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Disclosed book on table at library

This Year I Read…

..a lot of YA.

I don’t know whether it’s arrested development in full force, or the fact that so many of the ‘adult’ books by female writers I’ve read are studies in marriage or parenting, but YA books (especially the ones written with the adult end of the spectrum in mind) are just more fun. Full of the ‘what ifs?’ rather than the ‘oh no’s

And if like me, you’re keen on anything supernatural based, the YA variery are generally loads better. (Mostly because you don’t have to read embarrassing vampire sex scenes).

So, on the off chance thay you’re interested, stand out books of 2015 for me included:

Dark Rooms – Lili Anolik 

I really loved this. It’s not YA (officially), but it is a coming-of-age tale/thriller. Think Jawbreaker (movie, not band) meets The OC meets School Ties but with a way darker edge (the narrative is kicked off by a murder) Excited to see what Lili Anolik does next.

Life Moves Pretty Fast – Hadley Freeman

If you’re old enough to have grown up on 80s movies and understand their majesty and excellence, and also are a feminist, and also live to read books of critical essays, then you are going to love this. You’re probably also going to get really annoyed about the state of Hollywood today and maybe you’ll wander around  talking shit about ‘foreign markets’ for a while too.

Maggie Stiefvater  – The Raven Boys (first 3 books in quadrilogy)

Bit late to the game on this one. Had this on my Kindle for the better part of a year before I got around to reading it and then absorbed the first 3 books in the series in the space of a month or two. Southern Gothic YA obsessed with dead Welsh kings? Muscle cars? Elite prep schools? YA  written as if the reader is actually aware of the things that teenagers do? I’m dying that I have to wait until April to read the final book. Also, I have a huge crush on Gansey, which is totally cool because he’s fictional.

Rainbow Rowell – Carry On

I’m going to start this by explaining that I am not a Harry Potter fan. In the slightest, and I never really understood Potter fanfic. I’ll take Narnia over anything Rowling creates, any day of the week. However, I am a huge nerd for anything that Rainbow Rowell puts out, and I fell in love with Simon and Baz back when they were just written in italics in Fangirl. I WISH THEY WOULD ADAPT THIS FOR TV.

Alys Arden The Casquette Girls 

Part study on post Katrina New Orleans, part Originals-esque vampiric monster thriller. Alys Arden proves herself to be a worthy sucessor (if a slightly less subversive one) to Poppy Z Brite’s New Orleans gothic throne. If you really liked The Craft way back when, then you’ll probably really like this now.

 

 

 

But can James Franco write?

I just got finished with James Francos first fictional offering “Palo Alto“, this afternoon, and I have some thoughts about it that I’d like to share with you.

It’s set out as a series of short stories, each from different characters who live in and around the Palo Alto area in the mid 90s. Some of the characters know each other, others don’t. Some are male and some are female, they’re mostly around high school age and few seem to have many scruples.

Firstly, at the beginning of the book I was struck by how simple it was to read, considering Franco’s boner for Gus Van Sant and being an “artist” and all I was expecting a pretty verbose affair, but the the prose was super readable and the characters immediately intriguing if not intrinsically likeable.

As I progressed through the book it became apparent how massively in love with Easton Ellis, and indeed the entire blank fiction movement he is. The prose is sparse, the characters are mostly misogynists and the interconnectedness of the characters is less like a hipster Tales of the City and more like The Rules of Attraction picked up and planted right in the middle of mid 90s Palo Alto.

The thing was, I couldn’t figure out if I liked it. It was a pretty engrossing read and he’s obviously crazy talented in a myriad of departments, but I don’t know how interested I am in books about horrible teenage boys anymore (No-one here has even a hint of Holden). I think if I was in my early twenties I’d probably love this. And it’s definitely better than anything that Ethan Hawke has written. It’s pretty hard to read this and not imagine Franco’s Freaks & Geeks character as any one of the male protagonists. Although even he would have difficulty making some of these guys likeable.

It reads quite similarly to Nick McDonnell’s “Twelve” but that might just be the disaffected youth thing. All of this being said, it’s one of the simplest things I’ve read recently and I’m glad I did. I like his style, I’d be interested to see a change in subject matter, but I think that might be because I’m 33.

 

 

 

In Praise of Julie Klausner’s “I Don’t Care About Your Band”.

I initially found Julie Klausner’s book on Amazon after reading something about the book being converted for TV  with Lizzie Caplin up to star as the protagonist. My decision to purchase was also influenced by the only review for the book, written by a horrible woman who really didn’t seem to understand humour and was upset that it wasn’t more like Sex And The City. I was sold!

The book is primarily about Julie’s dating exploits from childhood through to her early 30’s, where we find her, well adjusted, today. However, it’s most definitely not one of those “Smart Girls Guide To Breaking Up/Who Needs A Man Anyway” deals. Far from it. Julie LOVES men. And that’s one of the things that stops this memoir falling into the realm of angry young feminist sitting in Clevercleverland.

