Review: Blue and Gold, K. J. Parker

Some vicious alchemy of hormones, depression, and running backs hitting people smaller and weaker than they are played havoc with my mood in September. If I were a color in September I’d have been blue; if I were a Tarot card, six of swords; if I were an internet meme, Sad Keanu. As I write this post, I am back up to like, gold, eight of pentacles, and videos of animals who have formed unlikely cross-species friendships.

And you know who (partly) cheered me up? My girl (maybe?) K. J. Parker! If you do not know, K. J. Parker is an Enormous Mystery. It is widely believed that s?he is a lady, and s?he has said that K. J. Parker is a pseudonym for somebody you have never heard of. That’s fine by me. I say let the ?lady? have her privacy.

Although Blue and Gold is not the gold (ha ha ha) standard for K. J. Parker books I have ever read, it possesses the exact qualities I look for and cherish in a K. J. Parker book. I will enumerate those for you here.

  1. Mindblowing attention to logistical detail. When you read a K. J. Parker book about alchemy, you get the feeling that K. J. Parker acquired all the materials used by medieval alchemists and spent three months in her lab trying to transmute base metals into gold. After reading The Belly of the Bow, I felt pretty confident that K. J. Parker can make a competent bow. After reading Devices and Desires, I felt a strong wish to have K. J. Parker on my side should I ever wish to lay siege to a city.
  2. Utter lack of sentimentality. When you are feeling blue, it can be refreshing to read a book in which most of the characters are pretty frank about their intention to look out for number one. The protagonist of Blue and Gold, for instance, begins by admitting responsibility for the death of his wife. Over the course of the novella, he does quite a few things that might give you or me pause, because as he admits — he just wants to get out.
  3. Relatedly: Characters who tell you exactly who they are, but you don’t totally believe them because you are used to that thing where protagonists are harder on themselves than they need to be? So when the time comes for the characters to display their absolute utter ruthlessness, even though they told you all along that’s what they were going to do, it still jolts the hell out of you. It is a trick I have seen very few authors even attempt, and K. J. Parker does it with apparent ease.

I’ve got one of Parker’s recent standalone novels out from the library now, and I’m very much looking forward to reading that too. K. J. Parker!

Here’s what some other folks had to say about Blue and Gold: Publishers Weekly mysterious refers to the protagonist as a “lovable rogue,” which is not exactly what I took away from the book, but never mind; Fantasy Book Critic highlights the fun of watching the story slowly unfurl its many layers; and Strange Horizons rightly calls Parker’s writing “intelligent, sardonic, and vivid.”

(Did you review this book? Drop a note in the comments, and I’ll add a link!)

Review: Em and the Big Hoom, Jerry Pinto

Oh how I love a book that can speak unhysterically about the hysterical awfulness of living with a severe mental illness. Em and the Big Hoom (affiliate links: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) is a son’s story of his manic depressive mother and his family’s life with her. Through conversations with his mother, Em, about how she met his father and the course of her mental illness, we see the toll that Em’s illness has taken on her and on her family. Hat tip to Shannon for the recommendation!

Though the book is occasionally disorganized, as Pinto jumps around in time from his childhood to his adulthood to his teen years and back again, what shines is the dialogue, which conveys everything about its characters. Here’s Em:

“What’s Oedipal?”

 

Em loved a good story. She was off.

 

“Ick,” I said when Oedipus wandered off, his eyes bleeding and his future uncertain, escorted by his daughter who was also his sister.

 

“Well you may say ‘Ick’,” said Em. “But that’s what Freud says every boy wants to do to his mother. Ick, I say to Mr. Freud. He must have been odd, even for an Austrian. Not that I’m racist, but why would they have a navy when they’re landlocked?”

 

“Mr. Freud was in the navy?” I asked, confused.

 

“No, silly, I’m talking about The Sound of Music.

