Friday, January 29, 2016

Roundup! Or is it Round Up? Round-up?

Seriously though, I can never figure out the proper way to spell roundup/round up/round-up. Spell check is fine with all of them.

In any case, my computer is sick, so I haven’t been on the internet much this week (don’t get me started on how completely reliant on technology my entire career has become). Ergo, a short round-up of what I’ve been reading this week…

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante. Yes, I’m obsessed with Ferrante. But if you start reading her work you’ll (probably) see why.

This is what my little sister does for a living. She is brilliant and talented, and her students sure are lucky to have her. (And I think they know it!)

“Girlfriend, Mother, Professor?” from The Stone blog at the NYT. “The problem is that we, as a culture, don’t really know what a female professor is supposed to be. The archetypal professor is decidedly male — rumpled tweed jacket, argyle socks, bushy beard, pipe — and even if it were an option not much in this aesthetic is terribly appealing to a cisgender woman like me. In my more optimistic moments I try to see this cultural void as an opportunity — I’m lucky enough to have the chance to avoid falling into age-old stereotypes and to invent new, more appropriate roles. But most of the time it just feels like a desert. Feminists have been telling us for a very long time that women in positions of authority find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. Too assertive or confident and they’ll call you a “bitch.” Too passive or self-deprecating and they’ll think you’re a doormat and unfit to be taken seriously.” I have an personal essay coming out this winter on a similar topic. Look for it in the gender issue of Rhubarb magazine.

Kate Gavino's The Jeff Goldblum Scale of Anxiety over at Catapult is quite possibly my favorite thing of the whole week. I love Gavino's work in general, and I too am an anxious person. Enjoy this, and check out her book, Last Night's Reading. Every page is a delight.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Bachelor Recap: Week 3

Do you enjoy my weekly analysis of The Bachelor? Consider subscribing to my Patreon page. Subscriptions start at $1/column. Enjoy last week's post!

The Winner's Edit

When Episode 3 began I thought I would end up focusing this week’s column on Lauren B., because there was such clear chemistry between her and Ben on their one-on-one date, and because she definitely seemed to be getting the Winner’s Edit here. If you’re new to “reality” television, Winner’s Edit refers to the way certain characters get more camera time and/or are only shown in a positive light, rather than exhibiting more complicated or potentially negative personality traits. So, for example, in Episode 2 we saw Ben sit down with Lauren B. at a cocktail party and give her a photo of the two of them as a small sign of his affection, whereas later that night, during Bachelor Live, we saw a deleted scene of Jubilee sweetly bestowing a gift on Ben. Winner’s Edit, meet Loser’s Edit. The producers are telling a story, and they cut and keep based on what will help them tell the story they want, maintaining just enough suspense and drama to keep us watching. Lauren B. might not be the winner, but they at least want us to think she might be, for now.

In any case, they had a pretty solid date. Ben seemed truly smitten, right down to the speech he gave after “dinner” (if you can call it that when they don’t eat), before giving Lauren B. the rose. Those little monologues tend to all sound the same, and after making some generic statements most of the men basically always say, “with that said,” a phrase I would be happy never to hear again, before offering the rose. Ben not only skipped that bit of Bachelor Lingo, he seemed to really be speaking from the heart.

(GAG, did I just write that? YES, YES I DID.)

So. Lauren B. is front runner.

Moving on to this week’s group date, can we begin with a collective acknowledgement that The Bachelor finally had an AWESOME group date, but that it was totally lost on all of these women, who knew anything about soccer? They got to hang out with ALEX MORGAN and KELLEY O’HARA and they were more focused on Ben and their cute uniforms. I’m pretty sure they had never even heard of  the World Cup.

Basically, if Ben ever wants to go on another soccer date he needs to take me, obviously. Emily might have been a surprisingly good goalkeeper, but I’m better. Let me save you, Ben -- from yourself, and from a lifetime with someone whose idea of athletics is going to SoulCycle.

