Thank you to Daniela for sending this request in, as I know many members of the Bitchery will be both interested in this one and have some great recommendations:
One of the male characters, Edgard, was part of an earlier book so he’s a background character, and then is a lead in this one. It is erotic romance, though, so there is a LOT of sexytimes.
Amanda: Melt into You by Roni Loren ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) might work. The men in the relationship are friends and do have a connection, both emotionally and physically, though I will warn the pacing is more skewed to the M/F pairing with M/M and throuple development not happening until the second half of the book.
I think one or two books in the Beyond series by Kit Rocha would qualify.
Sneezy: Amanda, you’re right, Beyond Jealousy fits the bill perfectly.
Although, I have to say the Beyond series doesn’t lend itself to standalone reading. Besides world building, a lot of character development happens throughout the series.
Charlotte B: The Beyond books jumped immediately to mind for me too. I really love how the individual relationships between the characters are developed within the context of the larger group relationship. You believe in each love story and in the group love story.
Sneezy: The only other ménage book I can think of off the top of my head right now is the Venus series by Golden Angel ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) , but there’s no romantic connection between the two men.
However, it does delve into some of the trials and tribulations poly people face about their relationships in current society, if that’s interesting to the requester.
Ellen: I haven’t personally read this book so take this rec with a grain of salt but based on description/reviews A Rational Arrangement by L. Rowyn ( A | BN | K | AB ) might be what the reader is looking for?
Shana: I haven’t finished Three-Way Split by Elia Winters, but so far it seems to be pretty equally focused on relationship building between the two men (who are in a casual sex relationship at the beginning of the book), and one of the M/F relationships (who start out with crushes on each other). It’s an erotic romance tho so lots of sexy times.
What romances would you suggest?
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Welcome back to Wednesday links! It is Wednesday right? I have no concept of time and the fact that the sun sets at 3:30pm right now is the worst.
As always, the end of the year means exciting stuff on the site, namely our Hanukkah giveaways and our Best Of lists.
Thank you for being with us for another year and of course, we hope you stick around for what we have planned in 2020.
The ocean is a scary and wondrous place. If you don’t know what I mean, check out this interactive scrolling map!
McSweeney’s has all the qualifications Hallmark movie heroines are expected to meet:
She must go home for Christmas and throw that high powered career in the garbage
Sure, she gets great satisfaction from maintaining her independence, achieving her goals, and surrounding herself with people who challenge and inspire her, but it’s time for her to stop working and start living the Hallmark way. It’s time for her to go home for the holidays.
It’s frighteningly accurate!
I love jokes that take the long con, dedicated approach and this fits the bill. It took me a while to realize I was being tricked and then I was in tears with laughter. So was Sarah. Be sure to click through to the Twitter thread!
For a long time, building shitty robots meant Giertz never had to face failure, even if the robots themselves failed. “One of the things that I’ve been trying to figure out is: Was building shitty robots in some way a method for me to minimize myself, to make myself smaller?” Giertz says. “Because that’s what I notice—a lot of women being really scared to step up and be an expert.” Giertz’s older videos are full of congeniality and persistent self-deprecation, which doesn’t feel so charming to Giertz anymore.
I wish Giertz all the greatest success in being an expert!
If you want a happy cry, watch this video of a young boy inviting his entire kindergarten class to his adoption hearing:
Don’t forget to share what super cool things you’ve seen, read, or listened to this week! And if you have anything you think we’d like to post on a future Wednesday Links, send it my way!
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I only have one insight about the Little House TV series, so I’m just gonna get it out of the way up front here. It’s this: Nellie Oleson made that show. I don’t just mean the character is an essential part of the show’s success. I mean Nellie Oleson wrote the original books and most of the scripts for the TV program. She directed most of the episodes, and, for the most part, she was the audience.
I am saying: you and I and Ronald Reagan and possibly Saddam Hussein and definitely Michael Landon—were Nellie Oleson.
