Hi. You’ve been wondering where I’ve been, haven’t you.
If you haven’t, that’s fine because I’ve been hiding. Now I have such good recommendations from the last six months of my cultural consumption that you can’t finish your book club book.
Here are the hot, hot items.
1. My latest book club book. I know, you want to join our club, but you have to ask Deb, she is the boss, and Deb is very good at saying no. My job, as such, is to tell you what we read and whether you’d even need to bother coming (anyway, we mostly talk about diapers and cats and Riverdale and KNAUSGAARD – I’m going to talk about KNAUSGAARD at our next meeting, some how, some way, sorry, so you would probably not enjoy yourself anyway).
We read The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Going for a “classic.” This is an astoundingly good book (says the 21st century occasional book critic with surprise). Its chapters are all cliffhangers, and though the intended symbolism of portrait absorbing the real self, etc., may be fairly rote 130 years later, it’s still a pretty subversive, gay, Marxist piece of reading. I like all those things. Thumbs up.
2. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, by Carrie Brownstein.
At first, I thought, she’s a great writer. Then about halfway through, I started thinking, Carrie I want more from you. She’s oblique and opaque exactly when you don’t want her to be. And then she’s vulnerable and transparent again. It’s a wild ride, I tell you. I’m not quite done, but even if it ends badly, I think the trip is worth it.
3. Purity, by Jonathan Franzen.
Not feminist, too many boners, but good plot. Sometimes that’s all you need.
4. The Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas Preston.
You know, pretty good. It has all the elements of a thriller – snakes, parasites, drug cartels, corrupt governments, and also lost ruins. Read it with a full can of bug spray next to you.
5. The House of God, by Samuel Shem.
This is not for everyone. Especially if those everyone has any sort of medical problem, has spent time in emergency, or has dealt with job-induced depression. It’s also really not feminist (not that this is necessarily a requirement for me, but the descriptions of women might be troubling for some); in the end, the afterword, written many years later, makes you adore the author.
1. The Handmaid’s Tale
I have nothing important or critical to say about this. I just want to give you some recommendations if you haven’t started yet.
Pour a drink first.
Do not watch late at night.
Line up at least two episodes of Brooklyn 99 to watch immediately afterward.
If a man must be present, ensure that he is very sensitive. Apologize beforehand for yelling at him when the credits roll. It has nothing to do with him.
Lock your bank account.
1. Chris Stapleton, From a Room: Volume I
I don’t have a lot to say about this either. I’m not sure why I like it, because it’s both neotraditional and new country. And sort of traditional. Would you agree that most of us country fans actually secretly like our new artists in the traditional vein to sound just a teensy bit new country? He’s like Merle Haggard meets Charlie Daniels (or is that just the beard) meets Kid Rock? Good lyrics.
2. New Pornographers, Whiteout Conditions
It was good, but I’ll admit I got sick of it and took it out of rotation. Still, it’s worth at least 5-10 straight listens, especially if you want to learn how to write a good pop song.
3. Tin and the Toad, Out of the Wind
Out of the wind blew five dudes who make the rockingest songs about like cows and being on the farm, and somehow even though they can be funny they’re also sincere and sad and smart and everything you want songs to be. Makes me want to adopt a bull and make it my friend.
4. I’m interested in Honeyblood and War Paint, but have not given them thorough listens yet. Call this the “albums I’m curious about section” of my recommendations. Add Harry Styles to that. Just kidding. I’ve heard that song far more than I should have. But I’ll add Aimee Mann and a proper listen to Drive By Truckers and Jason Isbell and maybe Haim, although I didn’t like what I’ve heard of it too much.
5. Back catalogues. Feel free to talk me out of any of these:
Janet Jackson (I’ve done the big ones)
Led Zeppelin (never really committed)
My Bloody Valentine (I started, so far okay)
White Stripes (I know, I know)
Sonic Youth (also started)
Gino Vanelli (this is a recommendation, I don’t know who from)
6. Music I went back to.
a. The first four albums of Linda Ronstadt. This is killer. Songs are classics, her voice is incredible, the band, astounding. That steel! Seriously. But it’s hard to do the four albums at once, especially if you’re inclined to sing along.
b. This song, which I listen to all the time. Mostly because of who’s singing it.
c. For anyone afraid of losing their stiffy, a la Franzen: