No Luke Cage Thinkpieces: A Links Round-Up

Look, I know. I know. You want to read the hot takes on Luke Cage. I understand that’s where you’re at. I am RIGHT THERE WITH YOU. But I have only watched four episodes of the series, and thus I haven’t read that much criticism of it yet.1 You will have to wait for the next one for that sweet Luke Cage talk. Here’s what you can have:

A complete history of Addy Walker, who I honestly still can’t deal with the fact that they retired her books and her doll. Hmph.

Why clothes for women don’t have any goddamn pockets.

The VOYA thing began during my last links round-up period, yet somehow continued through to the period of this links round-up. I don’t understand it either. Here’s all the receipts. VOYA’s latest and best apology, although it says a lot of good things, does not come with unblocking the YA authors they’ve blocked, or like contacting Tristina Wright or the author specifically to say what happens next, or like twelve million other things. So uh, take it with a pillar of salt.

If you’ve heard about Ian McEwan’s Fetus Hamlet book but do not want to read it, can I recommend this epic live-tweet of it instead? Jeanne also reviewed it and she did NOT like it.

I already thought Lionel Shriver was a dick BEFORE learning that her latest book featured a black woman kept on a leash by a white family, but now I want to kick her in the shins forever. Pulitzer winner Viet Thanh Nguyen talks about how to navigate the “cultural appropriation” wars.

Girls in houses: Laura Miller on Shirley Jackson.

This review of a Hitler biography is incredible. Honestly. Read this. I don’t want to say it elevates the art of criticism, but like, maybe.

Vinson Cunningham argues that The Birth of a Nation isn’t worth your time. Y’all, the journey of public discourse around this film should be its own damn biopic, seriously.2

Ann Friedman on Kim Kardashian’s recent trauma, the outing of Elena Ferrante, and the place of women in the public eye.

Daniel Jose Older on how (and if and why) to write characters from backgrounds that are not yours.

Angelica Jade Bastién wrote for the New Republic about the price of being a vocal woman of color in the worlds of geek fandom.

Have a good weekend!

  1. Not for spoiler reasons, it’s just kind of boring to read tons and tons of words about a piece of media you haven’t consumed.
  2. Not seriously.

Bored White Girls: A Links Round-Up

Morgan Jenkins is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers on the intersection of politics and pop culture, and this article about whiteness in Emma Cline’s The Girls is fire.

Pixar has a list of storytelling rules of which one, I believe, is that you can use a coincidence to get a character into, but not out of, trouble. Here’s Alice Mattison on how to write coincidence well.

Sexual harassment in the SF world.

Did I tell you I’m fascinated with the stories of people who are in (or who leave) fundamentalist religions? So this Gothamist article about a meet-up in New York called “Formerly Fundamentalist” was right up my alley.

In case you missed me sobbing with happiness on Twitter, Ian McEwan (an author I have never liked, sorry Ian McEwan fans) wrote a book from the perspective of an in-womb fetus who is also Hamlet. I will never stop laughing about this.

An LA Times report on a PTA mom who ran afoul of a power couple at her school and became the target of their REVENGE!

I don’t agree with everything in this article about spoilers, but its distinction between the WHAT of the ending and the HOW and WHY of an ending is very close to my exact reasons for reading the end.

Look, the further travails of Jonathan Safran Foer, who left his wife for another woman without asking the other woman first, will never not be funny. Michelle Dean of The New Republic is not hugely into his new book Here I Am.

Atonement, by Ian McEwan

Cecilia went to the kitchen to fill the vase, and carried it up to her bedroom to retrieve the flowers from the handbasin. When she dropped them in they once again refused to fall into the artful disorder she preferred, and instead swung round in the water into a willful neatness, with the taller stalks evenly distributed around the rim. She lifted the flowers and let them drop again, and they fell into another orderly pattern. Still, it hardly mattered. It was difficult to imagine this Mr. Marshall complaining that the flowers by his bedside were too symmetrically displayed. She took the arrangement up to the second floor, along the creaking corridors to what was known as Auntie Venus’s room, and set the vase on a chest of drawers by a four-poster bed, thus completing the little commission her mother had set her that morning, eight hours before.

Actually, a good while ago I did pick this book up at random, when I was baby-sitting once and the kids had gone to bed, and I hadn’t brought any of my own books, and I was not very impressed by it then. But that was a long time ago, and I was much younger than I am now. So in spite of the dramatic failure of Saturday, I decided to read Atonement. This is because I thought the movie was quite good, and also because I was sure that Atonement had a good story; and I thought that this good-story aspect would immediately put it head and shoulders above Saturday, which about a quarter of the way through had still not got started with any story.