Put down that gun. Sorry, put down that frontier rifle. Hear me out. Let’s start on a very basic, noncontroversial level.
The books came out in the thirties and early forties. The woman who wrote them, Laura Ingalls Wilder, was in her midsixties when the first one dropped. Her case is well documented. She did live more or less like she describes in those novels, and so she had the luxury of being able to traffic in billions of authentic details. And the novels were a big hit. For forty or fifty years, everybody read ’em. (Except me—’til a couple months ago.)
In the books, Nellie is not a very important character. She isn’t even introduced ’til the fourth book in the series (On the Banks of Plum Creek, 1937).
When she is introduced, we are treated to a heavy dose of … well, it’s not exactly satire. Neither is it unhinged loathing. The author coolly does on the page just exactly what the creators of the show did on the screen, i.e. created a character medically incapable of any decent sentiment or act. Nellie relentlessly strives to serve her own basest impulses, especially to dominate and to sneer.
In drawing Nellie like that, the author was prosecuting a revenge against an actual enemy from her childhood. In other words, the point of view that condemned Nellie for being petty and self-serving was itself petty and self-serving. Or let me put it this way: to imagine that another person lives to antagonize you and your interests, to imagine that another person’s every utterance is (and must be) a rigmarole of self-righteousness and vituperation—this is the telltale sign of a mentality very like Nellie’s. Only a Nellie would write something like that.
Now do you see why I say Nellie wrote those books and scripts? And the fact that you got off on it when Laura slapped Nellie, the fact that that was cathartic for you, tells you a lot about your own blonde curls and doll-hoarding and self-righteousness. Don’t feel singled out, though. I’m right there with you, sister. We all are.
One of these days, you should have a look at Alison Arngrim’s memoir of that period of her life, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch (2010). (Arngrim played Nellie, obviously.)
As far as I can see, the actress doesn’t have a drop of insight into the meaning of the character she did so much to bring to life. Indeed, she blesses Nellie for showing her, Alison, how to stand up for herself. Or something. Just the same, there is plenty to be learned from the book, if you know what to look for.
Consider. The show was not actually that great. Almost all the actors were colorless mediocrities, and the scripts were drivel (fake problems, fake solutions). And no actor on the show was worse served by those scripts than Arngrim. She doesn’t say this in the book; I’m saying it, having watched a bunch of episodes recently. She has no good lines. Every single word out of her mouth has to be smug, witless, and mean. But! Something about Arngrim’s particular face and voice created a tormenting blend of contrary electromagnetic impulses. She was vilely repellant, and at the same time mysteriously compelling.
I’m quite unwilling to credit this to acting talent, yet when I ask myself if any teenager in a blonde wig could do what Arngrim did, I find myself hesitating. Maybe there is some gift involved? But if there is, it’s not present in that memoir. There, she is mainly a hearty, wise-cracking, self-appointed “camp” goddess. Not Nellie—just somebody you might know from work.
The writers were Nellie. Look, if Laura and her adopted brother (whose name escapes me) go into a neighboring town and pretend to be orphans to cheat people out of money, the show handles the scene like it’s Huck Finn. If Nellie and her brother, Willie, did the exact same thing, it would be painted as villainy—and they would botch it, get caught, have to throw someone else under the bus to escape punishment, et cetera. Because that’s how the Nellie writer-mentality operates. The “good” people can do no wrong, even when they do wrong. And the wicked are never just wicked—they are also fools.
When I go home these days, I pass through a time portal. My mother and I sit just where we did in 1974–83, when the show was still being shot. Little House practically has its own channel now. I sit there, marveling at how little I remember from the episodes. I, who seem to remember all the episodes of M*A*S*H verbatim! Also: Family Ties, and whatever that show was that was set at a girls’ school, they all wore uniforms, and there was a token black girl, Tootie, and her friend was Natalie, and Blair was the tall, good-looking one. Jo was the tough one. God, what the hell was that thing called? The Facts of Life.
