Posts tagged "books"

Dunham trotted out his dummy for whoever would hire him, or at least tolerate it: doing an oral book report on Hansel and Gretel in third grade or retelling bible stories at church; performing at Six Flags as a summer job, or at fund-raisers for the Christian summer camp his mom sent him to. In high school, he did commercials for a Datsun dealership and each year posed for his yearbook photo with one of his dummies. He and a dummy named Archie Everett also co-wrote a column for the school paper.

-NY Times

Actually, I seem to remember this being the synopsis of a Goosebumps book.


The founding myth of America is that the nation was built out of nothing, using only reason and willpower. Rand applies this myth to the individual American: You made yourself. You need nobody and nothing except your reason to rise and dominate. You can be America, in one body, in one mind.

The sad part is that this cartoon refers to shit going down at my school. Absent that uncomfortable fact, it’s magnificent.

The sad part is that this cartoon refers to shit going down at my school. Absent that uncomfortable fact, it’s magnificent.


Oof, Night of the Living Dummy. Used to have to make sure the cover was face down before I went to sleep with that one. (R.L. Stine’s covers were often scarier than his books — see also Dave-traumatizing The Dead Girlfriend:

(cureforbedbugs responding to this)

The one Goosebumps book that genuinely freaked out young me was The Ghost Next Door. I know where most of my childhood books are. I cannot find this one. I can only assume I destroyed it out of fear of its evil.

(It concerned a girl who didn’t know she was a ghost like Bruce Willis in Sixth Sense, and then she found out she died because she burnt her family’s house down. Almost single-handedly turned me OCD.)

And, by the way, if you’re my age, you should have already checked out Blogger Beware, which reviews each and every Goosebumps book. Must read.

2
Nov 10

Alice in Wonderland. Yes.
(From.)

Alice in Wonderland. Yes.

(From.)

Nov 13

Says gunstreetgirl:

Don’t even get me started on Ramona. I loved her so, so much. I also felt like I could relate to her, but that’s prooooobably only because we were the same age. I think this one was another my mom told me about.

I know who introduced me to Ramona, or to Beverly Cleary, anyway. That was my primary school librarian, Ms. Menlove. Ms. Menlove was exactly the kind of librarian every bookish kid should have, one delighted to indulge every exploration, one always on hand to recommend a new author or to talk about every old favorite. Ms. Menlove let me gain access to the library’s computer system, she introduced me to the Internet, she even put my self-published, shitty sixth grade fantasy novel into the school’s library system. And she introduced me to Ramona.
No, well, she introduced me to Ralph S. Mouse. I’m not sure whether this was a carefully plotted ploy on her behalf; after all, it’s much easier to convince a boy, even a quiet boy like me, to read a book about motorcycles than it is to convince a seven year old boy to read a book about a girl. If that was the case, well done, Ms. Menlove; once I’d torn through every title with Ralph S. Mouse on the cover, I quickly moved on to everything else with Cleary’s name attached to it.
And that’s how I found Ramona.
I don’t know why Ramona slotted so easily into the realm of books it was OK for me to like. This is a very limited selection if you’re a boy. Even (especially?) at that age, you have a very sharp awareness of what books are acceptable to your masculinity, and what books are so antithetical to your being that they cannot be touched. This latter category includes girl-books like Sweet Valley High and the Babysitters Club, but probably also well-respected works like Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, and The Secret Garden. I didn’t know exactly what went on inside these books, but I sure knew they weren’t for people like me. Boy-people.
At the same time, there were books I read that I suspected weren’t for people like me, but I read them anyway. I was as happy with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden as I was with Hardy Boys, even though the latter was about boys doing boy stuff, and the others weren’t. The other kids thought I was crazy with all my books anyway, so I could get away with books about girls doing boy-stuff (like playing detective). I even, sort of secretly, read Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers and St. Clare’s and Naughtiest Girl series (girls boarding school stories, should you not know), which I justified as permissible because they were just Blyton books, and everyone knew there was nothing girly about the Famous Five. Um, yes, well.
Anyway, Ramona wasn’t like those. Cleary’s books, about Miss Quimby drawing her Qs with cats ears, whiskers and tails; trying to convince her father to quit smoking; taking the first bite of every apple because it tasted best; or having to go to Howie’s house every day after school because her mom worked; were about girls. They were about Ramona and her big sister Beezus, and the humdrum domesticity of their lives. I’m not exactly sure now why I saw these as books for me, and not girl books. Nobody, after all, is more acutely aware of surreptitious femininity than a pre-adolescent boy.
Was it because I had been tricked by Ralph S. Mouse? The irony is, I never found any of Cleary’s other male characters, like Henry Huggins or those kids in Fifteen or Dear Mr. Henshaw to be as compelling as Ramona. And nor should I. Ramona was something else.
But I do shake my head at my resistance to anything vaguely feminine, and I fear it still lingers. I, shamefully, rarely read books written by women, and I suspect the same of many other men my age (mid-20s). And paradoxically, this limits women more than it does men. Women (and girls) seem far happier (or far more required) to read books by men than vice-versa, and hence, because the only people reading books by, or for, women are female, such writing becomes ghettoized. Bizarrely, the best thing you can do for women is to ignore the girls, and work on convincing boys like me that it’s OK to read The Secret Garden. Or at least trick us into reading Ramona with books about motorbikes.

Says gunstreetgirl:

Don’t even get me started on Ramona. I loved her so, so much. I also felt like I could relate to her, but that’s prooooobably only because we were the same age. I think this one was another my mom told me about.

