Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, January 23, 2017

A Winter's Respite Readathon Report

I've been taking part in Seasons of Reading's A Winter's Respite readathon this month and since it happens to be a two week deal, a progress report at this halfway point seemed right.

So far, I have completed two books on my TBR, the first being Emma Cline's The Girls. Evie Boyd was a lonely,bored teenager in the summer of 1969 who needed an emotional anchor during the turbulence of her parents' divorce.

Unfortunately, she found that in Suzanne Parker, a slightly older girl whose seemingly wild and carefree life was only a thin layer of icing over the rotting cake served up for a cult of personality. Said personality was Russell, a would-be singer and charismatic con artist planning on using his connection to a semi-popular musician to make it to the big time.

While Evie was dazzled enough by Russell's charms, her true interest in being part of the group was all about Suzanne. As things went from bad to worse and then to bloody violence, Evie was mostly a hanger-on but that brief bond she shared with Suzanne cast an overwhelming shadow over her whole life.

Yes, this story is loosely based on the infamous Manson murders but author Emma Cline is deftly able at creating her own original take on that by focusing on what even a temporary association with such a destructive group can leave behind in a person's heart and mind.

The core of the story is the twisted relationship with Evie and Suzanne, which reminds me in a way of the film Heavenly Creatures, a based on a true story tale about two girls who lead each other down a garden path of deadly damage. I don't know if Emma Cline has seen this movie but I do recommend it to anyone who has read The Girls as a thoughtful companion piece:

The other book that I finished was The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis; in fact, I spend the entirety of last Friday reading that one straight to the end. Considering what was going on that particular day, it was a very opportune time to read this.

The letters in question are written by a high ranking demon named Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, giving him advice on how to best tempt the first "patient"(human being) on his Junior Tempter roster. Most of that advice mocks the moral code of mortals and while it is set during a particular time frame(originally published in 1942), there are some key points that still ring true today.

For one, Screwtape points out to Wormwood that the sin of gluttony is not simply about overeating; calling too much attention to how little you wish to consume and insisting that others remake your dish over and over again until it is up to your standards is equally bad. How many versions have we seen of that over the years?

Most compelling is the speech included at the end of the book "Screwtape Proposes a Toast", written by popular demand in 1959.

As Screwtape is toasting a new graduating class of Tempters, he also outlines the plans that mortals are making to dumb down society by lowering educational standards which will make the devil's work all the more easier. It's downright scary just how prescient that satirical essay is.

Granted, the book is very Christian themed but I feel that many of the humorous insights that are made here can be readily applied to other faiths as well. If you only know C.S. Lewis as the man who wrote the Narnia series, this set of social satires will certainly be an eye opener.

 The Screwtape Letters have been adapted into numerous pop culture mediums, including stage, radio and even comic books.  With that in mind,I do wonder if the folks who created the TV show The Good Place read this book as a few of the characters certainly do have some of Screwtape's charms here:

As for the rest of my AWR reading, I've made a good start in Liane Moriarty's Truly, Madly, Guilty and thoroughly enjoying Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. Both of them are great but I am so adoring Major Pettigrew and hope that the author writes a follow-up to it.

Hopefully before the readathon ends, I will have tackled Curtis Sittenfeld's  American Wife and Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye(had to renew it until early February from the library but I know it will be worth it). There is still plenty of time to join in the fun and one of the participants,Bemused Bookworm, is holding a giveaway that you may want to check out.

One of the best things about a readathon like this is that you are given time to release your anxieties about the way we're living now and while you don't want to be too zoned out to know what year this is, having a good chunk of reading to do is a grand way to revive your spirits:

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