I decided that the quarantine was the optimal time to finally commit to watching Grey’s Anatomy, as it is a fifteen season ordeal and I wanted to find something to fill my time.
I have just gotten through season two, and it does not wait to get wild.
There is one married couple on the show who seems faithful. Dr. Bailey seems happy in her marriage, but no one else seems to know a damn thing about “till death do us part.” Dr. McDreamy, one of the main characters who we are supposed to like, cheats on his wife for the whole first season. Said wife, who we are also supposed to like also cheats. I am hard-pressed to think of a character who is honest with their partners.
Again, no one is having sex with people who they should be having sex with. Meredith and Cristina both sleep with their bosses. Everyone sleeps with their coworkers, bosses, and there are no consequences?
I know we’re supposed to hate Alex and everything, and then sympathize with him, but he is just the worst. He is a flagrant misogynist, he sexually harasses his coworker, and he disrespects patients. One episode that made him particularly distasteful to me is when he shames a woman who wants to get her tubes tied and not tell her husband. Then, he tells the woman’s husband to sue the doctor who did it, because she pissed him off. He’s insubordinate, an asshole, and he just is terrible. Booo.
Dr. Bailey is my Queen
Bailey is the one character who I actually like and trust. She is severe, but a great boss and teacher, and I love her. I am probably not going to watch this show anymore, but I love Dr. Bailey and she is worth the time I have spent on it.
I never like to judge a book on anything other than its own merit, but that becomes difficult when the writer has such a visible public persona. While Cazzie David isn’t necessarily a celebrity in her own right, she has a kind of adjacent fame, due to her father’s success and her relationship with Pete Davidson. David is also fairly young, which doesn’t mean her work is juvenile by default, but does give me pause. The point has been made that without her father’s fame, David would not have this book out, and I tend to agree. While No One Asked for This shows definite potential and some of the essays are worth reading, the book is sloppily cobbled together with essays of middling and low quality in addition to the more polished ones. I do think some of the essays are genuinely good and I did enjoy parts of the book. But when putting out essays they should be of uniform quality, and this ain’t it, chief.
In terms of the make up of the book, I would say 50% of the essays were totally intolerable, which automatically means I cannot recommend it in good conscience. 30% of the essays were decent, and 20% were excellent. I can only assume that David had to pad the book with some slapdash work, because her best efforts show a decent writer. It’s just disappointing to read something good, and then immediately be hit in the face with the written equivalent of a leaky garbage bag.
I am probably the closest thing to an ideal reader for this book: I am a mentally ill, Ashkenazi Jewish woman in her mid-twenties who enjoys comedy. That being said, I found some of David’s writing impossible to stomach and way more self-involved than self-exploratory. She exposes a lot of vulnerability, but without any artistic merit, it is completely superfluous and soulless. If you’re going to get deep, you have to draw something out of it, and it felt more like she was like, “Look! Look at my thorny pain!” Which is fine, but not especially interesting. I did find her anxiety relatable, but at some point an essay needs to be about more than just your feelings of dread. I also felt a little weird about her insistence that she didn’t want to take medication for her mental health, which was repeated throughout the book. Why? Medication is pretty great. She described herself as someone bowing under the weight of anxiety and depression in an alternating manner, which sounds pretty terrible when the alternative is going to the doctor and possibly some side effects.
The best essays in the book are “Mean Sister,” “Tweets I Would Tweet If I Weren’t Morally Opposed to Twitter: I,” “I Got a Cat for My Anxiety,” “Moving Out,” and “Erase Me.” The rest are either outright bad or mostly forgettable, so I would advise just checking the book out of a library and reading these ones. I did enjoy reading David’s depiction of her family, which seems about as eccentric as you’d expect. Her obligatory Pete Davidson essay was actually quite impressive- being the ex of a person who suddenly becomes Very Famous for dating someone Ridiculously Famous is a rare experience. I think it comes across that Davidson was deeply mentally ill, as was David. I don’t agree that it’s an unflattering depiction of Davidson or his ex-fiancé, pop star Ariana Grande. Frankly, given how David was treated by the media and Grande’s army of child fans, the way she writes about them is fair. Leaving an emotionally exhausting and unsteady relationship is a fair thing to do, and I think becoming more Famous by Relation than David was used to effected her a lot. Being a famous person’s kid is very different than being the ex-girlfriend of the fiancé of one of the most famous people in the world. Overall, I thought it was fine.
