Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

Detroit is a great pseudo-memoir by the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Charlie LeDuff. It mixes new material with articles from his time at the Detroit News, a newspaper, that is, his personal observations and story with the stories he was covering.
I thought it was a great read, but that does not mean it is a perfect work of non-fiction by any means.
He’s certainly a great journalist and a great writer. At one point, he pokes a frozen dead man with his pencil. He’s carrying that around because pens freeze. (This is true. And it’s terrible when it happens and one has no pencils.)

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This Must Be the Place by Anna Winger

This Must Be the Place is a well-written exercise in nothing-happens fiction.
Some may argue for the virtues of nothing-happens fiction (Ulysses) or point to other great novels by literary greats where nothing actually happens.

Kudos to those people because they are ignoring the flip-side of do-nothing fiction: the multitude of books published that are, at their core and outer edges and everywhere in between, boring. Boring, boring, boring.

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House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

House of Echoes is plagued with problems, from a clichéd plot ripped from X-Files episodes, to an entire lack of action/plot development to a complete and total non-suspension of disbelief. Couple all of these problems with some rich whiney city people who move to a not-rural Eastern town? (C’mon New York; move to Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, etc., the middle of these states, and then you can start complaining about rural life). It’s a recipe for a boring waste of time.
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She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a documentary by Mary Dore

While it’s enjoyable and illuminating to hear the women of the second-wave feminist movement talk about their lives and times, Dore usually misses the forest for the trees with much of the conversation and never makes her subjects dig a little deeper, probe a little longer to see what comes up.

The first major problem with Dore’s documentary is the cursory treatment given to the schism between the civil rights movement and the black women’s rights movements.

The seminal work on the subject, “Ain’t I A Woman” by Bell Hooks is entirely ignored, as is her entire message. (Black meant black men, white meant white men and woman meant white women).

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The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

M.J. Rose’s new novel, The Witch of Painted Sorrows, feels more like a very long draft of a novel rather than a fleshed-and-thought out story.

Along those lines, Sorrows does not pick up until the last 100 pages or so. Up to that point, it’s a horrible slog, not just a slog like the last 100 pages.

Furthermore, the plot elements introduced at the beginning to propel the main character to Paris, where the book takes place, feels haphazard at best and the very first draft at worst. Her husband is described as “dangerous.” He is a killer! Except he’s not. The main character’s treatment of her husband, meant to be a plot point, appears more like she’s actually crazy because of the level of hysterical thoughts and feelings attributed to him.

“But I would not live with a brute who had my father’s blood on his hands.”
Hysterical.

Also, there’s a sleep rape scene perpetrated by the female main character against her male lover, which is portrayed as totally OK. Switch the genders and it would not be OK.

Sleep rape is not OK.

All in all, not worth reading.

This book (an advanced uncorrected proof) was received, free of charge, from the Goodreads First Reads program.

Update on Jan. 26, 2015
The author, Ms. Rose, took to Facebook on Jan. 18 to complain about my review and defend the offending scene in the book, which I believe I have correctly described as sleep rape perpetrated by a female on a male. This can also be called made to penetrate.

I don’t have a problem with portraying rape in fiction. I have a problem with portraying rape as anything other than rape, and therefore, acceptable.

The offending lines in my original review (above) (besides being negative in general) are as follows:

“Also, there’s a sleep rape scene which is portrayed as totally OK. Switch the genders and it would not be OK.
Sleep rape is not OK.”

As I wrote in the original post, my problem is the portrayal of sleep rape as acceptable, as the norm, or as Ms. Rose would have one believe, not possibly because the victim is a man and the perpetrator a woman.

Ms. Rose proceeded to defend the scene to her nearly 80,000 followers.

Many of those commenters wrote that I must be puritanical, prudish, that I confuse sleep rape for lovemaking or that I live in the 19th century.

As evidenced by Ms. Rose’s post on Facebook, she intended the scene to be seen positively.

“An early reviewer has blasted the book claiming I have a sleep rape scene. Ahem. In said scene Sandrine – a FEMALE – arouses her MALE lover while he is sleeping and they proceed to make love while he is half-asleep.”

Please observe what is wrong with Ms. Rose’s defense of the sleep rape scene: “a FEMALE – arouses her MALE lover while he is sleeping.”

Ms. Rose uses the argument that because a woman is doing the perpetrating, it’s obviously not rape.

Unfortunately, this is a wrong-headed and entirely false conceit. Neither rape nor consent know gender or gender roles.

She also uses the argument that what her main character does to her lover is acceptable because of their romantic relationship.

This would not be an acceptable argument if the gender roles were reversed. After all, marital rape has been illegal in all 50 states since 1993.

Below are three very good articles on the issue from three different publications:

Slate — When Men are Raped by Hanna Rosin
http://www.slate.com/articles/double_…
Choice quote: “By portraying sexual violence against men as aberrant, we prevent justice and compound the shame.”

Vocativ — The Hard Truth About Girl-on-Guy Rape by Elizabeth Kulze
http://www.vocativ.com/underworld/cri…
Choice quote: “Of course, for even the gentlest male sleep-rapist, ‘I assumed she’d be into it’ doesn’t exactly fly in court. Consent reigns supreme, and to pursue a female without it is to invite culpability. In
‘made to penetrate’ cases, the line is often far more ambiguous. Still, there are plenty of female aggressors who don’t leave much to interpretation.”

Pacific Standard — When Women Sexually Assault Men by Livia Gershon
http://www.psmag.com/politics-and-law…
Choice quote: “THE NOTION THAT SEXUAL assault of a man by a woman is impossible, and even laughable, rests on the same gendered assumptions that are also used to downplay assaults on women by men”

Song of Spider-Man by Glen Berger

Glen Berger wants to make it look like he’s spilling all the beans about the botched musical Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark.

Really, he delivers allusions, innuendo and promises he never delivers on. Much like the production he also failed.

Look at the negative reviews for the book and one can glean what I think, more or less, about the book.

Here’s one major aspect I don’t think has yet been discussed: The platitudes and credit given to Julie Taymor  despite the wide gulf of differences between the production she’s given credit for, The Lion King, and the musical she was half-assedly trying to create, Spider-man.

Julie Taymor is widely hailed as being responsible for the success of the theater production of The Lion King. Masterful, if one believes Glen Berger.

(While I enjoyed seeing The Lion King, I do not think it was transcendent.)

So, that’s the crux of this entire story. Julie Taymor is amazing! because of The Lion King.

Here’s the thing that Berger, and seemingly everyone involved with the project, and every positive reviewer who is a fanboy or girl of Taymor, appears to miss:

The Lion King was Taymor’s adaptation of a movie (animated) musical.

Spider-Man was an entirely original endeavor (seemingly partially out of hubris, partially out of contempt for the original medium).

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