This week’s Did You Hear? is special. Following our selected song, contributor David Rochelson — who you may remember from the spirited Sex and the City flame war with New Yorker writer Emily Nussbaum – explains why he thinks the songs of Fiona Apple should be adapted for Broadway production. He even outlines the song choices and plot structure. The way we see it, it’s the only production that could potentially lead to more pre-debut injuries than Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark.
Billy Joel. ABBA. Green Day. And now we learn that Alanis Morrisette’s “Jagged Little Pill” is going to get the “jukebox musical” treatment. This no doubt will consist of a flimsy story stringing together songs from the best-selling album. Tourists fresh off the bus from Altoona can sing along on their way to the Hershey’s Store and Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar.
I’d like to make a plea for common sense and decency: If you’re going to make a musical based on a ’90s pop singer, please let that singer be Fiona Apple.
Here’s why: Continue reading
When asked her age during a recent visit to the New School in Greenwich Village, Liesl Schillinger, the New York Times book reviewer, translator, and author of the illustrated dictionary Wordbirds: An Irreverent Lexicon for the 21st Century, made up a word instead: “prevaridate.” This self-professed lover of words and fortyish “old media” person has been posting clever terms—like this combination of “prevaricate” and “date”—to her blog since 2009.
“I think people swear too much, but I like funny strings of expletives,” says Schillinger, a Yale alum who is erudite with an edge. Wordbirds took flight in her wildly creative, linguistically rigorous mind when she overheard The Trashmen’s 1960s rock song “The Bird is the Word.” From that moment on, she began pairing quirky bird images with neologisms like “unispammer,” or a friend who barrages inboxes with sappy forwards.
Editor’s Note: Following our previous post about books in TV shows, here is a post about a TV show that once was a book, Sex and the City. Our author responds to Emily Nussbaum and her contention in the New Yorker that the show has not gotten its due, especially side-by-side with other shows like The Sopranos. As our author makes clear, “I like Nussbaum. I like Sex and the City. I am a man,” we shall also make clear that his views do not necessarily reflect those of everyone at Fiction Advocate (especially in my case, since I have not seen more than a few episodes of either show) though we all agree that they are worth reading. – MM
With the sudden death of James Gandolfini and the return of Breaking Bad for its final season this week, the internet is replete with nostalgia for the golden age of television, pre-obituaries for our era’s amazing serialized dramas and their signature anti-heroes: Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Jimmy McNulty, Walter White. Writing in the New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum nominates an addition to the list: Carrie Bradshaw.
In her defensive paean to the show that brought zipless fucks into the twenty-first century, Emily Nussbaum argues that both Carrie and her vehicle, Sex and the City, haven’t gotten a fair shake. But the aim of her essay—a pushback against “the reflexive consensus on the show,” that it is merely a “guilty pleasure” inspiring “self-flagellating conversations”—is much broader than the resuscitation of a lone, storied series. It is peppered with implications, never quite made explicit, about the rampant sexism of television criticism and American culture generally. It’s there in Nussbaum’s complaint that any show will be considered inferior if it’s “stylized (or formulaic, or pleasurable, or funny, or feminine, or explicit about sex rather than about violence, or made collaboratively)” and in her lament that new shows with female protagonists must be distanced from Sex and the City rather than compared to it. (And yet, reading this, one wonders how many Hollywood pitch meetings have begun, “It’s Sex and the City meets…”?)
But because she is so reluctant to make this argument explicit, what she says is so narrow as to be absurd: that Sex and the City was just as good a show as The Sopranos. That SATC’s reputation is unfair and unwarranted and sexist and would be as good as its HBO brother if only so many critics weren’t men. Continue reading
What’s most astonishing about this book is simply that it exists: a hardback blockbuster from a major American publisher, marketed to a North American audience, about the relatively new class of hyper-wealthy mainland and overseas Chinese–that’s not a work of political fear-mongering, but a frothy, thinly plotted chick-lit novel, endorsed by Jackie Collins and the author of Bergdorf Blondes. The book represents a tremendous step forward: rich, vacuous Asians are regarded with the same laughing derision, voyeurism, and object fetishism as the rich, vacuous Americans of the Paris Hilton/reality TV set. Instead of being cast as creditors, job thieves, and the end of American supremacy, gazillionaire Asians are mocked and envied as racial equals. Progress!