Listen, I can recount plots of those and a hundred other shows from the seventies and early eighties, but I couldn’t remember a single line from any of the Little House episodes, though I saw all of ’em many times. When, in preparation for writing this piece, I was reading Melissa Sue Anderson’s memoir (The Way I See It, 2010)—80 percent of which consists of plot summaries of famous episodes—I remembered exactly nothing.
Oh, but I remember Nellie Oleson. I remember her, and she remembers me.
But then, when I emerge from the time portal, squinting, shielding my eyes from the glare, I am confused. The philosopher has led me out of the cave animated by mere shadows, into the daylight of reality. And what do I find? Nellie Oleson is running the country now.
Anthony Madrid lives in Victoria, Texas. His second book is Try Never. He is a correspondent for the Daily.
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On the morning of November 16, 2019, we, the exiled Iranians, woke up and like billions of other internet addicts in the world immediately checked our phones, only to realize that Iran had been cut off from the global internet.
Many of us are members of family group chats on WhatsApp and Telegram, used to receiving a “good morning to my children” from a parent, a “did you finally go to the doctor?” from the other parent, a picture of the overdue first snow in Tehran from an aunt, and a joke about the president from an uncle. Over the years, these short messages have served as daily reminders of where we come from and who our people are. Above all, they have been our daily reassurance that our families were fine. The internet had functioned as the umbilical cord that kept alive the part of our soul still dependent on the motherland. That morning, the cord was cut.
The internet blackout, we learned, was the Iranian government’s response to the protests that broke out after it announced a 300 percent increase in the price of gas. The decision was made and implemented at midnight, with no advance warning given.
Thanks to the state of Iran under sanctions, the news of the price hike was like a lit match in a barrel of dynamite. Protests spread very wide, very fast. The protesters moved beyond the gas price issue to target the entire status quo. The Iranian government let loose its police and militia. The crisis became so deep and so serious, the bloodshed so vast and the heap of corpses so high, that the government cut off the internet to keep people from organizing and to stifle the distribution of videos of its brutality, which included numerous instances of indiscriminate shooting at unarmed protesters.
For us, the Iranians abroad, desperate and in the dark, the savagery was nothing new. Everyone who has paid attention to Iran, a country beleaguered by ruthlessness of sanctions and brutalized by its own vicious, paranoid government, expected an explosion of violence. But the internet blackout came out of nowhere. None of us had ever thought that one day Iran would become a digital black hole, a dark void on the blindingly glittering map of the global network. We found ourselves locked out of the house whose windows, we had thought, we would always be able to look through.
Because of what I have published in this hemisphere, I might be persona non grata in my own country. Not that anybody has bothered to notify me. On this matter, the government in Iran takes pains to deny you the pleasure of certainty. But a rule-of-thumb assessment of my situation suggests that, at this point, the risk of being arrested upon reentry would far outweigh the benefits of going home. Like thousands of other Iranians, I have come to terms with my status as an exiled person.
When I was first coming to terms with this, one chilly spring morning I biked down to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. It had rained the night before, and the dew on the grass formed a vast, sparkling gossamer web over the cemetery hills. I trudged up an incline past some graves, reading a date here, a name there, sometimes conjuring up a little biography for the bones lying under the stone.
I had gone there because I had felt the need to think through all the potential tragedies and disasters that might transpire during my absence from Iran: deaths in the family, deaths of close friends in jail, deaths in accidents, from cancer, in protests. I thought of the faces of those who would die and imagined the circumstances of their deaths, masochistically exaggerating the amount of pain or shock they would have to endure. Then I imagined myself in the moment of receiving the news, what I would say on the other end of the phone, what I would do after hanging up, two hours later, two days later. When you are an exiled person, you have to think up methods of mourning from afar, strategies for dealing with the crushing loneliness of grieving a soul no one around you has ever met.