Right from the get go, this book is pretty fucking hysterical.

Learning about young Julie’s childhood struck at least a few chords of resonance with me – well, of the Judy Blume/Paula Danzinger inspired childhood I had in my mind if not my own dull English Countryside existence. From her desperation to be a child star through to her initial foray into the world of boys, and her catalogue knowledge of TV shows, movies and indie rock. (Now I realised that this describes pretty much any girl that came of age in the 90s and has ever picked up a copy of Bust, but trust me, these days we’re a dying breed)

From long distance early internet romances through an adolescent obsession with phone sex lines, there are many cultural markers that will ring true to many a girl of a certain demographic. At times it’s as if she’s dredging up my own sordid teen years, but without any of the stomach-in-mouth embarrassment that would usually accompany.
I particularly enjoyed reading Turn Down The Glamour about the relationship with her first real boyfriend David, who “tried to strip away all of Kate’s lovely lashes and wigs and iridescent outfits  to reveal what he was confident was the mousy, wide-eyed, ragamuffin little girl that he wanted to love me as, and who he wanted me to be”

Who hasn’t been in this situation with at least one punk/indie rock boy?

Another favourite is the essay I originally read years ago “I Don’t Care About Your Band” about dating an “Indie Rock Musician” from “Williamsburg” (I remember at the time reading a rumour about who the piece was about, and then meeting the supposed suitor myself a little while later, and also being super-surprised by how short he was)

This piece has always rung so true to me, because boys in bands do refuse to grow up – more than boys in general. They will literally be in their 40s and still behaving the same way they have been since their teens. Although this is an appealing prospect in your early 20s, as a woman, regardless of how many pins still adorn your denim jacket, you’ll soon find yourself wanting more than an encyclopaedic knowledge of Elephant 6 releases.

And it’s always nice to be validated.

Julie traverses the New York dating landscape and encounters almost as many types as you’ll find in 90s classic Field Guide To The North American Male. Learning a little something from each and every encounter. She finds humour sometimes even sense, and rarely strays into bitterness in her descriptions.

I’d love to write more about just.how.good I found this book, but I’m already a little on the verbose side, and I have one more point I’d like to make.

One of the things that really upsets me about other reviews I’ve read about this book is the assumption that because at times Julie warns you that you can’t trust all your female friends, and has the audacity to have a gay best friend (jeeez, how stereotypical)  then she can’t possibly be a feminist.

This is the kind of  (haha) rationale that will send me into a huge fit of rage. There are literally hundreds of books written by girls who just love shopping and “chicklit” and weren’t appalled by the way Sex And The City finally ended. And there are also hundreds of books written by Wimmin’s Studies majors who despise lipstick and believe wholeheartedly in the power of girlhood. You know what there aren’t hundreds of books about? Girls who fall between the two camps. Girls who grew up with Riot Grrrl, but also lust after pin up good looks and hate being photographed without their Rubywoo.

Girls the media often refers to as “sassy”

I’m one of those girls, and I’m glad that someone has eventually written a book so smart and so funny that I can actually relate to.

Julie Klausner – I salute you.

Julie Klausner has a tumblr here and tweets here.

Oh, and you can buy her book here

New Coupland Excerpt

There’s a new Douglas Coupland short story in this months McSweeney’s, here’s an excerpt of it. ( I copied it from Coupland.com)

A   N E W   E X C E R P T   F R O M   M c S W E E N E Y ‘ S   3 1Fucking fuck , there is no place worse than the port side of the Luxurious CBS Yacht. Each morning I’m greeted by sauna-like humidity and the perpetual odor of tuna sandwiches, plus, believe it or not, the sound of CBS executives playing racquetball. Their court is on the other side of my headboard’s wall. Thank you, British divorce laws, for handing me this sack-of-shit career move. We’re in the middle of fucking nowhere and sleep doesn’t even provide me with dreams, just an escape from those sniveling American shits I now have to shadow all day. Could these people have found a place on earth more remote? Excuse me, but were the Kerguelen Islands all booked up? Did Pitcairn Island shut down for an extended religious holiday? I tried Google-mapping this place: Fucking fuckity fuck.

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The Republic of Kiribati is an island nation located in the central Pacific Ocean. It comprises thirty-two atolls and one raised coral island, and is spread over 1.4 million square miles. Kiribati straddles the equator and, on its east side, borders the international date line. Its former colonial name was the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. The capital and largest city is South Tarawa.

OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: English, Gilbertese
POPULATION: 105,000
GDP: $206 million
INTERNET TOP-LEVEL DOMAIN (TLD): .ki
INTERNATIONAL CALLING CODE: +686

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Our ludicrous contestants had to choose names for their “tribes” today. I suggested Swallowers versus Spitters and got pursed lips all around. Fucking Americans: no sense of humor. Doubtless they all own Forrest Gump on DVD and have already asked each other what they want to be when they grow up. They are monsters.