These conversations, dashing back and forth between topics, form the spine of the book. But Pinto is also superb when talking about the highs and lows of bipolar disorder, which Em has. Sometimes his narrator wonders if Em is putting on the manic phase a bit, emphasizing her craziness for dramatic effect. But he never wonders about the authenticity of her sadness, which sucks her down and takes over everything.

I really liked this book and recommend it highly. Pinto conveys the toll mental illness takes on the family as they deal with it: both the emotional difficulty of living with someone who at any moment might lash out viciously at you, or attempt to take her own life, and the paralyzing fear the child of a woman with bipolar disorder has that he will develop the same illness.

Other bits I liked:

“But window-shopping was tourism once upon a time. You never thought you would take any of that stuff home. You didn’t think it would belong to you. Like the Taj Mahal. You went to look at it and then you got a good shot of it running in your veins. You now had some beauty under your eyelids.”

“What control do mad people have? I don’t know myself. I only know there is some control. Some things you can choose not to say. Some things you can choose not to do. It’s such a mess, that’s why it’s madness. Because even when you say things which are not in your control, you’re saying them because not saying them will mean having to say other things. So you say, ‘I’ll let this one out of its cage and that should make the other cage stronger.'”

Cover report: American by a lot. Though I admit I may be swayed by the attractiveness of the American book. It’s got French flaps, which always feel enormously decadent, and deckle-edge paper, and an odd trim size. I love an unusual trim size!

American cover

American cover

British cover

British cover

Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Maggie Stiefvater

Note: I received an electronic copy of Blue Lily, Lily Blue from the publisher for review consideration.

Second note: Of necessity, I’ll be talking about some of the events of the first two books in this series. If you haven’t read those yet, the short version of this review is that Blue Lily, Lily Blue is an excellent third installment in an excellent series. But you probably shouldn’t read on unless you want to be spoiled for the first two. Spoilers for Blue Lily, Lily Blue occur only in the bottom, bullet-pointed section, and I’ve marked it that way.

ETA third note: Alice has rightly pointed out that if you haven’t read the first two books in this series, this review makes no damn sense. So you should probably skip it. And go read The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves. That is probably a better use of your time. My reviews of those two books are here and here.

Maura Sargent has been missing for over a month, and Blue and her raven boys are spelunking in Cabeswater, hunting for Glendower and Maura both. The man who hired someone to retrieve the Greywaren has come to town to do the job himself, and he’s brought backup. Blue does not pay reliable enough attention to whether Gansey is or is not wearing a rain-spattered Aglionby sweater at any given moment, and the answer to everyone’s questions seems to be in a mountain cave, which sings into Adam’s deaf ear and whose owner insists that it’s cursed.

Two processes are befalling the characters in the Raven Cycle. First, they are growing from variously broken teenagers into the working-order versions of themselves they have the capacity to become. Second, they are developing into powerfully magical people you don’t want to fuck with. Stiefvater knits these two things so tightly together that they become component parts of one and the same process: As Blue settles more comfortably into the feeling of belonging to her group, she’s also evolving a better and better sense of the value of her particular gifts and the ways she can usefully deploy them. [Adam example redacted for spoiler reasons]

They’re also discovering what readers knew all along: that they’re stronger together than apart. You see this particularly with Adam and Ronan, the two who have tapped into the fierce, unpredictable power of Cabeswater, and who can do some truly remarkable things when they’re working together. There’s a nice symmetry between Kavinsky’s shitty, amoral tutelage of Ronan in The Dream Thieves and Ronan’s clear-eyed confidence in Adam throughout Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Both boys are pushing someone else to be more than what they’re currently being; but where Kavinsky was telling Ronan, Be more like me, Ronan’s telling Adam, Be more like you. It is super lovely.

Blue and Gansey are still in the throes of Doomed Love. Maggie Stiefvater does her best to get to me by having Gansey give Blue his coat and then teach her how to drive stick shift, and look, I am not made of stone, standard transmission cars are amazing and nothing says love like making sure the other person is warm enough, but still, so far I like Blue and Gansey separately more than I like them together. Or rather, I like them together fine when they are joking about faxes from hell, and less when they start getting all Doomed about their Love. It’s not them; it’s the Doomedness of their Love.

