Tag Archives: I can has books

books, latin, yum, vids

Hey y’all! Here are some random thoughts that are not necessarily a cohesive post:

– I just finished reading Paper Towns by John Green, which comes heartily recommended, but was a very difficult read for me because it’s set in my hometown. Clearly, O-town and I have issues.
– All my books just came to me from home! I want to reread everything. Especially Blankets (Craig Thompson), because it’s right next to me! Clearly, Olga has no focus.
– Regina Spektor is awesome.
– I have been reading and writing Latin again recently. Hello ambiguous feelings!
– I have also been yearning for Holmes and Watson to acknowledge their pure & deliciously gay love. Oh yeah. Are you in denial? Need a vid? Fever by talitha78 will help you out. (Link goes to the old version – editing is better than the remastered version!)
– Speaking of vids, if you like True Blood and/or Amanda Palmer, you will probably love Runs in the Family by mresundance. (Warning: LOTS of gore, and sex! But if you watch True Blood, these things should be self-evident.) On a more serious note, Afraid of Americans (vidder to be revealed) perfectly pairs David Bowie’s classic song with footage from Watchmen. “God is an American” has never seemed more unsettling or portentous, or been so deeply felt.

wise as serpents and innocent as doves

Hey, gentle readers. Sorry about my absence! As much as I enjoy linkspam, I like this blog to have actual content, and while I’ve had a few ideas kicking around in my head, none have entirely come to fruition. So this post is kind of all of them at once. In case you get confused, just come back to the thesis, which is: how Olga is Miss Marple.


My first grown-up book was Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, which I read at the end of third grade or beginning of fourth grade, and which was pretty freaking morbid for a 9 year old, and also kind of racist, but whatever. I got totally hooked on Agatha Christie and plowed my way through most of her back catalogue over the next three years. As a result, I have read almost all of her Miss Marple books and short stories, a fair amount of her Hercule Poirot works, and ALL of Tommy and Tuppence because they kind of rock. Namely, Tuppence rocks. Can I be Tuppence? But that is not the topic of this post. The topic of this post is why I really like Miss Marple.

This is Miss Marple’s schtick, for those of you who are not familiar with her: she is a little old lady who lives in St. Mary Mead, a quiet little English town, and people think that she is a tad bit doddering and off in the head. But Miss Marple is incredibly smart and a great observer of people, and she solves crimes, often using her harmless appearance to great advantage.


Recently, I have been reflecting on how much I no longer regret my decision to major in classics. For quite some time after choosing to forsake the world of togas for the world of forsaking bras, I looked at my classical period primarily as a springboard for future endeavors and six years’ worth of training to write the best Harry Potter spells OF ALL TIME. (At least, that was my motivation when I started taking Latin in 2001.) Now, however, I’ve realized that a background in classics has had other benefits, namely, accelerating my transformation into Miss Marple. Wikipedia agrees with me: “Miss Marple’s Olga’s acquaintances are sometimes bored by her frequent analogies to people and events from St. Mary Mead the internet The Past, but these analogies often lead Miss Marple Olga to a deeper realization about the true nature of a crime the patriarchy life, the universe, and everything.”

Being Miss Marple means that I spend a lot of time connecting the dots, but it also means other things, namely that I spend a lot of time sitting around going, “Somehow, Inspector Fox, I don’t think you’ll find the murder weapon in Mr. Clarendon’s shed.” In other words, I spend a lot of time debunking things. Prehistoric matriarchy! Goddess worship = female empowerment! The decline of Western civilization!

I really, really hate the “decline of Western civilization.”


In other ways, I have also been like Miss Marple. For a long time, I liked appearing to be innocent and sweet, and in some cases, namely in my relationships, I really tried for the sweet part. But when you are a grouchy and smart old lady, that tends to rear its head after a while, especially if you are trying to keep some of that on the down low. It also gets aggravating, day after day, to have people constantly underestimating and undervaluing you, assuming that you are eye candy or just She Who Keeps The Home Fires Burning (not that these in particular are Miss Marple problems).

At a certain point, appearing harmless and fluffy, having people tune you out because you don’t get straight to the point, and then surprising them when you hit them upside the head with your awesomeness isn’t subversive. It’s just kind of sad.

I’m still a grouchy old lady, though.