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Kiribati has few natural resources. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of its 1979 independence. Copra (dried coconut kernels) and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports. Tourism provides more than one-fifth of the country’s GDP.

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I have eight fellow cameramen, five of them veteran crew members of this wretched show. They divide contestants into two categories: Fuckable and Unfuckable. They treat the latter like Molokai lepers. As far as I can see, our biggest technical issue is ensuring that our shadows not appear on the sand—very hard to do around sunrise and sunset.

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Survivor is a popular reality-TV game show, versions of which have been produced in many different countries. In the show, contestants are isolated in the wilderness and compete for cash and other prizes. The show uses a progressive elimination, allowing the contestants to vote off tribe members until only one remains and wins the title of “Sole Survivor.”

The initial U.S. series was a huge ratings success in 2000 and triggered a reality-TV revolution in the USA.

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Last night I got saddled with infrared night-shift filming. Ray, a fellow Brit cameraman, told me it’s too early in the season for the contestants to truly fuck around, and I was prepared for eight hours of drying paint when a storm came out of nowhere and blasted away the pathetic huts they’d made as shelters. Talk about sniveling! So much fun to see them get what they deserve. The Spitters also inadvertently spilled their rice canister. When they picked it up, it had become a big white lump filled with dead sand flies. It looked like raisin-bread dough. They are going to starve and it’s going to be very funny.

Ray tells me that it usually takes about three storms before the contestants discreetly offer blow jobs in return for chocolate bars, bug repellant, and antifungal sprays. Perhaps there is light at the end of this tunnel.

Am feeling a bit ill. Too much sun is getting to me, I think.

—from “Survivor,” a biji by Douglas Coupland.

pop culture overload

Hi. It’s been a little while, I’ve been using my tumblr ‘cos I haven’t really felt like writing much. My life continues it’s flux heavy passage so I decided to stay in this whole weekend to make sense of it. In fact what I did was consumed popculture by the bucketload, I’m warning you, don’t come near me – I can’t interact with you unless you’re a text.

So far this weekend I have watched:

  • The Unusuals – S01E01 – I read a Salon blog about the pilot and was stoked it was released. I can’t tell if it’s a dramedy or not. If David Lynch had directed Hill Street Blues but imagined it to be NYPB blue set in Picket Fences. That might be this. Oh, and Amber Tamblyn and Adam Goldberg rule. Really. I have missed Adam Goldberg
  • Harpers Island – S01E01 – If Point Pleasant (minus the Supernatural) met I Still Know What You Did Last Summer but was set in the Pacific Northwest, this’d be that. It features some pretty good death scenes, a somewhat intriguing plot and camerawork I haven’t seen the likes of since The Colbys. (points for having the dude who plays Bobbly from Supernatural in though)
  • Parks and Recreation – S01E04 Hmmmmm – Was it me or was this pilot a little bit on the meh, side? I was expecting a little more from Amy Poehler. It’s nice to see Paul Schneider (swoon) in something un-Southern though. I’m gonna give it another couple of episodes before I quit
  • Party Down – S01E04 – Party Down continues to rule, hard. It’s the laugh out loud funniest show on Tv right now, it’s helped me rekindle my crush on Adam Scott and it’s the type of thing I’d quote with my friends if only they’d stop doing so much real life stuff and watch more TV
  • Dollhouse – S01E09 – Lets get this straight, I’m only still watching this show out of loyalty to Whedon and the hope that all of this backstory is going to amass into something extraordinary. What’s up Joss ? I forgave Firefly, but we’re on uncertain territory.
  • Southland – S01E01 – It’s everyone you ever had a crush on in a teen movie in a TV show. Well, really it’s Ryan from the OC and Tom Everett Scott and Shawn Hatosy and a bunch of other people you remember from TV shows. I really liked it. Apparently I like cop shows this week. Cop shows starring grown up teen tv stars.

There was a load more, but I just re-read what I’d already typed and even I found it kind of scary.

I also rewatched both The Signal (awesome goodness) and The Outsiders (I’d listened to too much lifetime) and read half of ” Wish You Were Here: An Essential Guide to Your Favourite Music Scenes” the first 5 chapters of “DIY: The Rise of Lo Fi Culture” and played Bridge & Tunnel – East West to death – particularly Rubrics. Bridge and Tunnel are playing the Windmill next saturday. It is going to be awesome.

Here’s another one of the tracks from the Pink Couch Sessions at IYMI. I heart IYMI and so should you. Donate them some money!


Bridge and Tunnel – Call to the Comptroller’s Office from If You Make It on Vimeo.

