how many times can I use the word ‘prescient’; 6.19.19

Hello good day I come to you from deep within a dedicated Superstore rewatch. This show very possibly takes the prize for “Sneaking Most Effectively Into My Heart.” I went from casually enjoying an underrated sitcom to being convinced this is one of the NUMBER ONE MOST IMPORTANT SHOWS ON TELEVISION TODAY, which, I realize, is something I have been known to say about more than one of my favorite shows, but THIS ONE REALLY IS, Y’ALL. It pulls off exploring the prescient and often grim realities of working class life in the US while also being cracklingly hilarious and brilliantly layering in character development and foreshadowing in ways I’m appreciating more and more as my rewatch goes on. Hannah and I are going to be talking about this show in July’s Pop Culture Pen Pals, but to tide you over, a couple of my favorite TV writers, Kathryn VanArendonk and Emily VanDerWerff have recently written about the show and I loved both of their pieces [VanArendonk’s has significant spoilers, Vanderwerff’s has light spoilers].

The show is available on Hulu and honestly, along with the upcoming Veronica Mars availability, is one of the biggest reasons I recently upgraded to no ads, so if you need me, I will pretty much exclusively be in my own home, eating ice cream sandwiches and marathoning through these rewatches.

Silas Marner – George Eliot

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“So, considering you just finished a Trollope, maybe you should…take a break from the 19th century?” ….is a thing that I should have said to myself, and which proves that perhaps I myself am in need of a governess, because this relatively short novel [novella!!] took me…so…long…to sludge through.

Now to be fair, not much actually happens in it to spur the reader on. Like my experience with New Year’s Day a couple months back, I just didn’t get enough of the author’s wit and cutting observations to really have a good time, but there were several individual sections that I found very moving. The bare bones of the story is that a grouchy hermit weaver loses his precious money, then adopts a child, and that’s…honestly…it. Like, there’s a bunch of background drama going on with the origins of the child, but the point of the story is Silas Marner’s redemption, which happens in a pretty lowkey way. Maybe if you’re wanting to get a taste of Eliot’s style before making the leap to Middlemarch this would be a good choice? It was fine! I’m glad to have checked it off my 19th century list! There was a section in the last quarter that felt EXTREMELY prescient, because it was basically about a dude being like, “I said sorry so I should get what I want now!!!!” and it was extremely satisfying [spoiler] to see him not get what he wanted.

Sister Outsider – Audre Lorde

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It’s frankly a bit embarrassing that it’s taken me this long to read any Audre Lorde. A prolific poet, essayist, and activist, Lorde’s work is foundational to any understanding of feminism, anti-racism, and their intersections, along with work and writing about LGBTQ rights and acceptance, anti-ageism, and anti-capitalism. This collection of essays, letters, and speeches demonstrates Lorde’s capacity to approach any topic with a complex range of perspectives, as well as a relationship to words and language deeply informed by her poetry. Though the content is often challenging thematically, the style is accessible in a way that it takes a very skilled writer to pull off. As I mentioned before, the pieces in the book are a mixture of formats, including a section in the middle that’s the transcript of a conversation between Lorde and fellow poet Adrienne Rich. I really enjoyed the variety, especially in a busy week when I was doing battle with the soul-crushing House of Leaves, and the extra layer of thinking about the differing goals and audiences for each section was a meaningful addition to an incredibly rich collection.

The collection was originally published in 1984, and the pieces in it range from the mid-70’s to the early 80’s, and 35+ years later it’s all still incredibly relevant. Particularly in the sections about how race and feminism, and white women’s failures to center or even meaningfully include Black women’s experiences and contributions, there were many times the book described and explored discussions and struggles that happen every day in 2019.

As often happens, I struggle to figure out how to talk about important books here. On the one hand, what is there for me to say about Audre Lorde other than “go read her now!” But on the other hand there’s something that feels profoundly Wrong about me spouting off about my disdain for House of Leaves for almost 400 words and writing significantly less about my positive reaction to Sister Outsider. In general it’s a balance I’m still trying to work out, because as much as I love to complain, I do want the tone of this blog to be in general a positive one, so I appreciate your patience as I continue to figure out the balance here!

House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski

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I’m pretty sure I have been punkd. Why the fuck did I read this book.

Okay so I read it because supposedly it’s a cult classic of horror, etc, also there’s an Overdue episode about it. [they were marginally more charitable than I am about to be, but only just, and would be a great listen if you felt A Sort Of Way about it.] So like, a of all…I did not find it scary? There were a couple of moments when I was like, “yeah this would be scary if it was in a different book but honestly I am too ANNOYED to be scared right now!!!” B of all, when describing the premise to my roommate [“it’s like…a book…within a book…about a supposed film…and there’s all these footnotes and appendices…”] she rightly commented, “Oh…this book was written by a dude, wasn’t it?” AND IT SURE WAS. IT’S ONE OF THE MOST DUDE-EST BOOKS I HAVE EVER FORCED MY EYEBALLS THROUGH.

So yeah the premise is that there’s this ~film~ that everyone in the book assumes to be fictional because it’s your typical “family moves into a big house and the big house is TERRIFYING” and if you’ve been around, y’all KNOW how much I want to love a “big terrifying house” story, and maybe I would have liked it if it had just been the story of that. BUT NOPE. The book is actually made up of a manuscript this now-dead-dude named Zampano has written about the film, which a dude named Johnny Truant has found and is annotating/publishing. There’s…a lot going on. It’s not a straightforward front-to-back read–you’re meant to bounce around between the appendices and footnotes, etc, and there are sections of the book where they do things with the layout to mirror the content of the text, which all sounds SO INTERESTING and made me SO UPSET. But you know what, some people love it and I guess that’s FINE but I intend on snarling like a feral cat whenever it’s brought up in proximity to me.

Some warnings: there are several references to sexual assault and suicide. The book also has relationships to disability, mental illness, and addiction that I was…not a fan of.

Okay everyone stay hydrated and I’ll see you next week!

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