In terms of plot advancement, quite a lot of important events occur, and some mysteries are solved while many more are raised (including a pretty big one about Gansey’s past). Whether you came for the characters or the search for a Welsh king, there are so many reasons to leave this book feeling satisfied. Stiefvater’s writing is as lovely as ever, with her weird and perfect metaphors, and it has been an extremely long time since I loved any fictional characters the way I love these ones.

Miscellaneous, spoilery observations (this section will include both plotty and emotional spoilers. Big ones. Look away.)

  • Adam and Ronan should always team up to do magic and iniquity together. It is the best.
  • Actually, the real, legitimate best is when Gansey says “Wake up.” I got chills.
  • Why is everyone in the visions switching places? I don’t like that! At least when it was clearly Gansey who was supposed to die, I knew where to focus my worry. Now it just seems like anyone could choose to sacrifice themselves to save anyone else. Adam sees a version of his Gansey-dying vision where it’s Ronan dying instead; the vision Blue and Gansey share in the vision tree swaps two lines of dialogue when it happens in real life.
  • The reveal about Matthew is the Maggie Stiefvaterest reveal ever. She has this brilliant gift for making you not notice that she’s told you a secret several times in a whisper before she tells it out loud. It even feels crazy to call it a spoiler. Of course Ronan dreamed Matthew. It’s been obvious all along, but I just didn’t notice. (Cf. Noah being dead.) (You guys, that is rough for Declan. I feel bad for Declan.)
  • My head knew that there was no chance at all that Ronan and Gansey weren’t going to show up to Adam’s court date, but my heart could not bear the suspense. Maybe it is too Hollywood and too facile a resolution of what Adam has been trying to learn about himself all along, but it’s such a good moment that I don’t care. “Behind him was Ronan Lynch, his damn tie knotted right for once and his shirt tucked in.”
  • “Why me?” “I hear if you want magic done, you ask a magician.”
  • The cliffhanger ending everyone was going on and on about: Piffle. That is not a cliffhanger. They spent the whole book saying Whatever we do we must not wake up that one sleeper, oh man, that would be a terrible catastrophe if that one sleeper got woken up. If you didn’t know that someone was going to wake the sleeper, you must have never read a book before. A cliffhanger is like when the protagonist has just defeated his human foe and then he turns around and there’s a whole alien army bearing down on them all. It is not a cliffhanger if it surprises you zero.

Links round-up: The usual suspects

Lindy West recently departed Jezebel for GQ, a move about which I said, “Huh.” But it all seems to be gold so far; here she is on the “BASICALLY SEX CHRISTMAS” represented by the new standards for consent in California colleges.

JK Rowling, presumably missing the days when she got to fuck with us regularly, took some time out of her busy schedule to fuck with us last week with the following confusing tweet:

I let the internet get on with its regularly scheduled dithering, and waited for the result. The internet unscrambled it in the end: “Newt only meant to stay in New York for a few hours.” Thanks, internet. I knew I could depend on you.

Roxane Gay talks about the price of black ambition.

Everyone always wails and screams about children’s and YA fiction being too dark already, so I don’t know what would be so different about publishing more nonfiction for children and young adults. This NY Times article is kind of dismissive of nonfiction for younger readers, but I think it’s a huge gap and we need to fill it.

Speaking of YA, The New Statesman‘s Elizabeth Minkel argues that the anti-YA crowd often tends to lean in the direction of viewing reading as a solitary activity, whereas the YA fans tend to think of it as a group thing. Interesting theory!

Neil Gaiman talks about how to become a writer, and emphasizes the importance of having lady writers on Doctor Who. And he also thinks that “fake geek” trope is bullshit.

