Dec 29, 2009
Dec 28, 2009
Dec 27, 2009
"U.R.A. Fever" (The Kills)
"Alejandro" (Lady Gaga)
"Can You Tell" (Ra Ra Riot)
"Samson" (Regina Spektor)
Of this year's entries, I have the most to say about Lady Gaga. If you've seen the "LoveGame," video you probably thought (as I did) "How original, another Madonna impersonator dressing like a cop and making out with a woman." We've seen that desperate sort of self-objectification before; it's tired. If you've seen the "Bad Romance," video, however, you probably thought (as I did) "Holy shit!" That video is a beautiful, distorted Dr. Suess story boiling over with Dark Phoenix rage. For those four minutes alone, I am glad I gave Lady Gaga a second chance.
Dec 19, 2009
April (In Treatment): It will be a shame when Alison Pill doesn't win an Emmy for her work on this show. The structure of In Treatment (each episode covers one half-hour therapy session) demands the actors do little besides talk to each other. The writers also presented Pill with a defensive, stubborn character, unwilling to tell Paul (and the audience) directly the troubling details of her life (much less her cancer diagnosis). By season's end, April stopped therapy in order to focus on her physical health (to Paul's disappointment) but her renewed will to live was a triumph worth celebrating.
Cameron (Modern Family): The funniest character of the 09-10 season, Cameron's quiet confidence allows him to hilariously comment on the insanity of his boyfriend's family ("There's a fish that carries its babies around in its mouth. That fish would take one look at Mitchel's relationship with his mother and say, 'that's messed up.'"). He loves football, clowning, Diana Ross, and debuted his adopted daughter to "The Circle of Life," but he'll also kick your ass for messing with his loved ones.
Dr. Claire Saunders (Dollhouse): Amy Acker has only appeared once during Dollhouse's second season, but she left a lasting impression. Her character (a disfigured Doll programmed to serve as the in-house physician) raised fascinating moral ambiguities regarding the Dollhouse's work. Does a programmed persona deserve the chance to live once that personality inhabits a real person? Clarie's ongoing search for self (are any of her thoughts/feelings authentic, or just part of a computer program?) made her the most compelling character on the show.
Don Draper (Mad Men): Yes, he's an asshole, a horrible husband, a cheat, has a temper, regularly ignores his children, and tends to bail on people when the going gets tough. The show works because sometimes you don't want to root for Don. When he dismisses Sal with the homophobic "you people," or yells at Peggy to relieve his own stress, we'd really like to punch him in the face. The writers aren't afraid to show us Don's dark side, making his victories (the moments he connects with his kids or recognizes his co-workers' talents, his brilliant plotting in the finale) all the more memorable. Plus, the man exhales charisma.
Rachel Barry (Glee): She's annoying, overly ambitious, self-centered, and occasionally lacks basic social graces, but don't ever forget that Rachel Barry cares. She cares about her team, even if that team includes people like Quinn (and Kurt), who spend their time making her miserable. She cares about rising above and performing to the best of her ability. Rachel isn't afraid to stand on stage and sing like the world is ending. She might "want everything too much," but that doesn't stop her from pursuing her goals with a relentless (occasionally manic) vigor.
Honorable Mentions: Peggy Olsen (Mad Men), Kurt Hummel and Quinn Fabray (Glee), and Adelle Dewitt (Dollhouse).
Dec 16, 2009
The Corrections (Jonanthan Franzen): "The strength of The Corrections is Franzen's ability to completely actualize all five of his chief protagonists, and weave their narratives together into a seamless tapestry . . . All five of the Lamberts are selfish, annoying assholes who make horrible decisions at the expense of their family members, yet you can't help but love them . . . It's just a really impressive thing to watch an author juggle so many people and so many plots and make it look effortless."
Lit (Mary Karr): " . . . Karr has delivered a story so brave and honest you want to call her up and thank her for it . . . This is the story of one woman's struggle to let go of her self-hatred and become a person capable of love. That she enters the narrative plagued by inner demons proves an understatement, that she emerges from it a whole person suggests a miracle."
Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro): "Reading this book is like taking your heart out of your chest, caressing it lovingly for a few hours, and then unceremoniously smashing it to pieces. On the surface, it's such a quiet, delicate thing . . . [Kathy] diverts our attention away from pressing existential matters toward smaller moments of emotional intimacy. It's only after you've finished the novel that you realize those moments pack a more forceful punch than any discussion of clones and organ donations."
The Tenderness of Wolves (Stef Penney): "Stef Penney strikes the perfect balance between intricately complex plotting and strong character work. The entire cast exists in three dimensions . . . Mrs. Ross, in particular, is a triumph. The plot (which begins as a murder mystery) grabs your attention, but the characters are the real reason for sticking around."
Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lahiri): Easily my favorite book of 2009. Lahiri describes with an uncanny ease the indescribable intricacies of everyday life. The way you feel about your parents, your lovers, your siblings - she captures those feelings with a precision that escapes the best of us. Reading this book was "like sitting quietly on a cloud" (on Christmas morning) (while wearing your favorite pair of flannel pajamas and sipping a cup of hot chocolate). I'm lucky to have read it.
Honorable Mentions: Less Than Zero (Brett Easton Ellis) and Call Me by Your Name (Andre Aciman).
Dec 14, 2009
Glee: I loved "Sectionals" upon initial viewing, but the further I stray, the more cracks I see in the pavement. The Will/Emma final moment didn't work for me. Will hasn't done anything to deserve Emma's affection; he's still kind of a douche, and incredibly patronizing toward everyone around him (the kids, Terri etc.). It might have something to do with Matthew Morrison's acting choices, but I regularly want to punch him in the face. That explains why my Sue affection has only grown. The more she demoralizes him, the happier I am (her comment about his lesbian hair = priceless). I want her to metaphorically beat Will to a pulp, I just don't want it to happen at the kids' expense. Nothing beats Rachel performing "Don't Rain On My Parade." It's the perfect song for her because it will always rain on Rachel's parade. She admittedly wants "everything too much." People who want that badly, who try that hard, get penalized for their passion - it hurts harder when they fall, and the Glee kids are no exception. As Will says, "sometimes being special sucks," and that's a lot more compelling than two adults in their early-thirties acting out their latent Dawson Leery/Joey Potter fantasies.
Dec 5, 2009
Dec 4, 2009
Glee: I'm relieved to have the pregnancy conspiracy revealed, but Will and Terri's confrontation demanded a complete shift in style and tone. A well-played scene, but I like to feel happy at the end of a Glee episode, not depressed. That's probably an immature response ("it's different, so I don't like it"), but it's hard to feel good about an episode that also revealed the depths of Rachel's insecurity and mania. That girl lives on the edge of completely batshit crazy, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I did love Quinn blackmailing Sue, and Sue's reluctant admiration of it.
The Hills: Kristin and Justin's "first appearence" at the reunion special was a joke. Kristin couldn't have looked more uncomfortable; she refused to look at Justin, or answer any questions about their "relationship." Dear producers: Kristin Cavallari rocks. Stop feeding her premeditated storylines, and let her do her thing. Her "thing" includes being massively appealing and a natural source of entertainment. The reunion proved an utter waste of time (besides Holly admitting that she still likes to get wasted). If Heidi and Spencer aren't going to show up, at least don't make every other castmember talk about whether or not they'd make good parents.
While perusing the reviews for this year's list, I also stumbled upon Jonathan Lethem's piece on Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs. I haven't read much of either author, but this quote perfectly expresses my own frustration with most September 11 fiction:
"The book is also set in the autumn of 2001, a fact Moore has the patience to barely deploy for 200 pages, and then only with a deft sleight of hand that will make readers reflect on the ways so many other treatments of this (unfinished) passage in American life have resembled heart surgery performed with a croquet mallet."
Dec 1, 2009
Hi! Welcome to December at (Title Pending). It's been a while since I've done a status report, and I have some exciting plans in the works for this lovely, little space, so today I'm taking a break from regularly scheduled programming to address some of the changes you'll soon encounter.
In the sidebar, you'll discover my December playlist. Every month, I'll post a new playlist, composed of fourteen songs arranged in a specific order I find pleasing. This month, I journey back a year to bring you the sweet sounds of Leona Lewis, and the early efforts of Lady Gaga. These fourteen songs represent my favorite downloads of 2008; highlights include "Sometime Around Midnight" and "Time to Pretend."
Over Thanksgiving, Colleen asked me what was up with the posts comprised of quotes from comics/books ("Are they about your feelings or something?"). The quote posts do not have anything to do with my feelings, they're simply quotes I like from things I've read. I find that format works well with comics, since I can include a juxtaposing image. The X-Men posts have been an homage to Grant Morrison's New X-Men, while the Fables posts feature a highlight from the most recent issue.
Join the party: if you're a regular reader (thanks!), leave a comment. I'd like to get a sense of the readership: who are you, what features do you like/dislike? Are there shows I should be watching, books I should be reading? I'm totally down for constructive criticism.
NEW FEATURE: You guys, I'm so excited about this. The City and The Hills wrap tonight, and Glee goes on hiatus in a few weeks, meaning my TV roster is about to drop down to Modern Family and the remainder of Dollhouse. Instead of scouring my cable box for shiny, new offerings, however, I've found something better. Effective this Saturday, join me for a new, weekly feature: Life Is a Beach. That's right, I'm going to recap Laguna Beach Season One. I can't wait! Just look at Lo's hair in the above photograph. I can't think of a better way to brighten a New York winter.
Whether you're a new reader, or an old reader, get ready for more books, movies, comics, music, and MTV It Girls at (Title Pending). I had a blast writing the first 70 posts, here's to the next 70 (or 700). I hope you'll join me.
Nov 27, 2009
Glee: Hooray for Tina finally getting showcased! She did well with "True Colors." I quite liked that performance, with the cast sitting on stools wearing bright, solid colored t-shirts like a Gap ad from 1994. I also liked "Imagine" (though it was kind of rude for our kids to interrupt the other school's performance). The myriad pregnancy stories needed to conclude yesterday. Dianna Agron as Quinn has continuously impressed me, but at this point, I'd just like everyone to know that Puck is her baby's father, and that Terri isn't pregnant. I'm also not a fan of Kurt turning into a scheming asshole, what with him embarrassing Rachel in order to get Finn's attention. The plotting didn't do it for me this week, thankfully the music did.
The Hills: Probably the worst episode in the history of this show. It's like no one involved can be bothered to care about the relative credibility anymore. Kristin looks horribly bored, as though she just realized she signed her public image over to a team of producers who are desperate for ratings, and capable of paying her rent as long as she and Stacie make out. I mean, when Audrina (of all people!) is bailing on your reality show because it doesn't "depict her real life," you know you've got problems. Instead of inserting Kristin into this world, and then stepping back and letting her develop relationships and rivalries on her own, the producers have story-boarded her entire "character" arc. If she had any sense, the above photo would feature her calling her agent, asking him/her to get her the hell out of there.
(Remember how I said I was a big fan of people getting over themselves? Remind me of that the next time I write off an entire literary genre, particularly one that's given us everything from St. Augustine's Confessions to Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life, as "inappropriate.")
By the time I finished the book, I was, of course, eating my words, since Karr has delivered a story so brave and honest you want to call her up and thank her for it (instead, I hugged my mom). This is the story of one woman's struggle to let go of her self-hatred and become a person capable of love. That she enters the narrative plagued by inner demons proves an understatement, that she emerges from it a whole person suggests a miracle. Her story triggered in me a reaction I can only describe as religious.
