Tag: humor


Must Read Monday: Look Who’s Back

Posted 14 December, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Must Read Monday: Look Who’s BackLook Who's Back by Timur Vermes
Published by MacLehose Press on April 3rd 2014
Genres: Germany, Literary, Satire, Social Issues
Pages: 352
five-stars

Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.

People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.

Guys, stick with me. I know you’ve just read the synopsis for Look Who’s Back and are thinking, ‘What in the ever-loving hell…’. Let us begin at… the beginning. I didn’t know this little gem of a book existed until The Morning News put out their longlist for the 2016 Tournament of Books. I read the synopsis there and became really intrigued and Oh. Em. Gee… you guys.

Look Who’s Back might be the best satire that I’ve seen since Catch-22… and I mean that since Catch-22 was published. After reading the first quarter of the book I started to describe it to a co-worker, he asked me if it was a treacly  book about Hitler learning how wrong he was about his views. I can assure you mein Reader, it is not. Vermes packs so much punch into a relatively short book. Since it was originally published in German, one can assume that Look Who’s Back was intended as a commentary on modern Germany, but let me assure you, the commentary fits just as well for modern America and probably modern western culture.

I found it especially astute and chilling in the wake of Donald Trump’s seemingly never-ending successes within the national polls… and some of the commentary he’s made. As chilling and on point as the satire is, the book is also hysterical in its execution (as all good satire should be). The use of the first person narrative (from Hitler’s point of view) is often a source of giggles, this device, oft used in many a tale about displaced time travelers, seems all the more potent because… well… it’s Hitler.

There is very little world building (how did Hitler just wake up in a field in 2011? Why not the rest of his retinue? Why doesn’t he remember his suicide?) and as much as a fan of world building that I am – I think it was a stroke of genius for Vermes to omit that and have Hitler himself gloss over it – for more important matters.

I don’t believe that any blogs that I read on the regular have reviewed this book. In fact it wasn’t even in Creative Whim’s Ultimate Book Blogger Plugin. Regardless. I found a much more eloquent review over at 1streading’s blog.

This should change now. I know it sounds a little off, maybe a little distasteful, but just trust me on this one.

Readers! Who has read this one? Has anyone read it in the original German? Do I sound insane? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Furiously Happy: A Night With Jenny Lawson

Posted 17 November, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Authors, Reviews

Furiously Happy: A Night With Jenny LawsonFuriously Happy by Jenny Lawson
Published by Pan Macmillan on September 24th 2015
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, General, Humor, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 256
Goodreads
three-half-stars

In Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson regaled readers with uproarious stories of her bizarre childhood. In her new book, Furiously Happy, she explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.As Jenny says: 'You can't experience pain without also experiencing the baffling and ridiculous moments of being fiercely, unapologetically, intensely and (above all) furiously happy.' It's a philosophy that has - quite literally - saved her life.Jenny's first book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. Furiously Happy is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it's about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. And who doesn't need a bit more of that?

So, once again, my sister and I had the opportunity to seek out Jenny Lawson and get signed books. This time however, we also got to hear her speak and read. We also encountered some of the weird counter-culture that Lawson seems to attract.

But let’s start with the book. Furiously Happy is not nearly as funny as Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, but I will venture to say that it is infinitely more important. The essays in the book on mental health were so raw, so real, and so incredibly honest it was almost painful to hear her read them in the auditorium. While not as painful to read them on my own – they did have a sense of heartache surrounding them, more so when you consider that one in four Americans is affected by mental illness and there is still such shame and stigma surrounding it.

Furiously Happy starts out strong, but then as the chapters roll on it begins to fizzle out. Interspersed in the book are essays having little or nothing to do with mental illness that feel a bit forced in an attempt at levity, which admittedly, perhaps Furiously Happy needs to be bearable at all, so painful and honest are the essays concerning Lawson’s mental health.

So then there was the question and answer session and the book signing. Lawson’s presentation on stage was engaging and wonderful. The fans she attracts are… devoted, to say the least. Not that it can be blamed on Lawson, but many of the questions weren’t questions at all — they were long personal stories that I can’t imagine much of the audience cared about. However Lawson responded to each anecdote with poise and charm. Despite her anxiety issues, she is a complete pro. A memorable part of the evening was when her husband Victor called and she decided to take the call on speakerphone. Why yes I did take video of it…

 


You may recall last time I had a book signed by Lawson I asked her to sign it as Stephen King. I cursed myself while waiting in line to get Furiously Happy signed that I failed to bring a Stephen King book with me for her to sign as herself. C’est la vie.

Me, Jenny Lawson, and a fabulous inscription.

Me, Jenny Lawson, and a fabulous inscription.

Overall the night was a success and while Furiously Happy does have its weaknesses, I definitely think that it’s important for the normalization of mental illness the way the world stands today.

Monika at A Lovely Bookshelf had a completely different take on things, however.

What about you, Reader? Do you enjoy Lawson’s blog? What’s your take?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles… Continues!

Posted 31 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Authors, Reading, writers

So there are those of you out there that may remember when I started this delightful little project, of ironically narrating this simply dreadful piece of Harry Potter fanfic that was written by a fanatical mom who wanted her kids to be able to read Harry Potter but didn’t “want them turning into witches”.  How could I not ironically narrate something named Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles, complete with snarky remarks? If you’ve missed chapters 1 – 8 you can find them on my YouTube channel here.

I’ve done something a little different with the final chapters of this saga (yes, all the audio is in the can). I’ve drafted the old AnnaSaurus Rex into doing some sound engineering for me and things sound a bit different, though I assure you it’s still all me. If you’re caught up, enjoy chapter nine! If not… GET CAUGHT UP.

 

 

So, Reader, am I going to hell for this? I think it’s worth it.

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Mid-Week Mini Reviews: Where I am Underwhelmed

Posted 18 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

the girl on the train by paula hawkins  The Girl on the Train by: Paula Hawkins

Brief summary: Sad girl rides a train every day to work. Drinks something magical called gin and tonic in a can. Has blackouts. How much is she involved in the lives of her fellow lead characters? How much is she responsible for their misery?