I left the cemetery drained and distressed, but at least I thought that I had covered all the grounds. At no point during those macabre few hours did the notion of an internet blackout cross my mind. I could never imagine that one morning everybody would disappear from the screen, as though a richly detailed hallucination had come to an end, and that I might never be told of their deaths at all.
And yet, what I experienced as nothing less than apocalyptic was in fact the norm for people until very recently. Throughout history, billions of people have left their homelands and have been cut off from family and friends for months, sometimes years at a time. Maddening as it was, the blackout confronted me with how the internet has hooked me. Even in that time of distress, I pledged to chip away at that dependence.
The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard generated a great deal of controversy over the course of his career, in part because he was writing about the internet before it existed. In his book Simulacra and Simulation (1981), he declared the arrival of a new era of representation. He believed that the new media, by which he primarily meant cable TV, had ceased to care about reality. Rather, equipped with new technologies, it engaged in “generation by the models of real without origin of reality: a hyperreal.” Which is to say, the TV could create an image of reality more real than reality itself. This hyperreality, in its two-dimensional display of lights, was so compelling, he contended, that people would choose it over what they could feel and perceive in the world. “The map precedes the territory,” Baudrillard wrote. Or perhaps more accurately, the map creates the territory while pretending to be a representation of the territory.
Baudrillard’s theory might have seemed too bleak to be plausible for the pre-internet world, hence the backlash from old-school humanists like the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa. At the end of Baudrillard’s famous talk about the Iraq war, Vargas Llosa thought of approaching his old friend, but he changed his mind: “I didn’t go up to say hello or to remind him of the bygone days of our youth, when ideas and books excited us and he still believed we existed.”
And yet for us, two decades into the new millennium, living on this warming, crisis-ridden planet at the mercy of tech billionaires, the notion of hyperreality sounds perfectly commonsense. It is a fairly accurate description of how our realities are constructed online.
Probably no one in this world is more susceptible to hyperreality than the exiled. In their yearning for the homeland, they plunge into the country they find on their phones. Many displaced people, especially if they are from tumultuous places like Iran, spend an inordinate amount of time with their devices. Their bodies move around in American space, their feet traverse American asphalt, yet their soul is in the tiny computer they carry in their pockets. They follow every single conversation on Twitter, look at every picture on Instagram, check out the trends, constantly engage in the comments sections. The hyperreality is so thorough that it is easy to forget where you actually are.
On my social media, the response from the Iranian diaspora during the blackout reflected this disconnect from the bodily experience. My timeline was filled with “We miss you! Please come back!” tweets, as if those 280 characters could substitute for flesh and warmth. In the ‘real” world, those 280 characters provide new data points for the surveillance of our lives while making the Marks and Jeffs of the world wealthier. When the internet was finally reconnected, the exiled Iranians used a popular hashtag, roughly translated as #WhenYouWereNotHere, to tell their former countrymen what had happened online in their absence. And yet we were the ones who were not there. While we whined on Twitter, the difficult reality of our friends and family on the ground continued on without us.
Monitoring your homeland from afar is like watching a live broadcast of a surgery. You can grasp all the details, absorb all the information, take notes, and then talk through it with others for hours, but none of that makes you a surgeon. When you haven’t cut open skin with your hands, touched the organs, soaked your plastic gloves in blood, it is a joke to think you know the first thing about surgery.
In 2019, living off the grid seems like a naive fantasy. Especially for us, citizens of fragile states like Iran, to remain in the dark would be too painful. But, as we learned in mid-November, the internet can be shut down in a blink. We are dependent on a system that functions at the whim of unaccountable private companies and governments.
Is there a way to strike a balance? If there is, I can’t find it. I am incapable of separating my life in exile from the hyperreality of my homeland. I continue to look at the map, even though I know my feet never touch the soil of the real terrain. The map will not show me a way home, but at least I can make sure, every morning, that those I love are still alive.
Amir Ahmadi Arian’s essays and short stories have appeared in Guernica, Literary Hub, and elsewhere. His novel, Then the Fish Swallowed Him, is forthcoming from HarperVia in March 2020.