That Karr dares to write about religion reveals her courage. How many literary writers in contemporary America would write about their conversion to Catholicism? It's easy to view anyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ as a cartoon character willing to vote for Sarah Palin. That kind of thinking is easy, but also lazy. If Lit does anything, it teaches us that thinking, progressive individuals can find hope, comfort, and love in the arms of the Church. Over and over, Karr recounts her wariness of religion, and her refusal to bend a knee in prayer. She's as skeptical and agnostic as anyone, until a suicide attempt leads her elsewhere. That "elsewhere" ends up being a quiet space filled with peace and acceptance, a sacred place where the adversarial voices are wiped away. Reading Lit brought me to a not dissimilar place, and for that, I am grateful.
Nov 26, 2009
"Belonging" asks what happens when one of the Dolls never made the conscious decision to enter the Dollhouse. As speculated, Sierra never chose to become an Active, but was instead enslaved by a high paying client, who manipulated the staff into believing they were doing her a service. The show also becomes more believable whenever the writers acknowledge the Dollhouse's dark underbelly. That's what they did here, and the result is the best episode since "Epitaph One." It helps that Dichen Lachman works wonders as Sierra. She somehow makes her default Active persona ten times more intriguing and sympathetic than Eliza Dushku.
Franz Kranz (Topher) also hit a home run, as Topher begins to question the morality of his occupation (programming the Actives with their various personalities). His actions in this episode indicate he may possess some moral compass, even though Adelle tells him he views the Dolls as "toys." Since we know the knowledge of what he's done will eventually drive him insane, his growing moral awareness makes him a tragic figure, as opposed to a grossly unaware one. Against my better judgement, I think I'm in this for the long haul (it actually won't be that long, since the series is ending in December). Even if we only get one or two more episodes as good as "Belonging," the journey will have been worth it.
I used to knock Lady Gaga for being a typical attention whore. She initially came across like a desperately insecure college freshmen, the kind of girl that glued feathers to her eyes and had threesomes in order to prove how much she didn't care (that girl really just wanted to wear jeans and bang a lacrosse player). These days, however, she has taken her particular brand of "out there" to a whole new level, and I am loving it. Instead of "look how different I am/please like me!" she's saying "I feel kind of weird and wild all the time/it's totally okay if you feel that way too."
Nov 21, 2009
Glee: "Ballad" was easily my least favorite episode to date. On the plus side, I loved Brittany's throwaway moment of hilarity ("I bet the duck is in the hat"), and Matthew Morrison is probably the only cast member who can match Lea Michele vocally (leading to their beautiful rendition of "Endless Love"). My major concern with "Ballad" was the horrendous characterization of nearly every female character. I found Will's performance of "Young Girl/Don't Stand So Close To Me" utterly insulting, as if his magic singing penis could actually reduce both Rachel and Emma to complete doe-eyed idiocy. His "all these girls are so fragile and crazy" comments didn't help either; they just made him look like a douche. The constant use of the word "crazy" to describe any woman with either strong emotions, or a mind of her own, was gross. For a show that's usually forward-thinking, this was a major step back. Welcome to 2009, Glee writers, you can no longer shrug off a woman's point of view as hormonal hysterics.
The Hills: Is Kristin thinner now than during her Laguna Beach days? I can't get over how long her neck looks. Anyway, popular culture continues to dismantle the feminist movement piece by piece, as Heidi plots to stop taking her birth control in order to "surprise" Spencer with a baby. Her seduction methods include cooking him pasta and dressing like a hooker. This storyline is so obviously fake it's a joke. You can practically see Heidi reading off the cue cards as she teases Spencer with promises of "dessert." On top of that mess, Kristin and Jayde proceed to spend the episode flouncing around L.A. calling the other "crazy" to whoever will listen (or is getting paid to pretend like they care). Though Canadian Jayde telling Kristin to "go back where [she] came from" (um, Malibu?) was an unintentional highlight.
Modern Family: I didn't laugh out loud this week, what the hell? This might be another show I stop writing about, since I never have much to say about it besides "it's good." It's hard to write about a comedy without simply listing the things I found funny; there's not as much to analyze besides whether or not the jokes worked. In that vein, my favorite part of the episode was Alex convincing Luke that Jay was terminally ill. That girl loves to fuck around with her siblings, with consistently hilarious results.
