Monday, October 17, 2016

Recently: The Girls by Emma Cline

At the surface, Emma Cline's The Girls is a book about a murder. But not a murder mystery - you know from the outset exactly who is going to commit the crime and vaguely sense who is going to be the victim. That the book centers around an ersatz Manson Family should be enough to give that away, as does the framing device, which catches up with the narrator, Evie Boyd, 40 years or so down the road in the present day, where we find what kind of person she has ultimately become - shaped by these experiences, and yes defined by them to a degree, but somehow simply the person she was always meant to be.

What's really special about the book is how it fills the moments leading up to that murder. The encounters between Evie and the future murderess Suzanne. The way she grows apart from her childhood friends and turns toward this toxic hippie commune. The way she regards her mother's failings as she settles for mediocre boyfriends and how she resists her father's new wife's attempts to bond. This is a book about the mind of a young woman as much as it is about someone who commits a crime. Moreso.

It's brilliantly written: the way it picks up on stray details and observations from its main character's world and really digs deep into their significance and her opinions on them. I can't emphasize enough how much great work is done with Evie's psyche as the narrator: how she peppers her teenage observations with adult awareness that would have come in later. How deeply and richly the read experiences the mind of this girl.

On that level, it's a timely and engaging read, for this moment when the media (well, really, the Internet) gives more and more visibility to the issues that have been faced by the interior lives of women since time immemorable. Oh did I say timely? Guess I meant timeless.

The language is absolutely gorgeous, nearly every paragraph containing some remarkable turn of phrase. Sometimes I worry, when reading overly "literate" literature, that the authors are trying too hard to be clever with flowery when they can just make their point in simple language, causing me to notice the author's hand and take me out of the world they're trying to build. Cline proves it's possible to do both simultaneously and with ease. Showoff.

It's been a while since I've encountered a book that seemed so well-suited to my tastes, but those looking for a quick thrill and a last-minute gasp should probably stay away or at least think twice, but it's a damn rewarding read.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Today's Jam: Blind Melon, "No Rain"

Maybe you've noticed that most of my jams lately have been dated to the 90's. At my former grounds I used to try to spread it around, but I can't deny that the decade of my youth calls to me.

At the beginning of this decade, the one we currently live in, I feel like we really saw the rise of a kind of Premium on Memories. I have actually experienced the 90's more clearly from the 2000's than when they were actually happening (being that I was 13 when they ended.) By this, I mean the rise of Buzzfeed, and countless articles on what Only 90's Kids Will Remember.

And of course there was the music, to the point where items that would have been extremely passé at the end of the 90's, became rare-sought-after gems for excavation in the 2010's. It's the race for Who Could Be The First To Remember and to remind everyone. Who could find the kitschiest, most random item for appreciation? And of course it must have been popular enough to be part of our shared cultural memory, but have dropped so completely into obscurity that remembering it at all feels like a magic trick. Sorcery of Memory.

This song, and its memorable "Bee Girl" video, is a particular beneficiary of that, I feel like it's more popular now than it ever was in the 90's. And me posting it now doesn't make me any cooler because we are All Remembering The 90's At All Times.

But it's a good song, still a blast to mumble along to on the radio or on rainy days (or sunny ones!) And let's face it, no matter what the weather, most of the time I really don't have much more to say than that my life is pretty plain.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Today's Jam: Frank, "I Love You All"

Last year my girlfriend and I had the pleasure to happen upon this movie (Frank) at the library, where Michael Fassbender plays the reclusive singer of an underground rock band who performs (and lives his life) wearing a papier mache mascot head. This somehow doesn't keep him from singing strangely beautiful indie rock lyrics in a delightful baritone. It was one of the better rock movies I've seen in my time, dealing with the struggles of sacrificing your art for attention and approval, whether that's a worthy goal or whether it's enough to be uncompromising and please only a small number of people. The music is appropriately quirky and, since it's meant to have a cultlike appeal within the movie's universe, strangely deep and moving. Witness one scene's beautiful-in-context tribute to a lone protruding carpet tuft.

I recommend this highly.