Calling All Durannies: Rob Sheffield Speaks Our Language!

Title: Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut

Author: Rob Sheffield

304 pages

Publisher: Dutton
Buy The Book: Amazon

My Thoughts:

I have always loved Duran Duran, so when I heard the title of Rob Sheffield’s book I nearly wet my tight rolled, acid washed jeans. In Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut, Sheffield writes about coming of age in the eighties and his love for the songs that provided the soundtrack for his teen years. This book is a full-on nostalgia head rush for readers that grew up in the eighties!

Rob Sheffield is a girl’s guy. He is the kind of guy every girl loves to talk to, because he loves to listen. Sheffield credits Duran Duran for giving him a sensei-like knowledge of women. I’m sure having three sisters helped him out some as well, and that is evident throughout the book. In the chapter that highlights the Ray Parker Jr. song “A Woman Needs Love” Sheffield includes gems such as “saving a seat,” “counting the ply,” and “making conversation with their boyfriends” in a list of things women require of men. Spot on observations like these help make this book required reading for men seeking to understand women.

The climax of the book comes when Sheffield writes about cassingles in the chapter highlighting Ton Loc and the year 1988. Sheffield analyzes the cassingle with the precision of a surgeon performing the most complicated operation of his career. His love for the cassingle is epic. He romanticizes the cassingle setting them up as a symbol for the one hit wonders of the decade: A flimsy tape in a cheap cardboard case that is easily forgotten and thrown away.

I was in elementary school for much of the eighties. Sheffield’s writing reminded me of so many things from my youth that I thought were long forgotten. He brings back memories of nights watching Chartbusters and Night Tracks on TBS while impatiently wondering when my town would finally get MTV. He writes of a much simpler time before music lovers could access any song at any time of day on the Internet. He writes of a time when music lovers had to work to get their hands on their favorite tune of the moment. A time when music lovers had to drive to the store to buy a 45 or cassingle. Or, God forbid, you had to sit by the radio and wait until the DJ decided to play your latest favorite and hope you remembered to put in a blank cassette tape and press record on the boom box. He writes of a time forgotten by many that is worth remembering.

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Just A Timely Review of Tao Lin’s Shoplifting From American Apparel Or Something

Title: Shoplifting From American Apparel
Author: Tao Lin

112 pages
Publisher: Melville House (2009)

Buy The Book: Amazon

Summary:

Set mostly in Manhattan—although also featuring Atlantic City, Brooklyn, GMail Chat, and Gainsville, Florida—this autobiographical novella, spanning two years in the life of a young writer with a cultish following, has been described by the author as “A shoplifting book about vague relationships,” “2 parts shoplifting arrest, 5 parts vague relationship issues,” and “An ultimately life-affirming book about how the unidirectional nature of time renders everything beautiful and sad.” (Summary excerpt provided by the publishing house.)

My Thoughts:

Recently, I joined The Rumpus Book Club(TRBC). TRBC is run by Stephen Elliott, author of seven books including The Adderall Diaries and Happy Baby. Each month club members receive an advance reader copy of an upcoming book and have the opportunity to participate in online discussions about the book. This includes an online chat with the author. The August selection is Tao Lin’s novel Richard Yates. Upon hearing this, I promptly bought everything by Tao Lin I could get my hands on including Shoplifting From American Apparel.

The novella, Shoplifting From American Apparel arrived in my mailbox over the weekend. It is part of a Melville House series entitled The Contemporary Art of The Novella. In Shoplifting From American Apparel Lin recounts a series of events and nonevents in the life of Sam, a writer and terribly unskilled shoplifter. Sam is a young hipster who peppers his speech with the word “like” and often ends his sentences with the phrase “or something.”  Lin tells Sam’s story through a procession of scenes devoid of most conventional structure.

Although Shoplifting From American Apparel is a novella, it leaves more room for thought and discussion than many full-length works. For this reason, it would be a perfect selection for  book clubs.This book was both funny and thought provoking. Some of the highlights of the novella include Sam’s observations in the holding cell after each of his shoplifting arrests, Sam’s Gmail chats with Luis, and an appearance by Moby. I found the Moby scene especially funny.

A reoccurring theme throughout the book is the vagueness of relationships developed on the Internet. Sam has some of his most intimate conversations with Luis over Gmail Chat. However, Sam noted that when he met Luis in person they didn’t have much to say to each other. Another instance of this ambiguity occurs towards the end of the book when Sam is unsure of whether to approach a friend he knows from the Internet. Lin skillfully handles the complexity of the isolating nature of relationships fostered through faceless, voiceless interactions on the Internet.

I have read articles where Tao Lin’s writing is compared to Douglas Coupland and Bret Easton Ellis. I can definitely see the comparisons.However, Lin takes the apathetic nature of the characters in Coupland’s Generation X and points it in a new direction. Sam’s indifference is fueled by MySpace, blogs, Gmail Chat, easy access porn and everything else the Internet brought to the fingertips of society’s latest band of disaffected youth. Smug self-satisfaction is normally a byproduct of indifference. I didn’t see that in Sam. He appears to be struggling with despair and boredom in his quest for an existentially sound life. Sam’s earnest nature is evident despite the vagueness of Lin’s work. I believe that is what makes Lin a contemporary master. The restraint he has shown as a writer in this piece is incredible. I highly recommend Shoplifting From American Apparel.

