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review 2020-06-13 21:27
The New One by Mike Birbiglia
The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad - J. Hope Stein,Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia is one of my favorite stand-up comics and I loved the movie for 'Sleepwalk with Me', so it was pleasure to be able to read this.


Birbiglia cuts to the heart of fears surrounding parenthood and reflects on how life tends to put us in really compromising situations. Reading this I am more fervent than ever in my desire to never have children, but 'The New One' has a lot to offer, even to parents. As ever, Birbiglia tackles his insecurities in a super funny and super uncomfortable way with complete honesty.


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review 2019-08-20 18:23
Who Won Second Place at Omaha? by Diane Kagan
Who Won Second Place at Omaha? - Diane Kagan,Meryl Joseph

Diane Kagan is an actress with a long history on the stage and a respectable amount of appearances in film and television. She is also, evidence this book, completely fucking crazy. This was published by Random House for chrissakes. What was going on in 1975?

"Who Won Second Place at Omaha?" is a surreal journey through a private house/museum filled with dolls and puppets and mannequins. It is a showcase for a series of black and white photographs depicting dolls ranked on shelves and staircases, in cabinets, in pieces, in looming clusters, and pressed against window panes. The narration is in vignettes and is sheer lunacy.


We were visiting a friend's bookstore and he greeted us by saying he had something for my husband - something completely creepy. I was expecting either an ordinary doll collector's book, because everyone thinks all dolls are creepy, or some twee faux-macabre art book.


Nope. It was this.


Our narrator greets visitors at the door - all persons are off-camera - and reassures them that they have the right time. It takes so long to come up from the workshop, you understand. The voice is mostly this host/collector explaining the various personalities of the dolls and cryptically commenting every so often about a stray second place award ribbon from Omaha. Who does it belong to? Everyone is a winner here....


We never do find out who this particular winner is, perhaps the Jumeau from the cover, but we do hear many tales of woe - laments about loneliness, missing arms, abandonment anxieties, and decaying clothing. Some are happy - Raggedy Ann and Andy are just fine in their plastic bags - suffocation is not a problem for them the narrator assures you. They've been lying there for five years and haven't said a word.


The photographs are often stunning and the collection itself is impressive, with many photos of rare and obscure items arranged in an interesting fashion. The text is gleefully demented, but it may not impress anyone who isn't also a doll hoarder like my husband. He was in tears from laughing over this thing.


In his words: "Every. line. exposes her psychosis more. This is amazing. This is insane."

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review 2019-06-29 21:26
Vanilla by Billy Merrell
Vanilla - Billy Merrell

A novel of poems, 'Vanilla' follows Vanilla and Hunter as they go through their junior year of high school. Another friend, Clown/Angel, becomes a pov about halfway through the book.


Vanilla and Hunter are at a crossroads in their relationship. They were close friends who fell in love, came out together, and have been inseparable. The only problem is that lately some issues have come up. Mostly sex, but also other questions about identity and what it means to be gay. Hunter wants to make their relationship a sexual one and is beginning to be hurt by Vanilla's refusal. He also has frustrations about Vanilla's shy stiffness when it comes to a popular clique of boys at school, called the 'gang', who are out and proud, but, in Vanilla's eyes, ostentatiously so. Vanilla loves Hunter, but he doesn't understand why their relationship needs to change. He begins to wonder why Hunter can be ready and he isn't. Angel offers an outside perspective on the relationship and becomes closer to the two during the year, making their own personal discoveries along the way.


This was really sweet, but I was not in love with the format. The novel didn't gain much from being told by autobiographical poems, especially when the author partially inserted the poems into the story's world. Which of these poems exist in the story and which are strictly narration? If an author is going to tell a story with a poetic narrative, the poems should stand on their own better and, overall, I don't think they did.


That said, I appreciated the paths the three friends took and I'm glad Merrell didn't go for obvious narrative shortcuts. Could have used more love for Red, or any other woman for that matter.

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review 2019-06-14 21:03
Barbie and Ken, Barbie #4 by Cynthia Lawrence and Bette Lou Maybee
Barbie and Ken (Book 4) - Bette Lou Maybee,Cynthia Lawrence,Clyde Smith

I have to take some rating love away from this collection of stories and plays, because even though Ken and Midge get a LOT more play here then in the novels, the character development is really lacking. Lawrence and Maybee have invested so much in making Barbie a fairly believable every-girl that they don't know what to do with her actually-also-a-doll-for-sale friends. Midge is a little boy crazy and Ken is supportive and present.


It's no surprise that there are continual continuity blunders, the two authors don't seem to have compared notes about their assignments. There are at least two Barbie-verses, but you don't have to look too far ahead to see there will be more fracturing when it turns out this sprightly single-child gets saddled with at least three younger siblings in the next few years.


I was disappointed by the lack of activity pages that made 'Here's Barbie' so charming.


One highlight was the the play-within-a-play that featured the characters working with a bossy classmate who wanted to buy her way into the character of the Queen of Hearts. Barbie seemed OK with being stage manager.


Another new acquisition is this 'Guinevere' #873 costume from the 'Little Theater' (1964) series. I have her in front of the 'King Arthur' #773 costume we found, still stitched on the card, in a garbage pile!



Barbie Random House Novels


Next: 'Barbie Solves a Mystery'


Previous: 'Barbie's New York Summer'

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review 2019-06-02 18:17
Deciduous Qween by Matty Layne Glasgow
 Deciduous Qween: Poems - Matty Layne Glasgow

This collection really tried my patience. I don't like leaving such a negative review for a debut author, but with only one poem eliciting appreciative laughter, this was a struggle to finish. I don't feel qualified to judge poetry - I'm in the 'I know what I like' camp, unfortunately - so I can't put my finger on why these poems didn't do much for me. They're honest and playful, qualities I enjoy from other poets, and the one poem I admired was about fantasizing about Captain Planet. So true. Anyway, these poems address queer sexuality and grieving in a unique way, for many reasons these should be poems that I like, but they're not for me.

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