Review: Scandals of Classic Hollywood


Scandals of Classic Hollywood


2014 • 304 pages • Plume

I am more than tempted to launch into a modified rendition of one of Mean Girls’ most memetic quotes (“Anne Helen Petersen… how do I begin to explain Anne Helen Petersen?”), but it will suffice it to say that Petersen is one of my favorite writers in my field of dreams, media studies. While I focus more on fandom and Petersen literally has a PhD in celebrity gossip, we’re ultimately trying to answer the same questions—what are people getting out of the narratives that they consume and what does that say about our culture at large? Or, in Petersen’s words:

I think that at any point celebrities are indicative of what matters to us at a certain moment. The images are always either acting out or trying to shore up ideologies under threat. You can look at our stars and see the things we’re trying to, as a society, figure out, in terms of femininity and masculinity and race performance and sexuality. The way we talk about celebrities is so illuminating.

Continue reading

In Five Years’ Time

Whenever I see people’s letters to their younger selves, I instinctively recoil. Not because of them, but because of me. Writing a letter to my teen self would only be useful if I could somehow rig it to smack her upside the head, because Lord knows she wouldn’t believe me about the whole queer thing. She did, through a strangely fortuitous combination of luck and ignorance, make a lot of ultimately good choices, but that formative stage of my development is best left where it is—unexamined and lost to the sands of time. (Or at least the bowels of my iPhoto, where she lurks in hideously unflattering short haircuts.)

But, after a good long time and somehow all too suddenly, there is a past version of myself that I can actually bear reflecting on—the one that started this blog. Five years ago, I was in my first year of college, staving off clawing my cuticles to ribbons by brainstorming a book blog. I had little to no encouragement, but, while disheartening, that was ultimately alright. After all, I wasn’t starting it for someone else. I was starting it for me.

Since day one, I have considered this blog my living reading journal. Five years on, I’m a reader-response theorist and, thus, know that all readings are subjective and speak as much to the reader as to her material, but back then… I suspected it. A little. And that’s why I can go back to this iteration of myself: she suspected the things that have ultimately made me the woman I am today. And that woman is tied up in this blog, my reading, and the community I’ve found here.

It’s changed, of course—I’ve streamlined the features, redesigned the layout, and started reviewing films.  I’ve changed, too. I’ve grown as a writer, a critic, and a person. I’m an aunt now. I live in New York now. And I’m a part of something bigger now.

When I began book blogging, I did not expect to find the kind of community that I did, of smart, ferocious, and witty bloggers, eager to remake the world of speculative fiction in their own diverse image. While I don’t comment as much as I wish I did, I do appreciate each and every person who has been kind or interesting (or, amazingly, both!) over the last five years. To all y’all—bloggers, commenters, and nameless lurkers—I raise my glass.

Here’s to five years past, and here’s to five years more. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Page to Screen: Marie Antoinette (2006)


Marie Antoinette
based on Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser


2006 • 123 minutes • Columbia Pictures

“You know what?” I said to Captain Cinema after we finished up Marie Antoinette (the first new-to-me film viewed at our apartment; the first was, of course, the 2011 The Three Musketeers). “This would make a great double bill with Plunkett and Macleane.”

I actually say that exact sentence a lot, because I’m obsessed with the difficult to find Plunkett and Macleane after seeing it when it briefly streamed on Netflix. (A DVD copy of it may be my Christmas gift to myself this year, providing I can find a used one online.) The last time I said that, I was conceiving of a double bill of A Knight’s Tale and Plunkett and Macleane, since they both belong to one of my favorite microgenres—the willfully and purposefully anachronistic period film. Such films tend to be and far between on the scale that I prefer, to the point that I would occasionally threaten to watch A Knight’s Tale twice in a row in college and actively sought out Virgin Territory. Anything on the level of A Knight’s Tale and Plunkett and Macleane seems to be few and far between.

Continue reading

Review: The Mighty Thor — Volume 1


The Mighty Thor: Volume 1


2013 (originally published 1983 and 1984) • 232 pages • Marvel Comics

Fandom, as I warbled hoarsely to someone at a fan gathering on Saturday, is generated by the blank spaces in a text. (This is not my theory, but Michael Chabon’s.) It’s the storytelling part of that multipart impulse—to take seemingly disparate events and synthesizing them into a satisfying narrative. Nowadays, this usually occurs in the gift economy of fandom itself, due to the evolution of copyright law, but there are still avenues in copyrighted materials open for fans to make their narratives the narrative. You see this with any text that lasts long enough to eventually pull its creative contributors from a generation that grew up with it. There’s the recently disenfranchised Star Wars expanded universe, and lifelong Doctor Who fan Peter Capaldi is currently at the helm of the TARDIS.

