure out how to write memoir ethically, or if that is even possible, and how to fictionalise herself, I was utterly hooked. I enjoyed that LA section so much more than the SF one that I wonder if SF could have been shorter & thus produced an even stronger book, but then again I suspect that without the sort of unrelenting sameness of Michelle's time in SF, the changes in LA wouldn't have meant so much.

Jo, I haven't read anything else by her, but I am also going to seek some out.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments Katie wrote: "I just finished this tonight and man it was weird (especially at the end) and I'm not 100% sure I even know what happened.

I think it is intentionally ambiguous and perhaps deliberately both -- the apocalypse is both a true thing that happens in the world of the book but is also a container/symbol for all-encompassing endings -- the end of Michelle's life as an alcoholic, the ending of a decade/century/millenium, the ending of a phase in the narrative that the US has about itself -- the descriptions of New York once the apocalypse begins and the way that the media are hyperfocused on showing death and destructions as it occurs really reminded me of 9/11. I usually find apocalyptic novels unbearably sad & thus avoid them, but in this one the apocalypse felt like it meant so many things that I really enjoyed reading Michelle's last days.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments And finally, for now -- I want that missed dream connections website, because we have dreams like that semi-regularly!


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 541 comments Bryn wrote: "And finally, for now -- I want that missed dream connections website, because we have dreams like that semi-regularly!"

Agreed, that would be amazing.


message 24: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan (janrowell) | 1037 comments Drew wrote: "why the hell am I WIGGING OUT on the train while reading? The answer, of course, is that I'm reading it now as opposed to even a month ago, when I probably would've found the apocalyptic stuff diverting and fictional. As opposed to altogether too possible, based on any given handful of news stories these days.

It's a great example of reading being affected by time/place/circumstances. I wonder how many other folks this book might strike differently in the pre/post-Jan20 dichotomy. In particular, I wonder about the judge: I'm pretty sure first round judgements come in by mid-January. And I'll bet heartily that if I'd been the judge, I would've picked Colson in early January - but I think I'd pick Michelle in mid-February...."


Thanks for articulating all this, Drew. I'm looking forward to discussions of this in the tournament & commentariat.


message 25: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan (janrowell) | 1037 comments jo wrote: "as a consequence of reading this book i have developed an abiding love for michelle tea. anyone else? if you know her, what is the book to read next?"

After reading BW, I love Michelle Tea (and Maggie Nelson, for that matter), but closer to an every 5 year level than a wait for the bookstore to open on pub day level. Maybe 5 years is about how long it will take to me to assimilate BW and Argonauts. :-)


message 26: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo | 429 comments Jan wrote: "but closer to an every 5 year level than a wait for the bookstore to open on pub day level."

HAHAHHAAHAHAHA. that's such a good way to characterize one's desire for DA NEXT BOOK.


Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 444 comments Ok, I'm enjoying the LA part much more than the SF part, but please tell me that I Will Not Be Faced With Capitalized Words Every Time Michelle Opens Her Mouth for the rest of the book. I'm tremendously irritated by it.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 541 comments Alison wrote: "Ok, I'm enjoying the LA part much more than the SF part, but please tell me that I Will Not Be Faced With Capitalized Words Every Time Michelle Opens Her Mouth for the rest of the book. I'm tremend..."
Um I'm Sorry But I Think She Decided To Do This In Lieu Of Quotation Marks But Man It Takes Forever.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments I didn't love the capitalisation at any point, but I did get to where I wasn't really noticing it. So numbness to the irritation may eventually be possible!


Laura Spaulding | 23 comments Alison wrote: ",,,but please tell me that I Will Not Be Faced With Capitalized Words Every Time Michelle Opens Her Mouth for the rest of the book. I'm tremend..."