Seriously though, I don’t understand what kind of bubble someone lives in to not at least know that goalkeepers can use their hands. Didn’t any of these women have to take a PE class at some point? Or try to date a guy on the soccer team in high school or college, at least, even if they didn’t play themselves? In truth, I think Emily had played before and was just playing it cool -- teehee I’m blond and can’t sportz, also I’m not that smart. What if it turns out she’s actually brilliant and we’re just getting to see the lame moments? The Ditzy Blond Edit?

In sum:. Please, play sports with your daughters so that someday they don’t end up on reality television because they can’t figure out anything more interesting to do with their lives.

As for the evening portion of the date, all I’m going to say about Olivia’s toes and cankles is: even freakishly good looking women are insecure about their bodies. She should probably take a page from Lace’s book, and go home to “work on herself,” before this goes any further.

The biggest topic for the week was Jubilee and her one-on-one date with Ben. Jubilee, right from the time her name was read off that card, became my new favorite. After listening to Olivia be like “YES, OBVIOUSLY Ben adores me and every date card will go to me etc etc etc” there was something lovely about Jubilee’s genuine enthusiasm. She didn’t think she’d get a date, because Ben has thus far chosen the tiny, sweet stereotypical “girly girls” for one-on-ones, and that’s not how she understands herself at all.

As much as possible in such a situation Jubilee seems like she’s being herself. So, when she’s excited she shows it, and when she’s scared she shows that, too. Hence the drama when the helicopter landed, and she jokingly asked if someone else wanted to go on her date. It is so utterly ridiculous that anyone who was in the room when she got her date card could have taken that tiny side comment seriously, and yet what followed makes it clear just how eager these other women are for a reason to tear her up. Never mind that a person who is afraid of heights has every right to say NO to flying in a helicopter, and instead ask Ben to drive her in that hot blue convertible. Nonetheless, we got a foretaste of things to come when the other women launched into enraged monologues about how, “She should be grateful for what she’s been given.”

When a bunch of white women start telling a black women to “be grateful for what she’s been given” that is some textbook racial microaggression right there, not to mention the way that she was repeatedly called “aggressive,” when in fact many of the other women have been far more aggressive. Olivia can go around like she’s owns the place and no one confronts her, but Jubilee cracks a little joke or gives Ben a hard time for being 20 minutes late (I’d have given him a hard time too, as anyone would on a real date) and she’s basically told she should consider herself lucky she’s even allowed to be here.

“Here,” I guess meaning making it past the third episode on a show where few women of color are ever cast, and rarely do they make it beyond the first couple of weeks. The women were making it pretty clear that Jubilee doesn’t belong here in their eyes, and that if she’s not willing to sit down and shut up and play by their rules, there will be consequences. This includes Amber, who’s making a serious effort to prove that she can play the part of nice (white) reality show girl on this, her third Bachelor show, and make it past week three. Who knows whether this is a conscious choice, but it doesn’t have to be to make the point that white femininity is the norm on the show, and that women who don’t perform it properly are punished. The fact that Amber is the one who confronts Jubilee at the cocktail party doesn’t, in my mind, erase the racialized tone of the whole thing -- it cements it. After all, being confrontational isn’t attractive or “polite,” so why not send Amber to do the dirty work, since she already has a rose?

Let’s be clear here: When a white woman (Lauren H.) says, flat out, that Jubilee isn’t right for Ben because, “He wants a woman who will be friends with all the other soccer moms” that is racially coded language. “Soccer moms” means white women. They are saying that this isn’t Jubilee’s world, and that she should go back to where she belongs.

Add to this the fact that, prior to the women confronting Jubilee over nothing, we witness a date with Ben that was both really awkward and gorgeously intense, and the whole hot mess makes for some wild television. That date was arguably the closest to a real date I’ve seen on the show -- both  the awkwardness, and the fact that Jubilee isn’t so much starry eyed as she is really trying to figure out what Ben’s like and what he wants, and whether or not he’s looking for someone like her and could make her happy. Ben also asked serious questions over dinner, and got real answers. Of course the producers love to be able to play up a tragic backstory, but in this case Jubilee didn’t appear to play her story like a trump card in a game. She shared it as herself, whoever that may turn out to be in the end.

