Book Report: IT

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Synopsis: IT weaves across parallel stories – one in 1958 that follows and one in 1985 (even the last numbers of the years mirror each other). In 1958, 7 misfit tweens form an unbreakable (and necessary for childhood survival) bond over their common encounters with a strange shape-shifting monster and their isolating social identifiers: Bill stutters, Ben is fat, Beverly is poor and abused, Richie is weird, Mikey is black, Stan is Jewish and Eddie is an asthmatic hypochondriac. This “Loser’s Club,” as they call themselves, spends most of their summer trying to avoid a roving group of bullies- Henry Bowers, Belch, Victor Criss and Patrick Hockstetter are the most vicious and violent group of troubled youth I think I’ve ever encountered in truth or fiction- who are out for their blood. The Losers realize there’s a monster killing kids, including Bill’s little brother, in their hometown of Derry, Maine and resolve that it’s up to them to destroy It before It uses It’s mind-bending and shape-shifting abilities to lure more children to their deaths.

When they defeat It, they take a blood (and sex?) oath that if the killings start happening again they will all return and defeat It again. The 1985 storyline introduces us to the 7 heroes as adults and brings them back together to face/process their childhood nightmares and defeat Its final form – a giant spider from space – for good.

Characters:
There are so many characters in this story. SO MANY. There were whole sections written from the POV of townies who never appeared again and literally didn’t matter. Most of the boys were pretty generic boys. I was as incredibly irritated by the literal spelling out of Bill’s stutters and Richie’s character voices as I was grateful for them. Those idiosyncrasies helped me keep at least those two apart, but disrupted the story for me. Stan and Eddie could have been the same person. Mike had entire (unnecessary) chapters on Derry history and aside from being the anchor that called them all back, served very little purpose. I get that 7 is a powerful number, but I could have done with fewer protagonists.

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LIC has a lot of It streetart

The monster was more of comical character than a scary one. It took on silly forms – a clown, a teenage werewolf, a giant eyeball – and popped out of toilets and drains. That’s pretty classic comedy. It was often described in gory detail, but more in a gross-out way.

The bullies – particularly Henry Bowers and Patrick Hockstetter – were the truly scary and dangerous threats. Detailed descriptions of the physical pain Henry inflicted on the Losers and Patrick’s explicit, deliberate murder of multiple animals over the course of a whole chapter were absolutely HORRIFIC.

Themes:
Reality 
Particularly how our realities change from childhood to adulthood. Imagination creates a magical and powerful reality as children, but adult reality took their power away. They forgot each other and their own pasts. Patrick believed he was the only “real” person in the world, and killing reinforces that. When IT manifested as creepy little things – like blood in the sink or a beetle in a fortune cookie, the other members of the Losers have to agree it’s real. If it’s not real, you can’t see it and if you can’t see it, you can’t beat it.

Power
While power was never strictly defined, the power of belief was strongly present. As kids, the Losers created magic to chase off the monster because they believed it was possible to defeat. They believed each other. They believed what they saw and that solidified the monster into a tangible shape. Power of friendship was the key to their success. They didn’t remember why or how, but they all returned to Derry when called, aside from Stan who killed himself. They all stood behind each other every step of the way, even when they terrified to near insanity.

Questions to think about:

  • Where does power come from? What IS it? What gives you power?
  • At the end, the adult Losers start to once again forget Derry and each other, but Ben and Beverly run away together. Wouldn’t they forget each other too?
  • What the FUCK was up with that 11-year-old girl explicit sex scene? I couldn’t even get through it. I was so uncomfortable.

 

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Book Report: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Memoir is an incredibly difficult genre to write well. It requires a certain level of narcissism mixed with transcendent wisdom that must be shared with the world. Because Tina Fey lacks both of these qualities, Bossypants is a hilarious, relatable look into the unlikely success of one of the funniest women on the planet.

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The self-depreciating tone of the book told with Tina Fey’s signature sarcastic wit struck a chord with the insecure middle school nerd of my past. As a (kind of) successful (though far less famous) woman myself, I realized how important that nerd and all of her embarrassing, awkward moments were in forming who I am now. To look back on our past selves and be able to endearingly chide ourselves instead of reliving that embarrassment is an important step in loving yourself. Forgiving our child selves, and acknowledging the strength that pushed us through the mess of adolescence is an indicator of growth. Tina Fey recounts an awkward time in her life where she used her gay friends as props, but selfishly wanted them to stay “half in the closet.” This analysis of her past was no doubt a huge epiphany for her that helped her form stronger relationships and become a better person.

