goals @ the start of summer

So, you might have noticed, but I’ve been posting a lot of tiny book and movie reviews. The goal is to write at least a hundred words about every book I read and every movie I see this summer. So far it’s going pretty well, enough so that I’m willing to publicly admit that’s the goal. Now you can all shame me if I stop doing it.

I love summer — so much time to read and watch movies. I’ve also been watching a lot of television, but I’m not sure how I want to write about that. We’ll just see if anything is inspiring.

I just started watching Twin Peaks, and god. It’s incredible. It’s so weird. I don’t know what I want to say about it yet, it’s just so weird and beautiful. I love it.

I don’t know how I want to write about music either. Maybe post something about one song every week? I love writing about music, but it isn’t something I’ve done much of lately.

I should write about food too. I want to cook more, and this would be a good excuse to try more interesting restaurants.

We’ve had a nice stretch of hot weather this week. I’ve left my windows open for like five days straight, it’s lovely. On Memorial Day my mother and I went for a walk down by Minnehaha falls and it was great, except for how I came home with a dozen mosquito bites that have been driving me crazy all week.

Starting Monday there might be slightly less lying around. It’s been two weeks since graduation, and my parents will be allowed to start nagging me about the future. I don’t feel too terrified though. I emailed the bookstore about volunteering. I know what Americorps program I want to apply for, and have a timeline for getting that done. I need to set up a time to take my driver’s test, but I don’t need my license until August. I’ve been driving a lot more, and feel pretty good about it.

Summer’s only just getting started. I haven’t gone swimming once yet. There will be plenty of time to worry later. For now I’m just going to hang out and read all of the things.

Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja

I’m pretty sure I liked this book. Pretty sure.

By the end I was really into it, waiting to see how things would unfold. I cared about the main characters, and was deeply invested in the central relationship. But I’m still only pretty sure I liked this book.

I’m not sure how I could describe it in a couple of sentences. There’s a brothel at the start, and that’s where the book gets its name. It’s about the power of putting on a show. There are puppets, and people who are being treated like puppets. It starts in one place, and ends some place very different. The first half of the novel is separate from the second half by years and physical distance.

I kept on waiting for the magic to show up, but that never happened. It’s historical fiction, but about a corner of history I’m particularly familiar with, so it all felt very unreal. I mean that in a good way.

The writing was lovely. Koja’s descriptions were vivid and captivating. She made me imagine whole worlds that didn’t quite look like the real one.

The novel is populated by a multitude of different voices. Koja writes distinct characters who speak just like themselves.

The afterward said that Koja and her husband were planning on adapting the story into a play, and I think that’s a lovely idea. It’s about the theater, and much of the story already takes place on stage.

There’s a sequel, Mercury Waltz, published last year, and I’m adding it on my list of things to read. I’m pretty sure I liked this book.

On the Road – 2012 Film

The great thing about mediocre film adaptations existing is that then you can watch them and give up two hours of your life instead of actually finishing a book that you’ve started twice and never finished.

I like On The Road, quite a lot actually. There are parts of the first half of the novel that I absolutely adored. I just wasn’t able to get through it. The second time I tried I didn’t even get as far as I did the first time.

I was hoping the movie would inspire me to finish the book. This did not happen.

It was boring, and structureless. Which makes sense, the novel is pretty rambling, but for a film adaptation you either have to fix that or be interesting enough to work anyways. This does neither.

There’s a voiceover, which helps with the framing, but doesn’t quite work. This does manage to get some of the language of the book into the film, but it feels shoehorned in.

The acting was fine, it looked pretty. There were good parts of this film, but not enough to keep me captivated. I wound up going on twitter, and actually taking out my laptop to write while keeping one eye on the television.

This movie didn’t feel like a journey. It never goes anywhere, and that was disappointing.

Maybe I’ll finish the book next summer. Or maybe not.

The Normal Heart

I finally had an opportunity to see the HBO production of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart. I had read the play the summer before college, and was surprised by how many plot points had stayed in my head. I remember it being angry and heartbreaking in just the right ways, and it still is. I don’t cry in movies, but this had me on the brink of tears.