When Amber finally “confronted” Jubilee, Ben sat with them, and then made very clear, in front of Amber and the cameras, why he likes Jubilee and why he gave her the rose, and basically shut the whole petty thing down. That was solid. Ben won me over with that, even if that “I’m responsible for the emotions in this house” line revealed a bit too much benevolent masculinity for my tastes. Still, I appreciate that he wanted to intervene and be frank about what the women were saying and what he thought about it, rather than leaving it all to gossip.

If you jump back to “she should be grateful for what she’s been given” conflict, and contrast it with the intensity of Jubilee sharing that her whole family died, the writing is on the wall for some of the other women. Olivia and her worry about her cankles can’t compare to a woman Ben praised for strength, depth, and of course, beauty.

I think Jubilee is going to go far. But I don’t think she’s going to be the one standing next to him in the end. She’s not getting the Winner’s Edit by any stretch -- the awkward moments, the drama, even the tragic backstory, are actually the stuff that in a reality television narrative usually set up a dramatic, heartbreaking exit. And I predict that’s what we’ll get, one way or another, a few weeks from now. Who knows, ABC might even leverage that story arc into the opportunity to cast a woman of color as Bachelorette for the first time, and while I don’t think they’d be doing it for The Right Reasons, it’s about damn time, so I almost hope I’m right.

Then again, when I like a character there’s always a tiny part of me yelling, “Get out! Get out while you still can!”

Friday, January 22, 2016

Snow Day Links

It’s a Snow Day here in Durham, and both Duke and Peace, my university employers, are closed for the day. I’m cozy on the couch, and there’s a loaf of bread dough rising on the counter, but I can’t quite relax. The rhythm of the ice pellets hitting my window warn of potential power outages. All of which is to say, if you’re planning on binge watching Netflix all weekend, it might be a good idea to have candles, flashlights, and BOOKS on hand, just in case. Aren't you glad I regularly list books in my "link" roundup?

Here are this week’s reads + links, while there’s still electricity and wifi to post them...

I started Elena Ferrante’s second Neapolitan novel, The Story of a New Name. The first volume took me a while to get into, but not so with this one. I am living in the world she’s created right now, so vividly that I have to pull myself out intentionally at times because, frankly, this book is darker than the last one. It’s either the best or the worst snowed-in-by-myself reading, but either way, I love it. #FerranteFever continues.

I stumbled on this piece from a while back by Alana Massey, Against Chill, and all I have to add is, yes.

This essay on the Selfie is long by internet standards, but worth the time.

Sometimes I think about moving, and I feel like the person in this piece at The Toast. Then I remember that I am the garbage gnome, and I will never find a more perfect apartment than the one I currently live in, though Marie Kondo will defintely not be asking my advice about anything, ever.

New fiction from The Offing: Ash Wednesday by Eric Boyd.

I finally read Alexander Chee’s Year in Reading over at The Millions, which had been sitting in my Instapaper account for about a month. With so much to read, sometime to choose it helps to ask, what are my favorite writers reading?

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Bachelor Recap: Week 2

Note: As I wrote previously, I'm writing a humorous weekly column about The Bachelor this winter. The following post originally appeared on my Patreon page, which you can subscribe to here. I hope you will.

No One is Rejection-Proof

Ah, week two. The dates begin!

