Posts tagged "Books"

A thing about the new Harry Potter movie…

…which I liked, and may talk more about later. SPOILERS after the jump.

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Taylor Swift as Luna Lovegood, by Rolling Stone (h/t Dave Bloom)

Taylor Swift as Luna Lovegood, by Rolling Stone (h/t Dave Bloom)


It’s so dispiriting to hear ideas you loved on first encounter deployed as mere tricks, particularly when they still work effectively. “Abducted” begins with a wispy sing-song vocal by Madeline Follin, which gives her a sense of naïveté reminiscent of a storybook character on the cusp of a great adventure. It builds into a breathless, excited shriek that befits a tale of being “torn apart,” one that’s accompanied by a driving bassline of the sort I loved from Interpol and the otherworldly swirl that made the first Arcade Fire album so engaging. But it’s because I have seen these tricks before that I can’t lose myself in the song. It’s like reading a kids’ novel as an adult, and recognizing how much you would have loved it if you were younger. Would I have marvelled at The Phantom Tollbooth if I’d only first read it yesterday? Would I have fallen head over heels for Cults if they’d existed in 2003?

This was my Singles Jukebox review for Cults’s single “Abducted.” It’s the kind of review I generally try to avoid writing because it makes me feel old (worse: prematurely old, or affectedly old) and because I think it’s unfair to younger listeners, who may actually see something novel in Cults’s sound, who may find it thrilling — or, alternately, may think it completely without worth, even if they weren’t there for the Funeral buzz. 

Ironically, I was the only person to mention Arcade Fire. Everyone else reached deeper back to ’60s girl group. I still think my reference point is more correct; this does not remind me of the Shangri-Las the way “We Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and We Get What We Deserve” did, but aaaaaanyway. What this made me think of was Ian Cohen's review of The Airborne Toxic Event’s debut album:

It’s no surprise that many are betting the house on the Airborne Toxic Event — their debut album is lyrically moody, musically sumptuous, and dramatic. Their name is even a transparent DeLillo reference, and every one of the 10 tracks sounds like it can be preceded with radio chatter. The Airborne Toxic Event have done their homework. But unless you’re a certain French duo, homework rarely results in good pop music, and The Airborne Toxic Event is an album that’s almost insulting in its unoriginality; while the sound most outsiders attribute to Los Angeles has been marginalized to Metal Skool and the average customer at the Sunset Boulevard Guitar Center, TATE embodies the Hollywood ideal of paying lip service to the innovations of mavericks while trying to figure out how to reduce it to formula.

Only, in the case of the Cults song, the result was good! I would have liked to reconcile the contradictions, but I hadn’t (and haven’t), so I used my review to make public my contradictory feelings about the song.

In the comments, Katherine responded to my question about The Phantom Tollbooth with “You better have!” And, lord, I hope so, right? What sort of 27 year old would read Norton Juster’s novel and not be struck by it? But there’s still that nagging feeling that maybe I would just merely like it, a feeling related to that I have about Harry Potter, where I wonder just what I would have thought if the books had existed when I was eight years old. So, yes, I loved The Phantom Tollbooth when I was eight because it’s an amazing novel, but I also loved it because I had previously had no idea that one could use language in the way it does, that signs and signifiers could be ripped apart and reattached to new concepts, or that abstract ideas could be personified in grand and dramatic ways. It’s a novel that contextualizes rather advanced postmodern ideas so that they seem the natural province of primary school age children; if I already had the tools to understand precisely why it was clever, would I have found it so incredible?

And that’s why I wrote the review I did: I couldn’t summarize my reaction to the tune without placing my fallibility as a critic at the forefront. My evaluation, I had to say, might be wrong.


There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself — not sometimes, but always.

Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth (1961)

I’d forgotten how moody and restless this book was, right from the first sentence. I remembered the Doldrums, and I still think its a genius idea to make them a real place, but I’d forgotten that it started on such a dark tone.

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Jul 15

Terror, Counter-Terror, and Insurgency in Harry Potter, or Why Harry Won

Jay-Z, small government, and the declining Tea Party

He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark field of the republic rolled on under the night.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1926)

Biden informed Barack and Hillary that he wouldn’t be endorsing them, but also pledged that he wouldn’t endorse the other. “My word as a Biden” was one of his pet phrases.