Ironically, after I came to the realization that it was best to just fly my freak flag and let the chips fall where they may, people started making even more erroneous and frustrating assumptions about my innocence and purity because I got Jesus. (That’s a phrase I deeply enjoy using. Like, fuck yeah, Jesus is the mud I’m rolling in! except it’s like spa mud because it’s made by God, and it’s also like regular mud because it’s outside and available to everybody, at least in rainy seasons!) What I had once enjoyed – creeping out my housemate with my tentacle bunny plushie, getting approved of by partners’ parents (hoo boy), alarming various people with the egg story (I only tell that one in person) – had lost its charm. When my mom told Martin that it was okay to tune me out sometimes, I just talk a lot, it runs in the family — that was not funny. Also, not ok.


For a long time, when I was very sick — that’s why I’m a grounchy old lady! not exaggerating, my dear readers! — I kind of forgot I was smart. I assumed people tolerated me on sufferance and attempted to buy their loyalty with baked goods. (In case you were curious, I make a truly bitchin’ three bowl devil’s food cake.)


Miss Marple is smart. She is a badass. People often forget this. That’s why, when she catches the bad guy, it’s a surprise. It shouldn’t be a surprise when women are smart, observant, socially aware. Those shouldn’t be “women’s secrets,” either. And when women talk, it’s worth listening. If people ever listened to Miss Marple finish her stories… well, those books would be a lot shorter. And possibly more morbid.
Which is fine by me.

books to read!

I’ve been putting off posting because I want to do an in-depth look at why Elaine Showalter’s Hystories is the worst book ever written… ever (ok, that’s not true, Mere Christianity is a tough contender), but that’s taking a while. It’s rare that I read a book that is so bad that it is painful for me to read (as opposed to hilarious), but this… this is one. Anyway. You have that to look forward to!

TOP FIVE BOOKS EVERYBODY SHOULD READ AND BY EVERYBODY I MEAN YOU
The Industrial Vagina: The Political Economy of the Global Sex Trade, Sheila Jeffries. I tell everyone about this book because it is even more awesome than the title, and you know what, that is hard. I do not agree with some of the things that Jeffries says, but her work is amazing and groundbreaking and her arguments totally valid. This was my first real exposure to discussions of global and transnational feminism, and it blew me out of the water.
All Our Kin: strategies for survival in a Black community, Carol Stack. I love this book. I don’t think that this book says everything about race, or class – the author was a middle-class white ethnographer researching a poor Black community – but for insight into outside economies, it can’t be beat. It is a golden oldie.
Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman. This is basically THE book.when it comes to the history of trauma studies and current thoughts on dealing with trauma. As a survivor, this and Angela Shelton’s Warrior Workbook have been the two most helpful things for me. As She Who Is Really Into The History of 19th Century Women’s Mental Health, this book is also quite excellent.
Beyond God the Father: toward a philosophy of women’s liberation, Mary Daly. Mary Daly needs no other recommendation.
Gender Trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity, Judith Butler. I feel like choosing this for #5 is a little bit of a cop-out, because everybody already knows MY PURE AND GLORIOUS LOVE for JB, but hey – this is, again, a book that everyone should read. It is not easy going. But it will make you think!

reading dudes

I just redid my livejournal, so I decided that this blog deserved a reciprocal souping up. I’m quite happy with the layout, and I encourage you to check it out!


I read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians shortly after I returned home (to Chicago) post Thanksgiving, and I am probably going to read it again on the plane home (to Orlando) this afternoon. I’ve been mulling over how to talk about it for two weeks now; this isn’t exactly my final word on the book, but it’s good enough to get started.

About three years ago, when I was working in Wash U’s library and processing new books, I realized that I was reading an awful lot of cisgender male authors. Without thinking too much about the implications, I decided that I was going to go out of my way to read female-identified authors (all other non-cisgender-male flavors of the gender spectrum being equally awesome, but not consciously on my radar at that point), because it seemed kind of silly. As a classicist, I was already trawling through a lot of dead white* dudes. This was also the summer that I read Cunt by Inga Muscio, because that is a book that all college ladies who like women and gender studies love, subsequently desiring giant posters of daisies to put up on their walls, at least if by “all college ladies” you mean “Olga.” Although I can’t say that I took anything directly from my reading material at the time (aside from the fact that the reason I’ve always thought Che Guevara was hot is that he looks like one of my ex-boyfriends – see: processing the new books) , I had become more aware of what I was reading, and more importantly, what our library was buying.