Review: I’m in the minority in that I really didn’t particularly care for this book. I felt bad for Rachel, but I didn’t pity her. The rest of the characters were… meh. I also guessed the twist about 1/3 of the way through the book. If you’re going to write a book like this, you better be good about hiding your twists. (2.5/5 stars)

 

burial rites by hannah kent

Burial Rites by: Hannah Kent

Brief Summary: A family in 1820’s Iceland is forced to house a convicted murderess while she is awaiting her execution.

Review: This was another one of those books that was apparently written by a talented author that failed to live up to its hype or really connect with me. The problem is admittedly, probably me, as I am not a fan of historical fiction for the most part. I felt empathy for Agnes and did enjoy watching the evolution of the attitudes that the family had about her. Hoever, in the end I found the overall story just okay. (3/5 stars)

 

 

Is everyone hanging out without me?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by: Mindy Kaling

Synopsis: Mindy Kaling wrote a memoir.

Review: I like Kaling okay as an actress, though admittedly that’s limited to her performance in the American version of The Office. Though I would like to pick up The Mindy Project sometime soon. But the book – I’ve seen a lot of people compare this memoir to Fey’s Bossypants or Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, but I have to disagree. Kaling lacks both their talent for writing and their talent as comedians. I found most of the memoir to be pretty lackluster and not all that funny. Sorry Mindy. (2/5 stars)

 

What about you, Reader? What are some books lately that just haven’t lived up to the hype for you? What do you think about my assessment of these popular titles?

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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30 Authors in 30 Days: A.J. Jacobs on Poking a Dead Frog

Posted 16 September, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in guest post

Preliminaries
30 Authors in 30 Days is a first of its kind event aimed at connecting readers, bloggers, and authors. Hosted by The Book Wheel, this month-long event is taking place right now and features 30 authors discussing their favorite recent reads on 30 different blogs. 
 
Naturally, an event of this magnitude has some great prizes provided by GoneReading.com and BookJigs. For the full schedule of participating authors and bloggers, visit The Book Wheel – 30 Authors. You can also follow along on Twitter with the #30Authors hashtag!

Personally
I feel incredibly lucky and honored. Today we have A.J. Jacobs, A four time New York Times bestseller. My favorite work of his is A Year of Living Biblically. (Purchase here!) I really couldn’t think of a better fit for this little blog. But enough fan-girling. Let’s get down to business. Today A.J. is here to talk about Poking a Dead Frog by: Mike Sacks. On to the good stuff!
 
                                                                                                                                                               
 
A.J. Jacobs on Poking a Dead Frog by: Mike Sacks
This book of interviews with comedy writers is, of course, named for the famous E.B. White quote: ““Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.”
Which is not a quote I admire. First, of all, Merriam-Webster defines “dissect” as ‘to cut a plant or dead animal into separate parts.” So if the frog is being dissected, it’s already dead. White should have said “vivisected.” Not to get all Strunk & White on his ass. But did write the book, you know?  
Second, the statement is surprisingly anti-intellectual and anti-scientific. What’s wrong with curiosity? Shouldn’t we be blown away by the way evolution has led to this green amphibious creature with its unlikely system for breathing, eating and excreting? Sorry if that’s ‘discouraging’ to him.
(Let’s put aside the ethical question and assume the frog lived a comfortable life on a spacious lily pad and died a peaceful natural death before being dissected).
Okay, I seem to have wasted most of my word count. Did I sufficiently vivisect that quote?
The point is, Mike Sacks’ book is wonderful and useful for comedy writers, but also for anyone interested in how creative minds work.
Mike – a very funny writer and acquaintance of mine has contributed to the New Yorker and Esquire, among others  –interviewed a bunch of comedy A-listers, including Bruce Jay Friedman, Patton Oswalt, Marc Maron and George Saunders.
Roz Chast talks about her love for cartoonist Charles Addams and strange diseases, like the woman who turned silver from too many nasal drops. Conan writer Todd Levin explains how to write a submission packet for a late night show. (His contained, among others, a never-aired “Whizmore, the Cheez Whiz Whizing Wizard” sketch. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s pretty much what it sounds like).
George Saunders is, of course, lyrical and thoughtful, talking about his childhood in Chicago and the lonely characters he met at his dad’s restaurant Chicken Unlimited.
And also, there’s this not so funny but sound advice from twitter wit Megan Amram: “just be a human being. Be nice to people and don’t be crazy.”
 
Which is, I think, an excellent rephrasing of the Golden Rule.
                                                                                                                                                               
A.J. Jacobs is an author, journalist, lecturer and human guinea pig. He has written four New York Times bestsellers that combine memoir, science, humor and a dash of self-help.
 
Learn more about A.J. Jacobs by:
Visiting his author site at http://ajjacobs.com

Checking out his Amazon author page
… or maybe his Barnes & Noble author page
Perhaps you’d prefer to see him on Goodreads?
Naturally you can also find him on Facebook
AND Twitter! @ajjacobs

 

                                                                                                                                                               

Are you as psyched as I am about Poking a Dead Frog? Learn about Mike Sacks in many ways:
Better yet! Find Poking a Dead Frog for your personal library at:

A big thanks to A.J. Jacobs for his fabulous review and Allison at The Book Wheel for organizing this event. I hope everyone else had as much fun as me! Don’t forget to check out the full schedule for what you missed and what’s coming up! 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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How to Build a Girl: Endings (Read Along)

Posted 11 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

How To Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran
Read Along! Part Three.

Note: As this is a read along spoilers are gonna spoil ladies and gentlefolk. But it’s gonna be hella fun.

If you want to read along later go to Odyssey Books and get yourself a pre-order! Of course I want to extend a giant thanks to Emily at How the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) and the good people at Harper Collins.


