50 gradients of fear; 2.27.19

Okay actually only 3, but do you see what I did there?

It’s actually kind of weird for this week’s post to be fear-themed, considering that it is actually the one-year anniversary of the blog!!!

It truly doesn’t feel like it’s been a whole year, maybe because when I started this I didn’t quite wholly believe that I would keep it up for this long? I’m glad I have, because personally it’s been very fun and a great exercise and also it warms my heart to INFINITY when one of you incredibles tells me you read (or watched) something because I told you to. I honestly have no idea what this next year is going to look like, but I’m trying not to be a-FEARED (see what I did THERE?) and I’m glad you’re still reading!

Fear – Bob Woodward

Image result for fear bob woodward

Blech I already apologize for putting ~that face~ in front of you, but consider this: I had to read about a bunch of terrifying things he said, so WHO’S THE REAL SUFFERER HERE.

This is the much lauded, meticulously researched book by renowned political reporter Bob Woodward. Through conversations with a bunch of inside sources, Woodward chronicled the chaos of the Trump campaign and approximately the first year of his presidency. His focus is largely on the frustrations and machinations of Trump’s highest-ranking staffers as they attempt to steer a president who basically only cares about TV and winning through a series of complicated trade and military decisions.

It’s a mark of Woodward’s skill and experience that he manages to portray discussions about complicated policy matters at the level someone with an average knowledge about such things would understand. That being said, I definitely have a less-than-average knowledge about foreign military policy and–even more so–trade policy and found myself a bit lost in the weeds at time. However, it’s hellaciously clear from this book that I was not even nearly as lost in the weeds as the actual president, which is…not comforting. It’s also an odd reading experience to spend so much time up close with people like Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, and Rob Porter, because in comparison with Trump everyone else seems reasonable, even though they are also garbage! They’re just more coherent garbage! I don’t think this was Woodward’s intention, and I think he does a decent job of conveying the staffers’ feelings only as they’re relevant to the following actions and not as a play for the readers’ sympathies. Honestly I mostly found myself rolling my eyes at those feelings, especially when one of them was “SHOCKED, M’LORD. They had never SEEN the president like this!!” People, you’ve been working for him for over a year now…how is this shocking to you??

Anyway, if you’re into political reporting and policy, you might be into this book, but be warned that it is truly GALLING and TERRIFYING to be reminded for 400 pages how cruel and incompetent the current president is, so idk maybe have a snack and read a romance novel instead?

Motherhood – Sheila Heti

Image result for motherhood sheila heti

Okay this one is…kind of a reach. Admittedly, when I realized this post would be for sure Fear and Ring, I started scanning my library checkouts to see if any others could be slotted in, and I latched onto this deeply personal and philosophical novel/essay about the narrator’s (and author’s??) deliberation over whether to have children.

This book was kind of hit or miss for me. The parts that resonated with me resonated deeply, but there were also a number of sections that I couldn’t quite parse the purpose of. Perhaps that had to do with the fact that I’m not at the same stage in life as the author/narrator. Whatever conflicting feelings and/or fears I have about the question of whether to have children, I’m aware that (most likely) I still have about a decade in which to make the decision. The author/narrator (whether or not they’re the same is purposefully obscured) is in her late 30s and facing the need to decide RIGHT NOW.

However, it was actually the parts when she was staring down the question itself that I resonated with the most, and the parts that seemed barely related that threw me off. Heti engages with the back and forth about ambivalence, regret, and desire in a way that felt honest to me and familiar in the way that she would often double back on herself. Part of the narrative is also constructed of yes/no questions she answers with the flip of a coin, which a note at the beginning that assures the reader that those are the answers the coin “actually” gave. I found those sections particularly interesting, partly because Heti does a good job of actually getting the reader personally invested in the answers to the questions, and partly–as the author/narrator brings up herself–because frequently getting an answer that surprises or unsettles her forces her to push her thinking deeper and further.

It’s a pretty short read that in my opinion could have stood to even be a bit shorter, but for me it was worth reading both for the passages that really effed me up and for the perspective on a question that’s going to become more and more relevant to me.

Ring – Kōji Suzuki

Image result for ring koji suzuki

And here we get to the just straight-up horror! This is the source material for the iconic horror movie The Ring (which I haven’t seen yet), in which the villain is…a murderous videotape? It sounds like a bonkers premise and honestly this book is a bit bonkers. I actually read it over the course of an afternoon because it was spellbinding, but I also…kind of hated it? Like I don’t remember the last time I had SUCH intensely mixed feelings about the book! I couldn’t stop reading it, despite resenting both of the main characters, how weird/bad the book was about sexual assault [tw: near the end there’s an extended scene describing a sexual assault from the perspective of the rapist, and one of the main characters has claimed to have assaulted several women, which the other main character just straight up apathetic about??), and how weird/bad it also was about intersex people.

The whole time I found myself going

but I also desperately needed to know how it ended!! The tension and reveals are expertly paced, and the imagery pulls off the incredible task of describing eerie scenes in a way that feels visceral and inexplicably threatening.

Luckily for me, my friend Sam took the “I don’t know how to feel about this book please someone else read it and talk about it with me??” bait and so we’ll be discussing here it in a shout/countershout in a couple weeks!

That’s all for me this week! Thanks again to all you who’ve been reading along–I probably wouldn’t still be doing this without your kind words and enthusiasm!

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