In the opening shots of this week's episode, did anyone else find it interesting to see that Ben is staying at the Four Seasons? If you recall some of the more dramatic moments of Chris Soules' season, you'll remember that he was living in a bachelor pad right next door to the women, complete with hot tub and outdoor shower. The proximity pretty much begged for secret trysts, or snooping around while Chris was off on dates with other women, not to mention lots of shots of Chris in the aforementioned shower. (The brief shot, featured on Bachelor Live, of Ben rinsing off in the hotel bathroom was a pretty poor substitute.) Who knows whether it was Ben's choice to stay further away, but it's certainly interesting to hypothesize. His Good Guy image would go well with a decision to remove himself from the possibility of women knocking on his door at all hours of the night.
But...I'm not sure I'm fully buying the Good Guy image at this point. Prove it to me, Ben. PROVE IT.
Week two started off with a cringe worthy "back to school" themed group date that should probably make us fear for the future, given that the women remaining in the competition when they reached the geography challenge couldn't place Indiana on a map. Still, how about those volcano explosions, amiright? You've got to hand it to ABC for the not-so-subtle innuendo. Ben's face in moments like this is perhaps proof that he is who he presents himself to be, because boy did he look awkward when Chris Harrison asked who was doing to make Ben's volcano explode. In any case, the results of the competition were a good reminder of why these kind of dates are stupid: Mandi, who won, went home at the end of the week. Winning at cheesy ice breaker games isn't much of an indicator of, well, anything, besides one's ability to win cheesy ice breaker games.
The evening portion of the date was less humorous, but more revealing about what might happen going forward. First off, Becca and Ben definitely have A Thing going. She can shoot a basketball, she's beautiful and wholesome, she's actually pretty level headed and smart (generally not an asset on this show, but one can dream). Personally, I'm putting her in my Final Four.
All the tiny dramas and stealing back and forth of the coveted Ben aside, the thing I was most struck by throughout the evening was how everyone keeps saying "I'm excited to get to know you" -- as in, in the future. I found myself wondering when -- if ever -- the real conversations happen. They're so focused on checking in on their feelings  -- "I'm excited to be here," "I'm excited to get to know you," "I'm developing feelings for you" -- that they rarely seem to actually get to know one another. They're always projecting to a future time when they'll get to do that. The notable exceptions to this, of course, are intense back stories from women like Jubilee, and revelations about children from parents, in this case, Amanda. Doesn't anyone else have a LIFE and THOUGHTS they'd like to share with Ben? Questions they'd like to ask him, as they figure out whether he's someone they'd like to marry? Talking about your feelings all the time has to get exhausting.
And PS, someone at ABC needs to start dressing Ben better, because he wore a hoodie on a group date. I don't care if it was one of those fancy cashmere ones, Ben. The ladies are in cocktail attire and probably spent hours on their hair and makeup. Ya gotta do better than a HOODIE. You're the Bachelor.
Moving on to the ride along date with Calia, I'm not sure what to say except that it was pretty bad. Their idea of getting to know one another included Ben asking Caila her favorite color. I mean, is this grade school? Still, Ben's face when Kevin Hart stood up in the hot tub may have made this whole episode worth watching. Again, he looked so uncomfortable. Even when Ben and Caila got to be alone the date seemed super awkward. Ben is always so poised -- too poised -- and all Caila can say about what she is looking for is that she wants to be in the "right relationship" -- an answer which essentially re-states the question.