While I wasn’t overly impressed by No One Asked for This, I will keep an eye out for further writings by David. I think her work shows a lot of potential and I’m interested to see what is next for her.
Hamilton: An American Musical reignited interest in American founding father Alexander Hamilton, and has gotten a lot of attention from historians for somewhat inaccurate portrayals of historical events. Most interesting to some viewers, however, are the simplifications, and what has been left out of the personal narrative of the story of Alexander Hamilton. Here are a few notable changes the play made to history’s record.
Hamilton’s Early Life
While the play continually refers to Alexander as “an orphan, bastard, son of a whore and a Scotsman,” most of that isn’t strictly true. While Hamilton’s mother died when he was a teen, his father merely abandoned the family. Alexander and his father communicated at various times in his life, which does not support the play’s insinuation that Hamilton was entirely fatherless. Additionally, rather than being alone in the world after his mother and cousin’s deaths, Hamilton was taken in by a local merchant.
There are some additional details omitted from the musical- one of the larger ones being the existence of Hamilton’s older brother, James. Rachael Fawcett, the mother of both boys, was also not a sex worker. She was married off at sixteen, and left her husband and their son before beginning an extramarital relationship with James Hamilton, Sr. Rachael was a shopkeeper, and while her children were illegitimate, born of a man not her husband, she was a married woman and it is speculated that the reason for Hamilton Sr. deserting the family was to evade charges of bigamy.
The Schuyler Sisters
Three of the Schuylers take center stage in Hamilton, Angelica, Eliza and Peggy, but there are some notable omissions. At the time of Alexander and Eliza’s meeting, Angelica was already married, meaning she wouldn’t have been able to pursue Hamilton even if she had been interested. It’s also questionable as to whether Angelica actually had a romantic tendre for her brother-in-law. While it was rumored even at the time, Hamilton and Angelica spent the majority of their lives on different shores, so a physical affair is unlikely. There appears to have been a joke between Angelica and Eliza about sharing Hamilton as a husband, but it’s unlikely to have been more than that.
In the musical, Angelica says that she is the oldest Schuyler child, which is true, but the Schuylers were a lot more prolific than one might think given their portrayal in the show. The Schuylers were the parents of fifteen children, some multiple births. As was common to the time, only eight of those fifteen survived through childhood. There were five Schuyler sisters, with Angelica, Eliza and Peggy as the oldest. There were three sons who survived infancy, while in the musical Angelica claims to have no brothers. It is noteworthy that the Schuyler girls were devoted to each other, as depicted in Hamilton, and Eliza was incredibly dedicated to preserving her husband’s legacy and his works after his death, and to charitable works for widows, orphans and small children.
The Hamilton-Schuyler Children
Philip Hamilton, Eliza and Alexander’s firstborn, is the only child who we see in the musical, but the couple had many others. They had eight kids, the last being born after Philip’s death, and named for him. None of the couple’s children died before reaching adulthood, Philip was the only one to predecease his father. Additionally, after the revelation of Hamilton’s affair, Eliza left him and gave birth to their sixth child in Albany at her parents’ home. She only returned because Philip had become ill with typhus, and the two reconciled and had two more children. This reconciliation took place before Philip’s death, rather than in the aftermath and grief of his loss.
These alterations made to historical fact were likely implemented to smooth the story and remove extraneous details. As long as you don’t rely too much on the musical for historical fact, these changes don’t make too much of a difference, though they are interesting.
The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad is one of those weird books that started out as something else- while Birbiglia is a writer, he is probably best known as a stand-up comedian and an actor. He has had success in a variety of mediums, has authored multiple books, starred in films, and most recently, toured with the show this book is based upon, The New One. I was fortunate enough to see the show on its stop in Washington, DC, and it’s great to see in person, Like all of Birbiglia’s works, it is a deeply constructed, intensely intricate, uncomfortably intimate production. The book expands on those themes, featuring further stories and some poems by Birbiglia’s wife and writing partner, poet J. Hope Stein.