Nov 16, 2009
With that realization, the book's opening makes perfect sense. All of Ferris' characters live devastatingly real lives to which their coworkers seldom have access. With Lynn's interlude, Ferris raises the stakes. I wanted to shake Joe for even considering not asking Lynn about her illness. Suddenly, I cared. And then, right when I became invested, right when I knew every one's first names, Tom Mota showed up dressed in a clown costume. As soon as you start to take Ferris seriously, he reminds you not to take him too seriously. He reminds you to have fun, and you do. When I reached The End, I'd ridden an emotional roller coaster. It ended up being one hell of a ride.
Nov 11, 2009
Highlights included: Kurt and his dad, Kurt singing "Defying Gravity," and Kurt in general. I'm so appreciative of the writing staff's delicate handling of this character. It's not very often a prime time show portrays gay teens as anything other than an After School Special or Jack McFarland. I'm really glad Kurt's dad stuck around after the "Single Ladies" episode; their complicated, respectful, loving relationship is easily turning into one of the series' emotional centerpieces.
I also found Sue's story a fair presentation of the issues it raised. I worried the writers were going to make her a bigger monster, but thankfully, they didn't. She actually raised some relevant points. When does acknowledging a student's difference stop being accommodating and start being patronizing? I thought Will could have toned down the "this is so hard for Artie" comments. Artie was eventually able to voice his own concerns, and the other students were willing to listen; we didn't need Will slow clapping every time Artie opened his mouth.
Finally, I'm loving the Love Square (Rachel, Finn, Quinn, and Puck). They all have moments of unpleasantness, but at the end of the day, each of them cares about the other three. Quinn and Puck's food fight was adorable; the actors have great chemistry. As for Rachel, she's my favorite character (I'm just as surprised as you). The girl tries her hardest, every time, and puts the team first when needed. Lea Michele's (phenomenal) voice helps too. Just a great episode all around, regardless of "Defying Gravity" (which made me cry as soon as Kurt started getting nervous about the high note). Good show, Glee, good show.
Now, for something a little different:
Leighton Meester sings as well as she acts. Her version of "Bette Davis Eyes" is a delight, but sadly I can't find it on YouTube.
Cheryl Cole is a judge on The X-Factor, England's American Idol. "Fight For This Love" is her solo debut; give it a chance, it gets better as it goes.
Lady Gaga's video for "Bad Romance" is totally, beautifully insane.
Nov 9, 2009
Lane Pryce: "Happy Christmas!" indeed. I'm glad Lane didn't end up as Don's Money Minded Season Three Rival (see also: Duck Phillips, Season Two), but an eventual co-conspirator and partner in Don, Roger, and Bert's new agency. He's the newest addition to the cast, and the character we know the least; I'm interested to see where the writers take him.
Let's hope the new status quo launches the series into the 60's proper with continued badass shenanigans from our favorite advertising executives. My Season Four wish list also includes: Sal. See you next summer, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce; I miss you too much already.
Nov 4, 2009
Magneto: To stand the Earth on its head is hardly the work of an afternoon!
Ernst: Well, Martha says you waited too long. You should have stayed as Mister Xorn - now you're going to die.
Nov 3, 2009
Today, I wish I was back at Holy Cross, putting the boat in the water on Lake Quinsig. Bratton would be talking about farts or facial hair, making us laugh. Adam would be wearing sunglasses, even when the dark comes early, changing his clothes over and over between every piece, leading by example. Erick might crack a smile, briefly, before setting his mind to the task at hand, reminding us of our purpose. We would probably be waiting for Jimmy, speeding down 290 on his way from ROTC, stretching himself thin to stay a part of our little family.
Today would be one of those days I look around and feel love for my teammates, my brothers, for the boat, and the water, the feeling of the eight us pushing and pulling together, as one. Today, we would take the rating from an 18 to a 36 and stomp the shit out of our competition. We would get off the water flushed and tired and at peace. Today, we would be reminded of why we fight, why we log the long hours, why we sacrifice so much for each other. Today would be a good day.