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McDonald’s Memoir is a Quick, Fun Read

Book: You’ll Never Blue Ball In This Town Again

Author: Heather McDonald

272 pages

Publisher: A Touchstone Book, Published by Simon & Schuster

Buy The Book: Amazon

My Thoughts:

Before this summer, I had never heard of Heather McDonald (my cable provider does not provide E!). However, apparently everyone else had. So, every bookstore I entered in the month of June proudly had McDonald’s book (on the cover she is lounging suggestively on top of a pile of blue balls) displayed front and center. I eventually gave in to temptation (unlike Heather, I’ve never been one to resist a blue ball) and purchased a copy.

Heather McDonald’s immorality tale of life as a perpetual “blue baller” during her twenty-something years is a funny read. At the beginning of the book, I was skeptical. I had trouble relating to the “hilarity” (maestro, cue up “Cause I’m a Blonde” by Julie Brown) of her days as a sorority girl at USC. But upon further reading, her sarcastic wit won me over.

Throughout the memoir, she recounts funny anecdotes regarding everything from how a “well intentioned joke about bulimia” backfired to a junior high misadventure featuring a teenaged Jason Bateman. Highlights in the book include her dating exploits involving dreamboat Vince Vaughn, Great Expectations dating service and a sociopath named Ben.

However, in spite of all the wicked humor, Heather ends her tale on a sweet note. “The Courtship of Mackenzie’s Father” and “The AARPs Next Door” discuss the trials of being a step- mother and Heather’s close relationship with her parents respectively. I think her writing is at its best in these two pieces. I enjoyed seeing the “softer side” of a woman whose written word is often sarcastic and delivery harsh. You’ll Never Blue Ball In This Town Again is a quick, fun read. A suitable accessory for hanging out on the beach and sipping a cocktail.

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Teen Wolf Two: Linger Packs Action in With The Angst in The Much Anticipated Sequel to Shiver

Title: Linger

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

360 pages

Publisher: Scholastic

Buy The Book: Amazon

The haunting poetry of Rilke? Check. Grace chugging coffee? Check. Isabel’s sharp barbs?Check. Sam still as perfect as ever? Check. Healthy dose of teen angst? Check. Absentee parents? Check While some things have stayed the same in Mercy Falls, there have definitely been some changes.

Linger (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2) by Maggie Stiefvater, the follow-up to Stiefvater’s 2009 novel Shiver, brings the reader once again into the lives of Sam and Grace. This time around, the cure that was administered to Sam in Shiver seems to be keeping him from changing into a wolf. So everything should be great, right? Not quite.

Warning: This review contains spoilers.

Linger is far more complex than Shiver, and the result is a much better story. It is rare for a sequel to be better than its predecessor. So, Linger was a pleasant surprise. With the addition of a four point-of-view (POV) structure instead of a two POV (as in Shiver), comes a lot more action in addition to all of the emotional, “teen angsty” elements that made Shiver so great. But don’t get me wrong, the angst is still there in heaping portions sure to satisfy the most angst-craving teen (or in my case, adult) reader.

Readers of Linger will find Sam and Grace with a whole new set of issues to tackle. It was a nice change to see Sam and Grace dealing with some of their challenges individually and not primarily as one cohesive unit. Sam’s new role, caretaker for the werewolves that reside at Beck’s house, is added to his growing list of problems. Also, Grace’s newly wolfed-out friend Olivia is still “missing.” Of course, Sam and Grace know the truth: Olivia is actually a werewolf for the duration of the winter season and won’t be back for a while. This is the only storyline in the book that I felt could have been more developed. However, I assume that it was put on the backburner to be picked back up in Forever, the third book in the trilogy.

Also, Grace’s parents no longer seem to be quite the apathetic parents that they were in Shiver. They decide to take a stand with Grace, and ground her when it comes to their attention that Sam has been sleeping over. I was glad that Grace’s parents confronted her. I felt like that issue was swept under the rug a bit in the previous book. But, they still don’t seem to be that worried about the real issue that Grace is dealing with: her health. Throughout the book, Grace is suffering from horrible symptoms including fever, nose bleeds, and various aches and pains. This really doesn’t seem to concern them until the end of the book. As a reader, the lack of concern about their daughter’s health justifies to me the action that Grace takes towards the end of the book (i.e. running away).

Isabel returns with a much larger storyline. She and new wolf in town, Cole are the two added POVs. Isabel is busy dealing with grief over her brother’s death and with her complicated attraction to both Cole and Sam. Isabel’s burgeoning feelings for Sam is another storyline I look forward to seeing developed further in Forever.

Have I mentioned yet that I love Cole? The storyline involving complicated, bad boy Cole absolutely made the book for me. His flashback scenes that take place in Canada with his band NARKOTIKA are well-crafted and provide insight into the complicated past that made Cole want to escape everything and become a wolf.

As a mother, it’s funny to read YA literature from an adult perspective. I’m sure I notice all sorts of things that teen readers probably will not fret about in the least. Overall, I recommend Linger to teen and adult readers alike. I think the story has universal appeal, and I can’t wait to see the movie versions that are sure to be made of the books.

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