Rent original screenplay. The original screenplay for Rent’s movie adaptation was a lot less faithful to the letter of the musical than the movie turned out to be– it cut out more songs, it has a bunch of scenes that are nowhere in the musical, and. But, frankly, I think it’s a lot more in tune with the spirit of the musical, and the changes it makes often make the story more interesting. Benny calls out Mark on his white privilege! Roger is portrayed as being obsessed with music and neglecting his girlfriends, making his final playing a song to Mimi not a redemption moment but a sign that Roger is a complete dickhead! Angel falls in love with Collins because she’s looking for someone to die alongside! Maureen’s protest song is La Vie Boheme!
I don’t agree with all the choices this screenplay makes, but I think it’s a tremendously interesting read, and many details from it have been adopted into my personal canon. If you’re a Rent fan, definitely read this.
The Man Who Would Be Queen. This book comes with a QUIZ. You can take it if you want to figure out whether you’re a homosexual transsexual or an autogynephile transsexual!
Let us be frank: Bailey’s theory is really dumb. Trans women cannot be neatly divided into really really gay men and sexual fetishists. Nevertheless, if you ignore his conclusions about his data and just look at his data, it’s actually a really interesting book. I haven’t come to any firm conclusions about the causes of his observations, but it definitely gave me food for some wild-ass speculations. The section about gender dysphoric children makes me want to give every gender dysphoric assigned male at birth child a hug and tell them it will be all right and they can play with Barbies as much as they like.
The Name of the Wind. To be honest, this sort of feels like Patrick Rothfuss got very enthusiastic about writing his character backstory and then a thousand pages in was like “oh well, might as well add a framing story and sell it as a novel.” Nevertheless, Kvothe is delightful and the book is tremendously entertaining wish-fulfillment. Kvothe is one of the few successful Mary Sues. Most Mary Sues feel like watching the writer jerk off: you’re glad they’re enjoying themselves, but this feels kind of private, and you aren’t getting a hell of a lot out of it. Rothfuss knows how to get you invested in the character, so when it looks like Kvothe might be humiliated you’re on the edge of your seat, and when he (of course) manages to transform the situation into a crowning moment of awesome it feels like you’ve achieved something along with him. I’ll definitely be checking out more books in the series.
The Industrial Vagina. What an amazing title. Sheila Jeffreys has outdone herself.
To be honest, this is the single Sheila Jeffreys book I have agreed with the most in my Sheila Jeffreys reading career. For one thing, she begins her discussion of sex work by discussing marriage, avoiding the all-too-common sex-worker-exclusive feminist failure mode where they only critique exchanges of sex for money that society disapproves of. Unfortunately, the nuance she applies to marriage– where there are children being sold into marriage by strangers, and there is an ordinary heterosexual marriage between two people who love each other, and while patriarchy influences both situations they are clearly very very different– is completely absent in her discussion of sex work.
Jeffreys mostly does manage to identify actual problems: for instance, sex trafficking, women who cannot leave the sex trade, and violent clients. However, she fails to understand that decriminalization and destigmatization of sex work are much better tools to fix those problems than trying to eliminate sex work altogether is. If a woman can put “I was an escort for six years” on her resume and have that recognized as a sign of marketing skills, customer service, and self-motivation, fewer women will be trapped in sex work for lack of other options. If a woman can go to the police and say “this man took off the condom during sex, I would like him to be arrested for sexual assault”, fewer clients will try to take off condoms.
Nightwood. When a book’s introduction begins with a quote from T S Eliot informing you that it is one of the best books he has ever read, you come to the book with certain expectations. However, I did not get it at all. While I appreciated the sad early-twentieth-century lesbians and genderqueers, it felt like the book was going on and on about things that didn’t matter, and then tossing off major plot points in half a sentence. I could barely keep any of the characters straight, and when I could figure out who was who I didn’t like any of them– which meant that when they reached their inevitable tragic ends, I didn’t cry, I just said “meh”. And I’m a soft touch, so if your book can’t make me cry it is really not working very well. Perhaps I just failed to understand something important and need a big fan of the book to guide me through it, but if you like sad early-twentieth-century lesbians and genderqueers, I recommend reading Well of Loneliness and skipping this book.
Reamde. Other than Snow Crash, probably the Stephenson novel I’ve read so far that functions best as a novel, rather than Neal Stephenson excitedly telling you about his latest special interests and every twenty pages or so remembering that he is supposed to put in silly things like “a plot” and “character development”. While there is a long digression about MMO development, it’s less informative than most of Stephenson’s digressions, and more pure fun– similar to the Asherah digressions in Snow Crash.
One thing I appreciated about this book was how competent all the characters were. It’s not just that pretty much every major and secondary character had a unique skillset at which they were among the best in the world, although this was true. Other than Peter (a relatively minor character, despised by the rest of the cast), every character responded to problems by coming up with a reasonable plan and then putting that plan into action. Zula, who spends most of the book kidnapped and charming literally every non-kidnapper she encounters into attempting to rescue her, isn’t the passive damsel in distress she’d be in the hands of a lesser author. One might complain that Yuxia The Tea Saleswoman was, all things considered, undrealistically cool under fire, but to be honest when I read this sort of book I am looking to escape into a wish-fulfillment world where everyone is a sane and sensible human being. I would give it five stars, except that Stephenson misled me into believing Yuxia, Zula, and Csongor were going to be a triad and then there was MONOGAMY at the end of the book.