Oct 30, 2009
Lastly, What's Alan Watching? is a couch potato's dream. Sepinwall provides in-depth analysis of any show worth talking about; his Mad Men posts are fantastic. Get caught up for Sunday's episode in between costume donning and candy scarfing. I'll be playing my parents' new Wii (in my pajamas) (at 4 pm) (yay!).
Oct 29, 2009
The City: Only five episodes into the new season, and I might love this show more than The Hills. Someone at MTV must have taught Whitney how to be the new Lauren because she is flashing endearing charm all over the place. It's moments like her and Roxie doing the "Single Ladies" dance while getting ready for the night (remember how like, fifty percent of Laguna Beach was the girls talking in front of the mirror?) that make this work. Erin's continued competence at her job, Roxie's wild child/best friend persona, and the genius of Kelly Cutrone are icing on the cake. I'd also love to figure out what Olivia did to the people at MTV because they must hate her. The girl cannot catch a break, no matter how many times they shoot her looking pretty while walking down the hall at Elle.
The Hills: Does Drunk Holly remind anyone else of themselves/most of their friends circa Saturday night? According to Heidi and Spencer, most of the people I know would have drinking problems. Now, maybe Holly really does hit the bottle too hard, but they need to show her doing something besides dancing if they're going to convince me she needs rehab. And Stephanie "rehab changed my life" Pratt might want to eat those words in light of her new DUI. My problem with this show is that the three primary leads (Kristin, Audrina, and Heidi) never interact. If the show is going to ditch the girls' work lives in favor of bitch fights and boy drama, you would think they'd find three stars who could actually stand to share a room.
Modern Family: A pretty sloppy episode with the occasional hilarious highlights. It's the little things like Jay changing costumes between scenes for no apparent reason that brought this one down. And Clare's closing monologue was way too sugar-coated. As usual, I loved everything Mitchell/Cam. Mitchell bumping Lily's head (in her Diana Ross wig) was hysterical.
Oct 28, 2009
In other news, if you live in Maine, do the country a favor and vote to legalize gay marriage. My home parish apparently took an extra collection last week to raise money in opposition. Nothing says "God is love" like asking your parishoners, mid-service, to donate money in support of state enforced discrimination. Let's give Catholicism a hand! Seriously, I could write another 10,000 words about this, but I won't. It's common sense. Gay marriage isn't anybody's business except for the couple in the relationship. No one is trying to gay-marry the Pope.
Oct 27, 2009
Oct 26, 2009
This book most reminded me of Brave New World in the way it depicts an alternate timeline to which we can both relate and feel completely separate. We identify with Kathy's struggle to be a good friend to both Tommy and Ruth, yet we struggle to understand the characters' resigned acceptance of their fate. To us, Kathy appears detached or even uninterested in matters of extreme importance (what exactly being a donor means, the truth about Hailsham), but to her, it's just the way her life works. The difficult parts of her life have to do with her friends and sex and love relationships, just like everyone else.
I found Ishiguro's presentation of sex refreshing. When Kathy talks about the moments when she wants sex so badly she'd do it with anyone, we feel uncomfortable because we don't talk like that. Ruth teaches Kathy to feel ashamed of her urges, but in the end reveals she feels similarly. I wish this book was taught in high school, so teenagers would understand that everyone feels weird and wild about sex. It's just a part of growing up. That's what this book is really about, growing up, becoming a person, learning to love. The "possibles" and carers are just the setting for one of the most moving stories I've read in a long time. Ultimately, Ishiguro leaves you feeling like Kathy in that field, tears running down your face, wishing the people you care most about (in this case, our beloved narrator) would never let you go.
Oct 12, 2009
The City: Ditching the Hills style narration and focus on love relationships has done wonders for this show. Whitney is massively more appealing as a nice girl trying to make her way in the fashion industry than she was as Jay's doe-eyed girlfriend, plus Roxie and Erin = awesome. Is it just me, or does Olivia seem kind of downtrodden this season?
