Friday, August 28, 2015

How I Spend My Time Before Bed

But first: is it racist to put a little baby afro on a toddler?  Asking for a friend.  It's for Halloween, if that makes it any better?  The Dotytron has a theory that as long as you're dressing up as a specific person, it's okay, but you can't dress up as like, a black person (obviously).  I feel like the geisha example is a bit different, because that's a job?  But I also feel like I'm becoming increasingly unmoored from my ability to suss out what is offensive and insensitive from a racial/ethnic standpoint so I might need some help on this. 

I was aiming for a twice-weekly posting schedule...and well, you can see what happened.  The road to hell and all that.  Anyway, onward and upward!

The time has come for me to prove to y'all that I haven't spent the past two years flicking mindlessly through Instagram memes and articles on the New York Times and Salon and Slate and The Atlantic that already support my liberal biases.  Obviously, I've done some [a lot] of that, too, but I also read things.  Quite a few things, actually.  Some of them were actually quite good.  Here are my thoughts on what I've read (remember: I'm a slave to chronology so we're starting from the bottom):

I know, I know.  Old news.  Book is old, the show that the book spawned is like, 3 seasons in now.  I couldn't get into the show, and while I applaud from a distance that the show is unique for being a narrative that's focused almost exclusively on telling women's stories in a creative and nuanced way, the humour of the showrunner, ***, has never been for me.  It's too broad and "zany."  I tend not to go in for "zany."  Except for Broad City, which I (mostly) love because Abby and Ilana are so charming and kooky.  Also, Hannibal Burress' perenially chill and accepting boyfriend character is a treat.   

After season 2 of Broad City I will periodically get a flash of Ilana shouting: "Pegasuuuuuuuuuuuuuus!" and twerking triumphantly in response to Abby's frenzied 11th hour phone call that the guy she's on a date with wants her to peg him.  It's one of my favorite moments from recent television.

Where was I?  Oh yes, OITNB the book is humdrum.  The bland, entitled, milquetoast elements that make up Piper's character on the show (from what I saw of the first three episodes) are even more pronounced in the book.  Piper Kerman doesn't really engage or befriend her fellow incarcerated.  I noted this detachment and was informed by someone in my book club (OBVIOUSLY THIS WAS A BOOK CLUB PICK) that she already had her book deal before she went into the clink.  She writes it very much as if she's a Rolling Stone journalist sent in to do some in-depth investigative reporting.  The only time you really feel for her is when she's been transferred from one prison to another (a less cushy, more 'hardcore' one), en route to release, and she's stuck in this bureaucratic rabbit warren limbo.  Those few weeks is when you really get a sense
of how irrevocably lost some people can get.  If no one is looking out for you, if you have no connections to the outside, the twisted microcosm of prison life can become your entire world, and that is a chilling, sobering thought. 

The summer the babies were born (will I ever stop refering to the Wonder Twins as 'the babies'?) was a weird one, for me, okay?  I read this little brief blob about how the author of the Mists of Avalon (a juggernaut bestseller in its day - its day being the early 80s) was accused of sexually abusing her daughter and I remembered how that super sexy early 80s film version/heavy metal music video version of Arthurian legend, Exaclibur (starring Dame Helen Mirren!) also had some weird sexual stuff and I'm always kind of down for Arthurian legend so I checked it out to see how seedy it is.  The book is a "feminist" take on Arthur, where the women are central and Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and that crew are all relegated to supporting characters.  It's told primarily form the point of view of Morgaine, who's treated as some weird witchy woman in most other tellings but in this case is depicted as someone caught in the power struggle between the rise of Christianity and defending the ancient, pagan ways of life.  When I write it like that, it seems pretty awesome, but when you read it, it's plodding and boring and clunky.  Like a slightly more historically minded and upscale E.L. James.  I wouldn't recommend it.  I was forcing myself to finish it.  There is some creepy sex stuff - some that is par for the course for Arthurian legend (rape in the form of people tricking each other into having sex disguised as other people) and also pagan ickiness like offering up prepubescent girls to pagan "gods" to ravish.  It's gross.  The 80s were a weird time, man.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah was a book I suggested to Academic Book Club.  It's a book that talks about race in America, using the vehicle of a Nigerian-born woman who spends a good chunk of her adult life in America and starts a blog about what it's like to be a certain type of black woman in America, before returning to Nigeria.  It's a literary, post-colonial work without all the post-colonial, literary headiness.  The tone is approachable and you follow Ifemelu through her journey away from military dictatorship Nigeria, away from her friends and the boy she falls in love with, and then back.  The writing here is intensely evocative - there are some turns of phrases (I can't remember off the top of my head, it's been two years!) that I remember luxuriating in - she is incredibly talented, though I wouldn't say that Adichie is a phenom.  The scenes are good, the overall story not so much, and most of all I found the love story at its core unbelievable - it took me away from the writing.  I would definitely recommend this.

You know how much I love me the Daughter of Smoke and Bone YA trilogy.  Well, for all of you who have been disappointed by how YA trilogies tend to s**t the bed on the last one, when authors seemingly write themselves into holes they can't climb out of (see: Alie Condie's Matched, Hunger Games, Divergent, The Wolves of Mercy Falls, Delirium), then it was SO NICE to see that my girl Laini Taylor DID NOT DISAPPOINT.  I was scared, coming out of Days of Blood and Starlight about how she was going to wrap all this stuff up!  HOW WAS SHE GOING TO DO IT?  And then then third book opens with an ENTIRELY NEW CHARACTER?!  I should have had faith.  She nails it.  It is deeply satisfying and has closure and everything has its place and its moving and perfect and maintains humour and consistency.  I loved this series and will forevermore.

I know, I know, my reading habits are ALL OVER THE PLACE.  So then I read a memoir-ish thing by Judy Greer?  Character actor?  She played Kitty Sanchez in Arrested Development, and also has been in a million other things.  The memoir was very readable though it doesn't stay with you in any way but her voice is okay as an author and she has some decent stories...I feel like Anna Kendrick's recently-announced book of essays might be similar (I feel like Judy Greer is Anna Kendrick further down the line of her career?)  It was good cottage with newborn premature twins reading.  So there's that.

OKAY.  I said I would do this five at a time and so I've hit my limit.

We were supposed to go out of town this weekend but we've been out of town like, every weekend for the past MONTH, so even though it meant we wouldn't be able to visit our friends S & P in their gorgeous house in Port Stanley, it made sense for us to be at home and get our bearings, especially after a weekend spent camping (!) for the first time (!).  More on that, later.


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