While I tend to distain further expansions of established works as money-grabs, The New One works on every level. Despite having watched the show once in person, and a second time when it became available on Netflix, the jokes still hit for me. Despite being familiar with the material, it still feels new, as it’s been refreshed by additional detail. The book is fundamentally about becoming a father, but doesn’t center fatherhood in the narrative of parenthood. Rather, Birbiglia centers his failure as a father, his failures to provide support, to connect with his wife and child, who have formed a unit. The book is about being a family, and how becoming a new kind of family is difficult. It is not just funny, like a lot of books by comedians, but Birbiglia’s work always has that undercurrent of existential dread, so that’s no surprise. The poems were occasionally quite profound, but the book would have benefited from truncating those sections a tad.
This book is well worth a read, especially if you’ve enjoy Mike Birbiglia’s other exploits. If you’re interested in The New One, you can view it on Netflix. The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad is also available wherever books are sold, or to check out from your local library. If you are buying it from Amazon, you can support us by using our affiliate link.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of the most retold stories, and there are numerous adaptations, retellings, and novels based on the story available for lovers of Elizabeth Bennett and William Darcy. Here are a few of my favorite versions of the classic novel.
Bride and Prejudice
This is one of my top films of all time, and for good reason. It’s a Bollywood style movie, filmed mostly in English. There are a million reasons to love it: the songs are catchy and amazing, it’s really funny, and the actors are top-notch. The casting is perfect, in particular Indira Varma, who I love in everything she does but perfectly encapsulates Kiran (Caroline Bingley) and her bitchy, classier-than-thou energy. The biggest star-power in the film comes from Naveen Andrews, best known for Lost, and Aishwarya Rai, who does not require any introduction. If you haven’t seen this movie, you have not lived!
The Lizzie Bennett Diaries
This cross-platform multimedia web series drew a lot of eyeballs when it first debuted, and if you’re looking for a slow-burn long-form P&P experience, this is for you. There are a hundred episodes on the main channel, and a lot of supplemental material for one looking to fully immerse in the world of Lizzie Bennett, communications grad student living at home, and tormented by her mother’s ambition to marry off her daughters to eligible Bing Lee, a young med student new to the neighborhood. I watched all of the vlog-style episodes as they were released, and have embarked on a rewatch this month.
Longbourn, by Jo Baker
This novel shows how the other half lives, telling the story of the domestic servants in the Bennett household as the events of Pride and Prejudice unfold. Housemaid Sarah, orphaned and lonesome, sees the world through fresh eyes, and experiences love, loss and triumphs of her own, in a life entirely different from the comparably privileged Bennett family.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith
While the whole monster adaptation thing got kind of out of hand, this book is actually a very enjoyable read. It’s a darker take on P&P, with the love story set against the backdrop of a zombie plague ravaging seventeenth century England. It’s gritty, sarcastic, angsty, and incredibly entertaining. It was made into a starkly mediocre movie, but the book really holds up and it a fun, unusual version of the tale.
Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
This novel follows the Bennett sisters in the modern-day, all single and with their mother desperate to see them married, especially as Jane is pushing forty. Jane hits it off with new neighbor Chip Bingley, but Liz has friction with Chip’s friend Fitzwilliam Darcy, who is less than charming. This book is sexy and surprising, plus it answers a lot of the questions Austen fans might have about a modern Elizabeth Bennett- does she want kids? Will she get married? Does she use Tinder? This novel is a heftier read than a lot of other similar books, but worth it.
These are some of the best Pride and Prejudices, but there are a million more! If you’re looking for a new favorite, The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley might be for you. It tells the story of Charlotte Collins, formerly Charlotte Lucas, discovering that love might overcome being sensible for the first time in her life. We’re giving away a paperback copy of The Clergyman’s Wife! To enter, all you have to do is like this post. You can also follow us to see giveaways for the rest of November!
This adorable manga chronicles the life of a manga artist and animal lover Hidekichi Matsumoto and her animals. Her dog, Inu, is an adorable fluff ball composed entirely of enthusiasm and sunshine, and her cat Neko is an equally cute but insidiously diabolical feline.
