Monday, July 31, 2006

I'm in love with a young adult novel character.

after all this teen novel reading, I’ve finally fallen for one. I’m not sure if it means I’m a hopeless romantic, or if all this time I’ve been reading serious dick-lit like Murakami and James Joyce, I should have been reading Chick-lit, but I am in love with a character in a book. Mind you, I’ve been in love with characters in books before, I think. I know I was in love with Peter Pan. I think Marcus Flutie, the love interest of the narrator, Jessica Darling, of Sloppy Firsts, is a little like Peter Pan. Elusive, sexy, a little too unavailable.
The book itself, Sloppy Firsts, was, before I was smitten with Marcus, still the best written of any of this stuff, primarily because Jess is not supposed to be a typical teenager, nor is the book written with the condescension that most of these books have. Instead, Jess is a bitter and painfully observant person, stuck in a close minded middle class suburb in New Jersey. She reminds me of me, stuck in High School in San Jose. I didn’t get anyone, no one got me. I didn’t even get me until I got out of San Jose and moved to LA and met other people who thought complete thoughts. Which isn’t really fair: this is a novel, and a romance at that, so the high school football hero wants to sleep with Jess Darling, and I didn’t even know who the high school football hero was in my high school, until he tried to fuck me at my ten year reunion. I was so much in my own world, and still am that even in high school, when I could have been awed by people I wasn’t interested in, I didn’t even know who they were if they weren’t sort of dorky and funny.

Which goes back to my obsession with this character. It’s INSANE. I want him to be a real person, but then again, he wouldn’t love me, if he were. He’s a redhead, for fucks sake. Okay, I’ll stop obsessing. I just wish anyone this cool ever existed. I think maybe he did, in my life, several times around, and that’s why I’m feeling so much like I’m in love right now, because reading this is a reminder of what it was like to feel that way and how it is possible. But it’s also freaking me out. I remember my first “boyfriend” if you could call him that, Scott Simmons, who I didn’t even really like, but he was skater, and tall and blond, so fits the prototype telling me I want everything to be like it’s in a book, which was kind of true, then, books were all I knew, and true now, because I’m in love with a character in a book! Who doesn’t exist, but is the Anne prototype. It’s so freaky. But it also made me remember what I want to be with and is setting my sights on a type who doesn’t even exist a little unrealistic? I think I’m nuts. But it’s nice to have a crush, even if it’s on an imaginary person.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Books for Boys (and men) have no feelings

Given, Cirque Du Freak is a book for younger boys than most of the teen lit i've been reading. It probably falls aroud the 5th to 8th grade range and most of the Gossip Girls books would be about 7th-9th grade, although Princess Dairies, and even the Travelling Pants books would be read a little younger, but maybe that's because they are sweeter. Still I could see a boy at 12 enjoying Cirque Du Freak while his twin read Princess Diaries.

Maybe this is because boys mature later, but I think maybe it's because boys don't care about love or sex or people as much as they care about sports and adventure, and at age 12 they're a little more honest about it and less a slave to their biology than they are at 14, when they still care more about sports and cars and whatever it is than about love or sex, but their bodies keep reminding them to think about girls. That's why boys don't read romances, (or Gossip Girl) they watch sports, play video games and read comics. While the sports and the video games are about doing something the comic books are also about being or becoming something stronger and more powerful. sure comics have hot chicks in underpants, but they only get a panel or two.

Cirque du Freak fits this catagory, along with Raymond Chandleresque cold male writing. Darren Shan (who is also supposedly the writer, as in "this is a true story. you're reading my diary" sort of rubbish. the writer's real name is Darren O'Shaugnessy) is about fourteen, good at soccer, good at school and likes his family. He cares most about soccer, which he scores the most points at during lunchtime than any of the other kids, but he also likes spiders, comic books, and his little sister. He's kind of sweet and treats his family well, a thing not seen too often in teen books.
It's funny that this is another one of the successful series of books. Many of them in the top 150 (i think they even do better in the UK and in Ireland, where O'Shaugnessy is from) because i thought they were a little boring.
but boys like stories of talent, which the character of darren has in both spider taming and in soccer, and then gets turned into a vampire.

do kids really want to be vampires?
they don't have a fear of flying or getting old yet. they don't know how much it sucks to have to get a job or deal with complicated issues. even things that seem hard as a teenager don't seem like they'd make you want to be a vampire.