Let me preface this by saying that I am the kind of person who thinks a lot. It has been suggested to me on at least two occasions (maybe a few more than two) that I overthink things. This is brutal on standardized tests, especially the reading comprehension sections which I always do well on but which take me loads of time because I am contemplating how each of the four possible answers might be seen to make sense. I mention this because I don’t want there to be any confusion about my primary complaint with Atonement.

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, is it even remotely possible for these people to quit THINKING IN THEIR BRAINS a lot of long-ass thoughts about all the BORING SHIT THEY ARE DOING when it is all wholly irrelevant and just GET ON WITH IT? And by “it” of course I mean having sex in libraries and telling nasty lies about people and hallucinating at Dunkirk. (Dunkirk!)

(I turn into fifth-book Harry Potter when confronted with annoyingness of Ian McEwan calibre.)

It’s such a shame because I really do think Atonement has an excellent premise, and the book just absolutely destroys anything that might be remotely interesting about it by going on and on and on and on and on and on and on in a prose style which is – I’m sorry, Ian McEwan! – simply not elegant or original enough to be its own raison d’être. This book is no Lolita or Midnight’s Children; it is not even I Capture the Castle or Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – the writing is neither extremely beautiful nor extremely charming and endearing, and the reader (I refer here to myself) is not content to carry on reading it even when nothing much is happening. WHICH IS ALWAYS.

I mean almost always. But it felt like always. And if I hadn’t known that there were going to be brief but interesting spurts of Things Happening, I would not have had sufficient stamina to finish it. And as it was I skipped long chunks of Nothing Happening. Like this:

Not long after lunch, once she was assured that her sister’s children and Briony had eaten sensibly and would keep their promise to stay away from the pool for at least two hours, Emily Tallis had withdrawn from the white glare of the afternoon’s heat to a cool and darkened bedroom. She was not in pain, not yet, but she was retreating before its threat. There were illuminated points in her vision, little pinpricks, as though the worn fabric of the visible world was being held up against a far brighter light. She felt in the top right corner of her brain a heaviness, the inert body weight of some curled and sleeping animal; but when she touched her head and pressed, the presence disappeared from the coordinates of actual space. Now it was in the top right corner of her mind, and in her imagination she could stand on tiptoe and raise her right hand to it. It was important, however, not to provoke it; once this lazy creature moved from the peripheries to the center, then the knifing pains would obliterate all thought, and there would be no chance of dining with Leon and the family tonight.

OH MY GOD.

That wasn’t even the whole bit. That was just all I could bear to copy. Actually that passage goes on for a while. She spends a long damn time thinking about her headache, and then she thinks about her children and tells us all the things we have already observed about Briony and Cecilia because we have seen them interacting with people, and it goes on and on and on and on and on. And the only interesting thing that happens is she overhears Lola being molested by the chocolate magnate but she thinks they’re just playing a game. And in case you’re wondering, her headaches never bear any relation to the plot, and neither does she much. And obviously when Ian McEwan was a lad in writing school somebody told him that the “show, don’t tell” stricture was nonsense and you must just do exactly as you please; and Ian McEwan took it dramatically to heart.

I would also say that the book seems basically insincere, so it was impossible for me to engage with it, and furthermore he used nauseous wrong, which I absolutely hate. He did it twice. The word is nauseated. Not nauseous. Nauseated. If something is nauseous, it makes you feel nauseated; you are not nauseous unless, I suppose, you have been brutally tortured and had your limbs ripped off.

Anyway, if the above samples of Atonement do not annoy you (they annoy me SO MUCH), then you might enjoy it, but otherwise you will be screaming GET TO THE POINT as Ian McEwan goes on for two pages about the phenomenon of making each other laugh by glancing over at each other when something is funny (everyone knows about that, Ian McEwan! I don’t need to read the entire history of Leon and Cecilia’s relationship to make me believe that a brother and a sister might have a similar sense of humor!); and then when your flatmates start having an argument in the kitchen you will not be at your peacemaking best and might say something imprudent that will completely irritate one of them.

(I didn’t, though. I was the essence of grace and calm.)

Saturday, by Ian McEwan

Okay, I didn’t pick this up wholly at random, but it was the only Ian McEwan book at the library although I actually wanted Atonement to see how different it was to the movie, so that’s why I decided to read this one.  Anyway I didn’t finish.  I have a massive big stack of library books to read, and this one wasn’t impressing me at all, and I was way way in and still waiting for something to happen, and I hate those books where a dude wakes up in the morning and starts to think all about his entire life in massive detail, so I was like, Well, shit, life’s too short, I’m going to read something that I find interesting or well-written.

But maybe I was just in the wrong mood for this book.  So perhaps I’ll try it again someday (probably not though).  Definitely I will try another Ian McEwan book sometime – I hate it when someone’s a highly acclaimed writer who has written a number of books and I really, really, really want to love them because that would be exciting and open up new vistas of joy for me but then I hate their books.  That’s why I never read Joyce Carol Oates, because I’m afraid of that very thing happening.