I know who introduced me to Ramona, or to Beverly Cleary, anyway. That was my primary school librarian, Ms. Menlove. Ms. Menlove was exactly the kind of librarian every bookish kid should have, one delighted to indulge every exploration, one always on hand to recommend a new author or to talk about every old favorite. Ms. Menlove let me gain access to the library’s computer system, she introduced me to the Internet, she even put my self-published, shitty sixth grade fantasy novel into the school’s library system. And she introduced me to Ramona.

No, well, she introduced me to Ralph S. Mouse. I’m not sure whether this was a carefully plotted ploy on her behalf; after all, it’s much easier to convince a boy, even a quiet boy like me, to read a book about motorcycles than it is to convince a seven year old boy to read a book about a girl. If that was the case, well done, Ms. Menlove; once I’d torn through every title with Ralph S. Mouse on the cover, I quickly moved on to everything else with Cleary’s name attached to it.

And that’s how I found Ramona.

I don’t know why Ramona slotted so easily into the realm of books it was OK for me to like. This is a very limited selection if you’re a boy. Even (especially?) at that age, you have a very sharp awareness of what books are acceptable to your masculinity, and what books are so antithetical to your being that they cannot be touched. This latter category includes girl-books like Sweet Valley High and the Babysitters Club, but probably also well-respected works like Little House on the PrairieAnne of Green Gables, and The Secret Garden. I didn’t know exactly what went on inside these books, but I sure knew they weren’t for people like me. Boy-people.

At the same time, there were books I read that I suspected weren’t for people like me, but I read them anyway. I was as happy with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden as I was with Hardy Boys, even though the latter was about boys doing boy stuff, and the others weren’t. The other kids thought I was crazy with all my books anyway, so I could get away with books about girls doing boy-stuff (like playing detective). I even, sort of secretly, read Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers and St. Clare’s and Naughtiest Girl series (girls boarding school stories, should you not know), which I justified as permissible because they were just Blyton books, and everyone knew there was nothing girly about the Famous Five. Um, yes, well.

Anyway, Ramona wasn’t like those. Cleary’s books, about Miss Quimby drawing her Qs with cats ears, whiskers and tails; trying to convince her father to quit smoking; taking the first bite of every apple because it tasted best; or having to go to Howie’s house every day after school because her mom worked; were about girls. They were about Ramona and her big sister Beezus, and the humdrum domesticity of their lives. I’m not exactly sure now why I saw these as books for me, and not girl books. Nobody, after all, is more acutely aware of surreptitious femininity than a pre-adolescent boy.

Was it because I had been tricked by Ralph S. Mouse? The irony is, I never found any of Cleary’s other male characters, like Henry Huggins or those kids in Fifteen or Dear Mr. Henshaw to be as compelling as Ramona. And nor should I. Ramona was something else.

But I do shake my head at my resistance to anything vaguely feminine, and I fear it still lingers. I, shamefully, rarely read books written by women, and I suspect the same of many other men my age (mid-20s). And paradoxically, this limits women more than it does men. Women (and girls) seem far happier (or far more required) to read books by men than vice-versa, and hence, because the only people reading books by, or for, women are female, such writing becomes ghettoized. Bizarrely, the best thing you can do for women is to ignore the girls, and work on convincing boys like me that it’s OK to read The Secret Garden. Or at least trick us into reading Ramona with books about motorbikes.


When I went to Portland OR back in 2004, I knew I absolutely had to visit the Beverly Clearly Library. And I’m glad I did.

When I went to Portland OR back in 2004, I knew I absolutely had to visit the Beverly Clearly Library. And I’m glad I did.


This was something Richard Nixon, with his gift for looking below social surfaces to see and exploit the subterranean truths that roiled underneath, understood: the future belonged to the politician who could tap the ambivalence — the nameless dread, the urge to make it all go away; to make the world placid again, not a cacophonous mess.

Rick Perlstein, Nixonland, p.213

This book is great, of course, but I think half the stuff I quote from it here is just me being seduced by Perlstein’s prose.


Twilight is more than a teen dream. It’s a massive cultural force. Yet the very girliness that has made it such a success has resulted in its being marginalized and mocked. Of course, you won’t find many critics lining up to defend Dan Brown or Tom Clancy, either; mass-market success rarely coincides with literary acclaim. But male escapist fantasies — which, as anyone who has seen Die Hard or read those Tom Clancy novels can confirm, are not unilaterally sophisticated, complex, or forward-thinking — tend to be greeted with shrugs, not sneers. The Twilight backlash is vehement, and it is just as much about the fans as it is about the books. Specifically, it’s about the fact that those fans are young women.



Sady Doyle, Girls Just Wanna Have Fangs

I’ve had this same nagging feeling about Twilight the entire duration of its popularity; yes sure, it’s bad, but so much of the criticism it receives seems tinged by the fact that it’s bad and girly. I appreciate Doyle’s analysis.

Certainly there are valid problems feminists (and English-language speakers) have with Twilight, but their failure to perceive how misogynistic some of the criticism the series cops is revealing. I get the sense that feminists[1], for obvious reasons, are used to critiquing pop culture, and so forget that the soft power of pop culture can so often be the lingua franca of women. For centuries, serious art has been reserved as a domain for white men, and marginalized groups have turned to popular art to have their conversations. And because these groups can exercise economic influence on this art, it becomes an actual forum of power for them, a power they’d never be able to wrest away from the Mozarts and Shakespeares of high culture.

And yet a discourse that suggests mainstream-everything (politics, economics, culture, etc.) is bad can’t accommodate this. That’s why you get brain-dead treatises like this one against Taylor Swift [2] or pointless punk fetishism that elevates anti-performance and often anti-female values like authenticity at the expense of the actual pop culture women create and consume.

[1] That mass, homogeneous group.

[2] OMG I just realized that post is also by Sady Doyle. Now I don’t know what to think.



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