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It’s time for the latest edition of the 2019 Smart Bitches Gift Guide!
I love doing our gift guides, especially this latest edition. Want to see? Just click that image above or click right here, and come shop with us!
And if you’d like to browse some more, we have a complete Stuff We Like archive, including past Gift Guides and other posts of our favorite items.
The post 2019 SBTB Gift Guide: We Love Our Selves, and Our Pets! appeared first on NeedaBook.
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CW/TW Sexual Assault
Blitzed is the third book in Alexa Martin’s Playbook series. I spent the entire time I was reading it thinking that it was the final book, but just so you don’t go into it with the same misconception: It’s not the final book! There is a fourth book, Snapped, to come.
The heroine of Blitzed is Brynn, owner of HERS, a bar created predominantly for women. HERS has reached a level of fame that Brynn could never have imagined for it, helped by its prominence on the show Love the Player, a reality show following the lives of the WAGS of Denver’s football team. We open at a celebration for the show at HERS, with Brynn behind the bar, flirting with Maxwell Lewis, the shy defensive back who she’s had a crush on for years. Brynn’s friendships with the wives of Maxwell’s teammates mean that they’ve been around each other a lot and when the book starts, Brynn is ready to make her move. But Maxwell receives an apparently distressing call and, to put it lightly, freaks out. What he actually does is throw his phone and glass into some bar shelves and has to be pulled out of HERS by a friend.
I was wholly unprepared for this, obviously, and as someone who is deeply terrified by sudden acts of physical aggression, my balance was thrown for the rest of my reading experience. Even so early on in the book, it is evident that doing something like this is WILDLY out of character for Maxwell and I think I had difficulty reconciling the seriousness of this event with Maxwell’s reserved nature and the otherwise lighthearted tone of the book. I will have this same problem at the end of the novel, but worse.
After this incident, Maxwell quietly pays for the damage, apologizes, and veryyyy slowly works his way back into Brynn’s good graces. And while it takes a while for Brynn to fully forgive Maxwell, their course together is set. Although there wasn’t anything uniquely compelling about Brynn and Maxwell’s relationship, there were things that I rather liked. I like that Maxwell and Brynn fall in love over small things, like their shared love of 7/11 taquitos and slurpees. I love the ease between them. I LOVE that Brynn is the only person to call Maxwell by his full first name and that when she calls him Max, he says “You call me Maxwell”. Maxwell is soft spoken and shy, despite being an incredibly talented and famous football player. Brynn is excitable, a bit scattered, but she’s dedicated to HERS and creating a safe and special space for women. The middle of the book is a mixture of the same type of scenes, repeated and reordered: football games, Brynn and Maxwell on dates/watching TV, Brynn and her friends. It continues like this, interrupted only briefly to introduce Maxwell’s half-brother Theo, who Maxwell tells Brynn not only to stay away from, but to never be alone with.
On the topic of lousy family members, Brynn’s mother’s departure when Brynn was fifteen might have strengthened Brynn’s relationship with her father, but it also left her with a deep yet poorly described fear of turning into her mother. At first, Brynn seems afraid that Maxwell is reminiscent of her mother, with the strange calls he seems to always be receiving.
Click for spoilery bit of info
(These turn out to be from Theo, who is threatening his brother).
This thought process didn’t really track for me and as the book went on, it seemed that Brynn instead was concerned that her excitement about Maxwell was just a precursor to Brynn becoming her mother and leaving him. Towards the end of the book, when Brynn’s mom makes her inglorious (and completely bonkers) return, things get more bizarre as Brynn’s mom suggests that she left Brynn because Brynn loved her father more than her mother. The entire Brynn and her mother conflict, both internally and externally, is a bit muddled and was difficult to follow.