Note Two: These posts are going to have all the language. But on the bright side, it’ll be colorful. Clean readers: This book is not for you.


Final Note: This post differs from many of those on The Steadfast Reader. (Of course it’s still fabulous.) But if it’s not your cup of tea, just know, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming, tomorrow. Also, a proper review (one less gushy and with fewer fangirl moments) will be published on the blog sometime in October. Read along continues every Monday until August 11, 2014.


In case you missed it!

How to Build a Girl – Part One
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 5 – 10
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 11 – 15
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 16 – 20

Part Three

Well. I just have to say, I don’t know if this has been Mr. Toad’s Wild 
Ride for anyone else, but I have thoroughly enjoyed this book.

So at the end of Part Two I thought that Johanna was realizing that her behavior tearing down bands was kind of douchey – but then she continues to act douchey early in chapter twenty one. It’s just not very nice to get people drunk, off the record, and then make fun of their sexual fantasies that they’ve trusted you with. Don’t be a douche, Johanna.



Well, Johanna’s been a douche, so she gets a drink thrown in her face and seems oddly surprised about it. It’s a lesson. Words matter. You know who else is a douche? Kenny. Taking a seventeen year old girl into the bathroom and giving her speed? What the fuck is wrong with these people. But Kenny justifies their douche-baggery and Johanna feels better. Boo, Kenny. Booooo!

I did actually laugh out loud after Johanna blows her nose – thus blowing out her drugs and then asks, “Should I … eat it?” (p. 256)



Johanna becomes the M in the S&M sex with Tony Rich. Who researches S&M at the library? I love Johanna so much. Only tangentially related, I first heard the word ‘masturbation’ on a Roseanne episode and when I asked my parents what it was, I got a very unsatisfactory answer – so I looked it up in the dictionary. So I guess had I wanted to be a lady sex adventurer, I might have gone to the library to research S&M too. Damnit, April.


But, basically we’re back where we were last week – And so we’re back to Johanna not having sex for her own pleasure – but to for the pleasure of the man. Just reference the whole of page 260.


Finally Moran writes in a reminder that Johanna IS seventeen and for all her Lady Sex Adventures – she’s struggling with her feelings for Tony Rich. All the other men seem to be in the periphery, one night stands, but she keeps going back to Rich. In this section much more than the last one, we see Johanna confusing sex with love. Previously – she was using men to gain experience – even if she didn’t understand she should have been enjoying the act as well, she knew she was having casual sex – and she was okay with it. Here, not so much.



Yep. She’s seventeen alright and she has no sense of self … and I don’t think it has anything to do with the lack of mirrors in the house.

Then Krissi tells her how it is. Johanna goes to Krissi, in crisis trying to figure out whether or not Tony Rich is her boyfriend. Krissy: “He’s your smashing posh pedo not-boyfriend.” (p. 263)



Can we stop and talk about the age of consent? It’s really slippery subject that’s a necessary evil to legislate, but I contend that it’s truly different for every person. I’m not sure that 17 to 23 makes Tony Rich a pedophile – but I don’t like him and it has nothing to do with his age.

Before we move on, I want to go back to the scene where Johanna plays her co-workers Dadda’s demo.


I found this scene to be oddly tragic – I think it’s representative of that time in our lives where we finally realize that our parents are just people – they aren’t the all knowing gods and giants that we’ve held them up to be.


Tony Rich’s Parents House – Where Poverty Meets Middle Class.


The whole conversation at the dinner table with Rich’s parents is yet another brilliant commentary showing the juxtaposition between Johanna’s world, where the family barely has enough money to subsist, and upper middle class – where people can sip champagne and laugh at the antics of their black sheep son who chose not to be a lawyer. Similar things happen with Rich’s friends and Johanna’s inner dialogue tells us about her insecurity on the matter. Fabulous commentary.

Okay. Let’s get to the sexy parts.

Johanna’s conversation with Emilia. The subsequent humiliation and the poor poor decision making that the best way to save her pride is to get off with Emilia. She ends up, again confusing her own pleasure with that of someone else. She does what a lot of girls in college did/do – she puts on a show.


In my book – in big capital letters I wrote: this makes no sense!

OF COURSE Rich is into it.
God, he’s such a douche! But Johanna comes back from reapplying her makeup “I am like a dirty goth bride, preparing for her bisexual wedding night.” (p. 274) to find Rich and Emilia have already started. “And suddenly – for the first time in years – I get angry.” (p. 276)



At first I was cheering Johanna on here – because finally! She allows herself to get angry with Tony motherfuckin’ Rich, but then she starts crying and I realize that all this huffing and puffing is a standard teenage heartbreak response – she doesn’t really believe what she’s saying. She still feels less than Tony.


 

Chapter Twenty Three – The Next Day.


I love this realization because it’s the exact opposite of what society teaches girls and women.


Naturally, after coming to terms with the fact that she does indeed have control over her own destiny, she runs to John Kite. …and promptly bursts into tears.

 
YAY JOHANNA!
 


Kite gives her a great pep talk.



Good God. That’s hard cold truth right there. I’ve been biting and scratching my way up, professionally, academically, personally and way too often I tie my self-esteem to my accomplishments, and my self esteem always comes up short. I should emulate Johanna here and put that quote on my mirror.

Kite and Johanna proceed to get incredibly drunk and the last thing we’re treated to before Johanna passes out is her spilling her guts to Kite on how she feels about him. Fade to black. Johanna wakes up the next morning in Kite’s hotel room, it was his turn to sleep in the bath. (p. 285)


Still drunk, with no idea how the night ended, Johanna feels strangely mortified and leaves Kite’s room to (finally) head home. On the bus she picks up a copy of D&ME and reads her own writing.



Johanna has devolved from a blogger before there were bloggers to being a troll before there were trolls. Complete with Godwin’s law.

Upon arriving home, Johanna falls into what can only be described as a deep, black depression. She turns to self harm, and, par for the course, Moran gives us such a great description on why people cut.