Glee: Too much Terri, but I loved everyone else, particularly Rachel. Her reaching out to Quinn ("the kids in glee won't judge you") was a great moment; Lea Michele has grown exponentially as an actress. I also loved her extra-hyper introduction to the girls' mash-up (" . . . and also ANGELS!") and morning routine. If Emma marries Ken, I'm going to be sad.
The Hills: Audrina doesn't like Kristen because Kristen has more charisma in her pinkie finger than Audrina does in her entire person, so Audrina is funneling her rage into all this "girl code" bullshit, since she can't acknowledge the cast's celebrity status on camera. Also, why is it that even with Lauren gone, Heidi and Spencer don't interact with anyone but themselves?
Mad Men: A fantastic episode, if only for the show's willingness to portray its characters acting horribly. Don must be on a mission to personally destroy every favorable member of the cast (though Peggy seems to have gotten over her tongue lashing a few weeks back). Poor Sal seems to be a recurring response this year; my stomach lurched when Don muttered "you people." I hope we see more of Carla soon, and mark me down as unenthusiastic about Don's new affair and Betty's character in general.
Modern Family: The funniest show on TV. Just watch it.
Oct 6, 2009
That line describes narrator Pete Tarslaw perfectly. Pete is a lovable loser, the kind of jackass you like to have around because his antics are so damn entertaining. The plot involves Pete writing an admittedly hack best-selling novel, all the while waving his middle finger at a publishing industry he views as a pathetic joke. Of course, the joke is really on Pete, as he's forced to learn a few deserved life lessons, but not before Hely has some fun of his own examining the state of The Writer in contemporary America.
It's true that lots of former English majors consider the best-seller list to be generic crap. Commercial fiction is not always well-written, but people still like to read it. It's writers like Dan Brown who keep publishing houses alive and capable of supporting less popular, award-winner types. Hely understands this fact, and would very much like the literary elite to get over themselves. I liked this book because I'm a big fan of people getting over themselves, even if I'm prone to being a book snob myself.
My favorite part was Pete's visit to an MFA program in Montana. Hely's description of the creative writing classroom was perfect, down to the professor lauding "Ray Carver and Rick Yates." I read Short Cuts and Revolutionary Road because my (totally awesome) professor, Melissa Falcon, waxed poetic about their greatness (both books are kick ass, and got made into movies, I might add). How I Became a Famous Novelist may poke fun at those brave souls taking a stab at the writing life, but at the end of the day, Hely's obvious affection for these people and their efforts far outweighs his narrator's cynicism.
Emma Frost: So all you're saying is that some mind monster put a lot of dirty thoughts in your head, and you're embarrassed in case your telepathic wife sees what you're really thinking about her? Oh Scott, how ordinary!
You could argue that Aciman has taken Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain" plot (forbidden gay romance followed by years of unrequited longing) and replaced her Wyoming cowboys with jet-setting Jewish intellectuals. Accusing Aciman of such heavy borrowing, however, proves lazy reading. Call Me by Your Name touches upon many of the same issues "Brokeback" addresses, but it does so in a more languid, less angst-ridden manner. Elio eventually gets over Oliver; both men go on to live successful lives, while keeping a place in their heart for the other. Elio's father even acknowledges and understands their affair. It's a softer presentation of homosexuality, a luxury the characters can afford due to their class and political leanings.
The best writing occurs after the men consummate their relationship. You expect to find Elio overjoyed, instead, he feels nothing but revulsion for what he's just done, abandoning Oliver for a date with a female friend. That kind of sexual confusion, and desperate need to plug back into heterosexual society, felt very real, and exemplifies the honest, complicated nature of Aciman's work. This was another pleasant surprise.
Sep 29, 2009
Now, I like Lauren Conrad, and I think she has her shit together. I enjoyed watching her grow up on national television. I mean, she gave us "He's a sucky person!" and "You know what you did!" I'm glad she found success, and I'm glad she said goodbye to a show she clearly tired of doing. I'm even more glad, however, to have Kristin Cavallari back in my life. If Lauren taught us how to deal with being Wronged, then Kristin is here to teach us how not to get Wronged in the first place.
Sep 28, 2009
Dollhouse: The premiere, "Vows," was good, thanks again to the genius of Amy Acker. The Echo/Ballard storyline was fine, and we learned Echo retains something of her multiple personalities, but Dr. Saunders' identity issues were easily the highlight. I don't really care about an undercover FBI agent; I do care about a woman coming to grips with the idea that her persona is an invented personality inhabiting the body of a stranger. Less B-movie explosions, more tortured soul-searching, please.
Mad Men: I'm two episodes behind on this one. "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency" was a great showcase for Christina Hendricks. I'm sure Joan will be back at some point; I just hope she doesn't go away for too long. Tonight's "Seven Twenty-Three," on the other hand, was tough. Between Peggy sleeping with Duck (ugh), Don acting like a total dick to both Peggy and Betty, and Betty having another near-affair, no one was acting admirably. The evening's Gold Star goes to Bert Cooper for demonstrating he's a total fucking badass, not just some funny, old guy who walks around in socks. Still the best show on television, but I'd like to be able to root for at least one of the main characters, you know?
Modern Family: Watch it. Go to Hulu, or ABC, and watch it. It's well made and amusing for the first 17 minutes or so, but the last five minutes will make you laugh until you cry.
The Office: Like I said in my comments on last season's finale, these people are old friends. Watching this show is like wearing your favorite pair of jeans that are starting to get worn, but that just makes you love them all the more. This season's first two episodes were standard Office fare, but that doesn't mean they weren't wonderful. I'm interested to see what will happen with Jim and Michael as co-managers (I'm a little skeptical).
Sep 25, 2009
Sep 23, 2009
- My thoughts on last week's Mad Men, Glee, and The Office.
- My reaction to The Corrections (it feels like forever since I've written about a book, mainly because I didn't give Unaccustomed Earth the space it deserves, and because The Corrections is an awesome sprawl of a narrative that took some time to get through).
- This idea keeps rattling around in my head: Gossip Girl's Serena/Blair, Wicked's Elphaba/Glinda, and New X-Men's Jean/Emma are all telling the same story. Serena, Elphaba, and Jean burn with crazy Phoenix powers, thus rejecting the social systems they're born into, while Blair, Glinda, and Emma rock the system hardcore because they're too scared/don't know any better*.
*Of course, Elphaba and Jean both end up dead. The Wicked Witch has to die at the end of The Wizard of Oz and Phoenix is too powerful a character to keep around in a superhero team book. According to this model, Serena's ultimate fate will prove tragic, yet I'm inclined to believe Josh Schwartz has something a little more optimistic in mind. We'll see.
Sep 20, 2009
Sep 19, 2009
A lot of reviewers have hailed Coddington as the film's true star, and she definitely opens herself more to the cameras than some of her co-workers, but I think there's a reason the film begins and ends with Anna Wintour. She keeps us at arms length, but with a twinkle in her eye and a knowing mystique to her aura. We don't really want to know what she's thinking because then the mystery would be gone. I found her charming, in an utterly terrifying way.
- I'm getting cable/Internet on Tuesday (!) so expect more talk about television. I'm going to catch up on Glee and The Office next week, since I don't feel like buying them on iTunes. I might check out Community too. Plus, The Hills returns in ten days, and I'm interested to see what the show looks like post-Lauren (my prediction: Kristin talks shit about/starts fights with everyone, while looking totally bored/completely amused).
- Last week's Mad Men ("The Fog") was good, but not one of my favorites. I like January Jones a lot, but Betty is far from my favorite character, and I really dislike when the script uses the episode title in such a pointed, obvious way ("It was all a fog"). The Peggy/Don scene was terrific though, thanks to the never ending brilliance of Elizabeth Moss and Jon Hamm. I can't say enough about those two.