but darren gets turned into a half vampire, fakes his death and that's where the story ends. even though i thought it was boring, i'm still a little interested to see where it goes. what happens to him now that he's a vampire. and the vampires aren't all hot and sexy like spike and angel and dru on buffy; the vampire is just old.

lost time

It turns out reading Proust isn’t as easy as reading a teen novel. It turns out Proustian scholars use big words and I have to stop reading and look them up. I spent some two hours (with interruptions) with Swann’s Way yesterday and got (including the introduction with the big words) all the way to page nine of the book.
Then again, it is Proust, and unless you kind of fall into it like a dream, there’s not a lot going on. I mean I’m ten pages in and he’s still discussing the nature of falling asleep, dreaming, thinking he’s awake, thinking he’s awakening as a child, or as an adult or as an older adult. Sure it’s tricky and it’s the nature of the book, in a thoughtful way, yet there isn’t a whole lot going on. By page ten of the gossip girls, someone had gotten drunk or almost had sex.
Then again, In Search of Lost Time isn’t really that different than the Gossip Girls: rich people drink and sleep around and care about surface things like cloths and appearances. The main diffence is In search is ALL inner life and the Gossip Girls is NO inner life.

Is it possible for a human to have no inner life? My friend’s brother once bashed two of his previous girlfriends by saying they had no inner sense of irony. I’m not sure if that was an accurate description of those people, but it could have been.

We can never know what anyone else's inner life is, because in order for them to express it, it then becomes outer life.

Proust writing about his life is taken by his inner thoughts, but as soon as it hits the paper, it's outside of him. Certainly me reading his books a century after he conceived of them, has nothing to do with his inner life and much more to do with a public perception that his actions of describing his inner life is a seminal change in literature which changed fiction (and now non-fiction memoir crap) into what we think of the modern novel. Virgina Woolf, in her diaries, cites reading Swann's way as the catalyst that helped her to understand how and why she was writing To the Lighthouse, but maybe I'm wrong now I can' t find where I read that.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Princess Diaries Magic for Boys

In the volume of teen garbage I’ve read in the last few weeks, reading Be More Chill was all around refreshing. Not to say that it’s that ground-breaking, everything that happens to Jeremy Heere is like every other generic teen novel situation: mean girls are mean to Jeremy, he tried to talk to object of lust only to lose her to alpha male type, his friend and he do geeky things, he goes to the mall, he fights with parents who don’t understand him and he goes to a party and feels over his head. Major variations to the archetype theme are in that: a) he actually talks to the girl regularly, b) his parents are kind of cool and he likes them and c) he gets a microchip that makes him cool.

The microchip, called a “squip,” can be bought from an Asian guy who you meet at Payless Shoe Source (not the one, or the other, but the third, in the mall across from the second Sam Goody—a joke not only about the prevalence of shitty stores, but stealing from Best in Show) and taken in the back room with a Mountain Dew. The squip can be used for things like the SAT, Jeremy’s friend’s brother did, or be used to make you not cooler—cool is an outdated form of slang, the squip says—More Chill.

Okay, like everything else in this world, the squip is an easy way out, a liposuction, a cheat sheet. It’s also a device: a what if you got to be who you want to be? How much better would that make you?

In Jeremy’s case, it works. He stands up straight. He kisses some girls and gets to touch their nipples, which is better than internet porn (now the thing the squip says girls know if you masturbate, but do all dudes get off to internet porn? It’s hard to say, because everyone I know who talks about it is about as cool as Jeremy Heere, just older.) but still things are a bit of a mess. He’s not getting the chick he likes, and not actually getting laid.