This book is pretty much what it sounds like, most panels depicting the trials and joys of a multi-pet household. It’s just so inherently joyful- a really laugh-out-loud read full of relatable moments for people who love animals. Some of the funniest panels are the ones which cast Neko, a domestic house cat, as a demonic creature hell-bent on emotional manipulation. Inu is primarily characterized as a sweet dumb baby, though both animals are written and drawn so lovingly, even when they are clearly actively impeding Matsumoto in daily tasks.
The art style is very distinct, and Matsumoto switches it up in a few places, which keeps the manga visually interesting and overall a pleasant reading experience. I do tend to have low expectations for books about my favorite topics, but this one blew me away! I laughed, I teared up, I flipped back to look at panels so I could enjoy them again. I cannot recommend With a Dog AND a Cat, Every Day is Fun enough. Once you read one, you’ll be as ravenous as Neko.
With a Dog AND a Cat, Every Day is Fun, volume 1can be purchased wherever books are sold. You can support the artist by following her on twitter, where she posts this series.
Katherine Ryan is best known as a comedian and actress, for her work with Netflix and appearances on British panel shows. Since April, Ryan has been releasing a podcast called Telling Everybody Everything, which is basically what it sounds like. She shares her life with her fans, in a slightly more vulnerable and real tone than she typically uses for her public persona and on stage. She has had several moving episodes, including one on pregnancy loss, but this week she really stepped in it, and seemed conscious of doing so.
Ryan begins by saying that she got some flack for saying something positive about an MLM on social media, and that she doesn’t understand the hate for MLMs online. She then begins by calling her younger sister Carrie, who has had experiences with MLMs. “I’m not a fan,” Carrie says, saying that she likes the products but doesn’t like MLM culture. “They- it’s a group of like really super positive people, and they’re like ‘slide into people’s DMs’.” She doesn’t love the hard sell. Carrie doesn’t sell, she just uses the products, and she says that it is expensive to try.
Katherine shares some warnings against MLMs that she has found, to be balanced. 1) Social relationships can be ruined by MLM recruitment drive 2) the market can be oversaturated 3) MLMs use feminist language to push a #girlboss narrative. She then goes on to talk about the many Latine families who have lost their savings to Herbalife, including selling their businesses to invest. Ryan essentially victim-blames these families, saying “I don’t think anyone’s asking you to sell your construction business.”
Then, Katherine rings up a friend in an MLM, Amy, a friend who is an MLM-made millionaire. Amy is basically exactly the MLM demographic- she’s a mom, who started in MLMs young, and then found one she could get in on early enough to actually make money. She is also charismatic and friendly enough to get people to join her downline and buy products from her. She admits that she did fail, over and over, in various MLMs. She and her husband agreed she would stop, because she kept losing money, and then she decided to get into another MLM as a distributor anyway. She claims that she was successful because she worked when no one else would have- when she was on bedrest while pregnant (should anyone have to work on bedrest while pregnant just to be successful? Because civilized countries have maternity leave). Amy provides the usual MLM platitudes, saying that the “the difference is the mindset.” She claims that other people aren’t successful in their MLMs because they don’t think big enough. Amy basically uses all of the MLM party lines, and even reiterates the MLM-is-a-business-model-not-a-scam shtick. She even compares her experience to Ryan’s stand up career, which Ryan agrees with. Amy says that her success doesn’t come from getting in early, but from being ready for the opportunity, more MLM language. When asked, Amy confirms, “I 100% believe that this could be for anyone- there’s no requirement for getting into network marketing.” Except to shell out money for the products and starter kits. I’m not going to keep transcribing all of what Amy says, rest assured that she’s exactly who you think she is, albeit very friendly-sounding. At the end, Ryan offers Amy some time to promote the business book she has coming out? Seems like all of this was to help a friend promote her scam business, but okay, go off.
Ryan purchasing or supporting a friend in an MLM doesn’t make her a bad person, but promoting MLMs to her audience is harmful. Ryan does compare her work to MLMs, even though selling items through a pyramid scheme is very different than developing a talent. Basically, this is a bad take, and I really hope that no one is going to join an MLM based on her recommendation. I normally am a big fan of her work, and it’s disappointing that she didn’t do her research in-depth and relied on anecdotal evidence.