Such is the story of Walter Simonson and his epic five year run on The Mighty Thor. I have only ever heard of this run talked about in hushed, reverent tones, as something that shows the full extent of comics’ unique marriage of text and art. So that makes the more mundane and more interesting story of how Simonson discovered Thor all the more interesting. Having discovered the comic while in college, it dovetailed neatly with his own interest in Norse mythology that his imagination was already at work before he realized it. He ended up writing his own version of events long before he was ever offered the opportunity to write and draw The Mighty Thor. And when that chance came, he was ready, recycling what could be used from that first foray into his new work.

Continue reading

Review: Who Cooked The Last Supper?


Who Cooked the Last Supper?


2001 (originally 1988) • 352 pages • Broadway Books

Who Cooked the Last Supper? is not the original title of Rosalind Mile’s formative women’s history text; that would be the American subtitle, The Women’s History of the World. For some reason, her publisher thought that American audiences would rather a slightly less dry title, even if the women who provided the Last Supper are not discussed in specifics (although they’re certainly covered in the abstract.) For some, this might be a turn-off, but I am of the opinion that whatever gets it into as many hands as possible is perfectly fine. (Nobody gets shamed for reading in this house.)

What that title also does is get across Miles’ quietly furious and deeply arch tone, with increasingly clever and occasionally vulgar punning as she digs deep into the last two hundred years of women’s history. I’m tempted to compare it to Bill Bryson’s affable and cozy work, but I find his humor frustratingly heteronormative, and he completely lacks Miles’ righteous and incandescent anger that boils over from time to time, especially in the later chapters. Miles knows her stuff so well that she’s able to find the humanity, humor, and outrage in all of these facts.

Continue reading

At The Movies: The Skeleton Twins (2014)


The Skeleton Twins


2014 • 93 minutes • Roadside Attractions

They say that your favorite incarnation of Saturday Night Live is the one you experienced in high school, when you were old enough to get the jokes and stay up that late, but not old enough to do anything else with your Saturday night. Despite my current quest to watch Saturday Night Live from the beginning (on hiatus until Captain Cinema’s screen is delivered to us) and my predilection for cooing over baby Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers at the beginning of their tenure, this has held true. I began watching the show when Hulu launched in 2007, and I retain a fevered fondness for the cast I started with—the aforementioned Poehler and Meyers, the always deliriously and sweetly weird Will Forte, the short-lived Casey Wilson, and Bill Hader.

Hader was such a fixture on the show that I only really became aware of him, despite appreciating his talents, when his now famous character Stefon started appearing on Weekend Update. (Stefon actually debuted in a proper sketch when Ben Affleck hosted in 2008.) That’s when I really started watching the show religiously, and I loved it. (I mean, I still love it, but you know what I mean.) When “my” cast members began leaving the show, I was always a little wistful, but Hader’s departure last year—complete with the epic Stefon wedding filmed sketch, which must be seen to be believed—was the first time I really missed a cast member. (Mercifully, Beck Bennett is picking up the pompous character slack, which I do appreciate.) Captain Cinema and I have delighted to see him intermittently in media (“Gosh, he looks so rested!” I distinctly remember texting Captain Cinema after he popped up on Saturday Night Live briefly), but The Skeleton Twins marked the first major post-Saturday Night Live project of his to come to fruition.

Continue reading

Review: Gossamer Axe


Gossamer Axe
by Gael Baudino


1990 • 351 pages • Roc

Gossamer Axe found its way onto my reading list after several commenters recommended it on a lesbian-focused installment of’s column Sleeps with Monsters, but, like a lot of older and more obscure speculative fiction on my list, it happens to be out of print. I despaired of getting my hands on a library copy. (In retrospect, I probably could have picked a copy online for quite cheap, but I have this allergy to paying for shipping.) But my despair was short-lived, because the universe immediately realized that a queer pagan feminist rock and roll fantasy novel from the eighties was practically my birthright. One of my friends found a copy at Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party in Atlanta (which I’ve still never been to!) and I immediately roared dibs.

Continue reading

Review: Relish


by Lucy Knisley


2013 • 192 pages • First Second

Despite my love of cooking, I don’t review cookbooks for this blog. There are a lot of reasons for that. Firstly, I don’t actually read that many of them, because the Internet is my main resource for recipes. Secondly, I don’t actually read them the way I consume media. I rifle through them, searching for something I like, and when I finally do alight on a likely candidate, my improvisation is brutal because of my lactose intolerance, laziness, and cheapness. When I look for a recipe for myself, it’s with the specific intent of making it my own.

But when I read food histories or food-centered memoirs, it’s a different story. I’m seized by the urge to recreate a historical dish, to better access the past through my sense of taste, or by the need to go find the pizzeria this book recommends and see if it’s really worth all the praise. Relish’s recipes and recommendations proved all the more tempting for author Lucy Knisley’s clear, clean, and bright artwork. I have bookmarked places to go eat in Chicago because of this book, and I have never been to Chicago nor plan to visit Chicago. I have an ear of corn in my fridge from the farmer’s market, ready for me to eat raw, per Knisley’s fond memories of doing so. I even copied her recipe for sautéed mushrooms down to the letter, but my stomach was being peculiarly tender and refused to digest it.

Continue reading