First up: I'm over at Kirkus this week talking about Coming In from the Cold by Sarina Bowen, which I read last week on vacation and which helped break my reading slump:
In my last column, I wrote about my reading slump, and how so few of the books I was picking up to read were grabbing my interest. As far as slumps go, this was pretty bad for me: It lasted nearly two weeks, and I picked up and put down at least 10 different romances. But lucky for me, actual snow and literary snow helped break my slump.
Before I left on vacation, author Sarina Bowen contacted me and offered her book, part of a four-book digital set, for vacation reading because the hero and heroine start the story trapped in their cars in a blizzard. HELLO MY CATNIP. Get into my car!
Coming In from the Cold was a perfect slump busting read, and good for vacation, too. It wasn't perfect—I had some problems with the hero—but the story held my attention emotionally and intellectually. I had all the requisite emo-tingles for the heroine and the hero, and yes, their being trapped in a car for hours was a perfect start.
Hear ye, hear ye! Reader nominations for the DABWAHA will close tomorrow, 15 March! Head on over to enter your picks if you haven't! We'll be opening bracket selection on Sunday!
Via author Sarah Mayberry comes this amazing link to the photography of Vivian Maier. This is incredible – you must look.
Imagine this : perhaps the most important street photographer of the twentieth century was a nanny who kept everything to herself. Nobody had ever seen her work and she was a complete unknown until the time of her death. For decades Vivian’s work hid in the shadows until decades later (in 2007), historical hobbyist John Maloof bought a box full of never developed negatives at a local auction for $380.
Via Tina C: a dress we'll all covet. This gown is made from the spines and cover art of discarded Little Golden Books. Have a look. No, really, this gown is incredibly beautiful.
You'd think I'd have reached my limit of the 50 Shades of Grey analysis articles, but this one really, really fascinated me and gave me a lot to think about in terms of the wealth fantasy in the series: Heather Havrilesky in The Baffler examines the messages and codes within the wealth signals inside each book, and it's all kinds of brain-Jiffy-Pop in here. (Keep going past the “bodice-ripper” part – it gets way better.)
…what Fifty Shades of Grey offers is an extreme vision of late-capitalist deliverance, the American (wet) dream on performance-enhancing drugs. Just as magazines such as Penthouse, Playboy, Chic, and Oui (speaking of aspirational names) have effectively equated the moment of erotic indulgence with the ultimate consumer release, a totem of the final elevation into amoral privilege, James’s trilogy represents the latest installment in the commodified sex genre. The money shot is just that: the moment when our heroine realizes she’s been ushered into the hallowed realm of the 1 percent, once and for all….
After the fifteenth or sixteenth time Anastasia and Christian “find [their] release together,” they start to resemble tourists with no short-term memory, repeating the same docented visit to Graceland over and over again, drooling over the claustrophobic upholstered pool room and the mirrored wall and the fourteen-foot-long white leather couch afresh each time.
But let’s not mistake sex for the main event. The endless manual jimmying and ripped foil packets and escalating rhythms and release-findings are just foreplay for the real climax, in which Anastasia recognizes that she’s destined to abandon her ordinary, middle-class life in favor of the rarefied veal pen of the modern power elite.
Whoa. So in Havrilesky's analysis, it's not so much sex as money, power and lack of consequences that is the core of the fantasy.
Anne Helen Petersen wrote a really, really fascinating examination of “Cool Girls” and the current obsession with Jennifer Lawrence. Petersen examines the “Cool Girl” archtype, described in Gone Girl and summarized in the article's subtitle, “Be chill and don’t be a downer, act like a dude but look like a supermodel.” She then traces the celebrity Cool Girl history back to Jane Fonda, Carole Lombard, and Clara Bow:
Jennifer Lawrence is by no means the first nationally visible Cool Girl. Olivia Munn, Olivia Wilde, and Mila Kunis are recent also-rans, but the Cool Girl has a genealogy that traces all the way back to silent Hollywood. Famous Cool Girls are women who became stars during periods of societal anxiety over increasing freedoms for women, and as people quietly wondered whether women, once emancipated, would become homely, castrating bitches. Cool Girls have been proof positive that a woman could be liberated and progressive and yet pleasing to men, both in appearance and in action.
Yet the Cool Girl’s cool is ephemeral. We’ve been anticipating the J.Law backlash for months, but if and when it comes, it’ll have less to do with Lawrence and more to do with the need for a new articulation of the Cool Girl to keep the myth alive. This is an anxiety that needs constant soothing, and one star can provide only so much reassurance. One minute you’re cool, perfectly balancing the progressive and the regressive, but when that balance falters, you’re too much, too sexual, too loud, too performative, and the cultural backlash sweeps you under.
Petersen's book, Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, and Drama from the Golden Age of American Cinema, comes out in September, so she knows whereof she speaks (plus she wrote her PhD thesis on the history of celebrity gossip, which…COOL).
I thought this entire analysis was superb and so thought-provoking. I wonder, are there Cool Girl romance heroines you can think of? Or are they too sexual, too loud, too performative, etc, to be successful within the confines of the genre?
Via Morgan, Parade Magazine, which is usually part of the Sunday paper that arrives on my driveway despite the fact that we don't subscribe (?!), published an examination of the most popular books by state.
Scribd—a Netflix-like e-book subscription service that lets users read unlimited books for $8.99 per month—arrived at these results by calculating how many times a book was read by readers registered in that state.
Alabama likes Lisa Kleypas, as does Georgia (and really, who doesn't?). Alaska likes ice cream (which is totally funny except I have the Ben & Jerrys ice cream cookbook and it's freaking awesome). And Idaho likes Julia Quinn. And New Jersey likes Victoria Alexander.
Ah, romance, you're so awesome.
From Priscilla comes this lovely collection of funny book titles, some of which I've seen before, probably on BuzzFeed, but others were new, like this one:
Oh for crying out loud. OF COURSE GOD SPEAKS through cats. Have you ever TALKED to a cat?
Oddly enough, I've read Taro Gomi's Everyone Poops at bedtime many, many times. It's kind of awesome, that book. But I can't read it in Morgan Freeman's voice, which is a shame.
(I won't mention how much I wish I had that guy's impression of Freeman saying “Which end is the snake's behind?” as a ringtone.)