When I read it I thought Tommy was the best. He was the sweetest, and got some of the best lines. The movie proved me was right. Parsons is excellent in the role, and I love that it’s a queer actor in a queer role. The whole cast is great, but knowing that they aren’t all straight did make it better. If Ruffalo had been even a little bit off I would have held his heterosexuality against him, but he was excellent. Ned is not exactly likable, he’s a dick, and Ruffalo gets that, along with the vulnerability and fucked-upness that makes him act that way. Julia Roberts is oddly excellent, but I never forgot she was Julia Roberts — I don’t know if there’s anyway that would have been possible. It worked though. It’s really something to see America’s former sweetheart in a wheelchair with wrinkles getting angry about how fucking broken the system was.

I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about this history lately, which it feels like isn’t brought up enough. This plague started by obliterating a generation of gay men, as it grew to a global epidemic, while the American government sat back and watched. I’ve been trying to find my way through this history with different books and movies and stuff, and The Normal Heart is an absolutely essential part of that venture.

Blood on the Ice by Katriena Knights

This is a m/m romance novel about vampires who play hockey. The ebook was four bucks on Amazon. It was a lot of fun. The worldbuilding around the vampires was a lot stronger than I was expecting, and all of the hockey writing passed muster. It was a fun read, if you’re into this kind of thing. For a romance novel it wasn’t all that steamy, but the plot was good. The back half of the book moves a lot faster than the beginning, in a way that I’m not entirely sure works. The ending seemed a little bit abrupt, but that leaves room for a possible sequel.

Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott

I had a really hard time figuring out what I wanted to say about this book.

I really liked it. It’s a cyberpunk adventure with a lesbian romance. The world could use more cyberpunk adventures with lesbian romances. I believe that very strongly.

This book came out in 1994, so I’m two years older than it. I’m not sure that it aged gracefully?

The big ideas brought up by the book, about the web and who has the freedom to access it, and how are big ideas in the news right now but it’s framed very differently here. The idea of technology and body modification is also very present, and I think that works better because we’re still on the far edge of that. I can’t pinpoint why, but there’s a sense that Scott gets close to the future, but it’s not quite right in little ways that interrupt the world. The net is still described as a very physical space in ways that seem awkward. It is still a place that people have to go to, not a place that we carry with us constantly, with our phones in our pockets. I don’t think it’s fair to judge science fiction for not being prescient, but when it’s about the near future and almost right it’s kind of unsettling.

That said, I still enjoyed it, because it is a cyberpunk novel with lesbians, and that is 1000% my jam. The supporting cast is mostly queer as well, and Scott repeatedly uses the word family to describe the relationship between the various tech world people who aren’t straight, which I really enjoyed. The idea of a queer community that’s unified like this is really appealing but unreal. It’s utopian really, which makes the dystopian aspects work better.

It’s a good adventure book, and it’s about my people. Very cool.

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

Do you ever read a book that seems like it was written just for you? Where you are the ideal reader, or close anyway? That’s what War of the Oaks was like for me. It’s about a Minneapolis girl who’s struggling to balance being in a rock’n’roll band, being a pawn in a faerie war, and being and happy. I am the target audience here.

It’s amazing it’s taken me so long to read this book — it’s been on my list for years, and the first time it was recommended to me I was amazed I hadn’t heard about it before.

I don’t have a lot to say about the plot — fairly standard urban fantasy that moves along nicely. I think I would have enjoyed this plot even if it had been set somewhere else, but it’s hard to say. Much of my pleasure came from the location. I love reading about the Cities. I love being able to place the action in places that I can picture, on roads that I’ve walked down. Downtown Minneapolis has changed since the late 80s, but much of that has happened recently. I remember Daytons and the old central library. Peavy Plaza is the same as always, and I think it makes perfect sense for faeries to meet there.

I loved this book. It felt like home — the magic, and the landscape. Bull creates a familiar yet beautiful adventure. You should absolutely read this book. For full effect I would recommend reading it while listening to Prince.