In other representation news, apparently Jill Soloway and Jenji Kohan had a fascinating discussion about diversity in writers’ rooms at the New Yorker Festival, and I am dying to see a video or read a transcript. If anyone has seen such a thing, please link me! So far it’s been cast in clickbaity clash terms, and it may have been very clashy. But I would like to see the full thing.

Let’s give some love to Cuba for their team of doctors helping with the Ebola outbreak. Way to go, Cuba!

I wanted this to be an article making fun of Anne Rice, because I am an uncharitable person and I find Anne Rice deeply annoying. Instead, it’s like really positive on her. Whatever.

Women in Clothes is an amazing website (and I’m sure the book is also super amazing!) where you can see what dozens and dozens of women have to say about clothes, what their clothes say about them, and what they see when they look at other women’s clothes. You can also take the survey yourself!

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.30: Correcting the Canon, The Buccaneers, and a Peerage Game

We welcome back special guest star Ashley to talk about authors we’d promote or demote from the Canon of Great Literature! Our book this week is Edith Wharton’s unfinished novel The Buccaneers, which is about rich American girls going to England to marry nobility, and Whiskey Jenny accordingly provided a game about the peerage to go along with! You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

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An important note: Whiskey Jenny at one point mentions Roland Barthes’s book Camera Obscura, but she meant of course Camera Lucida. She was appalled by this error. She texted me like twelve times about it: “I had the book right in front of me! Right in front of me as I was talking about it!” We regret the error.

Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Song is by Jeff MacDougall and comes from here.

Review: The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014, edited by Deborah Blum

Note: I received an advance ebook copy from the publisher for review consideration, through Netgalley.

I’ve read this collection for the past three years now, and every time, the editor has been careful to include science writing on a range of topics. If Deborah Blum’s collection is perhaps a trifle heavy on What Our Hubris Hath Wrought on the planet and its occupants (and a trifle light on SPACE and the things that happen IN SPACE), it’s very little surprise. At this point, the consensus is that global warming is at this point irreversible or close to it and we have all been remiss in not doing more to stop it, so we will really deserve it when we all drown in the rising oceans.

Given my druthers, I’d choose all science writing and no nature writing–sorry nature!–so I skimmed through a few of the essays that seemed inclined to wax lyrical about the sun shining down upon beaver dams and things. It’s not animals I object to, but long descriptive passages of things I can’t–having a very poor visual imagination–picture in my own head. Since my bias is against nature writing, I won’t complain about individual essays here; that feels churlish. Instead I want to highlight a few that I loved.

My favorite of all was Elizabeth Kolbert’s wonderful “The Lost World,” which taught me that humans did not always have a concept of extinction. As she points out, the idea of extinction of species only seems intuitive if you’ve grown up with it. In the olden days, when people in Europe had not even seen giraffes, they tended to think that strange animal bones meant strange animals out there somewhere in the world still. When a scientist called Georges Cuvier came along and said that he had found some bones of animals that no longer existed on the earth, it was a watershed in the way we comprehended the history of Earth’s fauna. But he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for that, and we have all forgotten who he is. (Lame.)

(Relatedly, I think we all owe Lamarck an apology for making fun of him all these years. In fact I think we should call epigenetics neo-Lamarckianism. That is what I’m going to call it from now on.)

For scariness and most convincing argument to turn vegetarian, the prize goes to Maryn McKenna’s “Imagining the Post-Antibiotic Future”. In it, she describes the way modern medicine will fall apart as more and more bacteria become resistant to our standard courses of antibiotics. I can’t do this one justice, so I’ll just quote from it:

Doctors routinely perform procedures that carry an extraordinary infection risk unless antibiotics are used. . . [Lack of working antibiotics] rules out intensive-care medicine, with its ventilators, catheters, and ports–but also something as prosaic as kidney dialysis, which mechanically filters the blood. Next to go: surgery, especially on sites that harbor large populations of bacteria such as the intestines and the urinary tract. . . And then implantable devices, because bacteria can form sticky films of infection on the devices’ surfaces that can be broken down only by antibiotics. . . . Without antibiotics, one out of every six recipients of new hip joints would die.

