Absurdist Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy, Pulp Fiction

Number 40: A Book With Photographs Inside

Mermaids in Paradise

Lydia Millet

While browsing the shelves of the Fiction “M” section for something to include in this challenge, I came upon this cover. Since it combined pin-ups, pop art, and mermaids, I had to take a look. I was not disappointed.

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Mermaids in Paradise was a lovely, absurd, sarcastic book about what would happen if mermaids were real. And what would happen is… not great. The book, however, is delightful!

Except for the last few pages which were… perplexing. But I think I liked it?

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Regardless, I have read a lot of mermaid fiction over the years (even wrote some!), and what I love about it is how malleable the genre is. It is a strange idea that can unfold in many directions depending on the neuroses of the author. This particular book went with hard-edged cynicism, and the oeuvre is better for it.

It kind of reminded me of lesser-known Margaret Atwood classics like the Edible Woman, which is great, and everyone should read.

Career, Financial, Personal

A Day In The Life of a Professional Proofreader

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A few years ago, I had one of my favorite jobs of all time. I was a proofreader at a publishing company, living the literary dream. I worked there three days a week in my mid-twenties, and it was an amazing learning experience. Plus, I was good at it.

It’s fun to get paid for doing something you’re good at.

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The company I worked for was unexpected. I always pictured a big, fancy, harried publishing house in a big, fancy, harried city. But you know how reality and expectations go. Instead, I worked for a mid-sized, business casual, chill publishing house in a mid-sized, business casual, chill city. They did not publish the great American novel, they published church bulletins. They were the largest distributor of Catholic church bulletins in the country, home to two full-sized printing presses, and one slightly smaller printing press (all of which I was wildly allergic to).

They usually only had one going at a time, but it was quite the noisy excitement when they were all on at once!

To this day, I have a soft spot for those bulletins and recognize them when I see them in the wild. It feels like spotting an old friend. I have since moved on to full-time work and different industries, but I will always look back fondly on that time.

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7 am: alarm goes off, feed the dogs, make myself coffee. At this point in time I had a Keurig, so my coffee was expensive and inadequate. Then I would dress in something that looked vaguely like an outfit a discount Zooey Deschanel would wear. Attempt to make it out the door by 7:30.

Slightly before 8 am: arrive, cursing Austin traffic. My caffeine levels dangerously low, I’d grab some terrible office coffee and chat with the aging hippies that made up the staff before clocking in. I expected this job to be full of the devout, but the vibe was more Berkeley in the ’60s. It suit me well.

8 am: clock in. This office was so low-tech that it still had a physical punch-clock like they had in the 90s. It was charming, but prone to malfunction, and I much prefer the digital versions I’ve used since.

Clocked in, I would settle into my cozy little desk in the proofreader’s corner and chat with my fellow part-timers. Our schedules were staggered, so we only saw each person once or twice a week and there was usually a lot to catch up on.

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8:15 am: the designers would be finished with the previous day’s corrections. I would review them to see if the suggested changes were implemented correctly, and to make sure I did not miss anything the first time around. Bulletins being fairly standard from week to week, we did not have many rounds of edits. Most of them were ready to print after one or two.

But sometimes a preacher would be a rambler and use the bulletin as his personal diary. Those were rather labor-intensive to correct.

If a bulletin was finished and no longer had mistakes, it went in “To Be Printed” box, where it would be sent to the printing press in the back room. The ones that still needed corrections went back to the designer on the other side of our open floorplan office.

9 am: old corrections complete, time for new arrivals.

Around 9:30 or 10 am: the presses would start!

11:38 am: my throat would get scratchy for some inexplicable reason. It never happened when I was away from the office, but I loved those presses too much to realize they were the cause of it.

Noon: bulletins done for the day, it was time to take lunch. Since the building was located in an office park, there was nowhere fun to eat. Instead, I would have lunch in the cafeteria or at my desk. If the weather was nice, I would go for a walk. This being Texas, it usually was not.