Things I can't believe I didn't know, part 1

So, before they made the abomination that was Jpod – The Series (hi, Bree isn’t asian and descended from the queen) there was a 4 minute short, made by bookshorts, (this is the OMG I am an idiot for not knowing this part) and starred none other than current crush du jour, Scoot McNairy. You can watch the whole 4 minute spectacular on the bookshorts website here. I’ve embedded the trailer below. For the record, it seems much more Coupland than the series did, Bree does look like Bettie Page and there’s Helvetica everywhere..

little things

I am a complete nerd for Jeffrey Brown, ever since stumbling upon Clumsy years ago in Foyles waaaaaaay before I worked there, emokid that I was at the time (oh yeah, I’ve totally changed now) I fell in big love immediately. Right the way through the girlfriend trilogy he kept me just on the right side of melancholy.

I eventually got around to reading Little Things this week and it was awesome. It reads like something of a mix between Unlikely and MiniSulk with a little bit of Cat Getting Out of a Bag, thrown in. That is to say all of Brown’s trademark motifs are present. It’s the kind of book that makes you remember why you fell in love with indie comics in the first place. Sure, it can be argued nothing happens. But isn’t that the whole point. Meaning and beauty in the mundane. If you’ve got that down the whole world gets a bunch more interesting, lets face it, we’ve all got plenty of mundane. Brown is a little like Coupland in this way, super simplistic and up to you the reader to find what you’re looking for in it.

He presents his Chicago to you in a way that makes you feel familiar with the Coffee house he frequents and the neighbourhood he lives in. Almost everything Brown has done has been autobiographical but this book in particular resonates with reality. I loved the story about going to visit his friend who is a Mountain Ranger in the Pacific Northwest. I loved the story about how he started writing comics in the first place, and I loved that he was still hoping he’d make enough off of comics to go part time at Barnes and Noble.

Don’t get me wrong, Jeffrey Brown isn’t for everyone, and you either love his art or hate hate hate it. But if you’ve ever been young, in love, broken hearted, a struggling artist, underpaid or had a cat then you should find something here.

A picture wouldn’t really do it justice, so I chose the video he animated for Death Cab’s directions collaborative DVD. Warning, it’s a little sad.

and everybodys waiting on the end of the world…

I found this on someones flickr the other day:

It seemed sort of apt, since I’m currently 2 pages away from the end of Girlfriend in a Coma, and reading it this time has been more poignant than any other time I’ve picked it up. The things Karen notices, and juxtaposes about modern society and 17 years previous are the exact things I can’t stand about 2008. I’m a child of the 70s, and I definitely remember people actually having leisure time back then. There was a theory in the 90s about the reason shows like Friends and Seinfeld and Frazier were so popular, the notion was time porn. All the characters did was hang out with each other, rarely working, just hanging. Western society tuned in en masse and swooned a collective swoon at the notion of being able to just drink coffee for 4 hours straight. The other thing that Karen picks up on is the hardness to people and the lack of sincerity. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll rarely meet anyone more pro the internet and personal space than me, I don’t like to interact with people unless I choose to, but look around in the streets, it’s not just anti-social fuckers like me who can’t leave the house without an i-pod. Thousands of us all walking around in our own little worlds, with little to no connection with the real one that’s going on around us. And I for one am praying for the death of irony. I don’t know whether I feel these things because I’m now nearer the age of the characters in the book, or because things have gotten even more fucked up since the last time I read it. But back to the point, I do feel like I’m trapped in a Coupland novel, although me and my friends feel like the only characters who have read it before.

All I'm losing is me

All this leaving is making me sad. It’s funny, you don’t expect people to leave London, unless they’re moving to NY, cos, where else would you go?

Anyway, with all the things that have been going wrong recently, I turned to my old friend Douglas Coupland to find something comforting or at least explanatory.. I remembered this passage from Life After God almost perfectly, it’s from In the Desert, the short story he wrote for  Michael Stipe. It’s about a guy who breaks down in the desert in the middle of nowhere while on a mission and the desert rat/hobo he finds who leads him to a service station and inadvertently saves his life. The protagonist is upset that he can’t find a way to connect with the hobo..

“The fact of the matter was he was simply a very far-gone desert rat. I felt naive and middle class for having hoped – even briefly – that I could bond with the unbondable, for thinking that all it takes to make crazy people uncrazy is a little bit of hearty attention and good sense.

And then I felt sad because I realised that once people are broken in certain ways, they can’t ever be fixed, and this is something nobody ever tells you when you are young and it never fails to suprise you as you grow older as you see the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going to be, or if it’s already happened”

This blog post makes me seem more melancholy than I feel. But then, so does reading early Coupland… If you haven’t read Life After God then you should probably rectify that quicksmart. It exemplifies all the amazing smart, simple, warm things about Coupland, without any of the irony and less of the pop cultural infusion.