February 2010 archive

A Tale of Two Non-Fictions: Founding Myths by Ray Raphael (Unfinished) and Beyond Heaving Bosoms by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan (#5)

A Tale of Two Non-Fictions: Founding Myths by Ray Raphael (Unfinished) and Beyond Heaving Bosoms by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan (#5)

Hey, I really like long post titles!

Will you all think I’m shallow if I say I don’t read much non-fiction? I mostly read for entertainment, and about 80% of my reading is done on the subway as I commute to/from work. That means that, in the morning, I’m bleary-eyed and haven’t yet had coffee (it’s all I can do to manage simple things like getting out of bed, showering, and getting dressed for the first 45 minutes or so after I wake up; coffee gets made and consumed at work), so it’s much easier to just stick on my iPod and stare at the wall than it is to open a book. On the way home, it’s about a 50/50 shot whether I want to open a book or just play games on my iPod. So the book has to have really caught my attention to make me want to crack it open at all.

Fiction holds a serious advantage over non-fiction in that regard. Most fiction — stories, basically — is designed to make you want to come back to it, to wonder what will happen the characters and if it’s all going to turn out okay in the end. Wondering about those things makes me more likely to fight my internal laziness and pick up the book. Non-fiction, on the other hand, has to be something I’m really interested in, or very compellingly presented (or both) to get to that point.

Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic PastFor example — or, I guess, non-example — Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past by Ray Raphael. I picked this up because it looked interesting. And it was! But the thing is, I know how the Revolutionary War ended1 so there weren’t a lot of narrative questions gripping me and bringing me back for page after page. I enjoyed it well enough. I quite liked some of the myths that Raphael dissected, and getting a glimpse at the actual events they were based on. (Though I wasn’t 100% sold on the book’s main conceit, that the stories that have evolved hide the real and very patriotic acts that led to the country’s founding; some of the arguments towards that were more convincing than others, but overall the actual history segments of the book were more interesting to me than the arguments made about patriotism.)

But ultimately… I don’t know. I feel bad even putting out there that I didn’t finish it, because the book was interesting! I feel comfortable giving it 3 stars on GoodReads, regardless! But after a couple weeks during which I kept it in my purse, but never pulled it out, I decided it was time to set it aside and move on. (This is not helped by my own neurotic rule of reading only one book at a time; growing up, if I read multiple things at once, I tended to get the characters and plots confused, which made things pretty difficult. So basically, for a couple weeks I wasn’t reading this, but wouldn’t let myself read anything else, and so didn’t read anything at all. To combat this, I’m confessing it to the internet, and moving right along with my life.)

Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance NovelsOn the other hand, my sister handed me Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels a few days ago, and I devoured it. I’ve only read a handful of romance novels, and only occasionally skim the Smart Bitches website, but I do love good media and cultural analyses. And despite its very casual tone, this book is that. (In fact, I loved its casual tone. I tend to be turned off by a Look How Academic And Serious This Book Is tone.) The book gets into sex and sexuality as presented by romance novels, in a wider cultural scope — for example, the way rape in romance novels fell out of common use with the rise of the “No means no” mantra, and how that changed the genre as a whole. They delve quickly into race and the segregation of African-American romance novels, which I wish they’d spent more time on. And they get into the structure of most of the books, which I looooooooove. (I am kind of obsessed with narrative structure. IDK.)

The book included a lot of frills (games, puzzles, illustrations) that I don’t think it needed, but they didn’t take away from it, really. Overall, it was smart and very entertaining, and reminded me of why I was an American Studies major, back in the day. It’s an insightful look at a part of the culture that is often dismissed, and it not only looks at romance, it spends a lot of time on why the genre is dismissed, and why people the people who love it embrace it anyway.

  1. Hint: Rebels won. USA! USA! … Errrr, I’ve been watching a lot of Olympics lately. Sorry.

In Which I Don’t Love Irony, but Do Love Corbin Bleu. Like, a Lot.

In Which I Don't Love Irony, but Do Love Corbin Bleu. Like, a Lot.

I’ve had an idea for a post percolating for awhile about how I don’t really like irony. That’s a pretty sweeping statement, hm. Let me get more specific: what bothers me about irony is that I think it contributes to a cultural feeling that genuinely liking things — specifically, happy things — isn’t cool.1 Liking things that are artistic, or weird, or only little-known (but never popular, god no) is fine, but the only way to like something silly or fun for the sake of being fun, is to like it ironically. Which means, you know, you like it, but you don’t really like it, because that’s Uncool, and you’re way too Cool to ever just like something for fun. To me, there’s just something sad about the idea that products created just to be enjoyable aren’t worth really liking; I think it devalues joy, and I don’t understand why anyone would want to do that.

