A Girl Corrupted By The Internet Is The Summoned Hero?!: Why isn’t this porn? Where’s the porn? There was a very wonderful porn premise and lots of setup for porn and I was looking forward to the part with fucking and then there was no fucking! Do I have to do everything myself around here?
Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide From The Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert: To be honest, I feel like I will enjoy any book four times as much if it has quizzes in it. Having occasional quizzes is the way to an Ozy’s heart. This book not only has quizzes in almost every chapter, it also has exercises! Are you paying attention, other nonfiction authors?
Gottman says that he can predict which couples will divorce with 91% accuracy: they begin conflicts by being harsh and accusatory; use the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling; feel flooded by their partner’s hostility; don’t de-escalate tense conversations through humor, asking to take a break, etc.; and instead of having fond memories of meeting each other, their honeymoon, their wedding, etc., either focus on annoyances or don’t have any memories at all. The rest of the book is devoted to fixing those problems: improving your knowledge of each other, increasing fondness, paying attention to your partner, accepting your partner’s influence, solving solvable problems, coping with unsolvable problems, and finding a sense of meaning.
One thing I found very interesting was that apparently according to Gottman’s research 7/10ths of relationship problems are perpetual problems: zie’s clean and she’s messy; he spends and his husband saves; she wants more sex than her girlfriend; she’s Jewish and her wife is Catholic. Nobody is going to convert, or stop leaving their dishes everywhere, or suddenly have a drop in libido. The difference between unsuccessful couples and successful couples is how they handle these recurring conflicts.
Outsider in the White House/The Speech/The Essential Bernie Sanders And His Vision For America: I’m rolling these all into one review because I read them within a span of a week and they all kind of melded together. Outsider in the White House is Sanders’s memoir about his political career; The Speech is the text of his eight-hour anti-tax-cut filibuster; The Essential Bernie Sanders is quotes from various Bernie speeches establishing his political bona fides. Outsider in the White House is the most entertaining read, and The Essential Bernie Sanders is the best introduction to his viewpoints. The Speech is absurdly repetitive, which makes sense as a filibuster but gets annoying in book form. (Yes, Bernie, we get it, we should invest in infrastructure to create jobs.)
I am more optimistic about Sanders’s electability than a lot of people are. He has a track record of successfully winning white working-class rural voters; when he started his political career, Vermont was a red state, and its current blueness is in part due to Sanders’s influence. And at least in his writing he’s absurdly charismatic: even when I disagree with him about just about every economic issue, I can’t help but like the guy.
Currently, I tentatively support Sanders. Although– as I said– we disagree a lot about economics, he has multiple decades of committed dovishness in foreign policy. (For instance, he refused to vote for a support-our-troops resolution in Congress during the First Gulf War because it said the president was doing a good job, even though this was purely symbolic and provided material for mudslingers decades later.) President Sanders would have to push his economic policy through a recalcitrant probably-Republican Congress, limiting his ability to do damage; however, as the President has nearly unilateral ability to start wars, his reluctance to do so is tremendously important. He also wants the Fed to prioritize unemployment, which I think is a good policy.
One thing I’m still confused about is Sanders’s opposition to free trade. Sometimes he takes the standard protectionist line of “Americans can’t compete with people making twenty-three cents an hour”, which is reasonable, but other times he argues that free trade kills jobs not only in America but in the developing world. In none of the books does he explain his reasoning for this particularly clearly, and naively it seems like the jobs have to go somewhere, so if someone could link me to a better explanation of what the fuck he’s thinking I would appreciate it.
tl;dr: I have never agreed with Sanders once, we fought on like seventy-five diff’rent fronts, but when all is said and all is done, Sanders has beliefs. Clinton has none.
If on a winter’s night a traveler: This is my shit. It follows a reader as they attempt to read Italo Calvino’s new book If on a winter’s night a traveler, only to be foiled by an increasingly implausible series of publishing mishaps, romantic interests, revolutionaries, conspiracies, and critical-theory-oriented literature classes. Metafictional as hell, gorgeous prose, possibly the only functional book written in second-person that I’ve ever read, and it breaks the fourth wall left, right, and center. You get the feeling reading it that Italo Calvino is going “did you see what I just did? Isn’t this awesome?” However, it’s not just Calvino showing off: every one of his tricks ultimately serves the meditation about the nature of fiction that is the novel’s purpose. And it’s funny! Well, it’s the sort of absurdist where I worry that I’m supposed to be Seriously Pondering the Deep Inner Meaning and I’m utterly missing the point by laughing, but eh, I laughed anyway.
