Obsessions #1: Bring Me The Head With The Sally Rooney Bucket Hat
Everything I've Been Reading, Watching and Listening to in August
Hello and welcome to the first edition of Obsessions, a new monthly newsletter-within-a-newsletter highlighting all of the things I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, and generally obsessing over for the past few weeks. These lists used to come at the bottom of my regular review and essay newsletters, but I wanted to devote more space to my obsessions instead of shoving them in at the end. Onwards!
What I’ve Been Reading:
I spent most of the month absorbed with Jeanne Thornton’s Summer Fun, which I reviewed in my last newsletter. I also read some non-fiction, which I haven’t read as much of in the last few months: I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder by Sarah Kurchak and Tumblr Porn by Anna Valens. Both were imperfect, but still very enjoyable, and I would highly recommend reading both.
I just finished book 34 of 2021 (Joss Lake’s Future Feeling, which was, uh, weird!) keeping me on track to finish 52 books by the end of the year. The only problem is the next few books I want to read are all TOMES: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (I’ve avoided it for years, but decided I must now weigh into the Discourse), Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, and The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai.
And of course, I’m counting down the days until the September 7th release of Sally Rooney’s third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You. I keep seeing famous writers I follow posting ARCs of it and every time I feel an unreasonable amount of jealousy. I would also unironically wear the Sally Rooney bucket hat, which I consider to be an exquisite object.
What I’ve Been Watching:
FBoy Island (2021): Every summer I watch a different terrible dating show set on an island. From Bachelor In Paradise to Love Island, I will give literally anything a shot. This month, I partook in FBoy Island. The premise was that the male suitors were divided into two camps, “F-Boys” and “Nice Guys,” and the women courting them had to figure out who was who. Since “Nice Guy” is a pretty loaded term in 2021, my boyfriend and I tried to figure out what the true opposite of an “F-Boy” was. We decided it was an “H-Boy”: a Hug Boy. Yes, this show was bad. Yes, I watched all ten episodes.
RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars 6 (2021): RPDR is my emotional support reality franchise and the only one that has been regularly pumping out new episodes all pandemic long. I’m surprised by how much I’ve been enjoying this season, especially since I was a bit disappointed when the cast was first announced. Ginger and Eureka AGAIN?! But I’ve had a great time, especially watching TKB’s redemption arc. And even though the game-within-a-game was annoying to hear about every week without knowing what it was, the Lip Sync Smackdown episode was a franchise highlight, with the “Barbie Girl” lip-sync reaching instant iconic status. I’m rooting for Ra’jah or Kylie to take the crown.
Party Down: Season 1 (2009): I swear I don’t exclusively watch reality TV. I’ve had Party Down on my radar for a few years and finally gave the first season a watch. The character work was super funny and I really appreciated the fact that it was a work sitcom about the service industry. I liked it, but some aspects haven’t aged as well as others, and I’m unsure if I’ll watch the second season or not.
Candyman (1992): In anticipation of the remake, I watched the original Candyman for the first time. I loved how it blended all the horror elements with the fantastical and even had undertones of a love story. The bee kissing shot was WILD!!!
Cruella (2021): I heard nothing but bad things about this when it was first released, but I thought it was surprisingly not terrible?! Despite a runtime of 134 minutes, I was pretty engaged for the whole thing. The costumes were really beautiful (that gold moth dress!) and the whole movie felt really campy and fun. The soundtrack was truly bizarre though and changed every 20 seconds in a Paul Thomas Anderson way but not nearly as good. I am not really a Disney person, but I think Cruella might be my favourite villain. So glamorous!
This Must Be The Place (2011): Watched this one for my Rock On Film club and was very pleasantly surprised. Sean Penn plays Cheyenne, a Robert Smith-inspired famous goth rocker recluse, complete with teased-up hair and red lipstick, who speaks in a very quiet, stilted voice and talks entirely in non-sequiturs. Much of the film is devoted to his quest to find the Nazi prison guard who ruined his father’s life in Auschwitz. The soundtrack is 70% different covers of “This Must Be The Place” and David Byrne makes a cameo as himself. It’s definitely a little bizarre and all the characters hinge on ridiculousness but they are still human enough to be believable and I found the whole thing surprisingly charming.
What I’ve Been Listening To:
The Mixed Reviews: I love a two-hour film podcast! I found out about this podcast after Montreal comedian Tranna Wintour posted that she was a guest on it for their Madonna episode. The premise of the show is that every two weeks, the two hosts and an occasional guest watch as many movies as possible by a certain director or actor, and then highlight the best and worst of what they saw. I’m working my way through their archive now. So far I’ve really enjoyed the episodes about Michelle Pfeiffer, Glenn Close, Parker Posey, Queen Latifah, and Christopher Guest.
You Are Good: Another film podcast, this one is hosted by You’re Wrong About’s Sarah Marshall and Alex Steed with the tagline “a feelings podcast about movies.” Each week, a guest comes on to describe their love for a certain film. I really liked the two most recent episodes: Heavyweights with Carmen Maria Machado and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Brad Bannon.
Aaliyah - One In A Million (1996): I’ve been wanting to listen to Aaliyah’s discography forever, but it’s been largely unavailable physically and digitally for years due to rights issues with her estate. It’s FINALLY available on streaming, with a different album coming each month until October. It’s really interesting to listen to her stuff for the first time, especially after hearing so much music from the past two decades that is so heavily inspired by her sound. I’ve been loving One In A Million, the first album available, which more than lives up to the hype of her talent and legacy.
Various New Albums: As an ex-music critic, I still feel burdened to try and keep up with new music, even though I am over 25 now and everyone knows that rock’n’roll is a young man’s game. I tried to listen to the new Lorde and Billie Eilish albums, but I found both painfully dull and turned them off after only a few songs (we are in an era of low-key minimalist “vibes” pop and I HATE IT). I also gave Donda a listen and was pleasantly surprised, but it also features some known Awful Men so I think I’m good with my one stream. I am, however, greatly looking forward to Lil Nas X’s debut album in two weeks (!!!), as well as the Chromatica remixes dropping on Friday.
Middle School Nostalgia: I made this deranged four-hour playlist for my current writing project (keep reading to hear more about that). Basically, it’s songs from 2007-2009, which were the years that I was in middle school and associate with being a preteen. Various thoughts:
Billy Talent still rip
The singles from the first Ting Tings album are legitimately great
Good Charlotte singles hold up
I miss Tegan and Sara’s indie era :’(
One time when I was 14 I cried to this song (lmao)
How The Writing’s Going:
Good, actually. I’m in the home stretch of writing the first draft of my novella Amy of Suburbia, about a 12-year-old girl in 2007 who is obsessed with Green Day. I originally came up with the idea as a proposal for Bloomsbury’s 33 ⅓ series, but they rejected my absolute genius if you can believe it! After being in a bit of a fiction-writing slump for the past few months, I figured a smaller project would be just the thing I needed to get excited about it again. I was right! An excerpt of it will be available in the next issue of Zine Obscura and I’m submitting the full draft to a contest at the end of September. If it doesn’t get accepted, I’m just going to self-publish it in 2022, so stay tuned for that.
That’s all for now! If you enjoyed this newsletter-within-a-newsletter, please like it, comment, share, and subscribe. The next regular review newsletter will come out the week of Sept. 13. Until then, you can find me on Twitter, Instagram, Letterboxd, and Goodreads. Take care of yourself and each other.