Obsessions #12: Nathan Fielder Is Daddy
Everything I've Been Reading, Watching and Listening to this Summer
Hello and welcome back to Why’s World! This newsletter is returning, but in a much more sporadic way than before. I’m taking a class over the next two months in addition to working my day job, so I won’t have as much spare time as I did before. You can expect newsletters every 1-2 months. Thank you for being here!
This is Obsessions, a newsletter-within-a-newsletter highlighting all the things I’ve been reading, watching, listening to and generally obsessing over for the past month.
What I’ve Been Reading
Amy Of Suburbia by Alanna Why
It wouldn’t be a writer’s newsletter without a little shameless self-promotion! This August, I put out my very first work of fiction, a novella about a 12-year-old girl’s obsession with Green Day called Amy Of Suburbia. I’ve been working on my fiction practice for the past five years, so it’s been extremely rewarding to finally publish my work and share it publicly.
I’m super grateful for all the kind reviews and messages I’ve received about it. Goodreads users have called it “severely relatable,” “a sensational read” and “so, so good.” I’m almost sold out of the first printing, so make sure to snag a copy here before a month-long delay between printings.
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jeannette McCurdy
This memoir by former Nickelodeon child star Jeannette McCurdy was the book of the summer and might even be the book of the year. Selling out on Amazon within a single day, I haven’t seen this much hype for a debut book in years. The best part? The work more than lives up to all the buzz surrounding it.
I’m Glad My Mom Died explores McCurdy’s experiences of being thrust into the spotlight at the age of six in order to provide for her family. It details the emotional and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother, who was also her manager until she passed away from breast cancer when Jeannette was in her early 20s.
The memoir explores how child stardom and abuse caused McCurdy to cope through eating disorders and alcoholism. As difficult as the subject matter is, I couldn’t put this book down and finished it in two sittings. By the end, you can’t help but be proud of McCurdy for choosing to heal. Unlike a lot of celebrity memoirs, it’s extremely well-written. I’m very excited to eventually read the novel she’s currently working on.
PS: Having trouble finding a copy of this? Check to see if your local library uses an app called CloudLibrary, which offers digital copies of popular express titles. Or, if you pre-order through a local bookstore, you’ll be able to get one in a few weeks when the next printing comes in.
Three Novels by Fawn Parker
I’ve long been aware of Toronto writer Fawn Parker, but didn’t come to her novels until the beginning of this summer when I read all three of them in the span of two weeks. Overall, Parker’s prose style and subject matter reminded me a lot of Ottessa Moshfegh and Elena Ferrante, so if you enjoy those authors, definitely check out her work.
2019’s Set-Point follows Lucy Frank, a young Anglophone living in Montreal. She takes a series of bizarre jobs while also working on scripts that mash-up Seinfeld with Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series. Dealing with the grief of her ill mother, she also struggles with her personal relationships and restrictive eating patterns. I thought the novel was an incredible demonstration of how it feels to deal with grief as a young woman in the 21st century. I really loved this book and devoured it in two days.
2021’s Dumb Show is a satirical campus novel that twists the structure of Henry IV. Following a brother and sister whose lives become consumed by a polarizing academic, I was instantly blown away by how much the prose leveled up from Parker’s first novel. I loved the critique of how patriarchy functions in both public institutions and privately in the family. The last fifty pages were SCORCHING!
2022’s What We Both Know was smaller in scope, but even more brutal in terms of subject matter. This novel focused on Hillary Greene, a middle-aged woman tasked with ghostwriting the memoir of her famous father dying of Alzheimer’s. I’m writing a long review of it for Canthius, so stay tuned for my full thoughts on it.
What I’ve Been Watching
I’ve been eagerly awaiting Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis ever since the casting rumours that Harry Styles would be in it. (Based on the reviews for Don’t Worry Darling, it’s probably for the best that he didn’t get the part.)
As a lover of music biopics, the film blew me away. Yes, it’s absolutely unhinged, but that doesn’t mean it’s not incredible. Bombastic and ridiculous, I was engaged for the full 159-minute runtime. By the end of it, I was crying, applauding and extremely horny for Elvis.
Austin Butler’s portrayal of The King is spectacular. He melts so fully into the physicality of the role that you almost forgot you’re watching an actor. Tom Hanks, on the other hand, gives the worst performance of his career. And to think, he got COVID for it!
I left the theatre and immediately went home and watched the 1968 Comeback Special, then watched a few actual Elvis movies in the weeks after. Although the pacing and editing are truly bizarre, I think this film is a real feat, especially in terms of costuming and production design. I can’t wait for what Oscars madness it will inevitably cause.