The squip itself is a funny concept, if we stay away from the obvious abuses of technology storylines, because the squip doesn’t change Jeremy. It’s more like it goads him into being the person he wishes he would be if he weren’t such a chickenshit. The squip doesn’t secretly know what is cool and tell him to do that, it make him watch TV, for god’s sake, because from watching TV is where the squip will learn what acceptable modes of dressing and behaving are, find out which music is good, and learn to identify attractive women. This is further made interesting by the idea that the squip learns from “Dismissed,” (is this a real tv show? I know shows like this exist; I don’t know what they are called. I thought one was called elimidate.) a show where one guy goes out with two girls and eventually tells the other one to take off. Well, although the people on this show all look like they’re Bay Ridge Guidos and the women act like white trash ‘hos, the idea of basing images of beauty on them is a little bit freaky, and kind of brilliant.
And the squip doesn’t make Jeremy better looking, it just tells him to do a push up everytime he sees someone on tv with a built fit body (clearly not watching the King of Queens or the rest of the stack of fat-man-inspiring sit coms where the fat loser is married to the hot wife. Or ads for beer, potato chips or Wal-Mart, for that matter, where the marketing people don’t want the money providing mad to feel out of his league while using their product.) He has to do a sit up, and every time he sees a skinny dude with a big head he can eat an Oreo. Well, that’s not such a bad idea. I know dudes think they have it rough in high school because they’re not so fit, but there’s not a lot wrong with being skinny (my brother, in his early thirties, after almost getting in a bar fight, decided to learn to box, so maybe it haunts you forever.) but at least it’s not American-Super-Size Fat, and doing a few pushups a day is good for everyone’s body and psyche. (Maybe I’ll do ten now.) (back.) Almost all of the thoughts that come to Jeremy from the squip are pretty obvious things he would be aware of if he were more observant. If it were that easy to be cool, he could have been cool if only he were more courageous. Which is a big question, the squip tells him what to do, but most of us know what to do at most times, we just don’t have the balls to do it. And most of us know that most things people do don’t really matter: we believe in them if they have balls while doing them.
In the end, of course, it turns out that the squip tells him to do something so outrageously pony that I cringed while reading the book. Every self respecting sixteen year old would know it would be social death, yet he does it anyway, convinced it would work.
The squip the apologetic little dude, tells him to drink some more mountain dew and it will flush him straight out.
Of course a computer chip can’t actually help someone be cool, not in a novel. That wouldn’t be too sweet now would it? But still, it’s well written and observed. I appreciated its lack of condescension. I think Ned Vizzini is pretty young so probably has a better grip on what it is to be fifteen than me, but at least teenagers aren’t total morons, except for the whole thinking anyone on Dismissed could be attractive.

there's a lot of pop culture references here, to other books of the sort, like mia in
the princess diaries he's a loser who gets a magic out. the mountain dew/marketing schtick that the squip is a beta made by Sony sounds like Syrup by Maxx Barry (it also has the cute mtv writerlyness about it. none of those heavy handed literary references that i'm getting in all the teen books that the writers leave as clues to other adult readers to indicate that they are secretly not as bad as a teen novelist.)

Lost Time?

do you think if i spent as much time, say the first 3 hours of my day, reading something worthwile instead of daydreaming or reading teen lit i would have finished in search of lost time by now?

maybe that's my new plan

Sunday, July 23, 2006

sticks and stones

something about this makes me think of the three little pigs.

i think someone lives in this old warehouse on union

one of the things that is best about running in brooklyn is all the things you see that you wouldn't ever notice. it helps to have a camera/cellphone/ipod with you at all times so that you can capture all the beauty of graffiti.

This spot is special becasue of what should be ugly: the gawanus canal and a bunch of industrial buildings, on union street, because the colors, especially on a wet morning like today, are so vibrant and beautiful. the seafoam green of the railings, iridescent water in the canal, red bricks of the buildings all work together.

plus, at this little spot, a warehouse that someone must live in, because although it looks like it is abandoned, this is a tended flower garden.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Do teens think this garbage is good?

doing all the teen reading that i am, i have to remember that all these books are written by adults. some of them, like the gossip girl and a-list books are written clearly by smart people who would be writing something else if it paid. but at the point of The Dating Game it's all quite gone to pot. after the premise of GossipGirl, using the gossip website to bookend chapters and narrate, Little,Brown (and Natalie Standiford)has created a slightly more normal high school with more average students, where the premise is now a sex website with cosmo like quizes and personals. in some ways these teenagers are more believable: they're really young and a bit stupid. running around to parites at houses with out parents, chasing boys who would never talk to them, and worrying not so much about protecting virginity and making sex special or even rock star, but just getting experience and losing virginity. One of the main characters, Holly, has huge tits which she both uses and regrets. Yet, while she's worried about getting a reputation as a slut, mostly because she has big tits, she's still acting kind of slutty, making out on the couch with a boy who she has barely met. Meanwhile Mads, the youngest acting and looking of the girls, is just trying to get somewhere with anyone.
what throws me is teens would never use a dating site monitored by one of them: it' would be too desperate. they would mostly all lie on the quizes and it makes no sense how they set people up. based on what? the writers didn't even bother to write through that. ga. it's so awful and written on such a meaningless level that after reading it i feel like i've been stuck listening to those horrible canned voices used for cartoons.
the most interesting parts of the story are (get this!)the parents, houses, and the school, which are given little attention in the rest of the drivel, but it is something compelling.
even though these are in the same vien as the gossip girl books, it looks like no one reads them. they're not on any of the "my FAVORITE books" lists, as all the pants, princess, and gossip girl books are.
so no, teens aren't this stupid. especially teens who read.

