What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

This post right here is where I blog about all the things I’m reading and thinking about in a given week.  Let’s get right to it:

Life, Etc.

Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy (Huffington Post)

I almost hate to link to this, because it’s such blatant link-bait, but I’ve been talking about it this week with some good friends and we all have such feelings about it.  Do I agree with some of what of the article says?  Yeah, I do.  I think there are a lot of entitled people in my generation (myself often included).  But I think that the article is also patronizing and guilty of making the broadest generalization possible about a group of people who just happened to be born in the same year-span.

I also think it’s a gross oversimplification of what is happening to our generation with regard to the rising cost of living and the absolutely awful job market.  And the comparisons to our parents?  Dude, stop.

The comments are pretty good, though.

Fuck You. I’m Gen Y, and I Don’t Feel Special or Entitled, Just Poor. (Adam Weinstein)

A follow-up piece to the HuffPo article, this guy tackles the weak spots in the argument about Gen Y being a bunch of entitled wannabe special snowflake unicorns.

Weinstein gets into a lot of detail, and the post is definitely worth your time.  Here’s a bit to think about:

But there’s nothing for us to suck up, really. As a rule, our parents did end up much more dedicated to their careers than we have. But as a rule, they were laid off less. They didn’t intern or work as independent contractors. They got full medical. They were occasionally permitted to adopt magical unicorn-like money-granting creatures called “pensions.”

Pop Culture

Screencapping 10 Things I Hate About You (Pajiba)

10 Things I Hate About You is probably one of my favorite movies ever, and definitely in my top 3 favorite movies of the 90s.  I was obsessed with it when it came out (I was a mal-adjusted 8th-grader, okay?), and I’ve watched it countless times since.  This is definitely not a piece with any substance, but if you want a quick shot of nostalgia, this is a fun 5-minute diversion.  And now I want to watch the movie again, so well played, Pajiba.  Well played.

Where Do I Start with Key & Peele? (Slate)

Have you ever watched Key & Peele?  If you haven’t, you should start.  I sometimes use it as a litmus test with dudes I’m dating, and if they don’t seem to get it or don’t think it’s funny, it’s a sign that our relationship isn’t long for this world (I’m joking, at least a little, when I say this).  But seriously, Key & Peele are doing some of the funniest, most intelligent ruminations on race, politics, and pop culture, and it’s definitely worth checking out.  This piece at Slate compiles some of their best sketches.  I recommend the Substitute Teacher skit and the Dubstep skit.

Books, Reading:

Jonathan Franzen: What’s Wrong With the Modern World (The Guardian)

Sometimes I feel like Jonathan Franzen and Aaron Sorkin should become best friends and just form the most misogynistic, crabby, privileged white man’s club in the world.  The two of them are both so pretentious, so ornery, and so out of touch with reality that I feel like they’d be a good fit for each other.  I wasn’t going to link to this piece this week, but there are several really great responses, so in order to discuss those, I felt obligation to discuss this one.

The gist of it is this: Franzen hates Twitter (and unicorns, puppies, and fun, probably) and other aspects of social media.  He’s disappointed when authors he likes and/or respects deign to engage in tweeting.  It’s pretentious, dense, and lengthy, but then again, when isn’t Franzen all those things in his writing?  The man is a pretentious curmudgeon.  This article gives me a rash.

The Rage of Jonathan Franzen (The Toast)

Even if you can’t make it through Franzen’s overwrought piece at the Guardian, it’s worth giving this response a look.  Not only is this piece funny and accessible, it’s also dead-on.  This is how it starts:

Jonathan Franzen is the angriest novelist in the world. He is the novelist who is so angry he cannot move. He cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl. Bound so tightly with tension and anger, he approaches the state of rigor mortis.

He is angry because Salman Rushdie uses Twitter, and nowadays people can buy books on the Internet, and the Home Depot, and he had to go to Germany one time, and also some women exist who have not had sex with him.