When I think about Blitzed in conversation with the previous two books, I can see where Blitzed struggles: it lacks a central linchpin like Intercepted and Fumbled. In Intercepted, Marlee leaves her cheating boyfriend and builds an independent life for the first time in adulthood while falling in love again. In Fumbled, Poppy must tell TK about the son he never knew existed. In Blitzed, Brynn… talks about Parks and Recreation a lot? Worries about becoming her mother, but only sometimes and rarely in a way that made sense to me? Doesn’t know how to read a serious moment and act accordingly? (Okay, that last one only happens once but it is a MAJOR pet peeve of mine).
Blitzed is also bookended with two incredibly startling and upsetting events and filled with a lot of nice but aimless scenes of female friendship and a lot of meandering thoughts courtesy of Brynn. And, after my delight in the first two books of the series, Blitzed was also a let down.
The final conflict is squeezed into the book’s final ten percent and much like its opening scene, was really distressing to me. Given its nature, I will discuss it almost entirely under the spoiler and content warning tag.
CW/TW Sexual Assault
One night, while Brynn is working at the bar, Theo appears and asks to speak to Brynn in private, claiming that Maxwell hasn’t been honest with her. Theo then goes on to claim that while Maxwell was in college, he sexually assaulted a girl at a party. In an attempt to protect his younger brother who would be entering the NFL draft later that year, Theo supposedly “took the fall” for it. To me as a reader, it is very clear throughout the novel that Theo is untrustworthy and dangerous, so it is easy to recognize this as a lie. There is an excruciating confrontation between Brynn and Maxwell, and the couple is briefly (because at this point we are mere moments from the end of the book) parted. Brynn’s father and friends are able to convince her that Theo’s word is not to be trusted and a lawyer friend is able to get to the truth of the incident.
Her friends says:
After which Brynn goes to beg Maxwell’s forgiveness. Apologies abound and they are reunited in time for the epilogue.
Oof. I’m going to be honest and say that the last ten percent of this book was really hard for me to read. This incident felt much, MUCH too big to be shoved into the last moments of the book to create a last minute conflict between the protagonists, especially in a book in which so little else of consequence takes place. I didn’t like that the conversation where Brynn’s friends prove that Theo is actually the perpetrator tries to capture the same lighthearted goofiness that all of their other conversations have had.
I’m sorry, but I don’t find a single part of this situation cutesy. I don’t find it an especially great time to be jealous of Brynn’s metabolism and I don’t think it’s something to make a fun presentation out of. Don’t get me wrong, Brynn is certainly distraught over what Theo has told her and her inability to reconcile that information with the Maxwell she knows. But at times like in the excerpt above, and in how rushed this storyline was, I felt like I took this series of events more seriously than the book did.
It took me a while to write this review because I felt I needed a lot of space from the end of the book before I could really write about it. The more space I have, the worse it all feels to me. Maxwell’s vague warnings as opposed to actual communication about why Brynn should stay away from Theo is irresponsible at best and complicit in protecting Theo at worst, despite Maxwell’s previous actions to help the survivor achieve the justice that felt best to her. (It is worth mentioning that Maxwell offered to testify against Theo should she wish to go to trial).
I finished Blitzed with a bad taste in my mouth and a weird tension in my chest, an overall feeling of not right. I’d like to imagine that the next book in the series might be able to right the ship after this, but I’m not sure if I’ll stick my neck out to find out.
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This HaBO is from Ruth, who is trying to find this audiobook series. Content warning for the description below:
I’m driving myself crazy because I can’t remember any information about a 4-book series I listened to on Audible in January. I was on a trial “Romance Unlimited” package and apparently borrowed books aren’t listed in my account. I even mentioned it in a comment I left here, but I have no idea what the comment was to!
Anyway: four-book series, set several years after a car accident in which one woman died and the other had injuries that changed her personality so that, among other things, she no longer loves her husband; she’s also made multiple suicide attempts. The book starts when he meets a new woman and decides it’s time to move on. Unstable now-ex-wife causes all kinds of problems, including a hostage situation that turns out to be fake.
