mini-reviews: dead people suck and being mortal

This spring, two books on my library holds came through for me, both related to death and dying. I thought it might be pretty heavy or depressing to read them both so close together, but it turned out to be a more uplifting experience than I expected.

I first heard about Laurie Kilmartin’s Dead People Suck when she was interviewed on Marc Maron’s  WTF podcast a few months ago, and decided to put it on hold. She sounded funny and sharp, and I like dark humor. Kilmartin definitely does go dark with the gallows humor here, but this is how she coped with her father’s death by cancer. It might not be the best for someone who has just lost a loved one, but after some time this might be just the ticket. It’s totally irreverent and there were many parts that made me laugh out loud (“All Those Sex Acts You Would Never Try While Your Parents Were Still Alive? Time To Party.”). The chapter about your deceased parents’ stuff was right on as well! We are still going through this with my grandmother’s things four years after her death. I enjoyed this one because death happens to us all, there’s no escaping it, and that sometimes in some situations, it’s okay to find humor in dark places. [Read ebook in May 2018.]

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande came out a few years ago, but I just gathered enough courage to read it now. Just like The Emperor of All Maladies, I thought it might be too emotionally difficult for me to handle. But I’m so glad I ended up finally getting to it; I was really encouraged and uplifted by the end. Gawande details how certain parts of aging are completely normal, and details how medicine, for all its incredible advancements, is extremely shortsighted when it comes to end-of-life care. He argues for medical practices that would enhance quality of life in its end stages, so instead of isolation or restrictive limitations for the infirm or dying, they can have fulfilling and dignified final weeks, months, or years. Eloquently written and presented respectfully, Gawande believes we, especially Westerners, should discuss death more openly. It’s not a taboo subject, after all, since like I said above, we all will die, and we all have loved ones who will die and for whom we may need to care. Don’t we want the best at the end for ourselves and our loved ones? It’s a really beautiful, moving, important book. [Listened to audiobook in April 2018.]

mini-reviews: i’m just a person and mo’ meta blues

Two of my favorite books read in 2016 were celebrity memoirs. I read them both after I left Kansas City, one while I was in Madison for the summer and one after moving to Singapore, but both still stand out to me a year later.

I admit I’m not a die-hard fan of stand-up comedy, but there are a select few comedians that have reached me through their work—Marc Maron, Trevor Noah—and Tig Notaro ranks highly. I watched her great Netflix special Tig in 2015, and have been following her since. While much of the material in i’m just a person is familiar to fans from Tig and her stand-up routines, this raw, personal memoir is still worth a quick read. She talks more about her childhood and 2012, her horrible year battling disease and dealing with a breakup as well as her mother’s death. I was really inspired by her tenacity through tragedy, and how she makes her painful stories and vulnerabilities relatable and entertaining. [Read in July 2016.]

I’ve loved The Roots for a long time and I had been meaning to read this one for a while, and with all my newfound free time in Singapore last year I finally got to it! I found Questlove’s Mo’ Meta Blues just a delight. Questlove is more charming, humble, and thoughtful a human being than I ever realized. He keeps this book light while still deep-diving on certain topics at the same time. His philosophical musings about the states of pop culture, hip-hop, and music criticism are intelligent and spot on. I loved that he started each chapter with a question, and I think my favorite parts were his recollections of certain critical albums in his life. [Read in November 2016.]

2015 kc fringe fest coverage

Whew! It was another whirlwind of a week with the KC Fringe Festival. I scaled back my coverage a little bit from last year (14!)—that was nuts, I couldn’t possibly do that again! But just because I scaled back to nine total this year, doesn’t mean KCMetropolis.org scaled back. In fact, we exceeded our record, with more than 50 articles covering or related to Fringe. It was an exciting if exhausting week! We had a blast. Here are the direct links to my reviews:

BONUS: Not on Fringe, but I also saw Victor and Penny perform at the MET:

 

2014 kc fringe fest coverage

Fringelogo

Well, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks here at mylittleheartmelodies, starting July 18. I drove Nick out to Columbia for the Mizzou International Composers Festival, and as soon as I got back to Kansas City it was time for Fringe Fest! This year, Fringe’s 10th, I was ridiculously excited for some reason and wanted to beat my personal previous coverage records (3 in 2013, 4 in 2012, 3 in 2011). I did—a few times over, even! I saw 15 shows, reviewing 14 of them. I’m also really proud of KCMetropolis.org and my cohorts there—I believe we had some of the best coverage in the city. It was a great way to spend my week but there was no way I could do it all and keep up with my blog posts. Life is a little more back to normal for a while here, so expect to see more from me in the coming days!

Here’s a complete list of my reviews of Fringe Fest shows. Click the links to read the full text over on KCMetropolis.org!

survivor

Posting this during Bout of Books 10, part of my goals to catch up on neglected reviews! On our road trip to Ohio last month, Nick and I listened to Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk on audiobook. From Goodreads:

Tender Branson—last surviving member of the so-called Creedish Death Cult—is dictating his life story into the flight recorder of Flight 2039, cruising on autopilot at 39,000 feet somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. He is all alone in the airplane, which will crash shortly into the vast Australian outback. But before it does, he will unfold the tale of his journey from an obedient Creedish child and humble domestic servant to an ultra-buffed, steroid-and collagen-packed media messiah.

I have read a few books of Palahniuk’s before several years ago—Fight ClubChoke, and Lullaby. I’m not sure I would have ever classified him as a “favorite” author, but I enjoyed the sort of unconventional shock factor and biting commentary on society in his stories. I always meant to read more, but ya know. School, other random life things, other books. Now my husband has become interested in Palahniuk’s work so I thought this would be a great audiobook for us both on the road trip, and it was!

Survivor definitely has Palahniuk’s signature style, which contributes both to it’s success and flaws, I think. Great, creative premise and attention-grabbing story. However if you’ve read his other books, the protagonist is pretty familiar: a misanthropic anti-hero, fairly bitter about life and the world, disenchanted attitude, nihilist tendencies, signature flat-delivery touch of dark humor. And on top of that, in Survivor, the plot line sort of loosely followed Fight Club, with the quirky, confusing female love interest and the rebellion from the society in which he was raised, dealing with internal (and external) insecurities, an so forth.

But while these elements are familiar, I still enjoyed it. The settings of the cult and the airplane were great and interesting! Maybe Palahniuk is an author best enjoyed in infrequent doses. I read some other reviews and people seemed to be worn out on the similarities between his books a lot. Perhaps I liked this one more because it had been so long since I read anything by him? Anyway. I also thought the narrator (Paul Michael Garcia) did a fantastic job conveying Tender Branson’s personality (or intentional lack thereof!) and diversifying each character. Recommended for fans of dark, satiric speculative fiction!

Listened to audiobook from April 3 to 6, 2014.