Right now, I read a lot of stuff by non-cisgender-dudes (let’s call ’em NCDs), even without taking into account that Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls. Part of this is that my reading tends to center around my academic work; part of this is just due to the fact that I tend to prefer books written by NCDs for whatever reason. I could never get past The Hobbit because even the promise of slashy subtext could not compensate for 700 pages of dudes slogging through a forest or whatever. The best part of that shit was Legolas’s hair, and Orlando Bloom was not in the book. Back on topic. When I do read books by cisgender dudes, I’m conscious of their gender identity, albeit in casual way. Terry Pratchett’s CD status would never put me off a Discworld book.

My friend H. Susanne Moore sold The Magicians to me with promises of drunk magic students making fun of Quidditch. Like I could refuse that. So I began the book with few expectations aside from meta magical boarding school lulz. I didn’t look at the jacket flap — actually, I still haven’t looked at the jacket flap, even though the book is within grabbing distance. TOO BAD, GENTLE READERS. For the first half of the book, I though it was going to be like Harry Potter with booze and sex, so I was taken by surprise as the book slowly veered away from the obvious path into a serious meditation on what fantasy means and the implications of power with few limits or purpose.

The Magicians is a really, really good book; I recommended it a few posts back cheek-by-jowl with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, which is a smart and sassy feminist coming-of-age story, and my favorite book of 2007. I lend it to everyone. Like The Disreputable History, The Magicians ends with the main character having reached a place of knowledge rather than a “happy” ending. Frankie’s story is written for a younger audience, although it translates wonderfully to older readers; Quentin’s story is darker. The story doesn’t resolve with the conclusion of the novel; instead, we’re left with more questions than we ever had answers. They’re good questions. They messed me up for a few days, in the best kind of way. Like I said: a good book.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
But it’s not quite as simple as that, of course. The Magicians is also incredibly and disconcertingly sexist. Although the most powerful magician in the story’s world is a woman, the female characters are never truly developed or explained to the reader. The magician in question sacrifices herself to save her (CD) lover, who is a jerk who cheated on her and has been spending his time post-graduation loafing aimlessly around NYC. The female characters in the book serve as objects of male sexual desire, symbols of motherhood, and/or they die. They are defined by their relationships to men: mother, sister, hot teacher, daughter, lover, sexual conquest, whatever. It’s pretty bleak for a gal in Fillory, NYC, Brakebills, wherever she goes in the magical world, or outside it.
SPOILERS CONCLUDE

I love this book. And I want to read it, think about it, discuss it, take it apart. But it’s like a barrel full of apples and some of them are the most delicious and some of them are rotten to the core. I came away with good questions, but I also came away with questions I didn’t want to have to ask: where are we? why are we invisible? why aren’t our questions important? why does my cunt make me pure and self-sacrificing and dirty and deranged? Also, dead.

I don’t have a daisy on my wall.

*Although we tend to forget that a lot of the Roman empire was, you know, Africa/the Middle East. I’m not sure how many authors from that area were of Italian descent (probably a good handful), but there were certainly people indigenous to those areas writing at that time, albeit those raised and educated in Roman imperial culture. Somebody has probably written about this, but I am heading out to the airport in three hours, so I do not have time to J-STOR.

yeah, I’m on vacation

All I really want to do is recommend you some vids, because, yo, I’m obviously not doing anything constructive on vacation, but perhaps this post should have some content. Or maybe not. At least, it’ll have some links.

– I love Dinosaur Comics. So, naturally, I also love fanstrips that address the Serious Issues of cultural appropriation and racism in dance moves. I think this may be a call to action, action in this case being a slumber party with Save the Last Dance, lots of alcohol, and critical analysis. Or maybe just some Bring It On.

– Apparently there are no good fanvids for Golden Girls. Well, I don’t believe that. None that I can find easily. This is frustrating.

– I actually recommended a fic to someone the other day with the endorsement, “It references Stanley Fish!”

– My church’s book club is reading Small Gods for January and Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible! for February. Previously on Olga’s Church’s Book Club: Cat’s Cradle and The Poisonwood Bible. I am pleased. (I have not yet read Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible!, and I keep getting it confused with Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains!, which I am fairly sure is not the same.)


Okay, done with content now! Vid recs, absurdist edition!

– As I said to my friend Mer, who is the target audience for this fic, “Christian Bale + Zefron = NO = yay!” “Bet on It” meets Newsies for a ludicrous Disneygasm.

– There is no way that the execution of “Harry Potter meets Snakes on a Plane” could ever have topped the concept, but my, does Dualbunny’s vid give it a run for its money. I have at best a tepid tolerance for the first four Harry Potter films, and neutral feelings about HP vidding, but this vid won me over.