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1 pm: back from lunch, I would begin on ad packs. This was the most important and time-consuming part of my job. Customers wanted to get what they were paying for, so each one had to be perfect. Everything from frame, to location on the sheet, to color vs b/w impacted what went into pricing, and it was the proofreader’s job to make sure it matched what was agreed upon.

Incidentally, this hair-raising task gave me ample opportunities to judge small business marketing, which came in handy when I became a copywriter (I knew what not to do).

3:30 pm: break for coffee. There was never any left (and no Starbucks in the area) so I always had to make a fresh pot. It did not taste any better when I made it.

5 pm: assuming I was at a good stopping point, I was done for the day! This was not a job that took stress home. Thinking back on it now. I am feeling quite nostalgic. It was a time in my life where I was surrounded by good people, fulfilling work, and truly harrowing coffee. What a time to be alive!

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Crime Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Number 4: Title Starting with the Letter “F”

The Family

Naomi Krupitsky

In a reversal of Get Rich or Lie Trying, where I read a book recommended by a YouTube video, The Family is a book that inspired me to watch a YouTube video (although without the explicit call to action, the book just reminded me of the video).

The video in question, of course, is the supremely entertaining Alice Cappelle’s explanation of why fiction is better than self-help.

The Family is better than self-help.

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This is not to say that this historical crime-family fiction novel resembles self-help in any overt way, nor does it try to achieve the same goals as self-help books. And despite the plethora of terrible entries into the genre, I do have an issue with self-help as a style. But The Family is still better.

It’s a book that shares a lot of the same themes that self-help does: self determination, autonomy, the role of our upbringing in who we become, and it does it in a nuanced way. The varying viewpoints and third-person omniscient narration allows Krupitsky to make contrasting arguments within the same story, and allows the reader to come to their own conclusions.

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Reblog- Eight FREE Books On Kindle While The Sale Last! Quickly Now! Hurry!

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Fantasy, Ghost Stories, Horror

Number 8: Involving the Art World

The Castle of Los Angeles

Lisa Morton

No one has ever sounded more like a native Los Angeleno in the year 2010 than the writer of this book, set in Los Angeles and published in 2010. I think it was the narration about the freeways that cinched it. And putting “the” in front of the freeway’s number. The vocal fry pretty much adds itself.

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The setting felt realistic, is what I’m trying to say. Which is good, because The Castle of Los Angeles is a ghost story, so you want the world to be grounded in reality. And it was a good one, fun and unexpected, but not so long that you have to spend a bunch of nights with the lights on, jumping at every noise, until you finally finish it.

The Castle of Lost Angeles did get me thinking, if every place has a genre that resonates with it. LA would be horror. New York is rom-com (of course), Boston is heartwarming biopic, and all of the South stakes its claim to gothic romance, but California is the place for horror.

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Los Angeles is creepy, it’s hard to pinpoint, but the movie The Craft does it well. This is a different creepy from the creepiness of the sunset district in San Francisco where Patty Hearst held up a bank, or the bone-like tentacle creepiness of the trees outside of Lake Tahoe where the Donner family met their fate. The whole of California has a haunted quality, distinct by region, but connected, part of a greater disturbing whole.

Sorry to get sentimental, I must be feeling homesick.

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Adventure, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Graphic Novels

Number 14: A Character with Superhuman Abilities

Grimm Fairy Tales: Arcane Acre Volume 1

Pat Shand (writer) & Andrea Meloni (illustrator)

Graphic novels have gained quite a bit of legitimacy over recent years, so I’m not going to call them an under-rated medium. But what tends to get lost in the conversations about Alan Moore’s books is just how much fun graphic novels are!

It is the written medium that most resembles a movie, and of all the storytelling styles, I find it the easiest to get lost in. The way your eye flows from panel to panel feels more natural than paragraphs. It’s overall a more immersive medium.

