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My Meritorious Media of May.

In May, I read some stuff. Not a lot. Some. I was sick for a good week; I had stuff to do; the subway was delayed but not enough; there were deadlines. Dead. Lines.

And there were board books and picture books and manuscripts and short things I didn’t note, but here’s the longer stuff I read and watched and did, with brief commentary! If I manage to finish my open books before this posts at the end of the month, I’ll have hit 71 books for the year; the subway has been not great, but better, so my platform reading is down.

[redacted unless we read the same romances]: Basically, take that Katy Perry song about waking up in Vegas and this is it. The characters weren’t super consistent, and dialogue punctuation was…quite nonexistent. I recommend finding books by a major publisher in your country and examining dialogue punctuation closely if you’re going to self-publish. Some countries/languages take a loose approach to copyediting and others a tighter one, but quite often, dialogue punctuation isn’t covered by style and grammar guides, so it takes study to figure out how to communicate speech in the ways we’ve adopted to best communicate it to readers.

[sf that leaned heavily on the romance, so also redacted]: I’m not sure who recommended this, and I’m pretty sure someone did, or maybe I just picked it up at low cost. It was very long and I kept hoping it would get better–and worse, I can’t pinpoint exactly why it was not a good read. I was uninvested in the characters; the worldbuilding was vague; the writing was…fine; I knew what people were thinking and feeling (and WEARING); and I was utterly bored. Maybe things were resolved too quickly, almost on chapter levels–or forgiven too easily, so there weren’t a lot of through-lines to follow and worry about, so the stakes were low. Why I read to the end, I don’t know. I guess there was enough of a promise that I had hope. I do know that people get upset when someone says they didn’t connect–but usually the underlying message is just “not quite enough to grab me” and this was that.

Dreadnought by April Daniels: When Danny sees a superhero die, she gets his powers–and, during the transfer, gets turned into the girl she’s always been meant to be. For a moment, the world is perfect…but just because her most fervent wish has come true doesn’t mean that the world is ready for her, or ready to understand. If you like a reluctant heroine who’s struggling with taking up the many (literally) but for legitimate reasons (not the standard “ah, shucks, meeeee?”), plus wrestling with the idea of going public and being a hero and who gets to decide, this is the supercharged next book for you.

[Redacted, romance]: Suspect, three pages in, that this was originally a fanfic about Jillian Michaels.

And still reading: The Poppy War, but haven’t had a chance to get back to it, so it’s languishing at the halfway point.

Watching, though I don’t remember if this was May or not:

Captain Marvel: I watch some Marvel things, not others, when I have time, but one weekend I had extra $ and holed up at the movies. (I have seen two total things at the movies this year!) Funnily enough, I keep having conversations that go like this:

me: it’s fine, you can spoil me for Endgame because I don’t know when I’ll get around to it, I just finally saw Captain Marvel so–

straight woman: omg let me tell you about Carol Danvers’s hair [implied or explicit GPS recalculating]

straight man, entering like the Kool-Aid man: LET ME TELL YOU HOW UNATTRACTED I AM

Anyway. Once I’d seen it, I did agree that the gaze was notably different. And here’s another thing: I was looking for and saw some evidence for Carol and Maria as friends due to work colocation, Carol and Maria as extremely close/found family, and Carol/Maria: romantic relationship. The thing is, the movie didn’t give us enough of any of those for me to feel sure, so their relationship seemed undeveloped and unfinished. I wish the film had just picked one and then the others could be people’s headcanons, because I’d prefer it to feeling like everyone is fighting over these rare, tiny moments of representation that are all meaningful and important and entirely valid.

Wild Nights with Emily: I was chatting with some folks on Twitter when the articles about Emily Dickinson having been kind of erased popped up, as did this film, which happened to be playing right by me. I’d never at all been interested in her, but the more I found out my ideas about her were untrue, the more I gave a shit. I mean, her work was literally erased. I thought the film was uneven and there were some actors who looked far too much alike for no reason; I wished for a big, sweeping biopic that started sooner in her life. The audience I saw this with was the best part, due to laughing in the right places.

Game of Thrones: I read a great article or three on how GRRM is a pantser, spinning stories out from what came before, and then the show set a hard deadline, basically meaning that they didn’t have time (or perhaps inclination) to set up all the things needed so that character development made sense. I think we saw that last season when Sansa and Arya came to terms off-screen. I also have thoughts on how sometimes the writers get so close to making something good and surprising happen and then they stumble over their own shoelaces.

For example, I have a PhD of thoughts on Jamie and Brienne and their sex scene. But take just the moment, the exchange of two lines when Brienne confirms she’s never had sex before, versus the scene when she tries to ignore it and go off to pee because goddamn is that nobody’s business:

Jamie: I’ve never slept with a knight before.

Brienne: I’ve never slept with anyone before.

There are a million yick things that could go on here, based on the world’s values and our world’s values and I don’t have time to type an essay. And this scene wasn’t the worst, because there were some good things. Brienne first, able to vocalize her experience without excessive/further fear, and echo the sentiment from earlier in the episode that implied she could have had a man or a woman, and Jamie, jumping in to try to find some common ground, I guess on the idea that a) first time with anyone is a first time and b) first time it’s not his sister, I think. But think how much is changed if you reverse the lines–think how much more agency could be implied for Brienne, when (imo) the stakes are higher for her. Remind me to come back before the end of the month and delete this, because I’m only an inch deep into the nuance here and disinclined to give more brain to it right now.

