Tag Archives: literature

Book Reviewlets: The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For

You, like me, were wondering. Every night, the salty breezes blowing across the bow of your yacht. Wondering while savoring the peaty elmish notes of scotch.

Scratching your chin stubble and wondering.

What’s the best way to relive the Iraq War?

Through Rachel Maddow’s and Errol Morris’s investigative cinematic journalism?

Through dinner parties where everyone comes dressed as their favorite CNN hologram?

Through nightmares of Abu Graib?

Man. What a bummer. Except for the hologram.

Thinker for Hire, are CNN holograms the only answer?! They CAN’T BE?!?!

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Book Reviewlets: Americanah

The recent decreased frequency of TfH blogging has decreased my life satisfaction.

And yours too, I’m sure.

Onwards.

I haven’t read a single poor review of Americanah, which is curious. Usually there’s some kind of ick or wiggity for a critic to say to distinguish herself from other critics. What’s the point of criticism if you can’t indulge in a small sling of mud? To feel superior, if only for a second, to the slingee?

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Book Reviewlets: The Flamethrowers

Ordinarily, y’all know, I try to read major book reviews before I write my own reviewlet. And I try to work critical consensus in, like the cold butter in the pie crust. Making the reviewlet flaky and steamy and delectable.

But no flakes in this one. Everyone got all wiggety about how some dudes said some bullshit about Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers.

So let Thinker for Hire do you a favor.

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Dissident Gardens is a Contender

For the Great American Novel.

Inasmuch as one ought to exist. Inasmuch as we’d know it now, if we happened upon it.

Glibly, the GAN is a bit like the Jewish Messiah: a concept that shapes our experience, that many people contest, and that, if it ever arrived, would signify the end of the world and life as we know it. And what fun would that be. Plus there’s the whole Jesus thing.

(Clearly, I’m not the kind of Jew who forswears her Twitter feed on the Shabbos. Ahem.)

For reals, here was my first reaction to Dissident Gardens, a basically plotless novel about 3 generations of secular Jewish lefties:

OH! JONATHAN LETHEM’S JEWISH!

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Book Reviewlets: Oryx and Crake & the Year of the Flood

Recipe for a Post-Apocalyptic Novel

Apocalyptic Technology: Pick one. Any current ones could wipe us out, given the right combo of corporate, economic, and political forces. Margaret Atwood picked genetic engineering.

Protagonist: Anti-hero, to make his (usually his) salvation of humankind more literary. Atwood made three, so far, across these two books: A boy whose mother’s depression and abandonment gave him a Complex, a young woman who moved from an eco cult into pseudo-elite sex work for totally logical reasons, and an older woman who survived both her parents’ death and the deprivations of a horrifying rapist and torturer (even reviews by Noted Feminists tend not to call this dude a rapist).

Smug Scientific Genius (optional): But how optional is it, really, since the whole premise of the genre is that scientific hubris will do us in? Sometimes (I’m thinking of Butler’s xenogenesis trilogy) this role is played by an alien. In these books, he’s a lonely hacker resolved to engineer humans back to the state of animals, reversing much of what evolution gave us in terms of frontal lobe capabilities etc. Because human emotions are too painful. That sounds like a cliche when I type it, but it didn’t feel like one when I read it.

Impediment to Human Survival: Conflict, right? Something has to happen after the world has ended, because we’re too convinced of our own power as a species to really think that apocalypse is the end. In these books, there’s Blanco, that rapist/torturer/murderer/subhuman, and a few of his co-rapists. There are pigs with human brain tissue. They hold grudges and mourn their dead. There isn’t much food left.

But the biggest impediment to human survival is the potential inability of humans to override decades of programming by the corporate technocracy into creatures of pure consumption.

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Book Reviewlets: The Middlesteins

Boy, fat people sure are sad. And emotionally crippled. All that food will kill them! Why don’t they stop eating it?!?!

What a missed opportunity to explore some potent contemporary issues about gender, family, consumption, and economics. About the lives of women. And OK, I’ll give you at least this: about addiction.

So much more radical than this book, to have created a fat woman character whose troubles are not, actually, centered on her body size and food habits. So much more radical than maybe any book or film about fat people except for one House episode, seriously, and even then the staff were all floored that the fat guy died of cancer and not fatness.

Say it with me: OY.

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