Grimm Fairy Tales in particular is cute, and manages to pack a lot of world-building in a short amount of time. I enjoyed it and I’ll probably read the next in the series, but I wasn’t obsessed like I might have by an Alison Bechdel or Harley Quinn graphic novel (which clearly says more about me than the story itself).

Financial, Nonfiction, Pop Culture

Number 52: Published in 2022

Get Rich or Lie Trying: Ambition and Deceit in the New Influencer Economy

Symeon Brown

I know I was around for the rise of the influencer, yet I know nothing about them.

Their rise coincides with my young adult years, when theoretically I was paying the most attention, and yet I missed it.

Maybe my technophobia was to blame (I regarded iPhones with extreme skepticism as late as 2014), or the fact that hipster culture back then was not particularly glamorous. Our early-teen-aughts aesthetic was ironically ugly and thrifted from the worst Salvation Army’s in Ohio. We had graduated into an recession and we were angry about it.

But clearly some people were not, and they became influencers. Regardless of how or why I failed to notice them, they exist now, and they are here to stay (maybe).

So I read a book about them to catch up. All in all, I enjoyed this little treatise on the influencer. Sometimes I was depressed, sometimes I was horrified, but mostly I learned cool facts about recent history. For example, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, Alicia Garza, has a masters degree from my alma mater. That was inspiring, unlike the rest of the book, which was more unsettling.

In conclusion, influencers are a menace to society, thank you for reading.

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Ironically, I learned of this book while watching a Youtube video by influencer Jordan Theresa, who is clearly effective at her job, as she influenced me to read this book.

Reality TV, Style

Taylor Ann Green Has Won The Glasses Game

This week while watching Bravo’s second-best installment in the Southern Charm franchise, Southern Charm, I was stunned.

In a good way for once.

Someone on a reality show was wearing glasses! And in a normal day-to-day scene (as opposed to as a hungover and lying in bed look like we usually see).

I love to see it. And Taylor is nailing the glasses game. Best glasses I’ve seen on Bravo.

She looks amazing, and I hope she debuts more spectacles-centric looks.

**Both pictures are from WornonTV.net, a website that shows you where to purchase clothes from various TV shows. Regrettably, they do not show you where to buy the glasses portion of the Taylor looks, but they are a great resource in my eternal quest to dress like the cast of Selling Sunset.**

Quotes, Writing

Fangirling Over Eve Babitz Quotes

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Eve Babitz was a committed hedonist with an eye for life’s complexities. It is impossible for me to get through her books in one sitting because the writing is so lyrical, so intriguing, that I have to stop every few minutes to savor it. I want to see what she saw. But, even better than her descriptions of the events she witnesses, is her ability to turn the people she meets into characters, crafting whole story arcs in paragraphs and lovingly eviscerating them.

Here are six descriptions from her first work, Eve’s Hollywood (Number 3 on this list!), that make me want to exist in bygone Los Angeles.

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Richard Green, the bluegrass breakneck violin player sounds the way The Girl in the convertible looks when she runs her fingers underneath her honey tresses at a light to free her hair for a moment from its own weight.

On Bluegrass
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And there was James, salty and famished-looking from the summer, standing like a raped angel with these dark blue eyes throwing southern aristocratic landscapes all across dark smelly nightclubs where we sat in front of the impossible.

On the next best thing
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[He] was always a prince to me until I grew up and then he treated me the way he treated most adults which was with tantrumic impatience and nasty remarks.

On her father’s fabulous friends
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Walter and I were born on consecutive days. We always understood each other perfectly and had a wonderful time pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes until he saw the dove of peace on acid, which was a drag. But anyway, we are friends. He’s an orphan, it was part of his story.

A complete story in 4 sentences
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I’ve read Proust all the way through because everyone said I’d like it, but Colette’s little sketch of Proust coming into a room after everyone had thought he’d gone and already had begun gossiping about how he was a f*g was only about three paragraphs and you could imply the other 9 million pages. Nevertheless, I liked the other nine million pages and recommend them to anyone in solitary confinement or otherwise out of commission. You can’t read Proust at the Laundromat.

On high art