If you’re interested in further information about MLM scams, YouTuber Savy Writes Books has a great anti-MLM playlist.
We’ve all seen some iteration of this plot: older person and younger person, doomed love, triumph over adversity, and acceptance. Sometimes, it ends badly, sometimes, it ends in a wedding. It is a problematic, destructive plot device that needs to stop being portrayed as sexy and cool. In some cases, it’s a crime, in others, merely immoral or unethical. However, the May-December romance between young adults and teens being portrayed as hot and dynamic only perpetrates relationship norms that hurt young people.
One of the best instances of this trope being played out is on Pretty Little Liars, with the main characters Aria and Ezra. Their relationship begins when Ezra supposedly does not know Aria is underage, though it is later revealed that he did know. He is also her teacher. While they acknowledge that their age difference is only six years, it is made clear that their relationship must remain a secret, or Ezra could go to jail. The thing is, the show wants you to root for their relationship. The fans loved it, and the creators built on that. Never mind that Ezra had other serious relationships before Aria, and she’s a sixteen year-old-girl. Never mind that he is a college graduate, and in a position of power over her. The show makes their love something you want to root for, and there’s the problem. Ezra could have easily been an excellent villain- their relationship isolates her from her friends and family, because she has to lie about it. Aria comes from an unstable family, with parents mostly tuned out of her life. A strong connection with someone older and stable would be very tempting to someone like that, even with strings attached. Young men and women from broken homes are also more likely to engage in risky sexual and romantic behavior. Aria was an at-risk youth, and she got taken advantage of. The fact that the show validates their relationship by literally having them get married at the end is horrifying. In the books, Ezra is rightfully run out of town in shame when their relationship is exposed.
More recently, season one of Riverdale had its own student-teacher romance. Ms. Grundy, a young music teacher, had a summer fling with the main character, Archie Andrews. Again, Archie is a young person looking for his place in the world, and for validation. It is expressed that Archie “got hot” over the summer working for his dad’s construction crew, and Ms. Grundy is the first person to express interest in his new physique. She also fulfills his need for recognition when she nurtures his musical talent. The writers couldn’t seem to decide how we were supposed to feel about this relationship. Betty, Archie’s childhood friend, thought it was wrong, but when she tried to snoop, she was condemned by her friends. Obviously, breaking into someone’s car is bad, but the show tried to make us feel sympathy for Ms. Grundy by revealing that she had been a victim of domestic abuse. Their scenes together are lit rosily and underscored with romantic music. Here’s the problem: the whole subplot could have been easily made less problematic with some subtle changes. Ms. Grundy, having escaped an abusive situation, is looking for relationships where she can be in control, i.e. minors. Being the adult in the relationship gives her the power, and that could have been made more overt. Ms. Grundy is murdered, so it could be argued that the writers and the show were condemning her predatory behavior, but it was still a bad story-line, and this time, the fans did not approve.
Another instance of this ick factor is in the relationship between Lex Luthor and Lana Lang in Smallville. Unlike the other story lines, I don’t think this one was in any way salvageable. The entirety of it made me want to throw up. There is a significant age difference, Lana is only fifteen when she meets Lex for the first time. He is also a business associate and friend of her aunt’s. At the time of their meeting, Lex was twenty-one. When they begin their relationship, Lana is about nineteen or twenty, as she would have been starting her sophomore year of college. Lana is the poster child for abandonment, and it shows. She seeks out stable, loving relationships with commitment. This wouldn’t be a bad thing, except that in season four she begins a relationship with Jason Teague, a sophomore in college, so between nineteen and twenty. With Lana still in high school, and Jason later getting an assistant coach position at said high school, their relationship was incredibly questionable. Jason picks up and moves to Smallville without consulting Lana, and this puts pressure on their relationship. He also lies to her, manipulates her, and isolates her from her friends. Sound familiar? Lana claims to be a mature adult, but her relationships are actually incredibly volatile, and Lex is no exception. There are multiple points in the season where Lana clearly doesn’t trust Lex, and it’s also clear that she clings to him because of the stability he represents. He has a home, a job, a life. Lex is an adult, and that’s what Lana likes about him. He also loves her, while she doesn’t love him, which gives her a kind of power in the relationship. Lex manipulates Lana, lies to her, and controls her life through a couple different ways. Once she moved into the mansion, it becomes worse. He monitors her comings and goings, puts a camera up in her room without informing her, and even fakes a pregnancy in order to trap Lana into being with him. Lex is in his mid twenties, he’s rich, he’s powerful, and he uses those assets to control his girlfriend. While Lex does not try to separate Lana from Chloe or Lois, his relationship with her is isolating. She can’t confide in her friends, because she knows Lex is manipulating her.