Gentleman Jack–Just got a second season, which is good and bad, because if that had been on the table I think the story arc could have been even more. Anne Lister is a great and awful person at once. Suranne Jones is KILLING it in this role; I’m super curious and have thoughts about the makeup on women and gender stereotypes on this show. But no time to type it all out. Anyway, I’d have loved to see the early years–leaving her family and ending up with aunt and uncle who are very accepting, boarding school shenanigans, the sweeping romantic years with the loves who disappointed her, times she just went to Europe and talked her way into state dinners and stuff. I’ve seen a couple of reviews of the first episode that are negative based on Anne Lister not being a beacon of modern respectability, and yet that’s what is maybe most compelling–how she was trying to construct an identity out of nothing, and how that didn’t automatically make her good, despite her strong loyalties. I also think how her relationship with Ann Walker plays out upends the early criticisms, because Ann is not as powerless as it would seem, and Anne is not as mercenary once Ann becomes a person to her…all to the question how in the world do you date someone with your same name. Because weird. Even though I have no issues knowing lots of people with the same name and not feeling like they overlap in my head. Anyway I dunno I wouldn’t.

Chernobyl–Yes, I mostly watch HBO lately. If you’ve read the Wikipedia entry on Chernobyl, you won’t be surprised, but it’s still shocking to see how the mistakes compounded and how the players had no idea what to do when they’d screwed up something so badly. This to me is horror in the same way The Handmaid’s Tale is.

Killing Eve–I have the original book and the ARC (I think) of #2 and I am very curious how much of it is for-TV and how much comes from the books. Anyway, it’s a lovely cat and mouse game, and a fascinating movement to center. Which is all I can say without spoiling things. Except maybe that the women on this show are…killing…it. Ha ha.

Special–Thought I’d recommend this to younger folks with CP buuuuuut it’s a little more mature than they are just now. Still, I thought this was fun and well done, and I really liked the short season and short episodes. It’s the equivalent of short stories but for TV. Netflix made this, but straight TV could stand to give the format a try.

She-Ra–I fell asleep during the last two episodes of season two, so I don’t know what happened yet. I have a lot of sympathy for Scorpia and I would like Entrapta’s hair. And I don’t know how people knew when their kids were born to pick out their defining adjective and add -ra for a suffix.

Grey’s Anatomy–Is still alive.

The Last Table–Is fine, as cooking competition shows go. I appreciate that the majority of the time is spent on the cooking and little on drama or drawing things out.

And coming up in June is Younger, a show I love-hate-love just for its inability to really accurately portray publishing but whatever.

And when I was younger, I loved hanging out with my sibs and cousins and watching Elimidate for its strange predictability that sometimes also was a gotcha, and Dating Around has some of that vibe–I’ve seen one episode and now I want to livetweet the others, but I’m not awful so maybe I’ll liveblog. Someday.

Looking forward to watching Booksmart and a dozen Netflix things and at least one movie I can’t remember right now and lots of summer outdoor theatre things.

Last but not least, I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I could not have seen it a moment sooner, I don’t think; only in the week before did I start to remember myself after a long while, which is a story of its own for some other time. And I’m so glad I didn’t have to wait a moment longer. I hadn’t ever read my book of it (though I’ve retrieved it), and I simply got to slide in, turn off the predictive brain (for the most part) and watch and marvel and consider but not dismantle. There’s a prohibition on spoiling it for others, and as it happens, if I want to talk with you about it I already have, so I’ll simply say that I will see it again, soon. (And good god, if you spent the week throwing up, you’re wobbly and super dehydrated and can’t handle your regular cup of coffee, thanks systems, so now I’ll have embarrassment nightmares about the first time I’ve had to depart a theater when it wasn’t a break since childhood-me had to be carried out of a special screening of The Empire Strikes Back because I was terrified of Yoda. I remember how cool it was that my hometown theater got restored and how we got to see a movie people knew and liked and then I remember a lot of screaming. From me. Also that my friend ate too many candy bars and threw up, so he had it a lot worse, and I guess I could have had it a lot worse given how sick I’d been. And I really only missed like a minute or two. Actually I guess I go to the restroom at the movies if needed; it just bothers me to be disruptive when there are live performers.)

So must watch again, if only to test my theory about a certain effect that I also refuse to google in case I’m right, because I want to test my theory with my own eyes instead of with google. But not if only that, actually. My heart is full and at peace.

Is that all for May? Maybe. I’m off for a few days so maybe I’ll see plane movies! Or maybe I’ll just do my work reading. (Quick edit: caught A Simple Favor on the plane.)

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The Books of April

April: Not a big reading month for me–I had a lot of projects to juggle and the subway was a bit more on-time than usual. Also I went to the movies two whole times, which is one more time than I went all of last year, I think. (Expensive. Also they used to give me migraines and I still expect they will, so I guess I’m skittish.) I also watched some enticing television. And was sick a bit. And somehow I bought a bunch of new books–still pulled in by $0.99 romance novels, every time–but didn’t read any of that quickie entertainment.

So–what DID I read? Well, not a lot from my to-read pile. I have a lovely stack of books on a table that beckons me…and that I haven’t managed. But couple selections from a very short list that got me up to 59 books read for the year (argh; perhaps I’ll hit 60 on the 30th):

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi: This book is full of wonderful lines, with a great adventure.

Cicada, Shaun Tan: I think the spread with the top of the building gives people at different ages very different reads. I, however, found this to be an intense indictment of our corporate world–and our buy-in to the corporate world.

Fake Geek Girls by Suzanne Scott: Academic fan studies, nonfiction, which I reviewed elsewhere.

Tiny T-Rex and the Impossible Hug by Johnathan Stutzman and Jay Fleck: I have a type, okay, and it’s dinosaurs and PDA. See also Dinosaur Kisses.

Love Sugar Magic by Anna Meriano: Sweet middle grade about a Latinx family’s baking–and one girl’s desire to get in on the magic.

Still reading: The Poppy War. I’m basically halfway and waiting for what I hear is a rough, rough chapter.

The end. Of April.


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