John Heilemann & Mark Halperin, Game Change (2010)

This is great.



A couple of days later, [Valerie] Jarrett received a viral email that pictured Obama staring forward sternly and pointing in the direction of the camera. Above his head were the words “EVERYONE CHILL THE FUCK OUT,” and below that, the message “I GOT THIS!” She forwarded it to Obama.
"That’s what I was trying to tell you!" Obama replied.

—John Heilemann & Mark Halperin, Game Change (2010)

A couple of days later, [Valerie] Jarrett received a viral email that pictured Obama staring forward sternly and pointing in the direction of the camera. Above his head were the words “EVERYONE CHILL THE FUCK OUT,” and below that, the message “I GOT THIS!” She forwarded it to Obama.

"That’s what I was trying to tell you!" Obama replied.

—John Heilemann & Mark Halperin, Game Change (2010)


John Marsden, The Dead of the Night (1994)
Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon:

I started out with classics like Nancy Drew and “The Boxcar Children,” but at some point in my fledgling reading career I became less interested in fictional young detectives than in solving some mysteries for myself — namely about sex and romance. Raunchy young adult novels were just the thing to satisfy my curiosity, cement my passion for books and, of course, titillate with descriptions of, oh my God, open-mouthed tongue kissing.

Andrew Sullivan characterizes Clark-Flory’s post as the author “having trouble finding” sex in the YA section, though it seems more like she’s defending the genre from prudes: “I doubt that unease over the sexiness of the genre has to do with the way sex is presented, as opposed to the fact that it is presented at all.”
But then, I don’t know. Like Clark-Flory, when I was of an age to be reading YA books, I thought the genre was loaded with sex and I considered that to be a big point in its favor. But maybe that’s because I equated YA novels with John Marsden to a great degree, and, while Australia’s prudish side is less developed than America’s even Marsden was “controversial” in the ’90s — which added to the appeal. (I remember Dear Miffy caused particular consternation in the media on publication; that link contains an extract for the curious.)
So I don’t know? Did the timing and location of my early adolescence increase my memory of the raciness of YA, or is the genre really about much more than tongue kissing? Incidentally, that literary initiation has rather inured me to controversies surrounding teen-oriented TV or movies since. In contrast to Marsden, American Pie's teenagers seem quaintly chaste, and “Gossip Girl,” in all its luridness, rather demure when it gets down to the actual teenage sex aspect of things.
EDIT: Re-reading the Dead of the Night extract, it seems rather allusive. I should clarify this portion comes after a few pages of foreplay. Marsden was not interested in preserving his readers’ innocence.

John Marsden, The Dead of the Night (1994)

Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon:

I started out with classics like Nancy Drew and “The Boxcar Children,” but at some point in my fledgling reading career I became less interested in fictional young detectives than in solving some mysteries for myself — namely about sex and romance. Raunchy young adult novels were just the thing to satisfy my curiosity, cement my passion for books and, of course, titillate with descriptions of, oh my God, open-mouthed tongue kissing.

Andrew Sullivan characterizes Clark-Flory’s post as the author “having trouble finding” sex in the YA section, though it seems more like she’s defending the genre from prudes: “I doubt that unease over the sexiness of the genre has to do with the way sex is presented, as opposed to the fact that it is presented at all.”

But then, I don’t know. Like Clark-Flory, when I was of an age to be reading YA books, I thought the genre was loaded with sex and I considered that to be a big point in its favor. But maybe that’s because I equated YA novels with John Marsden to a great degree, and, while Australia’s prudish side is less developed than America’s even Marsden was “controversial” in the ’90s — which added to the appeal. (I remember Dear Miffy caused particular consternation in the media on publication; that link contains an extract for the curious.)

So I don’t know? Did the timing and location of my early adolescence increase my memory of the raciness of YA, or is the genre really about much more than tongue kissing? Incidentally, that literary initiation has rather inured me to controversies surrounding teen-oriented TV or movies since. In contrast to Marsden, American Pie's teenagers seem quaintly chaste, and “Gossip Girl,” in all its luridness, rather demure when it gets down to the actual teenage sex aspect of things.

EDIT: Re-reading the Dead of the Night extract, it seems rather allusive. I should clarify this portion comes after a few pages of foreplay. Marsden was not interested in preserving his readers’ innocence.



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