One of the intriguing things about dystopian novels is finding the parallels between the disturbing fictive world of the story and our somewhat less disturbing reality. At its most chilling, the genre reads more as premonition than cautionary tale – as if we’re already on the wrong path and there is little chance we’re going to remedy the situation. In this way, a compelling premise can feel more important to a dystopian novel than the plot or the storytelling. That is, until you go to read the book. Read More..
I recently read an article in the New York Times that details how scientists are on the verge of giving extinct animals a new lease on life. I’m hazy on the science behind their reincarnation efforts, but it has something to do with plugging the extinct animal’s DNA into an embryo that can be carried by a similar present-day creature. For example, an elephant might be used to gestate a wooly mammoth calf – and then the world would once again have fuzzy little puffball baby elephants. Which is adorable. If science makes this happen, the internet might cease to have any other function beyond housing and distributing footage of baby mammoths, in all their oxymoronic and anachronistic snuffleupagus-ian glory. Read More..
When the book club I’m in selected Snow Flower and the Secret Fan as its next title, I was a little hesitant to read it, thinking I might not be the book’s intended audience. To be blunt: it looked like a book for ladies. And by that I don’t mean women, I mean proper ladies with lace parasols and deeply-held opinions about crumpets. The book had a soft pink cover adorned with little flowers and a delicate fan framed by floral scroll work. I know it’s unfair to associate a book with its cover, or a color palate with gender, but this one was asking for it. Read More..
A few days ago, our director sent around a hipster lit flow chart that had appeared on HuffPost. My initial reaction to it was relief that the good people at GoodReads had categorically disqualified me from hipsterdom (I haven’t read Infinite Jest). But then I remembered that distaste for hipsters is the single most qualifying characteristic for being one, and I teared up behind my oversized plastic glasses. Read More..
Just as a matter of taste, I prefer it when the children of famous people accomplish little and keep a low profile. They are already set up on easy street and have plenty of spillover attention with which to entertain themselves. If that isn’t enough, they can always DJ or tweet about fashion. But to become a brilliant humorist, well, that’s just missing the whole point of being a kid of a famous person. Read More..
If your weekday responsibilities have you conditioned so you can no longer sleep-in on the weekends, then you might occasionally catch MSNBC’s early morning political/news chat fest “Up with Chris Hayes.” It’s the show where all of the guests have giant orange coffee mugs and in the center of the table there is a mountain of breakfast pastries no one ever eats. I want to eat those pastries. Read More..
Do you ever pick up a book because it received a rave in the New York Times, but it ends up feeling like a miserable chore reading it? Or maybe the book’s jacket was plastered with awards and blurbs authenticating its brilliance, but the story seems dry and impenetrable to you? And to add insult to injury, you have this book sitting around your house for weeks or years, occasionally popping up to accuse you of being a halfwit? If so, I share your pain. Read More..
There’s a certain swaggering presumptuousness in authoring a book of advice. Telling troubled people how to lead their lives is a substantial endeavor with potentially weighty consequences. It’s hard to imagine too many people pulling it off gracefully. That’s why, as a society, we officially and unofficially limit serious advice-giving to credentialed experts, spiritual leaders, and Oprah Winfrey. Read More..
Of the many types of fame one can have, I appreciate the kind Michael Ian Black has best – the kind that just won’t stick. It’s marginal fame, which is maybe oxymoronic, but sums up his decades long stay on the pop culture periphery, bouncing from one underperforming project to the next, as he is likely to do into perpetuity. Or to put it another way, his star is shining from a constellation that includes the likes of Lisa Rinna and David Alan Grier. Read More..
There’s probably much to be said for ignoring popular frenzies – but I’ll tell ya, sometimes following the crowd will take you to unexpected places. For example, had someone informed me a few months ago that I’d give a fig about some feudal fantasy land full of competing royal houses, mythical beasts, and freeze-dried zombies– well, I would have been a tad skeptical and more than a little disappointed. I mean, I can enjoy the occasional flagon of mulled wine at a Ren Fest, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. Read More..