Luckily, I realized many years ago that I will never be Cool. I had angst about that for, oh, four or five minutes, then came to terms with my nerdiness and did my best to stop worrying about what other people would think of me based on the things I enjoy. And it’s very freeing! It means that when I like something, even if it is silly or ridiculous or aimed at people roughly 13 years younger than I am,2 I am free to enjoy and squee and fangirl shamelessly.

This, however, is not that post. That was merely prologue, brought up so you will all know I am not exaggerating my glee when I can share this news: Today, I sort-of-kind-of met Corbin Bleu, and oh my god I love him so much!!!11!!one

Uh, yeah, I had two friends taking pictures and we looked at different cameras. WHATEVER, IT WAS A MAGICAL MOMENT.

Let me back up: a few years ago, I watched and kind of enjoyed High School Musical. A year after that, the creatively-named sequel, High School Musical 2, aired on Disney. And I loved it. Love. Present tense. And after that, High School Musical 3: Senior Year was an actual theatrical release3 and yeah, I saw it in the theaters three times. These movies are ridiculous. I can’t give you plot summaries, because the “plots” are nonsensical. But the cast is adorable, the songs are fun, and the dances are wonderful.4 These movies are 100% joy, and my love for them is 100% genuine. I keep the music from all three on my iPod just in case I need an instant shot of joy during my day, and they never fail to pick me up.

Obviously, Corbin Bleu is one of the afore-mentioned adorable cast members. And while I’ve said before that I’ll basically see anything with any of these kids in it, no matter how bad, Corbin is my favorite. Except that should be italicized and have way more vowels stuck in, and ideally be read in a sing-songy voice: faaaaaaavorite. He’s ridiculously talented, and in interviews, he always comes across as genuinely sweet. (And let’s face it, he’s cuter than a box of kittens.) And… look, I could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs, but I think you get the point.

I’ve watched a lot of things just because Corbin is in them. Most of them are not very good.5 So a couple months ago, when it was announced that he’d be starring in In the Heights on Broadway — something that is actually good, not just gleeful, and which might actually show off his strengths as a performer — I made a noise so squeaky it’s possible only dogs could hear me, and then convinced my sister and two of my BFFies to come with me. (This consisted of saying, “Hey, want to go see In the Heights with me?” It was not a hard sell.)

At which point Jess — my co-blogger — pointed out, you know, hanging out at the stage door to meet actors is basically a thing that it’s okay to do with Broadway shows. And then I fainted and had to be revived via smelling salts.6

I wish there was something more to the story than that, like, oh, a sudden gaze into one another’s eyes, instant true love,7 and a marriage proposal. But in actuality, it was a brief but lovely moment; he was very nice (to me and my sistren, the girls in their early teens who also started shrieking when he came outside), even more adorable up close, and YOU GUYS, I LOVE HIM A LOT.

Oh, and the show was good, too. I don’t want to understate that. I’m not nearly knowledgeable enough about such things to really critique it, but it certainly seemed to me to be very well done. Loved the music, loved the use of the setting, loved the interwoven stories. (Though my favorite moment was the joke about the 1/9 train, and how the 9 no longer exists — or more specifically, the audience reaction. Which is to say, only a handful of people laughed, a nice way of picking out who was not a tourist in the crowd.)

But let’s face it: above and beyond all that, I love this guy:

Credit: Joseph Marzullo/Wenn.com

So thank you, sir, for existing, and making my not-at-all-inner fangirl very, very happy. ♥

  1. I feel like this was a very Gen X thing that has really stuck around, but haven’t done any research to back that up.
  2. Holy crap, 13-year-olds are half my age, when did that happen?
  3. I think the only series that’s ever started as made-for-TV and made the jump to theatrical, not the other way around.
  4. Discounting Zac Efron, who is charming as all get out, but really, really not a dancer.
  5. Case in point: a show so bad even the CW wouldn’t keep it on the air.
  6. Okay, not gonna lie, I actually had to be talked into this. When I meet someone I’m that emotionally invested in, I tend to freak out. Not that it’s happened often, but for example, when I met the bassist from my favorite band in 12th grade, I actually forgot my own name when he offered to sign my ticket. You know the cliché girl who bursts into tears when she meets her favorite teen idol, as illustrated daily on TRL for a decade? SO ME.
  7. On his part, clearly, since that’s obviously already true on mine.