Mallory Ortin, the author of this article, takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to Franzen’s view of things, but the undercurrent is one of anger.  And rightfully so, because Franzen is kind of full of shit.  Angry shit.  Because the world is full of people who watch TV and use the internet.

jenniferJennifer Weiner Responds (New Republic)

I never expected to talk about Jennifer Weiner in two link roundups in a row, but here I am doing it, because Weiner’s response to Franzen is also worth mentioning.  I wouldn’t link to this if it weren’t relevant.  Franzen actually calls Jennifer Weiner out in his overlong piece:

But so the physical book goes on the endangered-species list, so responsible book reviewers go extinct, so independent bookstores disappear, so literary novelists are conscripted into Jennifer-Weinerish self-promotion…

Weiner felt compelled to respond, and I think she has every right to.  I don’t want to end up pasting the whole article here, but Weiner has some great stuff, like this:

Maybe Franzen takes issue specifically with my use of Twitter, which falls into two broad categories: urging mainstream publications toward more inclusive book coverage and live-tweeting “The Bachelor.” Neither preoccupation has done much for my book sales, so neither one is truly self-promotional.

Maybe it’s personal.

In 2010, I coined the hashtag Franzenfreude. It was very bad German for a very real problem: When Franzen’s most recent novel, Freedom, was published, newspapers and magazines devoted thousands of words to the book and its author, while giving other literary books far less attention, and, in some cases, ignoring commercial works completely. Perhaps Franzen’s recent name-check was payback for when I implied that he was the face of white male literary privilege, or for pointing out that he’s the kind of writer who goes on Facebook only to announce that he won’t be doing Facebook, with the implication that he doesn’t have to do Facebook, because the media does his status updates for him. Or maybe he just really, really hates “The Bachelor.”

It would be silly to think that Franzen’s snotty attack on Weiner wasn’t at least a little bit personal, but it’s also the fact that she is a champion for commercial fiction (like we discussed last week).  She’s a woman, she’s outspoken, and she’s found great success as a writer and utilizes social media to her advantage.  And Franzen hates that.  All of it.


The Hidden Truth Behind Teach For America’s Political Empire (Salon)

Look, guys, I hate Teach For America.  I think that when it was founded, it had some good intentions, but I don’t even believe that any more.  I think TFA does a disservice to students who need the most help, and I think that it chews up people and spits them back out.  I have a lot of problems with the organization, and I say this as a former high school teacher and current higher ed one.

This article breaks down the TFA system and also talks about a new initiative that hits close to home for me: the proposed agreement between the University of Minnesota’s teacher program and TFA.  People are split about this agreement, and rightfully so, but it mostly just pisses me off.

Not that it matters:

Behind its public image, TFA anchors a political empire that enmeshes policymakers, universities and school districts — and crowds out dissent.

Drinking and Sexual Assault: America’s Booze Culture is Sexist (Salon)

There isn’t a lot new here, but the article does articulate some of our biggest problems with talking about alcohol and drinking in this culture.  Jill Filipovic examines what it is about booze culture that undermines female alcoholism while also playing up the woman’s role in sexual assault when alcohol is present.

The overarching problem with women and alcohol, though, doesn’t seem to be an epidemic of female alcoholism. The problem is a drinking culture that increasingly looks like American food culture: prioritizing excess over enjoyment, mass-marketing cheap processed products, blaming consumers for the bad outcomes of products pushed on them by large companies, and promoting over-consumption as a substitute for pleasure. And it’s a sexist culture that wrings its collective hands over female “bad behavior” and uses the specter of sexual assault to keep women fearful, while simultaneously applauding recklessness and aggression in men.

I really encourage you to read the whole article, because while it’s depressing, it’s also really thought-provoking and doesn’t provide any easy answers.

What did you read this week that stuck with you?



One thought on “What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

  1. I think we may be best friends. We obviously read a lot of the same blog posts and watch a lot of the same TV (yay 10 Things I Hate about You and Key and Peele!!!). If I commented specifically, I would be here all day. Instead, to the majority of your blog post, I agree. From one Yer to another.

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