I just finished playing the first computer game I’ve played since…I dunno, whenever The Sims 3 came out. It’s called Gone Home. It’s fantastic.
You play the game as Kaitlin Greenbriar, a 22 year old returning from an extended European adventure to her family’s Oregon home on a dark, stormy night in June of 1995. Kaitlin finds the house deserted and must explore every room (and secret passage!) for clues to piece together where her family has gone. The main “mystery” involves Samantha, Katie’s younger sister, who narrates a series of notes, short stories and journal entries to help tell a thrilling and emotionally-charged story. Even though I was basically picking up objects and reading documents for most of the game, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. (Actually, I was just sitting in my bed kind of tensed up, but whatever.) Gone Home only takes a few hours to play, but I think it’s an experience I’ll remember for a while.
Oh, also! There’s lots of riot grrrl stuff! And I’m a fan of anything that heavily integrates Heavens to Betsy.
Since starting Emphatic Hands, I have tried to find a way to write about things I like in brief. That rarely works out. “Emphasis On” – shut up, I needed a title – is short reviews of books, music, films or television. Last time, I talked about Elizabeth von Arnim’s novel The Enchanted April. This time, I’m talking about Allie Brosh’s book Hyperbole and a Half.
As I’ve surely mentioned previously, I’m currently serving as a trial juror. If you’ve ever done this, I’m sure you know that there’s a lot – A LOT – of downtime. And of course it’s exceedingly difficult to connect to the internet anywhere in the court house, so I’m using most of my time in the jury room to read. It’s kind of hard to concentrate with a bunch of other people sitting in the room with you, anxiously waiting for someone to give you directions, so I’ve been reading comics and graphic novels. They don’t take as long to read and when I finish them, I feel I’ve accomplished something.
I spent last Friday reading Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half, which is based on her blog of the same name. I have been a fan of hers for a few years now. (I’m sure many of you will recognize her art and words even if you don’t know who she is.) She writes and illustrates (in the style of MS Paint) stories and personal essays on a variety of subjects, including her dogs, her childhood, and depression. The book includes a few previously published pieces, but there is a bunch of original stuff in there as well. Her stories – even the two about depression – are hilarious. Like, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing out loud in a very, very quiet room several times. I guess the only people I would tell not to read this book are people who are very serious/hate funny things and people who don’t like dogs. I am not a dog-hater, but I would say I like her stuff about her dogs the least. I dunno what that says about me. I mean, I still liked the stuff about dogs, it’s just like…dogs do not factor into my adult life in any way, except for when I go to my parents house and see our family dog, who is awesome and is the only dog I actively like.
Anyway, I recommend this book. Go out and buy it! Or at least catch up on the blog if you’ve never read it.
Since starting Emphatic Hands, I have tried to find a way to write about things I like in brief. That rarely works out. But I’m going to try it from now on, once a week, every Tuesday. (Haha, I hope.) “Emphasis On” – shut up, I needed a title – will consist of short reviews of books, music, films or television. Last week, I talked about Craig Thompson’s graphic memoir, Blankets. This week, I’m talking about Elizabeth von Arnim’s novel, The Enchanted April.
I only knew this book existed because Netflix kept suggesting I watch the movie, which I assumed starred Helena Bonham Carter, but recently found out did not. (Polly Walker – who I know best as Atia of the Julii in Rome – just looks a tiny bit like Helena Bonham Carter on the film poster.) I picked up The Enchanted April months ago on the table in the Strand where I know they keep the new NYRB Classics paperbacks. I finally got around to reading it last week and, I can tell you, it is a very nice book.
Published in 1921, The Enchanted April is about four women who spend a month at an Italian castle after one of them reads about it in a newspaper advertisement. The story is simple. The women go to the castle and their perceptions and relationships and LIVES are changed. Though she mostly focuses on the women, I was very impressed by the way von Arnim was able to write from the perspectives of all of the characters who appear in the novel, who vary in age, gender and nationality. (She dwells briefly on the husbands and suitors of the women, who are all pretty big jerks, as well as the castle’s staff.) And after finishing the book, I felt satisfied by the lovely positivity of the story, even if the ending was abrupt and the outlook for the characters was perhaps a little too hopeful and earnest. Not every book I read needs to blow my mind for me to like it. The experience of reading this felt like a vacation from reading, which I think was just what I needed.
Give this book a shot if you like costume dramas or, more specifically, stories about British ladies who take long trips to the continent, which I’m certain is a real literary subgenre. Or if you are like me and need to take a bit of a reading vacation every once in a while.
Since starting Emphatic Hands, I have tried to find a way to write about things I like in brief. That rarely works out. But I’m going to try it from now on, once a week, every Tuesday. (Haha, I hope.) “Emphasis On” – shut up, I needed a title – will consist of brief, one-paragraph reviews of books, music, films or television. Last week, I talked about Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure. This week, I’m talking about Craig Thompson’s graphic memoir, Blankets.
I first read Blankets several years ago, while on a quest to read all of the best graphic novels. (I believe I chose this one after reading Watchmen for the first time.) At the time, I was blown away. I read the whole thing in one sitting. A brief synopsis of the book: Craig grows up in rural Wisconsin in an evangelical Christian family, is bullied throughout his childhood and adolescence, falls in love for the first time, and struggles with his faith. The autobiographical novel follows Craig from childhood to young adulthood. I found that I could relate to all of his experiences, from evolving sibling relationships to feeling guilty for not being exactly who you thought you were supposed to be, even though my life and opportunities have been very different from Thompson’s. Upon my recent re-reading of the book, I fell in love with it all over again. I definitely recommend this to…anyone, really! But especially those who are looking to start reading graphic novels or enjoy coming-of-age stories.
Since starting Emphatic Hands, I have tried to find a way to write about things I like in brief. That rarely works out. But I’m going to try it from now on, once a week, every Tuesday. (Haha, I hope.) “Emphasis On” – shut up, I needed a title – will consist of brief, one-paragraph reviews of books, music, films or television. First up, Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure.
I suppose that I’m a casual Gary Shteyngart fan. (I have a hard time relating to contemporary male writers, so this is a big deal!) I follow him on Twitter, have read one of his novels – Absurdistan – in its entirety, and have read plenty of his fiction and non-fiction in publications such as The New Yorker and Travel + Leisure. I recently finished reading his memoir, Little Failure, and I thought it was very good. I enjoyed the experience of reading it more than I did the experience of reading Absurdistan. I am generally a fan of his style – this is a meaningless word, really, but I can’t find the word I’m looking for, so I’m sticking with this for now – and humor and found that these things, applied to writing his own life story, worked extremely well. I’m not saying you’ll definitely like it, but I think you should read Little Failure if you have read any Gary Shteyngart previously, whether or not you liked it. Also, read it if you have felt like an outsider as an adolescent or artist and/or have overbearing parents who do not easily or straightforwardly express emotion.