Arts Desk

Five Books I’d Read

in which the author discusses five books he'd read, if time permitted.

grrrl

1. Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot GRRRL Revolution, by Sara Marcus.

When I saw Bikini Kill and Team Dresch play at a fraternity in Connecticut in 1995 (or was it early 1996?), there were some white hats ("white hats" = fraternity dudes) in the front acting a little too moshingly macho. Little did these white hats suspect that they would face the full fury of a pre-electroclash, pre-Ad Rock Kathleen Hanna who, while wearing sunglasses onstage and making liberal use of the epithets "fuck" and "asshole," ordered these muscular gentlemen to the back of the room, insisting that "This is a show for ladies!" Once exiled to the back, rumors circulated that these excitable lads were offended by Ms. Hanna's "reverse sexism" and plotting revenge that may or may not have included "pantsing" ("pantsing" = a juvenile practice in which an unwitting victim's pants are pulled down) and date rape. Fortunately, 75 percent of those illiberal, testosterone-fueled party-crashers died of binge-drinking later that evening before they could further sabotage the performance or commit sexual assault. The surviving 25 percent were spotted last week at the Fireplace.

2. C, by Tom McCarthy.
My friend called me the other day. He was like, "Yo, I'm reading this new Booker Prize-nominated work of fiction. Have you heard of it?" I was like, "Yeah," even though I hadn't, and quickly found that shit on Amazon and read the Publisher's Weekly summary back to him so I sounded like someone who knew what the fuck he was talking about. My friend was like, "Cool." Then, I was like, "Well, what do you think of that new work of Booker Prize-nominated work of fiction?" He was like, "I'm not sure, I'm only on Chapter 3." I was like, "That's weak, dude." He was like, "Yeah. That's what always impressed me about you. You're always on top of shit. Whatever I'm reading, you've already read it." So I was like, "Yeah," hung up the phone, went to the bathroom, and sunk deep into a Jacuzzi filled with bubbling liquid gold.

3. The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, by Sam Harris.
I think this guy is one of those Hitchens-esque new atheists with his humanistic, cynical knickers in twist about how we don't need religion to define morality because, despite what the Sarah Palin crowd says, science is capable of helping us distinguish between right and wrong. Maybe that's true, maybe it's not. I don't know. I'm just the guy in the back of chemistry class in 11th grade using the digital scale to measure out exactly .25 ounces of marijuana.

4. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, by David Sedaris, illustrated by Ian Falconer.
You know how, sometimes, on Saturday, you're driving around doing errands—getting shit the fuck done, if you know what I mean—and then This American Life comes on, and you hear the fey, lispy voice of Ira Glass, and you're like, "Fuck! I'm fucking psyched that This American Life is on right now as I'm driving to Ikea!"? And you're listening to This American Life, which is probably about the foreclosure crisis or how someone's father wasn't quite the man his family thought he was or something, and then David Sedaris comes on? And Sedaris is in full form, pushing his distinctive brand of biting gay wit, and you're like "Fuck! I'm fucking psyched that David Sedaris is on right now as I'm driving to Target!" but then you get stuck in traffic and something starts to feel wrong and the more you listen to David Sedaris, the more you want to burn every copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day that is prominently displayed on all of your friends' bookshelves before hanging yourself without leaving a suicide note?

5. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great, by Rick Meyerowitz.
You may remember that the National Lampoon diaspora—early Saturday Night Live, Animal House, Caddyshack, Vacation, Ghostbusters, etc.—was funny when you were, like, 13. But that shit is like Sodom—if you order it up on Comcast On-Demand and look back, not only will it probably not be as funny as you remembered, but, like Lot's wife, you'll turn to salt.

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