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Roxane Gay is a Bad Feminist

Reading Roxane Gay‘s Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial, 2014) was a personally instructive experience. As a white, male reader with a pretty fat tire of privilege under my belt, it’s an often-excoriating, albeit hilarious, read. And while I would definitely have preferred it had Gay occasionally used the more contingent “some men” to describe the masculine influence on the cultural evils afflicting women today, I’m nonetheless convinced that the scale of the problem justifies the rhetoric. It’s not like I’m unaware of my own gender parochialism — none of this is news to me. But I sure am now questioning why I’m not that little bit, or even TEN TIMES better at checking myself and others on subjects that I know to be important when the moment arises. Instead, most of the time (to my shame) I’m more like the crowd at the Daniel Tosh set in the essay “Some Jokes Are Funnier Than Others,” a crowd that fails to stand up and say, “Enough.” Bad Feminist is an excellent book for lots of reasons. Firstly, Roxane Gay’s really funny. “When I was called a feminist,” she writes of her younger self, “my first thought was, But I willingly give blow jobs… I was called a feminist, […]
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Now and Then: Time in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood

Prefatory note: strongly recommend you watch Boyhood without seeing the trailer or doing a Google Image search or anything like that. Probably don’t read this yet either. But the bottom line is, do see it. Blue sky, white clouds, the opening chords of Coldplay’s “Yellow”, the handwritten title (in black): Boyhood. Reverse shot: Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), aged six, lying flat on the grass, his right arm thrust straight up above him, his left hand behind his head, staring up at the sky. What’s in his mind is a mystery, though it becomes clear that he enjoys the incidental pleasures of childhood like any other boy — computer games, graffiti, underwear catalogues, biking through the suburbs, Harry Potter at bedtime. Chris Martin starts to sing: “Look at the stars / Look how they shine for you / And everything you do.” It’s a song about unrequited love, here repurposed, perhaps, as a hymn from director Richard Linklater to his unconventional muse. When I saw Boyhood at BAM, Linklater and Coltrane spoke briefly beforehand, and the director compared casting Mason Jr. to selecting the next Dalai Lama. “What I liked about Ellar,” he said, “was that he kinda didn’t give a shit what you thought. […]
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To Rise Again At A Decent Hour

Whatever you think you know is subject to change at my whim. I will not be contained by my news feeds and online purchases, by your complicated algorithms for simplifying a man. Watch me break out of the hole you put me in. I am a man, not an animal in a cafe. Goddamn auto correct.  I wrote back immediately. I meant “cage”. — Dr. Paul O’Rourke to Dr. Paul O’Rourke in Joshua Ferris’s To Rise Again At A Decent Hour Dr. Paul C. O’Rourke, D.D.S., is a brilliant dentist but a troubled human being. Searching ceaselessly but fruitlessly for “something” that might be “everything” — God, kids, the gym — his existence is nonetheless dominated by office life and Red Sox games. Joshua Ferris, whose Then We Came To The End won the PEN/Hemingway Award for best first novel, has scored another home run with the excellent, vaguely disturbing satire To Rise Again At A Decent Hour (Little, Brown, 2014). One day, one of Paul’s patients tells him on his way out the office that he’s off to Israel. Not because he’s Jewish, he says, but because he’s an Ulm — “and so are you!” Not knowing what an Ulm is, and […]
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