Hikikomori: Adolescence Without End: Part of my motivation for reading this book was to investigate whether I would be inappropriately diagnosing myself with a culture-bound condition if I identified as a hikikomori (well, an ex-hikikomori with occasional relapses). No worries: the author– one of Japan’s leading experts on hikikomori– says that it exists cross-culturally, although in different forms. For instance, in the West, parents may be less tolerant of their withdrawing child, and instead of supporting them for years or decades kick them out to be homeless. The author is a Lacanian, which gave me a lot of eyerolls– hikikomori is related to castration anxiety, really— but ultimately his recommendations could have come out of a CBT workbook: begin by making small talk with the hikikomori; don’t lecture or pressure the hikikomori, which could cause them to withdraw further; organize structured social events led by therapists where the hikikomori can socialize with other hikikomori. I appreciated him pointing out that computer use is actually a protective factor for hikikomori: it keeps them from becoming completely disconnected from society, as they otherwise might. I was puzzled by the amount of emphasis placed on hikikomori violence; the author claims half of hikikomori have engaged in some violent action directed at their family (!) which is completely contrary to my experience and stereotypes. I have qualms about his advice (essentially living elsewhere for long periods of time and after many months returning for brief periods); as advice for normal cases of domestic violence it’s quite awful, but I don’t know if hikikomori violence is different.
The Raven Boys. The premise of the book isn’t really my thing– I’ve never been a person who’s been particularly interested in urban fantasy in which various conspiracy theories are really true, particularly when the conspiracy theories were made up by the author– but the characterization is so great that I found myself unutterably charmed. I spent the entire book alternating between wanting to give the characters hugs and to sit them down and give them a paternal talk about Life. Also, all five of the protagonists are dating and no one is allowed to convince me otherwise.
Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m A Supervillain. Middle schoolers with superpowers wind up, through a series of hijinks, accidentally becoming supervillains. An idiot plot, which is much more forgivable because the protagonists are supposed to be literally thirteen. The superpowers are genuinely clever: the heroine is a mad scientist who goes into a fugue state while building inventions and thus has very little idea what they do; her best friend has the power of super cuteness, which hypnotizes people who look at her. (The best friend’s costume, of course, is teddy bear pajamas.) The plot, weirdly, is basically a lighter and softer version of the first couple chapters of Worm. Parallel evolution is magic, I guess.
Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work. An absolute delight of a book. I appreciate Melissa Gira Grant’s firm emphasis on treating sex work the way you treat any other kind of work: explicitly drawing out the similarities between emotional labor in sex work and in waitressing; pointing out that no one demands that fast-food workers feel empowered by their job before they can organize for better working conditions. Gira Grant theorizes that whore stigma controls a lot of women who aren’t sex workers: for instance, she argues that slut shaming is better understood as whorephobia which happens to be targeting women who aren’t sex workers. (I think this is really interesting and probably correct.) Apparently, during second-wave feminism, socialist feminist housewives and sex workers considered each other to be allies because, frankly, if your livelihood depends on you having sex with a man, you’re a sex worker. It’s fascinating to me how radical feminists and socialist feminists came to basically the same conclusion and had radically different responses: radical feminists were all “therefore sex work and marriage both need to be abolished!”, while socialist feminists were like “therefore both sex workers and housewives are members of the proletariat who need to organize for better conditions in the short term and work for the revolution in the long term!”
Sex At The Margins: Migration, Labor Markets, and the Sex Industry: The thesis of this book is that a lot of the women who migrate in order to sell sex are, actually, making a reasonable decision given their circumstances, and not actually being forced or coerced into it. The rescue industry, on the other hand, is disempowering and infantilizing to the women involved. I appreciated how Laura Agustin went back to the historical roots of women’s charitable work in the nineteenth century, arguing that the rescue industry is the latest outgrowth of middle-class women gaining power through attempting to get working-class women to follow middle-class behavioral norms. I feel like a lot of this book could be replaced by the sentence “FEMALE MIGRANTS HAVE AGENCY.” Which is good: that’s always something people need to remember.
Statistics Done Wrong: The Woefully Complete Guide. I recommend this book as a companion to How To Lie With Statistics. How To Lie With Statistics is more for the lay reader and focuses on the lies they’re most likely to encounter; Statistics Done Wrong aims at the scientific audience, and so spends a lot of time going “THAT’S NOT WHAT A P-VALUE MEANS! YOUR STUDIES ARE UNDERPOWERED! AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Reading about statistics makes me, as a person interested in evidence-based everything, want to hide my head under a blanket and not come out until the scientific community has gotten its act together.