Full stop here.

Teenage girls generally don’t just cut once and stop. Just like most people aren’t cured from depression after being lifted from one episode. I felt that this part was just a little off and kind of skimpy on the severity of what it means when kids cut. But I suppose you can’t tackle every teenage issue in one novel.

I did love the bonding time with Krissi – how he cleans her up and takes care of her. Now I’m worried about him, it was astute of Johanna to question whether he’s addicted to Dadda’s pain pills.



Chapter Twenty Four is the culmination of Moran’s manifesto here. Basically, you could skip everything else in the book – read this chapter – and get the essence of the book.

Chapter Twenty Five – I liked – Johanna has reinvented Dolly to be more like herself, a music enthusiast, not a cynic. She’s changed her friends and decided what to keep and what not to keep. These lists have a bit too much clarity from what I’d expect from a teenage girl – but I’m glad she decided to keep having lots of sex with as many people as possible and reject cynicism. Though personally, I’d have gotten rid of the top hat as well.


I loved the heart to heart with mom – glad that the post-partum seems to have lifted and the acceptance and recognition of anti-depressants. In 1993 – that would have been a big fucking deal.


I think that Ali’s part in this book was to be a contrast for what the typical teen experience was versus the experience that Johanna had – it’s a clever device.


Then then then…. the twist we’d all been waiting for. (But kind of knew was coming) the benefits hadn’t been cut because Violet narced on the family – no they were cut because Johanna had decided to leave school, a weird stroke of irony that in her effort to save the family – Johanna caused their downfall.



JOHN KITE FTW. I can’t say much more here, but Ms. Moran, you made me very happy with the ending in regards to John Kite.


It’s still unclear if Johanna knows that Krissi is gay in the epilogue, where he’s coming to London with her for a few weeks – like most seventeen year olds she makes it about herself. “I know what he’s really coming down for: to take me to my first ever gay club, so I can finally make a gay best friend!” (p. 314) No sweetie, he’s looking for a man. I suspect she knows he’s gay – I would have liked to see the conversation – but maybe it was just a close sibling understanding.


That’s all she wrote, Readers! I have so much love for this book. If World Book Night US would have saved itself, I would have handed this out on street corners. Much love to all my fellow #moranalongers. I would have loved this book regardless, but it’s been much more fun with you ladies. How does everyone feel?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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How to Build a Girl: Chapters 16 – 20 (Read Along)

Posted 4 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

How To Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran 
Read Along! Chapters 16 – 20.

Note: As this is a read along spoilers are gonna spoil ladies and gentlefolk. But it’s gonna be hella fun.

If you want to read along later go to Odyssey Books and get yourself a pre-order! Of course I want to extend a giant thanks to Emily at How the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) and the good people at Harper Collins.

Note Two: These posts are going to have all the language. But on the bright side, it’ll be colorful. Clean readers: This book is not for you.

Final Note: This post differs from many of those on The Steadfast Reader. (Of course it’s still fabulous.) But if it’s not your cup of tea, just know, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming, tomorrow. Also, a proper review (one less gushy and with fewer fangirl moments) will be published on the blog sometime in October. Read along continues every Monday until August 11, 2014.

In case you missed it!
How to Build a Girl – Part One
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 5 – 10
How to Build a Girl  – Ch. 11 – 15

Mmm. I think that we all knew shit was going to get real this week. And it does. I don’t know if I’m having a harder time with this post because I’m in post-bar decompression mode, but don’t misunderstand that I’m still incredibly excited about this book. Plus, all the Star Wars references in this section made me unreasonably happy.

There are two big themes in these chapters. Feminism and cynicism. Let’s get to it.

Dolly is fully fleshed out now and yes, she is trouble.



Oh, sweetie! Dadda has troubles, addiction troubles. I don’t want that for Johanna – who shares a body with this troublesome persona she has created for herself.  But even at the beginning of chapter 16, where Johanna feels most definitely ‘incontrovertibly real’ – she’s still faking it when it comes to that one thing that teenage girls are taught to obsess over – her virginity.



Not So Side Note: I’m not sure which part of society is worse – the conservative side that treats girls as irredeemable whores for sex outside of marriage or that part that makes them feel unlovable and un-liked because they haven’t had sex yet. It’s also worth nothing that both those sides pull on girls – and it’s total bullshit both ways. There’s no way to win. Back to the story.



Lord. Seventeen, booze, music, and a writing job – and Johanna is still incredibly innocent. I laughed pretty hard at the ensuing discussion on Neil Young owning all the buffalo, Mike Nesmith’s mum inventing Wite-Out (is that true?) and how to get high on office supplies. It made me remember how weird gossip and facts were exchanged before you could just pull up all that shit on Google. “I had no idea. Basically, the WH Smith in the Mander Centre is Wolverhampton’s version of Studio 54. It’s a narcotic goldmine. I’ve only ever used it to buy staples.” (p. 194)


So Johanna procures her first kiss from The Kisser – who’s name she doesn’t know. “He’s a man slag.” (p.193) After nine minutes of kissing – he wanders off – no hard feelings and Johanna feels super about it. Good for her!

Getting home Johanna’s sent out to talk to Dadda in the garden, there’s an incredible feeling of love and bonding that goes on here. Dadda’s recounting of his own childhood and the horrors of post war Britain.


Hit the nail on the head again Moran. I often feel this way about the not so distant past. Women’s suffrage, contraception, World War II. For sure, things aren’t perfect now. But I can’t think of another time in history I would ever want to be a woman.

Drunk and full of family love and feeling Dadda asks the question we’ve all been waiting for: “You’ve got to get me in there, kid. Get me a break. Get me in that paper. And we’ll be millionaires by Christmas.” (p. 200)

Never drunkenly agree to nepotism.

Chapter Seventeen has some levity and I was glad to see Krissi and Johanna make up after “Satanwank-gate” and we get the first peek into a heavy truth that is going to laid upon Johanna by the end of this section. (We’ll get there.) 