McKenna goes on to note that 80 percent of antibiotics used in the antibiotic-happy US are used in agriculture. Cut out our dependence on huge quantities of cheap meat, and the problem decreases dramatically. (Luckily, I am too broke to buy much meat, except when I’m eating out. Hooray, you’re welcome, America!)

The prize for insanest way the world might end has to belong to Corey S. Powell for “The Madness of the Planets,” which explores the instability of our solar system. For us to achieve the current state of equilibrium, Jupiter had to come swooping close to the sun, get pulled over to where it currently is by Saturn, and messed up poor old Mars for good. (Earth didn’t exist back then, but if it had, it would probably have been destroyed as Jupiter bashed about trying to get settled in.) Some scientist theorize that there used to be another enormous planet in our solar system, but that it got bumped out of orbit and went spinning madly away into outer darkness.

Nor is all of this limited to the distant past. If Mercury, always on the edge of instability, starts intruding on Venus’s orbit, Venus could collide with Earth and send us spinning off into a brand new (doomy for us) orbit. The odds of this are 1 percent over the next couple billion years.

I question Morbidelli to make sure I’m understanding him correctly. A 1 percent chance of disaster is surprisingly high odds in the cosmic-doomsday business. He sets down the phone for a moment and I hear him in the distance, double-checking with someone else in his office (“Do you know the probability that Mercury gets crazy?”). Then he’s back on the line: “Yes, 1 percent.” And he warns that the subtle divergences that would set the whole cataclysm in motion are like the weather, chaotic and impossible to forecast far in advance. They could be building up right now.

And last but not least, an essay on fire ants. As a southerner, I feel equal parts pity and schadenfreude for northern tourists discovering fire ants for the first time. Yes, the ants bite. Yes, for real. Justin Nobel’s “Ants Go Marching” was inspired by an ill-fated picnic in New Orleans’s City Park, in which he and his girlfriend sat in a big pile of fire ants. He set out to discover why these bastards are so tough and how people kill them.

How people kill them: Insane ways that involve fire and chemicals, apparently. Justin Nobel reports that only one person told him to use boiling water to get rid of them. What? Everyone I know uses boiling water! Or grits. Boiling water or grits (I’m suspicious of grits), and those are the only two ways I’ve ever seen anyone try to get rid of fire ants in their yard. Justin Nobel must have interviewed only lunatics for this piece.

Why they’re so tough: Hell if we know. The bad news is that they’re spreading north, and as they interbreed with this other type of ant, the hybrids thereby produced can withstand much higher temperatures. Watch out, other half of the country; fire ants are coming. And here’s the (to me) truly horrific news. Fire ants can build rafts. You can google it if you don’t believe me. They can build rafts made out of layers of their own larvae and float upon them for several days in case of flood. My skin is crawling to contemplate this. Let’s not think about it, actually.

The four essays I’ve highlighted are just a few of the many superb pieces of writing in this volume. Nicholas Carr talks about what our dependence on computers is doing to our brains; Virginia Hughes explores tragic personal ramifications of the service offered by 23 and Me; Fred Pearce considers the impact of TV soap operas on pregnancy rates; and Carl Zimmer gets into the wild and wacky world of animal cloning (and whether it’s worth trying to bring extinct species back to life when we can’t even take care of the species we have now). It’s a terrific, if sometimes rather depressing, collection of writing.

Review: Long Division, Kiese Laymon

Now this would have been a good read for A More Diverse Universe, if I had but read it in time. I’m going to cunningly add a link to this post to the More Diverse Universe links page, and by the time Aarti notices it will be too late to do anything about my illicit post-linking. Mwahahahaha, I am the most cunning blogger in all the land.