Unhealthy relationship dynamics in TV are interesting, but the mentor-mentee or student-teacher relationship becoming romantic is not. It’s gross, it’s immoral, and it’s creepy. Let’s hope creatives can find some new taboo to write about.
Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell came out in 2013, and has remained popular in the years since. Rowell has been the darling of the young adult world, with her 2015 follow-up Carry On, and its sequel Wayward Son, as well as a number of graphic novels for Marvel and other works.
Be that as it may, a Fangirl manga seemed a bit a of a stretch to me. The book came out seven years ago, and though it remains popular, not every book needs a graphic adaptation. I was a big fan of the book, but haven’t reread it since 2015, so I decided to give the first volume a shot to see how it holds up.
The art is beautiful, for a start. Character design is on point, Cath and Wren in particular stand out as well drawn, easily differentiated both by their minor physical dissimilarities and by their body language and expressions. Reagan was one of my favorite characters in the novel, and she is really well portrayed here. Levi looked a little different than I expected, but his facial design is so open and smiley that it perfectly captures his character.
I think this adaptation really captures the mood of the novel, which is generally pretty gloomy and lonely, with some lighter moments and humor. I think the manga really conveyed the loneliness Cath feels, and her emotional state as she tries to transition to college life without the support she needs. Cath still comes across as very sympathetic, even as her flaws are easier to understand through a visual medium. I think the adaptation to manga actually adds quite a bit to the perspective the reader has on the story, and is a very enjoyable read. For me, it really held up, and reading it again reminded me of all of the things I liked about it. I would recommend picking up the first volume, at least to see if it’s for you.
Fangirl, Vol, 1: The Manga comes out on October 13, 2020, and can be purchased wherever books are sold, or borrowed from your local library. You can also buy it using our Amazon affiliate link, which supports this blog.
Naomi Novik has been the darling of fantasy in the last few years, with her best-selling award winners Uprooted and Spinning Silver, but she’s bit off a new challenge this year with A Deadly Education, the first of the Scholomance trilogy.
While Novik is known for her spell-binding fantasy, this book brings a surprising amount of social commentary to the mix. Novik’s protagonist, El, is one of thousands of young wizards ensconced in a mechanical marvel of a school reminiscent of Howl’s moving castle. The haves in this case are “enclavers” young wizards from prominent or established families who belong to an enclave, a wizard community. The have-nots are pretty much everyone else, wizards from all over the world who are less well-connected, and less prepared for the trials of wizarding life. Isolated from the world, these teenagers must survive nearly constant attack by maleficaria, monsters with the fervent wish to consume tasty wizardlings.
El is a have-not, a girl used to being disliked. She has no one but her mother, a healer who could have her pick of enclaves but chooses to live apart. El is just looking for her best shot to impress the enclaves, and with her particular power, she knows that a show of force would get her the moon. She did not plan on being aggressively befriended by the class golden boy, who suspects her of a kind of magical corruption. El is eminently likable, a character with a short fuse and an observant nature. While she is closed-off from others, she has a big heart and a huge capacity for love, just little opportunity to exercise it. She is a great view into a world teeming with complexity and potential. It’s also great to have a female character who isn’t a missish teen with a hero complex- El isn’t out to save the world, and she has a realistic, if a little cynical, view of things. She’s a sweet little prickly hedgehog and I adore her.
The world Novik is building here is beautiful and interesting, although the book indulges a little too much in exposition towards the front end, by the halfway point, any reader will be on edge to find out if El will survive junior year. The book also leaves some lovely tension about El’s destiny to keep you excited for her next adventure.
A Deadly Education is out on September 29, 2020. You can buy it anywhere books are sold, or borrow it from your local library. If you are buying it off of Amazon, you can do so using our affiliate link.