Non-Fiction Reading Round-up 4

Below are the non-fiction books I’ve read recently – all bite-sized. I recommend them if you’re looking for instant intellectual gratification.

The X-Files (TV Milestone Series)
– Theresa L. Geller

cover of The X-Files, by Theresa L Geller. A flying saucer flies over and illuminates a dark forest.

In this fresh analysis of the series, Geller demonstrates that both mytharc and monster-of-the-week episodes aimed to denounce the othering of various communities in American society. Her interpretation makes sense and is welcome; I always thought there was a dissonance between Chris Carter’s progressive stance and his show’s questionable representations. I’m thankful to be able to see a message of compassion in my favourite TV series. All the same, I find Geller to be a bit forgiving at times, precisely because she doesn’t question the necessity of said stereotypical representations. The idea, I guess, is that to debunk certain discriminatory narratives, you need to evoke them first –eg, if there is a little eerie music playing when a non-white character appears on screen, that’s because we want to arouse those latent racist feelings in the audience, only to denounce them as the source of the problem later. That’s all well and good, only this message is still embedded in a white framework, and, as such, doesn’t challenge the white point of view in the end. We shouldn’t be so quick in congratulating white men when they display a bit of sympathy.

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photo of the front of a BFI screening room with empty chairs set up for speakers on the right

Event Highlights: “Spoiler Alert! How to Write about Television” at BFI Southbank

This event took place on Saturday as part of the BFI and Radio Times Television Festival. It laid out the television critic’s job, as described by a panel of Radio Times journalists with 70 years of collective experience. The speakers were TV Editor Alison Graham, her deputy David Butcher, and writers Jane Rackham and David Brown. My notes are below, organised thematically.

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artwork for the American Dream exhibition at the British Museam

Event Highlights: “Unresolved histories: whose American Dream?” at the British Museum

This event was a conversation between two American-born intellectuals: playwright and novelist Bonnie Greer, and literature scholar Sarah Churchwell. Relying on their overlapping but divergent backgrounds (they went to the same school in Chicago, only Churchwell attended as a local resident in the 80s, while Greer was bused there as part of a de-segregation effort in the 60s), they discussed historical and current racial divisions in the United States. The talk took place on 24th March. Below are my highlights, loosely organised by theme.

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“Difficult Women”, Roxane Gay’s new short story collection, in lists

The cool stuff

The title It’s the same formula Gay used with Bad Feminist: two words, a mountain of connotations. I especially like how this titles evokes a patriarchal definition, only to let it die of neglect page after page. Because of course, there are no “difficult women” in this book, or at least not in the sexist sense.  They’re just people going through life amidst injustices and trauma. Not strong or weak, not good or bad, just human. And that’s enough.

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The Magic of “The Roundhouse”

9781472108142-the-roundhouse

My experience of reading hasn’t always been the most enjoyable. It’s mostly been about impressing my dad, who hammered it into my brain from birth that non-readers were ignoramuses, dangerously unimaginative, and probably inbred. So I spent the first 20 or so years of my life forcing myself to read, and only within the genres of which he would approve. All the while telling myself that I was having a grand ol’ time. Ah…daddy issues.

Things changed when I moved away from home, however. It became necessary to reject my dad’s tastes, and to prove that I was my own motherfucking person. I also started working in bookshops at around the same time, so the idea dawned on me that I could…wait for it…read for my own pleasure. Crazy, I know. So began my first real literary exploration, which lead me to the book I want to talk about today. In my life as a reader, there is a before and after The Roundhouse.

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Why I love Alba from “Jane the Virgin”

Can I just take a moment to express my love for Alba, from Jane the Virgin?

Ivonne Coll as Alba in Jane the Virgin

The show’s telenovela genre often gets on my nerves, but every time I am tempted to stop watching, Alba opens her mouth, and I have to stick around for another episode. Literally, she only needs to speak-because my affection for her has everything to do with her exclusive use of Spanish.

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