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” ― Tina Fey, Bossypants

Tina Fey also failed a lot. Sometimes her sketches fell flat. Sometimes she didn’t feel like her work was complete when the SNL deadline hit and she had to forge ahead anyway. Her insight on the myth of doneness resonated. There will occasionally be times when the goal changes from finishing to fighting through it and moving on to the next thing. There’s no time to beat yourself up over failures, but there’s immense value in learning from them and applying them to the next sketch.

“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.”
― Tina Fey, Bossypants

I also appreciate her openness about doubt and anxiety. No successful woman achieved her dreams without doubting herself along the way. Staving off the “what ifs” that anxiety chronically throws at me is one of my biggest challenges. Tina Fey laid bare all of her doubts about motherhood, comedy, cruises, fame, even her writing and acting abilities. But she never questioned the talent of her team.

I’m sure each of her peers have felt the same doubts, but there was a huge lesson here, especially for women: Others see us much differently than we see ourselves. It’s important to share our perspective with the women in our lives. Fey is hyper-aware of the pressure on women to not only succeed, but “do it all.” I was nodding my head in agreement with her thoughts on older women (especially those who speak their minds) being referred to as “crazy.” Where age = wisdom for men, as women we lose our credibility and relevancy when we’re no longer “hot.” Amy Schumer actually did a hysterical sketch with Tina Fey on this phenomenon:

Reading about the hilarious behind-the-scenes work on SNL and 30 Rock makes me want to watch all of 30 Rock. I think I fell off somewhere around the time the latest season of Shameless appeared on Netflix. Putting together a tv show seems unimaginably stressful, triple that for a live show! My admiration for Tina Fey has grown exponentially.

Her appreciation and gratitude for the people in her life, especially Amy Poehler, inspired me to write love letters to my friends.

Do you want a love letter? DM me your address on Instagram or Twitter and I’ll send you a handwritten note about how much ass you kick.

Book Report: Fire and Fury

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I’ll be honest. There were only two factors that drove me to purchase this book.
1) The hype surrounding what was seemingly a damning, spare-no-soul expose on the Trump administration.
2) Trump tried to stop the book’s release, so buying it felt like a small, personal protest.

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It was sold out all over the city. No one had it. As much as I hate to buy books from ANYWHERE over The Strand, I had to turn to Amazon. Even that took weeks, but at least I could read the first chapter online.

This was probably the most intriguing part. Bannon is painted as a comical, hog-like bureaucratic villain, a puppetmaster pulling all the strings behind Trump’s back who doesn’t realize he’s on strings as well. He’s instantly love/hateable and becomes the key figure throughout the book. Yes. It’s more about Bannon than it is about Trump.

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Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House is like Mean Girls with politicians. It’s by far the cattiest snarkfest I’ve ever forged through in my life. I want to believe the accounts detailed in the book are true, but the tone and overwhelming hearsay undermine the credibility of the story and make me seriously incredulous. This is not to say I have an inkling of fondness or support for Trump. His presence actually nauseates me.

Wolff counters Trump’s simple-mindedness and lack of intellect with dense prose and winding sentence structures almost as difficult to untangle as the incompetence of this administration. I have an MFA in poetry writing, a medium in which you can pretty much make up whatever grammar rules you please, and I was shocked by Wolff’s comma fetish. He sometimes employed them to draw out sentences for than a third of the page long. Needless to say, it’s a taxing read that requires long stretches of silence and concentration.

There doesn’t seem to be a clear litany. Chapters are more episodic; each one attacks a different person or situation. The most often chided scapegoats are Kushner and Bannon. Wolff skirts around Ivanka. She is given nearly no autonomy or agency, almost always referred to as “daughter” or “wife,” despite Wolff’s suggestions that she is the strongest not-so-secret influence on her father. It seems like there’s a much more interesting story behind Ivanka than any of the other crew, but we never find out what’s lurking behind her polished facade.

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It’s not so much that damning expose I was promised as much as it is a comedy of errors chronicling one circus’ sheer incompetency. You could probably get the same tired gossip from Stephen Colbert’s Our Cartoon President. Overall, there was short-lived satisfaction in purchasing the book in protest, but actually reading it is just more cruel subjection to the same exhausting punishments we’re living every day. You’re not going to learn anything new and you’re just going to end up frustrated, bored and depressed.