As usual, they literally left the restaurant without touching the food. If you follow my tweets, you know this is my biggest Bachelor pet peeve. No one eats! Not even the men, who can get away with it! You could see their untouched meals sitting there, on the table, looking like a prop rather than food. It's no wonder everyone goes crazy on this show: their only caloric intake comes from alcohol.
To be honest, it's possible that Ben was more excited about seeing Amos Lee perform than anything else on this date, despite the fact that the date seemed to go reasonably well. Caila also seems wholesome thought that I'd bet she goes to the Final Four. I mean, she's the kind of person who says "you-know-where" instead of "hell." Also, don't get me started on the flesh colored mesh on her dress.
Moving along again: The Love Laboratory date was an all time low. The faux science, the humiliation of the smell test, the ridiculousness of taking that thermal energy test with everyone watching...and then announcing the scores, to everyone! Stuff like this is why I question Ben's character. Either he's not that nice, or he's just stupid. How dumb can you be to think this won't hurt people unnecessarily?! Yet he seems so intent on not wanting to do that at other times. I'd be interested to know how much control Ben has over planning these dates. The show always presents the dates as if Ben planned them, but I always kind of assume that he isn't really given that much say in the matter, so maybe he gets a pass this time. Maybe.
As for Olivia, who won the rose for the night -- that high score of 74? That's a solid C, my friends, nothing to put on the refrigerator of the Bachelor Mansion. (As a side note, did anyone else catch that "WHAT'S UP?!" that Ben gave Olivia when she stole him from Leah? That was...not sexy. At all.) Anyway, those two are mostly just making out and I'm pretty sure she's going to get herself sent home in the next couple of weeks. Over confidence usually leads down that road, on this show and often in life. Same goes for Lace, whose last conversation with him (if you can call it that) consisted mostly of her interrupting his attempts to respond to what she said, and sort of spewing random thoughts about her self without any clarity whatsoever. Apparently she was a dork in elementary school. Who wasn't?
My overall reaction to Ben after week two is mixed, at best. Perhaps it's his age (he's young, he doesn't really know what he's doing), perhaps he's not entirely the Nice Guy he wants to come across as, perhaps he's just a typical human dude...but in any case, I found it hard to match his insensitivity toward the Love Lab and some of his continued choices about who to keep around and who to send home, with the thoughtful guy who thought up small, sweet (well, they found them sweet at least) gifts for some of the women at the cocktail party. That's something I don't remember ever seeing. Often the Bachelor gets gifts from the women on the show. They have a ton of time in their hands, and they're worried about whether he's thinking about them. Coming up with a cheesy gift gives them an outlet for that energy, I guess, and a way to ensure he is reminded of them during the week. (Honestly though, go lay by the pool and read a book ladies. You barely know the guy.)
So, the thing that redeemed Ben for me this week is that he actually seems to get that this is a two way street. He believes he has to woo them, instead of just letting them fight over him. America may be shocked, and continue coming back to Ben's fear that he may be unlovable, but the fact that he is indeed lovable doesn't mean each and every (or any) woman cast for the show will necessarily end up being a match. We saw this when LB left after being offered a rose. We saw hints of this as Amanda questioned whether she should be there, away from her children, while a woman like Olivia monopolizes him. Is Ben worth it? Certainly not if she doesn't have feelings for him, but possibly not even if she does. The fact that Ben is lovable doesn't make him rejection-proof.
Surprise, America! Single people aren't single because they're unlovable, and lovable though he may be, there is a very real possibility Ben will still be single at the end of all this.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday Links