That didn't bother me so much as it just had me wondering. why? What was her point in doing that? If anyone has any thoughts I'd love to hear them.


message 31: by Bryn (Plus Others) (last edited Mar 03, 2017 09:11PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments I think one reason was to highlight the artificiality of the text -- as a reader I am used to the transparency of things being formatted just so, which lets me sink into whatever I am reading. But since a memoir is a claim to be true, that things 'happened just like this', for her to play with the format disrupts that transparency and so I must always remember I am not seeing through into life in the 1990s etc. but reading something that a specific person wrote. It seems to fit in with the struggles Michelle-the-character had about whether to use her friends and family in her book.

I still found it irritating, however.


message 32: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo | 429 comments Bryn wrote: "I think one reason was to highlight the artificiality of the text -- as a reader I am used to the transparency of things being formatted just so, which lets me sink into whatever I am reading. But ..."

i imagine she felt as much irritation writing it as we do reading it :) my guess is that she's working at creating estrangement from the text, as bryn well says. since italics was already taken, the other options were bold, ALL CAPS... hmmm, nope. this is the least amount of damage for her purposes.


Ehrrin | 114 comments I thought the caps for Michelle's dialogue could have mirrored her opinion of her own self-importance and perception of difference/exceptionality.

It was distracting for me at first, and then I just folded it into who Michelle is as this character.

Black Wave is definitely one of my favorites from the shortlist!


message 34: by Neighbors (new)

Neighbors (neighbors73) | 69 comments I think it's most interesting for me personally to interrogate this book through the lens of whiteness. I think it will make for really interesting conversation. This book was a hot mess for me, but I enjoyed it.


Laura Spaulding | 23 comments As far as the Black Wave being up against The Underground Railroad. I too am disappointed in that match up because I loved both of them. UR was my zombie pick (I hadn't read BW at that time or I might have chose differently)
I agree that I hope that BW wins first round and UR can come back in the zombie round.
But then I was thinking a lot of people may not have picked UR for their zombie pick, thinking it would make it to the last round.
Also I'm starting to think I'd like BW to take the Rooster, because it could use the exposure (UR doesn't really need it)


message 36: by jo (last edited Mar 04, 2017 10:05AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo | 429 comments Neighbors wrote: "I think it's most interesting for me personally to interrogate this book through the lens of whiteness. I think it will make for really interesting conversation. This book was a hot mess for me, bu..."

whiteness! can you say more?


message 37: by Neighbors (last edited Mar 04, 2017 12:28PM) (new)

Neighbors (neighbors73) | 69 comments I mean, it's SO WHITE, right? She can totally be a jobless junkie and sail through life without ever having to worry about shit really going sideways for her. Like the fact that she wanders in a drug-induced fog around SF, and she never has to worry about the cops or getting arrested. Even when a cop does come around---because of the van someone gave her, for free!, that she loses, but no problem!--he totally just lets her go even though the van is filled with drug paraphernalia! She has a long running affair with an underaged woman, but no problems there, either. She wanders into a bookstore in LA and just *feels* like she'll get a job there despite her disheveled, unwashed state---and she does!

This book was like one, long rolling description of white privilege. It was a real fucking hoot. I can't wait to compare that to Underground Railroad. I don't think you can talk about Cora without talking about her being black and a slave, and I don't think you can talk about Michelle without talking about her being white.


message 38: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 04, 2017 12:30PM) (new)

Neighbors,
Your comments have already made this book more interesting to me! I just finished it, and I'm feeling disappointed that I missed what others found so good about it.


message 39: by jo (last edited Mar 04, 2017 01:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo | 429 comments Neighbors wrote: "I mean, it's SO WHITE, right? She can totally be a jobless junkie and sail through life without ever having to worry about shit really going sideways for her. Like the fact that she wanders in a dr..."

okay this comment sort of caused me internal pain, but it's also something so very important to think about. i'll sit with it, pain and all.


Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 444 comments Neighbors wrote: "I mean, it's SO WHITE, right? She can totally be a jobless junkie and sail through life..."

Until you mentioned it, it would never have occurred to me, but yes.

I've finally finished and while I think parts were quite imaginative, Black Wave falls toward the bottom of the contestants for me. I just couldn't with the pretention of The Way Everything Michelle Said Was Capitalized and everyone else spoke in italics. Just leave out punctuation, if you want, but this was silly. And I was so bored of all the descriptions of dreams. There is no way to make a description of someone's dreams into anything other than self-indulgent nonsense. I know a lot of people loved this book, but with the exception of the first few chapters set in LA, when I thought Tea was taking things somewhere new and interesting, it was never not a slog. I put it above The Nix in my own personal rankings, because Laura Potsdam wasn't in it, but I didn't like it much.

On the other hand, Tea can write. And she's imaginative.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 541 comments Does it ever say the character Michelle is white, other than that we know the author is?

Because if the world has gone to shit the way it has in this version of history, couldn't the cops be halfhearted with anyone, and a bookstore give anyone a job willing to work since most people have given up, waiting for the end of the world? I'm not saying you're wrong but I wonder how the race conversation changes if the world is ending. Does it?


Ehrrin | 114 comments I hadn't really considered race with regard to this book, and now that feels like an embarrassing omission. @Neighbors, this is a good call out--especially since it's matched against IT which necessarily centers race.


Laura Spaulding | 23 comments The whiteness question is interesting, I hadn't thought about it that way. ( many of the things she did, I didn't think anybody would get away with.) But the idea that I didn't think about it that way just points back to the issue. My being white enables me to not see this, where as a person of color picks up on it, even when there is no mention of race, because this does not ring true in their reality.
Thank you, Neighbor, for pointing this out and causing me think about this from a different perspective.


message 44: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo | 429 comments so let's say she's describing all of these things that happened to her that would not have happened to a person of color, or vice versa, things that are not happening to her that would have happened to a poc. of course she cannot but describe what happens to her. would she rectify the problem if she wrote something to the effect, "dang, if i hadn't been white i would be been in such shit?"

also -- what jenny says -- she doesn't identify anyone by race. am i correct? i don't think a single person who shows up in this book is race-identified. this may or may not be problematic, cuz the default race is white so we'll just assume that everyone is white, but it may also be intentional. she's way too culturally aware not to have put a single non-white character in the book. did she choose to make the book race-neutral? if so, does it work?


message 45: by Neighbors (last edited Mar 04, 2017 03:41PM) (new)

Neighbors (neighbors73) | 69 comments I think Michelle Tea is pretty deliberate about this, actually. She identifies Michelle as white on page 4!

I sort of feel like a threw a bomb in here, but I think it's important. I'm basically planning to walk away and save the rest of my thoughts about this for when we talk about it in the commentariat since it's just a few days away.


message 46: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo | 429 comments Neighbors wrote: "I think Michelle Tea is pretty deliberate about this, actually. She identifies Michelle as white on page 4!

I sort of feel like a threw a bomb in here, but I think it's important. I'm basically p..."


well spotted. and thank you for throwing the bomb!


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 541 comments Neighbors wrote: "I think Michelle Tea is pretty deliberate about this, actually. She identifies Michelle as white on page 4!

I sort of feel like a threw a bomb in here, but I think it's important. I'm basically p..."


I'm happy with bombs and a new thing to think about. :)


message 48: by Neighbors (new)

Neighbors (neighbors73) | 69 comments Okay, so I couldn't figure out how to get a screenshot into here. So I dumped the page 4 passage into a tweet.

https://twitter.com/neighbors73/statu...


Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 444 comments jo wrote: "-- she doesn't identify anyone by race. am i correct?..."

No, she mentioned that the guys living across from the apartment in SF were Latino.

I don't think the conversation about how this is a novel peopled by white characters is a criticism of the book, but it is interesting, It's simply the case that the only people who can ignore race in the US are those who consider themselves white. And given that BW is going up against UR, race will likely be a major talking point.


message 50: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan (janrowell) | 1037 comments I love that it has surfaced here and been met with such thoughtful responses. Thanks, Jen and all.


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