Month: February 2022

What do we do with art from problematic people?

An update on a previous review.


Earlier this week, I learned that the author of book 1 in this year’s series is transphobic. I’ve put a note linking to this post at the top of the review, and because I had more to say about it, and on finding out that something you love was created by someone with hateful views, I wrote a full post here.

To start: in this discussion, I mean art we’ve enjoyed before we knew the artist is problematic, like riding along on an adventure with Harry Potter before J.K. Rowling started spouting transphobic views, or laughing at The Cosby Show before knowing what he did to women, or even learning something interesting from an early Dr. Oz show before realizing he’s a crank. What I don’t mean is seeing that an actor has been arrested for beating his wife and then saying “yes I need to give this man more of my money!” It’s about realizing something that brought you joy was created by someone who is also terrible.

The place I’ve landed on is that finding out the artist is a bigot/transphobic/domestic abuser doesn’t erase the experience their art brought you, but it doesn’t mean you continue to […]

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Station Eleven the series, and a note



Despite saying that I needed a bit of time to process the book Station Eleven, I dove right into the HBO miniseries adaptation, and watched all 10 episodes in two days (and in those two days, I wrote an edited 8,500 words of copy, yes I am VERY tired).

The series is different than the book in terms of the plot, but it still holds the same core values of finding beauty in the darkness, the importance of community, and also the importance of trust. Giving these characters bigger and wider lives was the right call too. In the book, Arthur Leander, a fading actor, is a core character. In the series, he’s more a winch around which everyone else wound until the world fell apart. It was an extremely smart decision, and I commend the folks who worked on the series of for it.

I also give them kudos for being able to start a show about a pandemic before a pandemic (they shot the first two episodes before the world shut down) and then come back to it. I found it stressful enough as a viewer living through a […]

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Book 8 of 52: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

In the early months of the pandemic, I started working on a story for the New York Times about what I saw as two groups of people: those who ran towards pandemic-related books, movies and art, and those who ran away.

The story never got off the ground (I was assigned other stuff, I couldn’t get the right experts, I was burnt out of covering [waves hands] and didn’t want to chase a story that wasn’t coming together when there was SO MUCH ELSE to write) but one of the books that came up over and over again in the “run towards” group was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

Station Eleven is a novel about a pandemic where the contagion (called the Georgia Flu) is exponentially more lethal than the one we’re still dealing with now. It’s mortality rate is over 99%, and when 99% of people on the planet die, so does almost everything else that those people made work. It’s not just the internet that no longer exists, but electricity too. And phones. And cars. And airplanes. And most of civilization.

The book focuses on a handful of characters who are all tangentially connected (exactly how unravels over the […]

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Book 7 of 52: P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia

In 2014, Slate ran a piece about how adults shouldn’t read young adult fiction. The subhead said that readers who do should be “embarrassed when what you’re reading is written for children.”

I know that writers don’t always chose their headlines or subheads, but the writer dug in deep in the text of the piece, chastising “fellow grownups” that “at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless or old, we are better than this.” Well, yes, she sure did sound like all of those things!
I’ve linked to the piece but am not naming the writer because she got the backlash she deserved for shaming other people’s reading habits (and she’s reporting now, not writing commentary, which is probably a good thing for all parties involved). I don’t read a lot of YA or middle grade books, but I read a lot, and I’m not going to exclude something that looks interesting just because it’s a story told from a younger point of view.
Such is the case of P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia, a middle grade novel about three girls growing up in the Bed Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn in the late 1960s. The story is told from the […]

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Book 6 of 52: Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson

The narrator of Antoine Wilson’s Mouth to Mouth is an unnamed, middling writer waiting for a flight to Germany after taking a a red eye from Los Angeles to JFK. While sitting bleary eyed in the terminal, he hears the name “Jeff Cook” over the loud speaker. He went to college with a Jeff Cook, though he didn’t know him that well. He was kind of person whose circle overlaps yours but you don’t know well, but since you see each other over and over and over again, becomes part of the background of your college experience.

It’s a common name – could it be the same Jeff? It is, and he’s waiting for the same flight, which is delayed, so he brings the narrator into the first class lounge with him. Over the course of the delay, Jeff tells the narrator what has happened to him starting  not long after graduation, which lead to him being the kind of guy who only flies first class.

Told in this round about way (the narrator relays Jeff’s story, switching between telling it from the time Jeff experienced it, and them talking in the first class lounge), Wilson gives the story a layer […]

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Book 5 of 52: Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen

I don’t always try to match my reading to what I’m doing, but when I go to Florida, I try to pack at least one Florida weird book. There was no better novel to bring with me to read on a ferry from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park, than Carl Hiaasen’s Stormy Weather.

Hiaasen was writing about #floridaman before #floridaman was a thing (and when this – # – was the pound sign). Stormy Weather is set in 1992 in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, which is still the most destructive hurricane to have ever hit Florida, and only one of four hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. still at Category 5 strength. According to the Miami Herald, Hurricane Andrew destroyed 63,000 homes and damaged another 101,241.

Such disasters bring out the best in humanity but also the worst. Fraud flowed into South Florida in Andrew’s wake. That’s where Stormy Weather comes in. From an advertising executive who yanks his new wife away from their Walt Disney World honeymoon to record storm damage to sell to TV stations; to a petty thief who decides to fake owning a home for the insurance money when […]

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