For your reading + listening pleasure.

Bubbly on Your Budget by Marjorie Hillis: This book, published in the late 30s, is clearly dated, but somehow it's even more entertaining as a result, not to mention that much of the advice remains smart and applicable. Hillis also wrote Live Alone and Like It, which I commend to all ladies who either live alone and like it, or live alone and WISH they liked it.

Speaking of women alone, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I stumbled across this essay, St. Teresa and the Single Ladies, but in the end I enjoyed it greatly. “’s hard to get people to understand why a woman would ever choose to live a life alone.”

I’m late to the game on this excellent essay from Eula Biss, White Debt, but no matter -- it’s timely, and will no doubt be relevant for years to come. Such debts cannot be paid off quickly.

Many of you know my fondness for small spaces, and the one and only “lifestyle blogger” I enjoy, Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves, has a delightful piece over at Cup of Jo, about living in a small space with a baby. Erin’s book was released this week, and I’m itching to get my hands on a copy.

These works of Micro-Fiction Based on the Madewell Spring Lookbook made my day.

Interview Magazine talked with James Norton about War and Peace. I love Norton, Russian novels, and period dramas, so needless to say I am pretty pumped about watching this adaptation when it begins airing next week.

Jia Tolentino on why it’s cool to read diverse books, but maybe you should shut up about it and just do it, because...obviously. Remember: It’s not diversity, it’s reality. It shouldn’t be extra special to read non cis white dudes, it should just be WHAT YOU DO.

Gene Luen Yang has been named Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress. I’m so excited about this. American Born Chinese was the book that solidified my budding interest in graphic novels/comics a couple of years ago. I heard Gene Luen Yang speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing in 2014, and he said he prefers to refer to his books as comics, and that “graphic novel” is just marketing lingo used to make the work sound more high brow so it's taken seriously. Just another reason I love this author.

This is the second week in a row I’ve directed you to the Book Riot podcast, but so be it. This week’s episode includes, among other things, a great story about someone calling the POLICE on kids for reading a banned books. The kids may be all right, but I am a little worried about their parents.

David Bowie. May he rest in peace.

I have a new column out in Leader magazine, on contentious women in the Old Testament (pictured above). I struggled with this one, and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. However, it’s not online, so you’ll have to track down a print copy if you want to read it. Long live print!

And finally, there’s a new column up for subscribers to my Patreon page, on week two of The Bachelor. So far this has been great not-too-serious (but also a little bit serious sometimes) fun. I'd love to have you join us.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Bachelor Recap: Week 1

Note: As I wrote previously, I'm writing a humorous weekly column about The Bachelor this winter. The following post originally appeared on my Patreon page, which you can subscribe to here to read the weekly posts when they are first released rather than having to wait a week.

An Army of Freakishly Good Looking Women
In the lead up to last night's Season 20 premier of The Bachelor, I was mystified by the promo clips of women going to great lengths to make a memorable entrance on night one at the Bachelor Mansion. When you're going on a first date, with twenty seven other women, I'm sure it's easy to worry about whether or not the guy will even remember your name, much less whether you'll make the kind of first impression that earns you that coveted first rose.
But when did the limo exit become an exercise in bad puns and silly costumes? Even in the alternate Bachelor Universe, this seems a bit far fetched. I started keeping count: the first five to exit the limo all made some kind of dumb, punny joke in effort to imprint themselves on Ben's memory. I thought that was bad...but it got much worse.
A woman showed up with a miniature horse.
A woman walked our wearing a Rose Hat that was bigger than her head ("I AM the first impression rose," she said).
A woman road up on a hover board.
A woman got out of the limo dressed in footie pajamas, because she needed to find out if Ben is "The Onesie."
Enough with the puns already.
"What are you looking for in a woman, Ben?"
"Someone who can make a good pun." <-- Things Ben never said.
In all seriousness, this shift (it is a shift, isn't it? Were the entrances always this crazy, or am I just blocking that out?) seems like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope on steroids...or on something harder than steroids, in some cases. The desire to prove one's quirky uniqueness right out of the limo door has driven these women to lengths that not only seem unnecessary, but might even have the opposite of the desired effect. When has the person who made the crazy entrance EVER gotten the first impression rose? Never in my memory. What happened to Hot Tub Guy? Or to Cupcake? [From the previous season of The Bachelorette] And Mini Horse Meagan has already been sent home (though that may have been because she cursed every three words, which is a bit much for anyone, but especially for Nice Guy Ben). A "memorable" entrance is not the same as a good first impression, even on reality television.