Long Division is about a boy named City (short for Citoyen) in 2013 who checks out a book called Long Division about a boy named City in 1985 who time-travels forward to 2013 to meet a girl called Baize, who in City (our City)’s present has disappeared and is presumed murdered. The City in our book is staying with his grandmother, who may or may not be hiding Baize Shepherd’s murderer in her toolshed. The City in his book has promised assistance to a girl he’s half in love with, Shalaya Crump, who has discovered a means of time traveling — forward to 2013, or backward to 1965, when City’s grandfather was murdered.

Your concern — I can detect it from here — is that Long Division might seem at first glance like the sort of book that would quickly disappear up its own bottom. But Kiese Laymon writes with such a light hand — funny in places, but mainly, sincere in the way that teenage boys like City are sincere, i.e., absolutely achingly but also afraid that they are about to be laughed at, and they are still in the process of deciding whether they care enough to change how sincere they’re going to be — that the convolutions of the plot feel strangely natural. Meanwhile, Laymon depicts so many different ways of resisting the insidious effects of centuries of racism; it’s a beautifully textured look at what racism has looked like at different points in our country’s history, and how people have dealt with it.

Also cause: Metafiction! I am all about it. What about y’all? I know that you all love Jasper Fforde, and I wish I could be there with you. Apart from that, what’s some metafiction that you adore?

Mary Renault at Shiny New Books

As you’ve probably heard, the third issue of the wonderful Shiny New Books came out earlier this week. I was lucky enough to get to write a post about one of my favorite-ever authors, Mary Renault, for this issue. You can read the post over in their neck of the woods, and feel free to complain to me in the comments about my obvious preference for Hephaestion over Bagoas. I know that’s a point of contention FOR SOME.

While you’re over there, check out the whole issue! The editors and contributors have reminded me again how much I want to read Station Eleven; they’ve sold me on House of Ashes, the story of a fictional coup in a fictional Caribbean country; and they’ve at least come very close to making me reconsider my stance on missing white girls to read Upstairs at the Party. I absolutely loved Victoria’s review of Janet Malcolm’s most recent essay collection, and I’m dyyyyyying to get my hands on a copy of Peter Mendelsund’s book on graphic design, Cover. And whether you know Frances Hodgson Burnett only from her children’s books or you’ve read some of her crazier adult stuff, you’ll get a kick out of Harriet’s post about her life. Enjoy!

A book I hurled across the room (plus some cheap shots at The Machinist)

Ugh, y’all, I was going to read Laura Kasischke’s A Mind of Winter for RIP IX, but it made me too angry. I did read it, and I can’t deny that, but I hereby did not read it for RIP IX. I just read it. RIP IX may or may not have been happening at the same time.

Two caveats before I begin my complaining:

  1. My opinion about The Mind of Winter arises from a personal preference that I have about the outcome of ghost stories. I have complained about this on the blog before, so it may come as no surprise to you.
  2. From here on out, I will be spoiling The Mind of Winter in ragey all-caps. And I will spoil The Machinist, that 2004 Christian Bale psychological thriller, as well, because I don’t like to miss any opportunities to complain about The Machinist, maybe my least favorite movie of all time.

The premise of A Mind of Winter is that Holly wakes up on Christmas Day feeling certain that something followed her family back from Russia, when they came home with their adopted daughter, Tatiana. All through the day, as she’s preparing her family’s Christmas meal, dealing with a medical emergency in her husband’s family, and quarreling with Tatiana, she cannot shake the thought that something malevolent came back with them from Russia, and that she has subconsciously known about it all along.

This year I am feeling more than normally affectionate toward creepy Russia stories, due to the excellent The Necromancer’s House, so I approached A Mind of Winter with great enthusiasm. A malevolent Russian magic something? At the holidays? That followed them home from Russia and is in their house? Nothing is bad about that premise!

Except then I read the end. And guess what.

(Here is the part where I spoil the book for you. Thus saving you the trouble of reading it and being disappointed.)

