Thursday, July 20, 2006

some fictional gossip

When Betsy moved back to Brooklyn last month - which, by the way, was one of the best things to happen ever - I went over to her new place and hung out while she unpacked. Randomly among her books was My So-Called Life Goes On, which is exactly what it sounds like: not a mere novelization of the TV show, but a "novel based on the characters from the award-winning television series!" (Not a mash up of My So-Called Life and Life Goes Onthat might be worth reading.) I started reading it mostly by accident, and was about 80 pages in before I knew what was happening – though this says very little about its quality, there are about eight words on each line. So now I know what happened to Angela and Rayanne and Jordan et al the summer after the show ended, at least according to the limp prose and lame imagination of one Catherine Clark. The answer? Not much, but what there is, is stupid. For example, Brian Krakow loses his virginity to Rayanne's mom (yes, he really does), Ricki Vasquez is still in love with ambiguously gay boy Corey Helfrick (he of the rainbow-painted shoes, see episode #17), and, OMG, for about 5 minutes Sharon Cherski thinks she's pregnant.

Inspired by this delicious badness, I started to write about punk rock YA novels (loosely defined) for last month's Bookslut column, but various things got in the way and what I'd written was too craptastic to do anything with. I read a bunch of newer books for that column though, including Frank Portman's King Dork and Rockstar Superstar by Blake Nelson.* I was thinking about how so many of the books I really connect with are punk rock-ish coming of age stories, and how you might expect less traditional gender roles or breakdowns in these semi-subcultural settings. Oh well. Many of the books with boy protagonists are populated by blow job-happy teenage girls, while the boys are obsessive music nerds and care mostly about their bands. In books with girl protagonists, the girls are more likely to be angry and bad ass (see Rose of No Man's Land and Manstealing for Fat Girls), the boys mostly sensitive and dorky (see Thumbsucker, the movie). Both are outcasts, but of different kinds. Maybe the girls have more to prove. And it seems like these books with boy protagonists are loved by kids and "adults" of both genders, but the stories that follow a girl's high school travails are much less likely to be picked up by boys. I'm totally generalizing here, obviously...

I read Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir by Joe Meno (of the amazing Hairstyles of the Damned) a couple of weeks ago, and it was one of the best short story collections I've read. I have a copy of his upcoming book from Akashic, The Boy Detective Fails, which I'm trying to save for my vacation. But its hard - the title alone kills me. Right now I'm reading Adverbs by Daniel Handler, and it is beautiful, a book about Christian rock called Body Piercing Saved My Life by Andrew Beaujon and Bitchfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine. On the back burner are The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Keret and Joan Didion's The White Album. Next up are the anthologies This Is Not Chick Lit and A Fictional History of the United States With Huge Chunks Missing. Yes - this is what it looks like when I try to "reduce" the amount of books in my apartment. I did give my parents two boxes to stash in their attic so I'd have room on my shelves for incoming school books, but somehow others have already taken their place. It's truly a sickness.

**a lil Blake Nelson footnote: his first book was 1994's Girl. It was written in the rambling first-person style that makes teenage girls sound kinda dumb, but its descriptions of music and sex and groupie-dom rang too true for me to take it for granted. It was later turned into a predictably terrible movie, but I still love the book. Nelson's second book - Exile - was about a guy being a writer-in-residence at some college, doing a lot of coke and fucking his students. It was dumb. Apparently he wrote a third one, called User, also about boys and drugs. When I looked him up online for column background purposes, I found out that more recently he's written several YA books, a couple with titles like Prom Anonymous and The New Rules of High School (and obviously Rockstar Superstar, which was basically a boy-centric Girl, but flatter and much less interesting).

The Sassy magazine mix: Sebadoh "On Fire," PJ Harvey "C'mon Billy," Joan Jett "Bad Reputation," Liz Phair "6'1"," Buffalo Tom "Soda Jerk," The Lemonheads "The Outdoor Type," Teenage Fanclub "Your Love is the Place That I Come From," American Music Club "American Music," Matthew Sweet "Sick of Myself," Juliana Hatfield "Choose Drugs," The Breeders "Cannonball," Cibo Matto "Beef Jerky," Lucious Jackson "Angel," REM "Try Not to Breathe," Ben Lee "How to Survive a Broken Heart," Portishead "It's a Fire," Daniel Johnston "Come See Me Tonight."

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