Chapter Eighteen we all had our eye on John Kite for the douchebag – but we were wrong! Tony Rich. I’d like to say that Moran has written the best description of sexual tension that I’ve ever read.


So, Tony Rich takes her virginity. Like many girls, Johanna isn’t surprised by the sex itself.
“Here’s the amazing thing about sex: you get a whole person to yourself, for the first time since you were a baby.” (p. 209)

These thoughts and feelings are still incredibly innocent and naive. Yes, at it’s best, that is what sex is, but Tony Rich isn’t having that kind of sex with Johanna. I love Johanna for her innocence, so much. But please, for the love of all things holy. Don’t get pregnant. Also, AIDS – this is the early nineties – AIDS is still a death sentence. Please don’t get AIDS Johanna. I’m so worried.

Okay. So. Aside from the mom-like worrying we have to have: 

Feminist Stop #1
I’m going to take things out of order because I want to highlight just how much importance Johanna is placing on feeling useful during sex and how little she values her own pleasure.

Yes, I’m really happy that Johanna is enjoying herself and seems to be gaining confidence. However, this section is brilliant commentary on what’s societally expected with women and sex, what we (read: me) somehow believe and still struggle to overcome.  She talks again and again about wanting to be useful, she wants to help these men… Often at the sacrifice of her own enjoyment of the act.  This rang so true for me. I can’t say it better than Caitlin Moran, so get ready for the best of: (the bold is all mine)

  • “…I still didn’t come, but when he came, I felt enormously … useful. Men need to come – and I made it happen. I had a simple purpose.” (p. 210)
  • (Blow jobs) “Like sucking your thumb, but whilst making someone else very, very happy.” (p. 221)
  • “Keep on pretending you’re Al. Think about how amazing it must be for him to have sex with you! […] Yes – this is a good day for Al. Lucky, happy Al.” (p. 229)
  • “I am being a generous lover!” (p.228)
  • “And also, no one yet has made me come. I am still the greatest lover of me. I’m still the best I ever had.” (p. 223) 
  • “How long should you take to come? Do I take too long? Should you not even ask it of a man if you take more than, say, four minutes? Is that simply unreasonable? I don’t want to be a difficult case…” (p. 223)

Look me in the eye (or right into your webcam) ladies, and tell me you’ve never worried about being a ‘difficult case’. If you can, I think I hate you a little. In the nicest possible way. Moran points out that there are no examples of female orgasm at this time outside of When Harry Met Sally, and let’s face it, even today we’re sadly lacking in realistic discussions on female pleasure, at least in mainstream media. Especially when you stop to consider all the examples of male pleasure we have. 


Shit man. You can’t sit in front of the television for fifteen seconds without a Viagra or Cialis commercial coming up, but when Trojan ran a relatively discreet commercial – late at night, might I add – for a vibrator – the whole frickin’ internet was up in arms. Nope. Even in 2014, the idea of women getting pleasure from sex is somehow weird and shameful and should be hidden in the back of your dresser.

In case you’re curious here it is: 



Racy, huh? 


Big Cock Al. More variations on the theme. She takes it like a champ, he then falls asleep and what does she do? She cleans his flat. To be useful. Again, this resonated with me. I’ve actually done this.



So despite poor Johanna’s aggravated cystitis, “I need codeine and cranberry juice, please.” I say. “These are the medicines of cystitis.” (p. 235) I still found this section to be pretty hilarious. On how to deal with an unfeasibly large penis, I think my favorite was number four “Think of Han Solo.”


I thought that the party at Big Cock Al’s with Johanna sitting in the bathtub, tending to her lady parts was an interesting juxtaposition with the last time Johanna found herself in a bath with rockstars in the room – with John Kite. I’m not sure what it means, but I’m pretty sure it’s deep and important.


Feminist Stop #2 


Yep. Right there y’all. Remember earlier when I was talking about which part of society was worse? It’s all bullshit because it comes around from the ridiculous idea that a woman is nothing more than her virginity or her sexuality. Fuck that noise. Preach on Sister Moran.


Before we get to the cynicism I need to talk about how Johanna describes her deflowering to Krissi.

Did anyone else dissolve into giggles when Johanna decides to describe her deflowering to Krissi using different names? “”Why don’t we give the protagonists different names?” I suggest, “Not me and Tony Rich. Say, Peter Venkmann and Dana Barrett?”” (p. 213)


Cynicism
So, Krissi lays it on Johanna in Chapter Seventeen that he likes music, so he doesn’t read her work, because all she ever does is tear bands apart. She doesn’t seem to get it at first – but by the end of Chapter Twenty she starts to. I basically have the entirety of pages 244 – 246 underlined, I hate playing favorites – but I’ll only make you suffer through two short quotes that don’t need any explanation. 


And then we’re left with another cliffhanger. Please don’t make it be AIDS. But the title to Part Three “Rip it Up and Start Again” gives me hope.

That’s a wrap this week, Readers. How are we feeling? Anxious? Scared? Like Caitlin Moran is an AMAZING FEMINIST WUNDERAUTHOR? And yes… Pats is my favorite character in Ab Fab. 


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Guest Post: Conversations With History

Posted 31 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in guest post, Reviews

Conversations with History by Susan Lander, Attorney at Law
Review by: AnnaSaurus Rex
Anticipated publication: August 11, 2014
Source: Publisher. I received this book in consideration for an honest review.
Guys. I can’t even. I…I’ll start here — This book had me at its synopsis:

Channeled by a psychic medium and written in interview format, this book takes readers on a unique journey with 22 spirits who were famous (or infamous) during their time on earth. Renowned personalities from 600 b.c. to 2011 a.d.—from Charlemagne, Ben Franklin, and Gandhi to Walt Disney, Kurt Vonnegut, and Steve Jobs—have returned to share their most important messages with us. Their passing led them to understand their life lessons and the ramifications of their choices. And now, with the clear-eyed vision gained only from the Other Side, they’re taking center stage one last time to offer us insights into their lives that they didn’t possess while they were here.