We’re thrilled to announce that Fiction Advocate will publish The Black Cat, a novel by J. M. Geever. It has murder, wine, ghosts, obscure European wars, and magic numbers. In the grand tradition of J. M. Coetzee, J. M. Barrie, and J. M. Ledgard, the author goes by the initials J. M.
You’re going to love it.
The Internet is all a Twitter about a fictional story created on Pinterest, of all places. I say “story” very loosely—someone has made a collage of similar pictures about their “Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter” and captioned them to tell the story of “Quinoa” and her band of equally incorrigible friends, played by “pins” of any number of disturbingly dolled-up children.
It’s silly, but I’m glad someone has the good sense to make fun of the ridiculously aspirational consumerism that Pinterest feeds off of. It reminds me of this lovely Tumblr that flips people’s home décor choices the bird. Or this Tumblr that chronicles the agonies of lavish home architecture. Or this Vimeo series about a gang of J. Crew models.
All of these “stories” re-appropriate the visual language of consumerism and use it to blur the line between advertising and self-expression on the Internet, while most people simply advertise themselves on Facebook and Twitter and pretend it’s self-expression. It’s all fiction, and one way or another it’s all laughable.
- Michelle L.
There are books, and then there are BOOKS. BOOKS are not simply paper and ink; they are ideas, challenges, meditations, revolutions, and prayers. We Need to Talk About Kevin is a BOOK.
I realize I am a little late to the game in reading Lionel Shriver’s haunting masterpiece, but I felt I ought to read a classic Shriver novel before diving into her latest, Big Brother. Lucky for me, BOOKS also don’t have expiration dates. If anything, We Need to Talk About Kevin is more relevant today than when it was originally published in 2003. So buckle up, because a lot can be said about this one.
On the surface, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a series of letters written by a middle-aged woman, Eva, to her estranged husband, Franklin, after their son, Kevin, has been incarcerated for murdering select students and a teacher at his high school. But this book is far more than a compelling true crime read. It operates on deeper, more painful levels by asking: Who is at fault? Continue reading
Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty, and Waiting for the Barbarians
Today it’s been exactly two years since Osama Bin Laden was killed. The date has, unsurprisingly, gotten me thinking about Zero Dark Thirty again. The film was released on DVD last month. Presumably it’s now crowding Best Buy shelves and the “shopping carts” of countless Amazon accounts, promising the chance to relive the moment of supreme discomfort that occurred when we were all in the theater this winter, crunching popcorn happily through the previews, only to be suddenly confronted with the screams of 9/11 audio that open the film. As you know, the moral queasiness of Zero Dark only intensifies from there, the torture scenes in particular drawing much critical attention (“Did they, or did they not suggest that ‘enhanced interrogation’ directly led to the killing of Bin Laden?” etc.). By this point, the depiction of these acts has been debated and counter-debated and counter-counter-debated. However, for anyone who—like me—still can’t stop thinking about it, I have a recommendation.
No novel better wrestles with the ramifications of torture—and its “usefulness” to national security—than Waiting for the Barbarians by South African Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee. Set in an imaginary desert colony named simply “the frontier,” Waiting for the Barbarians follows a local official as he deals with the Third Bureau, an agency tasked with protecting a vast nation called “the Empire.” The book makes it clear early on that its story functions as an allegory for the nature of imperialism. As the plot unfolds, the Third Bureau begins to suspect that “the barbarians” (a.k.a. natives of the frontier) are plotting to destroy the Empire. Throughout the novel the Third Bureau aims to crush an imminent barbarian attack, which it suspects may happen at any moment. But the Bureau has no evidence, except for the torture-induced confessions of a few barbarians.