Friday, July 21, 2006

the view from the bathroom window

it turns out my phone doesn't take really shitty pictures. it turns out it was just really dirty, from being in the bottom of my bag all the time. i realized this while running yesterday. here i'm trying to capture how awesome the storm was today, but because of the motion of water, the picture came out much clearer than i could actually see the BQE from my shower. the freeways stay still, the water falls down. you can see how much water is gushing out of the gutter next door, though. i thought the gutter was going to fly off and hit someone driving on the freeway, but no such excitement.

see? what is so wrong with lounging in my own luxurious bathroom in my own luxurious apartment?


why are hotel bathrobes better than the bathrobes you have already?
what's wrong with the one in your own bathroom? you can buy a big fluffy bathrobe anywhere and wear it all the time, for much less than the price of a hotel room. so what's the big deal? i ask.
i think it's like playing songs on the jukebox when you own the music at home.
but not really. because then you're usually subjecting someone else to your music taste and in a hotel room you're being private without being at home. but the bathrobe?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

view from 4th ave and carroll at 825 pm

the worst movie ever?

the first rule is to never trust anyone who says reign of fire is their favorite movie when they say pirates is good.

but i had to see it even though all the rest of the reviews were bad because last time, i thought any movie made by disney based on a ride at disney must suck, but johnny depp almost never does. (okay, charlie and the chocolate factory sucked. a lot.) and it pretty much ruled. so how much could it suck, really?

Are books like Getting the Girl just tricks to make girls think boys have feelings?

If the Gossip Girls series is Sex in the City for girls, Markus Zukic’s Getting the Girl is High Fidelity for young dudes. (Although I’m never not sure if any dudes read High Fidelity, or if it’s just for chicks who wan to pretend that dudes have feelings and don’t just think about sports or how damn loquacious they are, a la David Foster Wallace. Although I guess if Fever Pitch were going to stand, all Nick Hornby does think about is sports.)
Cameron is the little brother of Rube, the most charismatic womanizer on the block, Sarah, who seems like a drunk slut, and Steve, the most successful guy around, and generally feels like a big fat nothing. His brother has Octavia, one in a long line of chicks he picks up, only to dump them a month later when he gets bored. Meanwhile Cam fantasizes about losing himself to a girl, losing himself inside her (both figuratively and literally) yet has never touched a girl.
It’s a typical coming of age story, where Cam realizes he is someone individually of value, and so is his sister, while maybe his two brothers have less to offer than he originally thought. And true to type, he gets the girl—without “getting” her—loses the girl, then gets her back. It’s all pretty sweet.
Do boys read this? Do boys have feelings?
All the reviews on Amazon are by chicks except one, which sounds like it's by a teacher.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

oh baby it's the forth of july from red hook, brooklyn

Lessons Taught by a Vampire

Pete Hautman's Sweetblood does a pretty accurate job of showing a lost teenager while half playing the vampire game, and not really committing. Lucy Szabo is a sixteen year old diabetic only child with useless parents and a pretty erudite shrink. This doesn't stop her from almost killing herself by not maintaining her insulin, but then again, it is the teen years of experimentation.
lucy's theory is that the legend of vampires evolved, like many myths, not just from Vlad Dracula the impaler, but from people dying of diabetes. The essay she writes about it gets her suspended, which seems a bit extreme to me. Maybe goth girls get expelled for writing non threating essays about vampires. who knows these days.
The most intregueing part of the story is the creepy old guy who hosts parties and has been stalking her on the internet claiming to be a vampire named Draco (orignial, ain't he?) It's so creepy it makes my skin crawl. The 40 year old after the 16 year old. At first she finds him interesting, but she's a lucid enough person to realize that any forty year old having parties to collect all the teen goths is a little freaky. the power the character of Lucy has is the fact that she has no friends, and is used to not having any, so that she has nothing to lose therefore can tell everyone off.
It's not a bad book, but it's non committal. Lucy doesn't die from forgetting to take her insulin, realizes the error of her ways, stays away from the bad kids, stops dying her hair black, and does her schoolwork. Does the normal thing.
She was better as a caustic vampire, I think.