Sounds AMAZEBALLSright?!  I was all…
…when I took it up. The “About the Author” section blew me a-fucking-way. She tells us she has been battling with illness since her teenage years, is a lawyer, and ultimately was in a coma, which is when some spirited friends (!!!) paid her a visit:

Four months [after the coma], the surprise my spirit guides promised appeared – Ben Franklin showed up in my kitchen. Thus began the parade of spirits clamoring for an interview…when [my book] was finished, I entered it in a contest with Hay House – and won a publishing contract. No agent, no rejections, just a book contract.

Any normal person would have been all:
Not Susan! If that isn’t proof that there’s some crazy shit out in the universe I don’t know wha—well, maybe it’s just an indicator that Hay House may not be in business much longer. Although, the rumor mill says they ARE publishing a sequel. Anyway, here’s hoping they stay in business long enough to give yours truly a book deal!
I’m not being hateful, I promise. Like I said, I was very excited to read this. What would Gandhi think of Twitter? Would Walt Disney personally apologize to me for his company treating me as an indentured servant? Would Patrick Swayze remember that time we made eye contact in Whole Foods?? Okay, maybe that one was a dream. Anyway. TELL ME YOUR SECRETS SPIRIT WORLD!
WARNING: If you do not want your magical sense of innocence and whimsy ruined, I beg you to skip this next section!
Ruining Your Dreams
Imagine my disappointment when I actually became BORED with this book. A couple of chapters in it became apparent that Susan Lander, Esq. was using this format as an excuse to preach her own vision and values to the world.
Don’t misunderstand me! I agree heartily with her ideas. The long and the short of it is we need to love more and live in harmony. Think hippie/libertarian/psychotic break politics. Redistribute wealth! Love yourself and others! Anger is useless! War is dumb! Equality! Like I said, it’s a legit message that I can appreciate. It should be said more often. And much louder. I believe Conversations with History is an especially effective way to communicate this message because the target audience for this piece of work could probably stand to have some wisdom laid down on them.
It is now safe to return if you want to continue wearing your magical-wonderland-glasses throughout life.
Anyway, 22 dead celebrities drop in and chat about love, believing in YOU, hard work, etc. As previously discussed, all very good stuff, but it gets a trifle boring. I am a child of the 21st century and I require constant interjections of cat gifs and puns to stay engaged!
Since entertainment was lacking, I ended up letting my mind wander and re-imagine what Susan had already imagined, i.e. what these dead celebrities were really trying to say to us. Sure, Henry Ford says love and money are connected, but is the subtext that is he’s dying to hook up with Steve Jobs? Twenty-two is too many to go through in this post, so I’ll just pick out a few of my favorites.
Susan gives us the word-for-word communication. Now, I present to you the deep and important nuances of these interviews.
The Realness
Abbie Hoffman – Presented in history as an antiwar activist in the Vietnam era, his interview leads me to believe he’s most likely a double agent for The Man. All this hippie-dippy-power-to-the-people stuff is merely a smoke screen for his nefarious plots. What I glean from the interview is that there is no free will. Per Hoffman, all our current ideas are put into our heads by dead hippies:

We are putting the energy into the collective consciousness from the Other Side, and people “catch” the ideas.

Sure, he claims the ideas we catch are about peace…OR ARE THEY?! I just don’t trust this guy. As a result, I want to catch his ideas about as much as I want to catch chlamydia. He speaks in pretty general terms and my guess is he’s just letting us know that The Powers in the Spirit World can fuck with us any time they damn well please. Take my word – this is a warning shot.
Frederick Douglass– A former slave turned leader of the abolitionist movement, Susan says Fred is hella chill. When reading her description of him, one of my notes says, “So he’s Morgan Freeman. Or is Morgan Freeman him?!?” Imma just leave you with that thought.
 
 
 

Betsy Ross – OMFG GUYS. B. Ross is GAAAAAY! And she was totes part of the underground gay community back in the day. In fact, I’m gonna go ahead and say she was the closeted Rachel Maddow of her times. DEAL WITH IT.

Charlemagne – As history remembers him, Charley was a military leader who conquered a shit ton of the world and forcibly converted his conquered subjects to Christianity. Sounds like a baller, no? Well, apparently he’s a huge fucking wimp. If Charlemagne was alive today (and animated), he’d definitely be Milhouse Van Houten (and if you don’t know that Milhouse is a character from The Simpsons we probably won’t ever be friends). Oh, you don’t believe me? You don’t think I’m truly clairvoyant? HOW DARE YOU DOUBT ME MINIONS! Blah, alright, here’s some evidence:

“As long as I functioned within the rules, I was protected…”

 Protected from whom, Charley? From Nelson perhaps?! Your Charle-mother-fucking-magne. Get your confidence on son!

“I believe in repairing conflicts through diplomacy.”

 C’mon. Really? I call shenanigans. SAY THAT TO MY FACE CHARLEY.
Gandhi – More like Yodhi, amirite?! Oh wait, you haven’t read this book. Let me explain. It’s a reference to Yoda and Star Wars. I’m gonna be honest, this parallel is shaky at best. It’s litereally built off of one line. I read it, felt it, and couldn’t look back. Here it is:

“To me, all that matters is that I tried.”

I read that and thought, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Maybe this is a testament to my father and him introducing Star Wars to me at a young age. Maybe it reflects my specific level of geek. Either way, I’m fine with it. The point is, I read this line and immediately thought, “He’s like Yoda, except he’s cool with you just trying.” Which I feel like is totes Gandhi.
As a bonus, there’s also this:

God is the life force. You can’t see him but you can feel him. On one level God includes our connection to others. But to me he feels huge, and his energy and life force permeate everything.