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On
Based on the YouTube shorts made a decade prior, Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is indie studio A24’s first children’s movie. Following a tiny shell named Marcel (who, yes, has shoes on), the movie details how he got separated from his family and his search to find them again.
From the first few minutes, this movie had me full-on ugly crying. Despite being written before the pandemic, the film touched on a lot of resonant themes from the past few years like survival, grief and being away from your loved ones. Mixed in with the serious themes were sweet, comedic moments of levity that made me chuckle even as tears rolled down my face.
This is one of my favourite films of the year so far and I’m stunned there isn’t a larger cultural conversation about it. I can’t recommend it highly enough, but make sure to have some tissues nearby.
The Rehearsal/Nathan For You
From the sick and twisted mind of Nathan Fielder comes The Rehearsal, the Canadian cringe comic’s first show since Nathan For You. The show allows people to rehearse real-life situations in order to gain emotional closure. For instance, the first episode features a man practicing telling his friend that he lied about having a master’s degree. Like most people, I had no idea what to expect from the show, but after the first episode, was instantly hooked.
I know a lot of people who think the show dwindled after the first episode, but I have to disagree. The next five episodes focus on a long-running rehearsal of a woman named Angela, who’s rehearsing having children. Over time, Nathan becomes involved in the experiment, and the levels of meta-commentary magnify to infinity.
I was truly moved by the layers of The Rehearsal. The show has so much to say about performance, scripts and power dynamics that it truly scrambles the brain. I think that it’s Fielder’s magnum opus in the same way that Inside is Bo Burnham’s. While there’s been debate over what’s “real” and what’s “fake,” I think that simply looking at it from that perspective takes away from what it simply is.
In the middle of the season, I also went back and rewatched all of Nathan For You, which I haven’t revisited since it first aired. While my opinions about the show have shifted over the years (some of it definitely feels more exploitative now than it did at the time), I forgot how fucking funny a lot of it is, especially Seasons 1 and 4. The gas station rebate episode in particular is my all-time favourite, not only because it’s the funniest, but because I’m definitely someone who would hike up a mountain to save $15.
If you’re a fan of either show, I’d definitely recommend reading writer Emma Healey’s long piece about Nathan For You in the Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as her recaps of The Rehearsal in Vulture. Overall, I can’t believe that a man I grew up watching do bit parts on CBC turned into one of the most beloved comedians of our time.
What I’ve Been Listening To
Renaissance by Beyoncé
The Queen is back! Ever since Renaissance dropped, I haven’t wanted to listen to anything else. As a longtime Beyoncé fan, I truly believe that this is the top tier of her albums and potentially even her very best. The first half starts like a mellow R&B groove before descending further into the excess and glamour of disco and house as the track listing rides on. I really respect that it’s the rare contemporary pop album where the tracking actually matters and clearly wasn’t just designed to dominate the streaming charts, even though it is regardless!
I’ve also loved reading about all the samples and artists involved in the making of the album, like in this Pitchfork review by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, proving that Beyoncé is using her billions of dollars for good. My favourite tracks are “Alien Superstar,” “Church Girl,” “Virgo’s Groove,” “America Has A Problem” and “Pure/Honey.” This is the album of the year, baby, and the visuals haven’t even dropped yet!
After a nearly two-year hiatus, I couldn’t believe my eyes when a new episode of Nymphowars popped up in my podcast feed out of the blue. Hosted by trans comedians and writers Macy Rodman and Theda Hammel, the podcast is a surreal and hilarious takedown of contemporary culture done through improv sketches and celebrity impersonations.
The podcast’s latest arc is “KNFW,” a satirical view on terrestrial radio that features skewerings of Terry Gross, Madonna, Ann Dowd and Caitlyn Jenner. If you’ve never listened to the podcast before, start with the beginning of the KNFW series, then go back to classic episodes like “Bon Appetit,” “Unclockable You” and “The Fisting Special Fisting Special.” Caution for listening to it in public though, because it is extremely NSFW and you will be laughing out loud!
As soon as I heard about the podcast Missing Pages, I couldn’t believe that the idea hadn’t been done already. Hosted by literary critic Bethanne Patrick, the podcast takes the twist-and-turn lens of true crime and centres it on publishing scandals.
The first four episodes of the first season detail literary gossip like Dan Mallory, who wrote The Woman In The Window under the name A.J. Finn, and Caroline Calloway, the millennial Instagram scammer who has yet to actually publish a book. I particularly loved the episode on queer writer J.T. LeRoy, which featured commentary from Nevada author Imogen Binnie. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has in store.
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