Holly is hallucinating everything that happens the whole day through, because actually Tatiana has died of a heart defect. There’s more to it than this, which would take too long to explain but it does make that ending more interesting and less cliche than how I’ve made it sound, but mainly, the protagonist is imagining every interaction she has with Tatiana, plus the feeling of malevolence around the house. It is all self-protecting hallucinations to shield her from the knowledge that her daughter died that morning.

I. HATE. IT. when the resolution to the spooky story is that someone was hallucinating it. Why did we bother then? If I am going to read a book about mental imbalance, I will just read a book about mental imbalance. Such books exist! I can seek them out! This very day, I started reading Jerry Pinto’s Em and the Big Hoom, in which there is mental imbalance and it tells you about it right on the cover. The point of a spooky book is to be spooky. It is not to scare you with atmosphere all along to where you think there is going to be a ghost or something for them to fight against, but then at the end it is like, “No, actually, everything’s very mundane, and regular life is regular. Sorry.”

That is the “And then she woke up” of psychological thrillers. See also: The Machinist, a movie that scared me so badly and then turned out to be so stupid that it engendered in me a lifelong loathing of Christian Bale that has only deepened with the passage of time. I was so furious when I realized that was really, truly, honestly the direction A Mind of Winter was going in that I chucked it across the room (but carefully, to land on a soft chair, because it was a library book).

This. Exactly this.

HMPH.

I reiterate: This book bashed straight into a pet peeve of mine. If you do not have this same pet peeve, maybe you will love A Mind of Winter instead of wanting to hurl it across the room, alarming your puppy and mother.

Disney Halloween costumes & the NYC subway: A links round-up

Remember that New York Times profile of Shonda Rhimes that called her an angry black woman? Vulture is wonderfully furious about it. Melissa Harris-Perry contemplates a world in which we talked about angry white men in this same way. Y’all, it is legit confusing to me that white men aren’t the ones with the “angry” stereotype. It seems like they are the angriest.

Netflix’s new Spoiler Roulette is excellent. I like how you can’t predict at all what the next thing is that’s going to get spoiled for you. Primal Fear? Orange Is the New Black? Could be anything.

Here is a wonderful gallery of Disney characters dressed up in nerdy costumes for Halloween. This couldn’t be awesomer. Click the “i” at the bottom of each picture for more information about who it is dressed up as what.

And now, a round-up of some things dealing with A. O. Scott’s essay about the death of adulthood in American culture. First, the Scott essay. Some bullshit from Christopher Beha. Some heartening non-bullshit from Lindsay Ellis. Some incandescent rage from Anne Ursu. My favorite response comes from Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post, reminding us “literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”

Book Riot’s sister site, Panels, launched this week! It’s as great as we all imagined it would be. Go check it out!

Not that the London Tube is perfect and the New York subway is garbage, but the me from 2010 who was constantly getting on the local train by accident really appreciated this article about the incomprehensibility of the NYC subway signage. It is marvelous and a luxury that the subway in New York runs 24 hours, but its signage is…not great. The Tube’s signage is superb. I don’t think I even once got on the wrong train in London.

Deeply ambivalent about children as I am, this article about choosing not to have them was balm to my soul.

I cherish “Two Monks Invent Denominations” and “Dirtbag Zeus” from The Toast, and basically I cannot go a whole two weeks without praising some piece of writing by Mallory Ortberg. The Toast is also getting a sister site, The Butter, which will be run by the estimable Roxane Gay. Expect to hear more about that in future link round-ups.

Important news: Until two weeks ago, there was a Mitford sister still living. I know, y’all. It blew my mind too.

A reflection on gender equity in nonfiction.

And last but very much not least, Witch Week draws nigh! From Halloween to Guy Fawkes Day of this year, we’ll be celebrating this week by remembering my girl Diana Wynne Jones. Lory of Emerald City Book Review will host, and we will all love it.

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