The second book is about the fiance of the woman who died.
The third book is about unrelated people: a woman in witness protection recovering from having been gang raped and the undercover agent who saved her whom she bonded with (not in a romantic way).
The fourth book brings together that undercover agent and the now not-so-unstable wife from the first book.
I remember these books in detail, except for the character’s names, their titles and the author. Apparently I can’t remember those things unless I actually see them!
This sounds like some heavy stuff.
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Uno de los más terribles destinos que puede sufrir un libro iluminado es caer en manos de un vendedor sin escrúpulos. Este tipo de volúmenes no son baratos, pero lo cierto es que existe un mercado en el que se pueden vender las preciadas hojas ilustradas a un precio mucho más interesante que el unitario. ¿Los orígenes de esta mala práctica? La mala conservación de muchos ejemplares hasta el siglo XIX.
Si bien los libros eran considerados como un bien valioso por muchos, lo cierto es que miles de volúmenes bellamente ilustrados pasaron por la Edad Media y parte de la Moderna, sin pena ni gloria, arrinconados en arcones, pasto de los gusanos en cobertizos mal aislados o como elementos decorativos olvidados en la casa familiar. Como resultado, las encuadernaciones se pudrieron, las páginas perdieron cohesión y solo se conservaron aquellas páginas iluminadas que llamaban la atención.
Muchos anticuarios de finales del XVIII y principios del XIX se especializaron en vender este tipo de páginas a coleccionistas en busca de los recuerdos de un pasado glorioso. Sin embargo, con el tiempo, este tipo de páginas sueltas comenzó a escasear, algo que no detuvo a muchos de estos comerciantes, que habían encontrado un auténtico pelotazo económico: comprar los libros enteros y luego despiezarlos, como si en un desguace de coches se tratara.
Y es que, hasta hace relativamente poco, muchos dueños de este tipo de libros no conocían el verdadero valor de lo que poseían, por lo que las compras se hacían a precio ridículo, o bien el importe por un libro de ese tipo resultaba bastante más barato de lo que sacaban estos comerciantes sin escrúpulos al vender página a página de manera independiente.
No pensemos que estamos ante prácticas decimonónicas. Un caso documentado es el de la Biblia de San Albano, un libro medieval del siglo XIV, que acabó en las manos del tratante de libros Philip Duschnes en 1964. Estaba profusamente ilustrado, así que Duschnes vio el negocio enseguida; cortó y vendió más de 160 páginas durante varios años. Esta práctica era su modus operandi, ya que se tiene constancia de que hizo lo mismo con, al menos, dos libros parecidos.
Como nota curiosa, hoy en día existen redes de estudiosos que tratan de poner en común datos, cruzando referencias y detalles de estas páginas sueltas que poseen tanto museos como universidades, con la esperanza, al menos, de poder digitalizar y poner de nuevo en conjunto las páginas perdidas junto con los textos, mucho menos valiosos, que todavía se conservan.
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If I dream, it invariably takes the form of being hunted by men with guns—in a house, in a forest, on a street. Sometimes these dreams end with me being shot, sometimes with me stabbing someone. I only ever stab someone, even though, growing up, we had a gun, illegally, in the house—a double-barreled shotgun that my father kept beneath his bed and that we’d use occasionally for shooting rabbits. In my dreams I never see the face of the man I’m stabbing. I’ve had these dreams all my adult life. Maybe they’re common among people like me, maybe they’re not. By “people like me” I mean people who grew up in Ulster, who from our earliest moments were wary, were used to watching everything for some sign, however small, that things were not quite right.
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Anna and the Apocalypse
by Alan McDonald & Ryan McHenry
After the second song of the musical Anna and the Apocalypse, my teen viewing consultant looked at me with puzzled eyes. “Mom,” she said slowly, “This is…good!” And it is. While I spent my entire first watch of this movie trying to figure out what it was, I watched it again the next day and found it weirdly affecting for a zombie musical set during Christmas in the fictional town of Little Haven, Scotland.