You know what apparently did make a good first impression on Ben? A woman who quit a job she said she loved to come on the show and meet him.
Yeah, there's some stuff to unpack there, huh? If you want to make a good first impression, forget the kooky antics. Just make it very clear that the one thing that matters most to you in the world is Finding Love. So much so that you have already left your satisfying career to Take a Chance on Ben.
When it comes to first impressions, it also doesn't hurt to also be conventionally beautiful (mostly white, mostly blonde or pretending to be, and all skinny), but of course, the women cast on The Bachelor always are. Toward the beginning of the episode, someone used the phrase, "An Army of Freakishly Good Looking Women" to describe the cast, and that tells you most of what you need to know about night one. When Ben says, "I think I can see my wife in this room," all he is really able to mean is "You are all totally hot enough to marry." Ben may be one of the more "genuine" bachelors we've seen, but how many minutes does he actually get with each woman on the first night? Not many. Not enough to have much true sense of whether he wants to marry one of them. If any of them weren't conventionally attractive, Ben wouldn't have had time yet to get to know them "inside," to go with the cliché. Night one is all about the surface. It can't help but be about the surface, because there are twenty eight women and one man speed dating into the wee hours of the morning. This is why -- despite the fact that overall I think the show needs to loosen up about physical intimacy -- I was actually kind of digging Ben's choice not to kiss anyone on the first night. I mean, first off, there's nothing weird about not kissing on a first date even when you're on a date with one person (nor is it weird to kiss on a first date -- to each their own!). But when you're basically having 28 mini-dates in rapid succession and can barely remember all of the women's names, AND four of them are named Lauren, it shows some maturity to maximize face-to-face time by talking instead of sucking face. There will be PLENTY of time for making out later, and you know we are all looking forward to that, Ben. Don't let us down.
There was a lot going on in episode one, but as the season unfolds no doubt we will continue to consider how genuine Ben is, what kind of guy he is beneath the surface. The women keep calling him "the sexiest man in America," which I refute -- he's very cute, sure. I would totally date him. But sexiest man in America? That's...a little extreme. I don't know. I tend to think that, rather than pure sex appeal, what makes Ben the obvious choice for ABC's Bachelor is his bland small-town everyday guy brand of cute, mixed with some vague references to faith and moral values. He's attractive, but he's also safe.
Ben's attitude toward getting to know the women before he locks lips is no doubt linked to his Nice Guy with Vague Moral Values persona, which has already been hinted at by women in their brief one-on-one encounters with him, as they give rushed and no doubt practiced speeches about why they think they'd be the best match for him. Olivia noted that part of why she loved her job (the job she quit, to pursue Ben and a career in reality television) was "access to the community" and "giving back," the sort of vague language of unselfishness The Bachelor loves to throw around as evidence of a person being there for The Right Reasons. Of course these women have all stalked Ben on social media (haven't we ALL? Oh, that's just me? Never mind...) so they know about his humanitarian work and religious identity. How hard is it to say, "My faith is really important to me" on night one? What the heck does that mean? Faith in what? "My values are important" -- but what values?
There hasn't been much of chance for those characteristics of the cast members to be revealed yet, but it matters that the two women Ben debated giving the first impression rose to both emphasized such vague values in their brief time with him. They're playing that ambiguous faith card already. When you're surrounded by an Army of Freakishly Good Looking Women, what else can you do?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Link Roundup!

In 2016, I’m bringing back the Friday link roundup. Enjoy!

My first book of the year was My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, and I’ve officially contracted Ferrante Fever. The moment I finished in I ordered volumes 2, 3, and 4 of the series.

Speaking of Ferrante, who one critic described as what you’d get if “if Jane Austen got angry,” here she is writing about none other than Jane Austen.

If you haven’t read Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Lolita to Me (and the essay that preceded it), you need to get right: “You read enough books in which people like you are disposable, or are dirt, or are silent, absent, or worthless, and it makes an impact on you. Because art makes the world, because it matters, because it makes us. Or breaks us.”

Mensah Demary on The End of December is the only new year’s themed essay I need.

In 2015 I bought my first real red lipstick, so I particularly enjoyed An (Abridged) History of Red Lipstick on The Toast.

Check out the Book Riot year in review podcast.

I enjoyed This American Life Episode #574: Sinatra’s 100th Birthday, mostly because it includes Gay Talese reading aloud “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” one of my favorite essays.

Here’s Hanson playing some songs from Anthem on a rooftop.

Did you miss my essay on Lunch Ticket? Tisk, tisk. Read it here.

I published my first column on The Bachelor via Patreon on Tuesday. You can subscribe here.