Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “pop culture”

Samantha’s #CBR4 Review #10: Messy, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

The Fug Girls are back! Messy is the follow-up to last year’s Spoiled, and features the return of the Berlin clan: Molly, Brooke, and Brick, along with their friends (and frenemies) for more Hollywood fun. In the first installment, Molly learns she is the daughter of mega-superstar Brick Berlin, and must not only adjust to a new school and a new family, but also new-found fame as well.  This time around, the action focuses on Molly’s half-sister, Brooke (as it should be, no doubt!) and her attempts to become Hollywood’s newest It Girl, along with Max McCormack, Molly’s new best friend, who nearly stole the show last time around. As with Spoiled, the plot here isn’t going to surprise anyone who’s ever read a book ever, but that’s not really the point; the fresh, funny style of the Fug Girls makes everything worthwhile.

Max wants to become a writer. Specifically, she’s focusing on a program at NYU, but is A. suffering from major writer’s block, and B. lacks the necessary funds. This is why she answers a Craigslist ad to be a ghost writer for a “Hollywood It Girl’s” blog. She’s dismayed when the It Girl in question turns out to be Brooke Berlin (they’ve hated each other since grade school), but the opportunity to write and make a decent wage doing it convinces her to become Brooke’s blogger. Soon she’s following Brooke to Hollywood bashes and casting calls, and the blog is a huge success. Brooke finds herself cast as Nancy Drew, the teenaged role of the year, and everything’s looking up for everyone…until it’s not. Both girls start to realize that they want to be credited for being themselves instead of each other, and find themselves clashing over Brooke’s cute co-star Brady, who’s caught up in their multiple-personality game.

Again, it’s not a new plot, but it’s an effective one, and the characters Cocks and Morgan have created are just so much fun. Max was my favorite character from Spoiled, so it was great to see her have a moment in the sun here. The cultural references and the general snark are in full effect thanks to the focus on Max, since she is something of an outsider in a world full of spray-on tanned starlets.  Brooke gets plenty of character development as well, showing us a little more depth and intelligence, if not humility. If there’s a flaw to be mentioned, it’s that Molly gets short shrift this time around, only showing up to provide moral support to Max, or to mediate between Max and Brooke.

These books are a quick, fun read, and while you’ll have a little bit more of a clue if you read Spoiled first, I like that they’re not precisely a series; I like my reading low-commitment. It’ll be interesting to see how and if the Girls proceed with these characters, since most of them will be graduating from high school soon, and presumably going on to bigger and better things. Perhaps there will again be a focus on Max, who I think is slightly younger than the Berlin sisters. Either way, if Cocks and Morgan produce another installment, I will totally read it. And you should too!

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review#7 Eating the Dinosaur By Chuck Klosterman

The newest book of essays by Chuck Klosterman is worth a read if you are a fan but I don’t suggest it as an entry point for readers unfamiliar with Chuck’s writings. Klosterman first came to the scene with Fargo Rock City, a hilarious and insightful memoir about growing up in Fargo at the height of the 80’s power metal wave. Since then, each successive book has failed to reach that apex. Eating the Dinosaur has some interesting points, but ultimately I don’t think it accomplished what Klosterman set out to do.

The main theme of the book is perception. How we are perceived by others and how we perceive ourselves. Klosterman is always at his best when he is drilling deep into a pop culture connection that may not have been made before and the lead off essay, “Oh, the Guilt” is a prime example. In this, the longest piece in the book, Klosterman analyzes In Utero era Kurt Cobain & Nirvana and draws parallels to doomed Branch Davidian leader David Koresh. It is a smart and funny examination of the perils of fame and how two people as different as Koresh and Cobain may actually be more alike than expected. For anyone that is fascinated by pop culture phenomenon (and if you are reading Klosterman it is a requirement) this is a brilliant piece. His examination of In Utero, Nirvana’s controversial follow up to their break though smash Nevermind, is smartly researched and incisive. I’m a casual fan of Nirvana, I have all their albums yet I don’t think Cobain was a rock messiah, but Klosterman got to one of the things that always drove me nuts about post Nevermind Nirvana. Namely that Kurt still wanted to be seen as anti-establishment, and went to great pains to do so, even while he was a millionaire.

The majority of this review has been written about one 25 page essay in a book that has 15. This is because most of the others are not nearly as compelling. However, it may be that I just am not the target audience for all of them. One essay on 80’s basketball player Ralph Sampson went completely over my head, namely because I don’t watch (or like) pro basketball. Another sports essay on the rise of the Read Option in pro-football held my interest as Klosterman recounted the various changes to the game over the years.Klosterman is an extremely talented writer, but sometimes he seems to be writing to impress more than impart knowledge. The book is loaded with footnotes, and the occasional reference that may leave you scratching your head. That is unless you are familiar with Christian metal band Stryper as well as the works of Kierkegaard.

That is what is ultimately frustrating about Eating the Dinosaur. For every interesting insight, like the pervasive use of laugh tracks in early sitcoms and how they may have irrevocably altered our social interactions, there is one on road movies that is so light weight I’m not even sure what he was going for.

Still, there is enough good here that I recommend it if you have an interest in the same things that Klosterman finds interesting. If you are someone that has had conversations with your friends comparing and contrasting Appetite for Destruction & Use Your Illusion, or discussing the obstacles of time travel, or if you have ever read the Unabomber’s manifesto, you are in the Klosterman demographic. The essays are hit or miss but that likely depends entirely on the reader. The good is entertaining enough to outweigh the bad.


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