The story, a mix of zombie movie tropes and musical tropes and high school tropes, concerns various teens, including our heroine (Anna), her best friend John who is madly in love with her, and their friends Chris and Lisa, who are madly in love with each other. “Withdraw your tongues!” snaps Headmaster Savage at Chris and Lisa, who exchange what may be cinema’s longest single kiss.
We also have Nick, a ridiculously handsome guy who is, alas, a bully and who also has a thing for Anna. There’s Steph, a queer student from America who feels alienated by her parents and her peers. Anna’s dad, Tony, is one of the few adults. He and Anna are struggling with their relationship following the death of Anna’s mom.
The first part of the movie sets up all these relationships and conflicts, and by the time the zombies show up, we already care about the characters. It’s a funny movie, but also creepy and tragic and inspiring and sad. In one of the first songs, the characters warn, “There’s no such thing as a Hollywood Ending.” We can’t say they didn’t warn us.
While the movie pays homage to many musical and zombie genre tropes, some are avoided. Both Anna and Lisa have sexual relationships. The movie does not end in romance and there’s not much of a love triangle since Anna isn’t super interested in either John or Nick (she’s attracted to Nick, much to her disgust, but has no interest in being his girlfriend). In most horror movies, the heroine sheds clothing as the movie progresses, but Anna is never portrayed in a sexualized manner and in fact she adds clothes as the movie goes on. Of the six main teens, one is either bisexual or lesbian and two are actors of color. Even the zombies are somewhat humanized (they like tinsel), and while the group has no problem killing them in self-defence, they recoil at Nick’s policy of hunting down zombies that don’t pose any immediate threat.
There are zombie stories that analyze the progression of the disease, and zombie stories that take a large view of the fall of humanity, and zombie stories that analyze survival tactics. This is not one of those stories. Anna is very much about two things:
In one of the more chilling moments, Lisa tries to get Savage to help her care for Chris’ grandmother, who has a heart condition. All three of them (Lisa, Savage, and Grandma) are trapped in the school. “I see civilization on the edge,” Savage sneers. “What do we do when civilization is on the edge?”
“We help each other” says Lisa, firmly.
“We prioritize,” answers Savage, the actor gleefully eating all the scenery he can get.
The music in Anna is not terribly inventive but it is hopelessly catchy with good harmony and a lot of use of counterpoint. Expect to have the music stuck in your head for a very long time. This is both annoying and proof that the songwriters did their job well. All the actors are wonderful singers as well as actors and if they do not become giant stars I will riot. There’s so much energy in the movie, and so much heart. Also so much gore – I have to mention that this is one of those movies that thinks over the top gore is hilarious (sometimes I agreed and sometimes not) so there’s blood spewing all over the place and heads flying around and of course the required “person is disemboweled alive” scene which all zombie movie fans will of course expect.
The movie pays tribute to a lot of other movies and sometimes that backfires. When Anna sings “What a time to be alive!” with her earbuds in, oblivious to the zombie horrors taking place behind her, it’s cute, but Shaun of the Dead did the same thing better. When Anna and Savage face off and Anna kills zombies while singing about why humanity is worth fighting for, it’s so close to a particular musical number from Buffy The Vampire Slayer that it’s distracting, especially since the Buffy song was so much better.
However, numbers like “Hollywood Ending” are exciting and clever and revealing and I found “I Will Believe,” sung in an understated fashion by the exhausted, grieving, but still fighting Anna, to be almost unbearably affecting. I’ve been struggling this year and looking for stories that insist that we should fight the good fight whether we will win or not. This song spoke right to my heart.
Anna and the Apocalypse is a love it or hate it movie that avoids a lot of the more toxic tropes of musical and zombie genres while reveling in others. Watching Anna kick ass with a large candy cane has certainly uplifted my holiday season. I just wish I had Anna’s fleece penguin onesie pajamas. Gory trailer ahead.
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