– I have feelings about the first Twilight movie, feelings which mostly boil down to, “I am so glad that my friend Dallas bought this for me, because I would never have paid money for it, but it is the best excuse for drinking games ever.” (Sidenote: despite what the content of this post, and possibly the content of this blog, may suggest, I have never played a drinking game.) However, this vid has made me see that, deep inside this… this… I’m trying to find a synonym for “black hole” that doesn’t have disturbingly yoni-like connotations — this abominable snowman of a movie, there is actually a pretty hilarious film. From Cappy, “All Apologies”. Ah, Nirvana and Edward… a match made in heaven. I cried happy emo tears.


Next time on the blog: actual content, as opposed to a mashup of links I keep emailing my poor innocent best friend in France & my Twitter feed.

book recs & link round-up

Last night’s party was awesome! If you weren’t there, we totally missed you. It was good times.

Two books I heartily recommend:
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks – Do you like smart girls? Do you like the panopticon? Do you like subverting the dominant paradigm? In YA fiction? Then… this book is for you. There aren’t even any vampires.
The Magicians – I just really want someone to read this book so they can discuss it with me! A strange blend of Harry Potter, Less than Zero, & The Secret History.

LINKS (the part you all care about)
great post by my friend Flourish about Twilight.

But when we do that, we’re aligning ourselves with the patriarchy. Do you think that patriarchy is only about presenting women with images of sexy Edward who stalks you (but it’s okay, because he loves you)? No, that’s not the only thing patriarchy is about. Patriarchy is also about saying that what women like is not appropriate. Boys read boys’ books, and girls read boys’ books. Girls get to cook and clean and be doctors and lawyers, but boys only get to be doctors and lawyers. Girls are shamed for their desires, girls are told they aren’t allowed to have desires.

16 of 19 social networking sites have a more female than male users.

– (ok, this is just cool) The Jayne Austen Book & Gun Club: Pride & Extreme Prejudice. I’m not a Firefly fan, but this made me laugh. A lot. So I offer it to you.

Dollhouse, Joss Whedon, and the Strange and Difficult Path of Feminist Dudes: Some Thoughts. As someone who (a) loves Buffy and (b) only managed to get three episodes into Dollhouse, I’m really intrigued by this writer’s perspective. It may persuade me to give Dollhouse a second chance. But maybe not. (You should totally watch the linked vid, btw.)

– Another great post about Twilight from Tiger Beatdown. It’s my new favorite blog, btw.

stuff I actually read as opposed to ignoring vehemently

stuff I actually read on a regular basis because it brings joy and gladness to my heart (or at least, warms it with the purifying fire of snark):
smart bitches, trashy books: not only an awesome blog about romance novels, also great to follow if you’re interested in developments in ebooks/digital publishing. ( During the lull in my fandom life, I devoured every vampire romance novel I could get my hands on. Lesson learned: you can actually get burned out on vampire romance novels. Also, vampire mind control ain’t no excuse for dubious consent. Bitch, please.)
I Blame The Patriarchy – Jill is a friend of a friend of a friend and used to write for the Riverfront Times in STL. I often disagree with her, but I love her posts. She is so cranky. I am cranky, too. Anything that has the disclaimer “intended for advanced patriarchy-blamers” is all right by me.
On The Table: sermons from Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis. Mike, the current provost, was my chaplain the first semester I was at college, and is the reason I am a member of the Episcopal Church. His sermons, especially, are great. But everyone is great! My love for the Diocese of Missouri knows no bounds. I miss y’all.
Imperfectly Vertical: a criminal defense attorney and writer blogs about life in New Orleans.

I was also reading a blog which documented the HORRIBLE HORRIBLE urban blight in North St. Louis, but it was too depressing and I had to stop. (WHO THE FUCK STEALS BRICKS??? I AM NEVER GOING TO UNDERSTAND THIS.) Every time it updated, I wanted to (a) cry and (b) move back to St. Louis and kick some ass. I am kicking ass for you from afar, my adopted home city!

If you are going, my, Olga, that is not many blogs, you are forgetting my other internet life full of the true, true passion of Spike and Buffy. And also Kanye West memes.

Now I will return to my current Saturday night pastime, eminently suitable to a recently-single young lady in her twenties: hemming my BEST VINTAGE FIND EVER and listening to iTunes on shuffle. (Oh, Laura Ashley dress, you have been waiting since 1993 for me to find you, behold your true beauty, and chop a foot and a half off your skirt!)

Edit: oops. Apparently I’m going for a Slutsgiving 1993 look. I think that adding some lace to the hem might help. And really opaque tights.