 Sure, this is more of an Obi Wan quote (“Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”), but the theme remains the same.
In short, spot on Susan. Spot. On.
Albert Einstein – Self identified as Neo from The Matrix. I cannot improve upon that.
Henry Ford – Okay, so Henry has a hard-on for Steve Jobs. Totes would have a three way with him and another player, TBD. The short list includes President Obama (but not until that one day when he crosses to the Other Side of course). And I quote:

Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. Original sin? I don’t think so. Original beauty. The Apple logo was so inspired.

AND

…while you’re listening, please do not be hardheaded or stubborn in your beliefs. It’s important for your growth. I wish I had been a little more open-minded. You can never be open-minded enough.

AND

You may love it! Allow yourself to be surprised.

 OPEN-MINDED. KNOW WHAT I’M SAYIN?! SURPRISED, RIIIIIIIGHT? Also, a little later:

 Say what you mean, mean what you say, and then stand up for that. Put some backbone behind it.

I take this to mean that he is a top.
Time to Move into the Light
I have some more thoughts on the additional celebrities including a Rocky reference (please review my Twitter history to understand my true feelings on the Rocky movies) and a wannabe Cher, but, unlike our featured author, I will not drone on.
I give Conversations with History 3 ½ Overpriced Tarot Card Readings out of 5.
It’s a fun idea with a positive message that I support. The medium used (get it?!) to convey the message is a new one on me. For the record, that’s where the ½ of the 3 ½ comes from. Anyway, there’s hopefully a sequel, so someone pick it up and let me know what Jesus thinks about Tumblr!
 
So, Readers. Another fine review by our official psychic-medium interviews with dead guys correspondent. Whatcha thinking? Who’s going to pick up part two? Have you ever communed with the spirits? What’s the craziest book billed as non-fiction that you’ve ever read? 
 
AnnaSaurus Rex is no stranger to the book world. She’s the brave soul who reads the books that none of us dare to but wish we could. Hello dinosaur erotica and Christian mystery novellas! Go ahead and add psychics interviewing dead guys to the list. AnnaSaurus brings a sense of humor to all she does. You can follow her on Twitter @anna_saurus_rex where she live tweets from hospital waiting rooms, random music festivals, and during loads of bad nineties television.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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In case you missed it: I’M TAKING THE BAR EXAM TODAY

Posted 29 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings

[INSERT TOTAL FREAKOUT HERE.]
Get ready to be assaulted by random freakout gifs.

But first: THANK YOU.

The support of all my Readers and other bloggers has been really amazing (also, you know, my family). I know that things have been weird and tense around here and I haven’t been pulling my weight by responding to your wonderful comments or commenting on your wonderful blogs, but I want each and every one of you to know how much I appreciate the enormous support that you have provided.
 

Okay, let’s get on with it, sappy just isn’t my style. 

 
But wait, I’m probably following the Ron Swanson plan right now.
 
 
…and I gotta remember Mama Ru’s advice:
 
(This one makes me a little dizzy.)
 
I’m looking forward to reading your blogs (and books) without a miasma of low-key panic hanging about. See you soon! …and rememeber: 
 
 
 
Hearts and Flowers, 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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How to Build A Girl: Chapters: 11 – 15 (Read Along)

Posted 28 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

How To Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran 
Read Along! Chapters 11 – 15.

Note: As this is a read along spoilers are gonna spoil ladies and gentlefolk. But it’s gonna be hella fun.

If you want to read along later go to Odyssey Books and get yourself a pre-order! Of course I want to extend a giant thanks to Emily at How the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) and the good people at Harper Collins.

Note Two: These posts are going to have all the language. But on the bright side, it’ll be colorful. Clean readers: This book is not for you.

Final Note: This post differs from many of those on The Steadfast Reader. (Of course it’s still fabulous.) But if it’s not your cup of tea, just know, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming, tomorrow. Also, a proper review (one less gushy and with fewer fangirl moments) will be published on the blog sometime in October. Read along continues every Monday until August 11, 2014.

In case you missed it!
How to Build a Girl – Part One
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 5 – 10

Little Dolly’s on a plane on a plane on a plane! Her unadulterated delight at the experience of flying just made me feel joyful.

Can we talk about her meeting John Kite? John Kite. Age: 24. “just a musician” wears furs, doesn’t come across as terribly physically attractive. I think that Johanna – not Dolly – is in the throes of her first crush. F’realz, y’all.

Good god, Ms. Moran. Isn’t that how first loves are built? Is Caitlin Moran secretly a time traveling psychic that tapped into my own teenage self? Two hours after meeting Kite, Johanna’s having this incredibly earnest and excited talk with herself in the mirror.

Now, let’s talk about John Kite. The age difference isn’t vast – seven years. (And let’s be honest, rock stars must be somewhat immature.) But I’m protective of our Johanna. Is he gaming her? Bullshitting her? Hitting on her? Am I okay with that? Right now, honestly, I’m not sure. If he’s gonna treat her right, if he’s for real, okay. I might be okay. I might need to sit down and discuss their relationship with him. He might require my permission.

But one further thing to consider. Are we seeing John Kite through the lens of a 17 year old girl in the throes of her first major crush? Her first love? In other words, is our narrator reliable?

Maybe. Back at the hotel for the interview. The late night sharing of every secret. Pulling a Norwegian Wood. Aw, man. I thought that Rainbow Rowell was the master of making middle-aged women remember the ecstasy and thrill of first love, but Moran just makes Eleanor & Park (which I thoroughly enjoyed and felt all the feels with) seem like a standard YA romance. Their whole night together is so heartfelt and innocent. I want them to get married and live happily ever after.

Kite comes through with the promised cassette, complete with letter. “I don’t want to wait another 24 years to meet you.” (p. 142) It gives me hope that maybe he’s not a weird douchebag rock star. Maybe he’s not like this with everyone. Maybe there’s a real connection. But I’m keeping my eye on you John Kite.

I feel happy for Johanna, because she finally seems to have shed some of her loneliness, she’s actually felt able to be just Johanna with someone. I’m hoping she’s realizing that Johanna has real worth and value. Jesus. Can you tell I’m a mom?

