Welcome back to the fifth edition of our modest review of the literary landscape of two to twelve years ago. As your new editor (Sherraleah), I want to express, on behalf of all the current and currently deceased readers, my appreciation for the accomplishments of this little rag (this edition has been screen-printed on housekeeping towels) over the past eight months. I have enjoyed catching up on all the back issues yesterday, and look forward to many more fifteen-minute blocks of insightful tenth-grade level book reports. Danforth’s nephew has assured us that his friends on the Internet are enjoying it as well—I guess we’ll have to start charging them soon! Ha-ha! But seriously, condolences to Junely’s family. Joyce Wake Retirement Communities Inc. denies all culpability, and notes that they swiftly moved to obtain a new potted plant supplier to avoid a repeat of the disturbing pileup on the grand balustrade. Fortunately, only Junely died horrendously.
We have two pieces of wonderful news to share with you today! First, congratulations to Edsel and the new Mrs. Edsel, Belvina! We could not be more thrilled that they buried their still-unknown differences (some of us saw them taking long walks around the gazebo with a shoebox and a trowel, so we can only assume it’s a time capsule of love letters!) and got hitched. The ceremony, held in the cafeteria and officiated by Tillie, was the loveliest display of lavender and purple ribbons we have seen in some time. The laminated programs were an especially nice favor—they clean up nicely with this edition’s towels. We were also all delighted that Mrs. Joyce Wake herself made an appearance, along with her corporate media relations team, to document the proceedings and have us all sign elaborate legal pledges to the newlyweds. The fact that she went the extra mile to do this, while also replacing all the potted plants just in time for the ceremony, suggests what kind of wonderful business pioneer she is. “Living, graciously into the sunshine of tomorrow” indeed!
Second, we have finally discovered a copy of the first issue of Finnegan Farms Review of Books! Oddly enough, it was found among Sheila’s belongings, next to a picture of our beloved but presumed now-skeletal cat, Simpson, who went missing between issues three and four. It can truly be said that when God closes a couple of doors, he cracks a window upstairs in the back. Therefore, we can all look forward to reading the tiny reviews that started our literatury adventures next time. Until then, please be careful around the gazebo. There is a mound of dirt waiting to trip someone up.
Note: In the interest of saving on copier costs at Kinko’s, I’ll just say that all the books reviewed here were given three stars.
The Erotic Poems, by Ovid. Reading this is like licking a used cheese grater. Do it the right way, and you’ll get the pleasant tang of historic cheese residue. Do it the wrong way, and you’ll wonder why the hell you’re doing this. Either way, just get some fresh cheese. These poems are two thousand years old, originally written in a language primarily used for ancient bureaucratic parliamentary maneuvers (and later, church services designed to bamboozle disease-ridden peasants out of their bean coins), and make countless references to historical and mythological figures that classical scholars can’t even remember (Pelops?). While the lovely cadences of the poems of the Amores have some appeal (“Prissy-faced women are worth close scrutiny”—how universally true!), it was the fragmentary “On Facial Treatments for Ladies” that has kept the most worth over these millennia. I learned to use Libyan barley, powdered hartshorn, narcissus bulbs, gum, and Tuscan spelt-seed to make a wonderful face-pack that I plan to use on any interested prissy women.
Chick With Baggage Seeks Same: The Life and Times of Some Chickens, by Sloane Taner. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why this book is such a hit with the ladies. The book consists of a series of staged pictures of fake yellow chicks engaging in absurd activities, each given humorous captions. A chick in a top hat is seen riding in a carriage with a heavily-eyelashed chick wearing a feathered fascinator. “After so many years of waiting, Charles was somewhat sorry to find that up close Camilla smelled a bit of guacamole.” I can tell you one thing: Charles knew exactly how Camilla smelled before they got married. In another picture, two other chicks (one with an elaborate white ’do) are sitting by their camper in front of the Grand Canyon. “Gladys and Harvey had waited until their golden years to see the Grand Canyon. It was nice. But alas, she missed her cat and he missed his La-Z-Boy.” Is that supposed to be funny? I can tell you another thing: I am not going to the Grand Canyon at my age.
The Martian, by Andy Weir. I laid stunned amidst a heap of jumbled blankets that failed to warm my spirit after reading this cold, desolate, unsparing look at the fundamental isolation of humanity and the despair that knows no full expression. A science-fiction work of unparalleled technical accuracy and emotional depth, it follows the travails of astronaut Mark Watney, who is stranded on the surface of Mars when a sudden dust storm seems to kill him while forcing all the other astronauts to depart. I remain frozen in a tundra of swollen red feelings from reading the economical prose and desperate attempts at humor that hide the painful emotions unearthed—unmarsened!—by facing the ultimate isolation any human could experience. Though people eventually talked to one another in this book, I hope someone speaks to the author about his inability to recognize or render human emotions in any discernibly recognizable form. I may not recover…but there’s still hope for Andy.
Bad Feminist, by Roxanne Gay. This is a series of essays on pop culture, gender, and race where Dr. Gay reveals that she was sexually assaulted when she was a teenager. While Dr. Gay comes across as a wonderful, winning, positive, amazing person, and one sympathizes deeply with her traumatic experience, all of the essays except the searing one about being raped are nothing special. Can I say that? I mean, her annoyance with the movies The Help and Django Unchained seems perfectly appropriate, but could have benefited from diagrammed screengrabs. The short statement about Paula Deen’s racism and the casual rules of racism that can and can’t be broken seemed equally anodyne (“Everyone holds certain judgments about others…”), and also didn’t diagram Paula’s weird transformation from a powdered upright cluster of partially melted butter sticks to a living skeletal sac held together by staples. It’s as if the whole set of essays was a series of blog posts that were collected into a book, but without the pictures—a plainly terrible idea. Anyway, I feel very bad about writing anything negative, since she was so badly mistreated. Edsel in particular insists I should be a little more forgiving of her. Just forget I said anything.
The Complete Fairy Tales, by George MacDonald. For once, I really enjoyed a book. This compilation of the Scottish MacDonald’s playful and inventive fairy tales provides the reader with some disturbing, strange, but ultimately satisfying moments. I loved “The Shadows,” where old Ralph Rinkelman engages in metaphysical conversation with a literal shadow after being elected king of the Fairies. I enjoyed “The Golden Key” and “The Carosyn” and “Nanny’s Dream” and really all the rest—stories of traveling into Fairyland and being sent on nonsense quests and dealing with the troublesome moon. I recommend a little childish reading every now and then—joy is an emotion we are all entitled to, no matter our circumstances. But I’d avoid the sentimental #$%& claptrap found in that %#^-hole Hans Christian Andersen’s tales or the ripped-off %$#^ that the Brothers %&*%$#@ Grimm put together. Those are unreadable $#%^.