Not to steal Christina’s thing, but I wanted to share mine this week. I’m alone in a new country and so my cultural consumption has been an important way I have comforted myself, reveled in my alienation, and clung to America.
Listening: “O Superman” by Laurie Anderson
A few weeks ago on the Still Processing podcast, Wesley Morris mentioned the song “O Superman” by Laurie Anderson in the context of their conversation about science fiction, race, and our present political/historical/cultural moment. It was a fascinating discussion, and Morris got kind of choked up when talking about the song, as this piece from the 80s musing about the future. It has electronic and robotic sounds, but it expresses this sense of human connection that is really powerful. Since I’ve been in Manila, it’s been the cornerstone of my alone-in-a-new-place playlist, and as I’m writing this it’s playing it on repeat. It is both the soundtrack to my experience and the balm for my feelings. It has made me cry and made me smile. It’s doing everything that music can do for me.
Reading: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
As an Omahan, I’ve been familiar with Rainbow Rowell’s writing since childhood. Hers was probably the first newspaper column I ever read (featured in the Living Section of the Omaha World-Herald). She was funny and accessible and a self-aware nerd and her photograph used to feature her wearing this truly hilarious jumper. She must have scrubbed it from the internet, because I can’t find it. Anyway, she transitioned into a bestselling novelist and I was able to buy her book across the world from our shared home.
In 2013, she published Fangirl (which I have not read), about a girl who goes to college and struggles to connect with people outside of writing fan fiction for a magical book series based heavily on Harry Potter. In it, the Harry and Draco characters get together. Carry On is Rowell’s telling of that fan fiction story. It yadda-yaddas the world building, because she is far more interested in the relationship between the two characters. It was a delightful world to jump into yet not be invested in, because the point is waiting for those teenage boys to start kissing.
Rowell’s unapologetic geekiness seeps through her writing, sometimes making this reader cringe. But it’s also charming, and you can tell she’s having a great time writing this stuff. I also read several reviews from people invested in the Harry/Draco slash fiction world who really appreciated the book, and that also made me happy.
You/Me/Her is a poorly-written, poorly-acted AT&T original series (that’s a thing) that as far as I understand it is only on DirecTV’s streaming service (who?) and Netflix outside of the U.S. It’s about a vanilla couple living in Portland who decide to invite a graduate student working as an escort into their relationship as their third. It has so much potential! But after watching a season and a half, I am still confused about why any of them are in love with each other, or why they all want this arrangement to work.
But it raises so many good questions! They go from casually seeing each other to Izzy (the third) moving in with them, which was crazy but now that I think about it, if you are the third to a married couple and want to be on par with their relationship, you have to move in otherwise you’re always the third wheel, right? The jealousies! The insecurities! The deeper problems in their abilities to form connection! Instead, the show keeps introducing bullshit subplots about prying neighbors and clingy roommates that are overly contrived. I would say they misunderstand their audience, but who really is the audience for this show?
It’s been renewed for a third season. I just hope it comes out while I’m abroad, cause I will watch it.