But life goes on.
So my heart broke, just a little bit, when Johanna returned from Dublin with her gift-wrapped Guinness for Dadda, she’s done it so specially for him, and she’s filled with such love and excitement when she gives it to him and then, the only reaction we get is: “Christ. That’s flat.” (p.141) I actually wrote a sad face next to that passage in my book.

She files the feature, “work dries up completely” and Johanna’s completely mystified.

Doesn’t it always feel subtle at the time? Jesus, she has it bad. The article that Johanna reads on p. 146 – 147 where Grant has an amazing night with Kite that Johanna is incredibly envious of makes me a bit suspicious of Kite. Does he do this with everyone? IS HE TOYING WITH OUR DOLLY?!

Okay. Let’s get to the deep important social commentary in this section.
Inevitably the bad news comes in. The Morrigan’s benefits have been cut by 11%.

Well, is it? 
Moran does a killer job in bringing forward the problems with income inequality in this section. It’s bleak, depressing, in your face, and important. I have half the book highlighted. The problems that the Morriagan’s face with 11% less income is vastly different than the problems that would be faced by someone living on a median income.

As Moran points out the poor have no investments or savings to tide them over. Well maybe they should cut back on those little treats. The problem is, that there aren’t any little treats to cut back on because there never were really any to begin with. Jesus, man, why can’t they just borrow from family and friends? Because there’s no one to borrow from. “…for one of the truths about the poor is that they tend only to know other poor people.” p. 150

Guys. GUYS. Just stop right here. I know we’re not all in the U.S., and I totally don’t want to go crazy political here, but this statement spoke to me so much about the constant bickering that we seem to have going on in Washington on how to deal with our own benefits. Allowing unemployment insurance to lapse, cutting back on food stamp benefits, all that shit affects people in very real ways and that’s is extraordinarily easy to forget in the comfort of my nicely furnished living room with my Macbook Pro and my middle to upper middle class income. Moran brings this right to the front of the story and makes it very personal.

Looking past the female masturbation, the feminism, and all the other fabulous topics, if all those things were absent from this book – it would still be incredibly important in the way that it connects you with the characters and makes you stop and think, really think, about the realities of being truly poor in a first world country. In my little diatribe here I’m going to jump ahead to pages 155 – 156 where Johanna is reading Tony Rich’s interview with John Kite (coincidence?) and the thoughts he has on wealth, poverty, and politics. (As usual) I want to just quote the whole damned paragraph, but I’m exercising restraint here. Just a few quick quotes to really think about then we’ll leave it.

Jesus. Right on, man. 

Finally, 

Okay, enough of that for now. Except that Johanna’s 11th birthday (p. 158 – 159) is so freakin’ sad.

I want to note, in defense of all their faults, that Johanna’s parents, despite the cuts in benefits, they still insist that she saves. They’re still concerned about her future. In a nice quiet way, I like to think that this is Moran’s way of saying that parent’s are people too, we have our faults and shittiness during childrearing, but in the end – if you’re trying to love the hell out of your kid, you’re probably not Joan Crawford.

Naturally, we’re treated to more wanking. Poor Krissi catches Johanna masturbating and promptly asks for his own room. “I have wanked him awake over weeks of Satanic fantasies.” (p. 167) I really feel like there should be a little more mortification on her part, but, well… there you are.

Speaking of satanic fantasies, I laughed a lot during this part. Apparently books on witchcraft are just a guise that libraries use to hide their satanic pornography. Who knew? All the imagery here. Johanna masturbating thinking of nuns having sex with the devil. Succubi, Incubi, etc.

There is for sure  some feminist commentary going on here. But maybe we’ll talk about it another time.

The call comes in from D&ME, they want Dolly back. Off to London!

Dolly makes the executive decision to start drinking and smoking right there at the magazine, for the first time, right in front of all of her colleagues. Dolly perceives that the “boozy rock child”(p. 172) is going over much better than the girl quoting musicals. Nooooooooo Johanna! That girl quoting musicals is so good enough and much less self destructive.

Her colleagues nail her down on why her feature on Kite was so bad, it’s that it was too fannish. They’re critics not fans. (p. 175) Dolly takes the advice to heart, advice that maybe, perhaps, tenderly, some bloggers might take to heart as well? Just a little? 🙂

Of course when she hears that Kite is going to be at the industry party, she opts in to go. There’s a sweet moment on p. 183, where Dolly is smoking backwards and Kite ever so gently corrects her. I want there to be hope for her crush! But, inevitably, he must leave early, (very Cinderella), leaving Johanna with a lingering goodbye kiss and crushing disappointment that he’s leaving so soon. (p. 184 – 185)

Also with raging teenage girl hormones. Enter Tony Rich D&ME’s STAR CRITIC. Harvard educated, exotic, he’s been to America! Johanna sees him as incredibly clever and incredibly vicious. Incidentally, she also realizes he’s incredibly hot. A tall boy with a big mouth and very pale skin, whose eyes are as clever as rockets – guns – the sun – and the exact color of Coca-Cola.” (p. 186)

By the end of chapter 15 I think that we’ve seen a distinct emergence of Dolly Wilde. Boozing at the office. Smoking, drinking, flirting. Mad for kisses, mad for mouths. Trouble.

That’s pretty much a wrap for this week, kids. But of course I want to leave you with some Jerry Springer-like final thoughts. So I made a graphic for you. From about page 171, we have Johanna’s thoughts on how to build a girl and put her out in the world. Oh! Misguided youth!

Well, Readers? How are we all feeling now? This section was heavy especially on the topic of poverty. There’s also a lot of commentary to be had on feminism and the expectations of that society places on women (and girls) and that they impute to themselves. But in the interest of length I’ve chose to focus on the poverty/welfare elements here. Hopefully some of my #moranalongers will pick up the slack on the other issues. Thoughts? Feelings? Diatribes? 


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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