Monday, February 13, 2017

book report

My new thing is trying to read one non work-related book every week, and then write about it here along with whatever else caught my eye. Having now accomplished this two weeks in a row, it is slowly dawning on me that I might secretly be a perfect person who's capable of anything. I'm feeling very wise, very powerful. Let's begin.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Over the weekend I was talking with a group of people about what we read when we were kids. I usually find that other girls who were big readers were into relatively literary books like Black Beauty or Laura Ingalls Wilder, but what I most loved to read was genre fiction. I spent maybe third and fourth grade reading and re-reading the ouerves of Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, Thomas Harris, and Agatha Christie. I tried to explain this when a friend expressed shock that I hadn't read Anne of Green Gables. "I was more into Stephen King," I said. She was like, "Yeah, me too, but I wasn't reading him when I was ten." She wasn't getting it. "My favorite book in fourth grade was It," I explained. "I think that's why I'm like this."

Anyway another person there said something about V.C. Andrews and it had never really occurred to me until that moment how weird it was that one of my favorite series as a kid was about children who had to live in an attic? And then the brother and sister straight-up start fucking while they're imprisoned in the attic? And how I inherited those books from my cousin, so she must have read them too? I have no idea what the kids are reading these days, but it's weird to think there was a time when these insane gothic incest books were pretty much what young girls around the country were reading. Someone is bound to have written about this phenomenon somewhere; I'm going to have to look into this later. I just googled and saw a Slate take where the writer says that kids loved it because it dramatized the way that teens feel oppressed by their parents. Nah, I'm 99% sure it's about the incest.

As soon as my friend mentioned Flowers in the Attic I knew I was going to read it as soon as I got home. (I actually started out reading a totally different book this week, but it's going to have to wait.) I must've read this series half a dozen times when I was a kid, maybe more. What's remarkable is that Flowers in the Attic really holds up. A few years ago I reread The Stand and felt hugely disappointed. Woof. I'm not writing off Stephen King yet--I'll definitely reread Salem's Lot and It at some point--but it was almost enough to make me question my elementary school self's taste. Now I'm feeling vindicated because Flowers in the Attic is nearly perfect. I remembered everything that was going to happen, and still I was totally on the edge of my seat...when are these children going to start fucking? Can't wait for this brother and sister to fuck on their dirty attic mattress.

Clearly a book for people of all walks of life. Five stars.

"Liberal Fan Fiction: Too Many Memes Will Rot Your Brain" by Ezekiel Kweku
I wish I had written this piece. It's about what Kweku calls liberal fan fiction, which includes Biden memes, that idiotic game theory guy, and those blatantly fake 'rogue' twitters that purport to be government employees:

He even accounts for the new subgenre of liberal fan fiction where people imagine Trump et al to be competent manipulators (e.g., the 'balloon for a coup' guy on Medium):

What I really enjoy about Kweku is that he's not an asshole, ever. Like not even a little bit. Even when he's writing about very disturbing things there's something about his voice that's very soothing to me. Not for nothing, I first read him years ago at The Toast.

"The Esquire Man Is Dead. Long Live the Esquire Man" (NYT)
Oh my god, this entire article, which is about the identity crisis in men's magazines (particularly Esquire), made me laugh so hard. Long story short, Esquire is launching a redesign that is surely doomed to fail. Here's the cover from the first issue of the redesign:

My favorite thing about this is how there are not one, not two, but THREE references to peen and yet this still somehow comes off as WIRED for virgins. Here's the EIC on the redesign:
“I look back on what the New Journalism invented, what Gay did, what Tom Wolfe did, what Norman Mailer did. They had to up the literary horsepower with new tools and techniques in order to compete with the speed and seismic shock of one insane event after another in the ’60s and ’70s. We’re just having to do the same thing.”
Yes, yes. I'm really getting all that from "A Hot SEX GUIDE to...the NOVEL!?!" haha, I'm just really looking forward to watching this fail.

"How the Light Gets In" (New Yorker)
In grabbing this link I noticed this article has a different title on the website. I like this one better. Anyway this is David Remnick's profile of Leonard Cohen, published just a few months before Cohen's death late last year. There are so many great moments in this piece. There is Cohen arguing with a grocer about potato salad. There are paragraphs upon paragraphs of cogent analysis of Cohen's songs from Bob Dylan. There is this letter from Cohen to Marianne (the one from the songs), days before her death in July 2016:
He was right; he died a few months later. Man. Man oh man.

But my favorite part was when Cohen described a conversation he had with Bob Dylan in a car many years ago:

"I'm Number Zero." lol

"Meet the Woman Who Helps Humanize Murderers" by Elon Green
Jennifer Wynn is a mitigator: she digs into murderers' pasts for abuse and other circumstances with an endgame of avoiding the death penalty. A lot of this piece is just her discussing some of her most memorable cases:
I love Luis. He was my first full case. So articulate, so forthcoming, so remorseful. Luis admitted to brutally bludgeoning his girlfriend to death with a hammer.
A super fascinating and sad read.

"Sean Spicer's Breitbart Interview Is an Avant-Garde Triumph of Trash Cinema" (AV Club)
An exegesis of a two-minute interview with Sean Spicer that is truly worth your time:
The final three shots will be puzzled over by scholars: Spiering gazing into the camera, half of Spicer’s face, and then a chilling final image as Spiering gazes into some far-off abyss.
I've watched this four times already and bookmarked it for later.


  1. I think there's some strong passages in The Stand, along with a whole bunch of dopey shit. The same goes for It, but it's a lot stronger overall. (You want to talk outre sex scenes for 80s kids, I'm pretty sure It can take on Flowers in the Attic...) But if you thought he wrote women badly in The Stand, well, steel yourself for It. Salem's Lot is way tighter than either, from memory, but doesn't have the combo of epic and kid-mythology in It

    Dean Koontz is the pits

  2. It's sort of sad because The Stand has a lot going for it, but where it failed for me was at the level of the line. The prose is just so bad. My favorite thing about reading it was seeing the Tom Cullen passages I underlined. M-O-O-N, that spells sap.

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