More Good Girls in a Bad Girls World

In the A-list, the first spin off of the Gossip Girl series, without actually being interconnected, good girls continue to finish first.
There has been a lot of hype about these books, the new "sex in the city" type books for teenagers, yet they are still selling the same old song and dance to girls: girls who have sex are sluts. boys don't love girls who have sex with them. good girls are good.
I see this being for 3 reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that girls who read books are generally nerds (like me at 12)and not only didn't have sex, but could barely say 3 words to a boy. Girls who read books barely know what sex is. These books make them feel okay about not being knowledgeable about sex. The second reason is because society, no matter how much they loved Carrie Bradshaw, in real life they would think her a slut. And men love to watch Samantha the same way they loved to listen to "Blow Job Queen." it was sexy and slutty and they wanted to fuck it, but not to marry it. The third reason is probably to sell these books to parents with the idea that "Some girls have sex. They're bad. Good girls do not."
Anna Percy, the main character of The A-list series arrives in LA like any timid book-geek girl would, a shy virgin. She gets drunk on a plane and makes out with a cute boy. That could happen to anyone, so long as they are a naturally beautiful blonde. Anna is shocked by the importance of designer clothes and makeup at Beverly Hills High; at her high school in Manhattan all the girls wore old jeans and comfy t-shirts. (Huh. Gossip Girl, published and created by the same masterminds of T’ween marking, says that fancy clothes are just as important in NYC as they are in LA. (I having lived both places say they're way more important in NYC. LA is the home of laid back style.) But apparently Anna is not a gossip girl.)
Anna learns a lessons all girls need to learn: 1. don't trust girls. they'll stab you in the back (or just rip your dress) 2. don't trust boys. they only want one thing, and if they don't get it they'll dump you.
or if they do, like with Cammie, Anna's new arch-enemy, they'll dump you because you're a slut. Cammie doesn’t understand this, though, and is still using sex as her only weapon.
Still, the heroine of the A-list is much more likeable than the heroines of any of these other fancy series books out now. She might be rich and beautiful, but she has a sense of self and stays true to character.
The character of Sam is rather realistic too: appropriately needy, thinking that she's fat because she's a size 8 or maybe a ten. Ugh. And is still kind, but too weak to not both want to be friends with Anna (in the next book she becomes obsessed with kissing her. Therefore equating the fat/ugly girl with lesbians. Right. Are boys reading these? I bet they are secretly.) Thus, you can be rich as a prince and still be needy.

(the girl on the cover of the book looks like she's a 10. Do you think they did that for marketing purposes? She doesn't looked all Airbrushed Teen Vogue.)

eye roller!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Roll My Eyes at You

it is the truth, that at 35, if one has a job that one can be fired at for rolling ones eyes, then one should roll ones eyes and get fired, because that's just plain stupid.
but i didn't roll my eyes, by the way, i stared at the assholes. man, they can't even complain correctly.

The Princess Diaries: Fantasy for Girls

The Princess Diaries is the ultimate teen fantasy novel. Barely a step above the Girl with the Silver Eyes, as far as kids reading something which makes them hope for some sort of magic to come and save them from their pitiable existence.

Mia, the protagonist and princess, is still so young that the thought of a boy sticking his tongue in her mouth is GROSS! Yet old enough to almost want that to happen. Just one step out of dolls, but still wearing tights and sneakers and not caring about her appearance, she gets Cinderellaed when her dad turns up and tells her he’s a prince. Seems the smartypants girl wasn’t really paying attention all those years she visited daddy in the weird little country of Genovia. Which makes the weird girl with the bad hair a princess. Then, her own fairy godmother in the form of her grandmother shows up, trains her to act like a lady and makes her pretty with makeup, a haircut and clothes.
The newly dressed princess, now attractive to her prince charming, high school heart throb Josh Richter, who kisses her in front of the castle, her fancy high school, only to turn back into a frog. Mia, too dumb to notice her dad was a prince for 15 years, is astute enough to understand instantly that prince charming is a scoundrel and using her to get press and attention and dumps him on the stairs. Prince Charming destroyed, who is there to save her but the Boy Next Door, her very own best-friends-big-brother, Michael Moscovitz

It’s all a bit happily ever after. The popular people are actually mean, and get destroyed socially, and the unpopular people: Mia, her friend Lilly, the chubby Tina, the dorky Michael, all get to win out in the end.

How sweet.

It is actually sweet, and not terribly written, either, which is kind of nice. It’s also kind of nice to see a teen book where the teenager has some sense of self, so that even when invited to be with the popular crowd, Mia doesn’t instantly throw over her unpopular friends (see The Clique and Gossip Girl). Instead she stands by and defends them, making her a worthy hero of anyone, not just teenagers.