Mini Reviewlets: Munro Immersion

The blog has been more fallow than its usual don’t-call-it-climate-change-it’s-just-fallow state because I’m working on a long term writing project. On Alice Munro.

For money.

I haven’t been paid for my writing since we thought our computers would snap us back to the Iron Age. That dark millennial moment I took a “break” from  journalism to “get smarter” in grad school.

And on Alice Munro? Even cooler than the fluff piece I wrote back then on the Stanford Linear Accelerator. Which is to say: quantum cool.

So here’s a teaser of Munroviana to tide us over.

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On Competence (TfH Watches TV 2)

Mad Men went out with a wimper.

Wherefore this wimper?

Partly the hubris of spreading a single season over two years. Partly the series’s obsession with a tired Freudian narrative of an otherwise great man whose dead whore mom got stuck to his Achilles heel.

But partly the loss of Don’s competence. With no other competence to make up for it besides cruelly (used and then) underused Joan Holloway Harris.

Mad Men got less compelling around when Don stopped showing us how great an adman he was. And it never even bothered showing us the boldly designed steam off Peggy’s hot Googie shit.

Professional competence. Our new fantasy.

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Book Revewlets: Girls! Girls! Girls!

The Semplica Girl Diaries,” y’all.

One of the best short stories I’ve ever read. Anywhere. Anyhow.

George Saunders quadruple dog dared “The Gift of the Magi,” plunking it into the suburbs, replacing romantic love with parental love, wringing such pathos out of the ghastliest aspects of late capitalism.

And the story absolutely gets girls. Spoilers ahoy.

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Book Reviewlets: Girl in a Band, by Kim Gordon

Kim Gordon confirmed my adolescent suspicions that society shakes down into strata of cool. And that the people I love most not only occupy the same social latitude. They’re also all best friends.

Mixing drinks, sharing babysitters, dating each other before hardening and wizening into the wrinkle years.

Kim Gordon dated Danny Elfman, y’all. In high school.

And she’s best friends now with Carrie Brownstein and Amy Poehler?!

Thus the rusty gears of the universe click into nearly Renaissance degrees of harmony.

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Book Reviewlets: Half Life, Shelley Jackson

In the early aughts, a younger, dapperer TfH encountered Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, one of the best of the first wave of “hypertext”.

E-lit before e-readers, hypertext sought to exploit digital possibility for fictional ends. Armed with the best theories–all the promise of post-structuralism, postmodernism, post-ism–hypertext would would jump-start our glorious future of pure literature unbound from the timeworn conventions of the printed page.

Patchwork Girl, read on a desktop with mouse a-clickin, re-assembled Frankenstein, Mary Shelley biography, queer theory, digital consciousness, and story in a nonlinear mosh pit of images and ideas.

Thing is, Half Life, Jackson’s 2006 novel, does it all better and brighter. In good ol’ print.

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Sometimes We Read Instead of Write

Mini Book Reviewlets, y’all:

Mermaids in Paradise and George Bush, the Dark Horse of Love. Lydia Millet.

I will unapologetically compare these books to Mark Twain. The fully formed narrators who parlay sparkling ironic narration. The satire of US culture. The laughing to keep from crying. Why doesn’t Lydia Millet get more magazine covers? All the magazine covers!

All of them. Continue reading

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