Progress Report August 2021: A Brief Interlude

In August, I accomplished a lot of writing:

  • I outlined part four, re-drafted chapter 1, and began on chapter 2
  • I revived my old Tumblr as a place for research notes and links I want to write long-form essays about
  • I finished my two-part post about my decision to get the snip, and
  • I started a word bank journal to keep the creative juices flowing (it’s in a Karst notebook!)

Because I’ve already talked about the falling action and what that means, I thought I’d take a break from discussing writing and post about what I’ve been reading for the last few months. Though you can keep up with what I read on GoodReads, I don’t always remember to log the dates of when I read something or as I’m reading something on GoodReads and just put the book in my Read list after I’m done with it. So while it looks like I only read 4 books this year, I’ve actually read closer to 20. I also don’t leave reviews on GoodReads, just star ratings lest I get into petty squabbles (on the goddamn internet) with author stans. I’d rather use GoodReads as a tracker and a reminder of what I read, what I liked it, what I didn’t like, and what I felt middling about.

Here’s a very small sampling:

Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs by Dave Holmes: Dave was my favorite MTV VJ in high school. He seemed so easy-going and relaxed around celebrities and pop stars, and he kept his cool amongst throngs of screaming teenaged girls when he hosted TRL. I read excerpts from his memoir a few years ago, but didn’t buy it then. What propelled me this time was when I saw Dave pop up as an interviewee in the HBO doc, Music Box: Woodstock ‘99 and remembered I needed to read it.

In his memoir, Dave talks about growing up in a loving, but repressed Irish Catholic home in the ‘70’s. His love of music comforts him as he comes to understand his sexuality. He comes out in college, finds and loses his first love, moves to New York, gets a job in advertising, and finally hears about the casting call at MTV for the Wanna Be A VJ contest…where he comes second to Jesse Camp. But honestly, that’s not the most interesting part. It’s his time at MTV and afterward that’s the most fascinating. Definitely worth the read.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden: This is a Russian folktale, and boy is it Russian. The whole book is cold — there’s snow, there’s death, there’s a bitter, crazy, religious step-mother, there’s vodka, and of course there’s a wandering spirit haunting a young woman. I shivered the whole time I read it, not just because of the chilly winter atmosphere but because of the beautiful, lush descriptions. Katherine Arden knows how to write narrative.

Yet despite this, I found myself unattached to the story as a whole. The characters didn’t hook me and I didn’t care for the plot. Maybe I’m just not into Russian folklore. Or maybe I’m just not into folklore, period. Regardless, I didn’t care for it or it’s sequel. I’m not going to bother with the third book. Much respect to the author and the fans, but it isn’t for me.

White Feminism: From the Suffragettes to Influencers and Who They Leave Behind by Koa Beck: Holy shit, talk about a game changer. If you’re looking for feminist reading material then this better be on your e-reader. Written by a queer woman of color, this book examines the destructive impact of “white feminism.” And if the term “white feminism” makes you uncomfortable, I’d suggest you read this book.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway I got from this book was how quickly white feminists (note: I am white and a feminist) side with capitalism before anyone’s best interests. From the second wave feminists in the 1970’s shifting the focus of their platform from poverty and racism to the ERA to the absurd Lean-In, #GirlBoss corporate culture today. What this book doesn’t do is offer any easy answers — partly because there aren’t any, but also because it’s not up to Black women to clean up the mess white women caused. The whole book is a hard pill to swallow, and one I made dozens of highlights in.

Hmm, what else? Oh yeah. I’ve been reading a lot of smut lately.

What? I’m 37. You think I’m embarrassed to admit this? C’mon.

In my younger days, I read romance novels — the bodice-ripper variety. This was how I figured sex worked until the Starr Report came out. But now that I’m older, I don’t have time for romance. All of that plot stuff that happens between the sex scenes? Get that out of here. I know what I’m here for, book, stop pretending you don’t.

I told that to my friend, and she smiled. “I’ve got just the books for you,” she promised:

Ice Planet Barbarians series by Ruby Dixon: Ok, this is exactly what I’m talking about. This is the perfect series for someone who just wants to read erotica and not take it seriously. There is some overarching plot (women are stranded on some ice planet and have to fuck aliens to stay alive…don’t think to much about it), but mostly it’s just a string of sex scenes tied together with some science fiction. Where the books lose me is when they get a bit too science fiction-y (enter space ships and little green men) and when all the women get pregnant and start cooing over babies. My childfree-ness kicked in and I got bored.

The Markham Hall series by Sierra Simone: Let’s kick this erotica up a notch and add 1. BDSM (done better than Fifty Shades, though it has some questionable politics) and 2. A Victorian England backdrop. Though the plot is pretty by-the-numbers by erotica standards – Ivy Leavold is a penniless orphan taken in by a rich man who opens up her world with sex and discipline — I found myself getting invested in it despite my attempts not to. Though I did not like some of the sub/dom scenes (not because I’m against that kink, I just thought they weren’t written well and consent wasn’t acutely established), I did like the series over all. There’s a bizarre, Victorian group sex scene that I liked even though it was hilarious, and a three-way done right. So yeah, good series.

Be sure to check out any of the books I’ve recommended above, follow me on GoodReads, Tumblr, or follow me here. The rest of social media can take a long hike into the deep woods.