Book Review: Dear Luke, We Need to Talk

Book Details

Title: Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth: And Other Pop Culture Correspondences
Author: John Moe
Publisher: Three Rivers Press

 


Review

It was in one of my favorite online magazines, Fast CoCreate (a Fast Company publication) that I first heard about John Moe’s anthology of satiric correspondences which fictionally  “exposed” the behind-the-scenes letters and diary entries of some of  pop culture’s most famous characters and relationships, including the title characters’, Darth Vader and his son, Luke. I am a big fan of satire and pop culture, and as a writer was curious to see in which direction Moe, a regular contributor to McSweeney’s would take this. I imagined a mix of fan fiction and Dear Abby. I was excited for the book.

dear lukeSo I jumped on the opportunity to read it when Books for Bloggers made it available to me in exchange for an honest review. Unfortunately, though, I think this book was better off a collection of articles than an anthology of more than 50 imagined conversations and correspondences, most of which went on too long. My overall reaction to the book is that the ideas were funnier than the selections themselves; or that the selections would start off funny, but then went on too long.

For instance, I liked the idea of psychoanalyzing Bruce, the shark from Jaws as the author does in the second piece in Dear Luke, but tired of the concept after 3 or 4 journal entries (it continued for a total of eight). The list of “Jay Z’s 99 Problems” was funny, too, but again went on too long. (David Letterman stuck with a top 10 for a reason; Moe takes his list to 99. Is there a pop culture reference I’m missing? Probably.)

As I mentioned, there were spots in the book which I laughed out loud: Moe is a funny writer! Most of his ideas were really clever; it’s just that the execution could have benefited from a more serious editing job, especially for length. The best selections in the collection were the shorter ones, such as the “welp” listings of fictitious restaurants, including the Cheers bar, the Regal Beagle (which made me giggle just to see its inclusion), and Moe’s Tavern. Similarly, I laughed out loud at the concept alone of Gunther writing a letter to Rachel on the coffee shop chalkboard. But the letter itself (spoiler alert) is funny, too! Gunther explains to Rachel that she and her “friends” are all ghosts; dead after drowning in the fountain from the opening credits.  He writes to her in chalk because, “as everyone knows, that’s the only thing that can get a ghost’s attention.” (I always though ghosts preferred writing in the fog of mirrors.)

If I were to highlight the selection that worked best in terms of length, ingenuity and wit it would be “Exchange Between Neal Hefti, Creator of the Batman TV Theme Song, and the Show’s Producer” in which there is a correspondence that eventually leads to the explanation of why the theme song to the television show had no lyrics except for “Na na na na na na na na na Batman!”  During that one, I laughed out loud a bunch of times.

I’m bummed to give this book less than a stellar review because Moe deserves accolades for his creativity and success in execution in many of the selections. But I think the publisher might have been a little too over zealous in expecting readers to push through to the end of this collection.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

While we’re at it, let’s blame menopause and extramarital affairs on Gwyneth

“Ever since Gwyneth Paltrow became famous in her early 20s, she has made women feel bad about themselves…” begins Jessica Grose’s article in Slate this week.

Ouch.

This makes me want to write something along the lines of how ever since Jessica Grose starting writing articles in Slate she’s made celebrities feel bad about themselves.

Except I don’t know Jessica Grose.

I don’t know anything about her.

In fact, while I may have read her articles on Slate before, I don’t remember any in particular.

It’s not a jab. It’s just to illustrate how little I know her.

Which is why I can’t imagine laying blame on her for feeling bad about myself.

What has Jessica Grose done to make me feel like an unattentive mother, unaffectionate wife, less-than-compelling blogger?

(Oops. Did I just overshare?)

It’s not that I don’t get the point — how the media, let’s say, perpetuates an unattainable image of women or mothers. But blaming the media is very different from pinpointing one particular celebrity, especially one who actually has made it a point to do GOOD in the world.

It’s mind boggling to me. I feel compelled to defend Gwyneth, except I don’t know her.

But what I do know is that Grose’s article didn’t inspire in me a feeling of comraderie.

It made me feel sad for Grose. And for women who truly ascribe their feelings of inadequacy to female celebrities.

The accusations against Gwyneth, in particular, continue throughout Grose’s entire piece, which was sparked by the recent announcement of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s split. Grose shames Gwyneth (not Martin, by the way, but Gwyneth) for how she chose to announce her separation. The language she chose to use. The means by which she communicated it.

As if getting a divorce and having to actually ANNOUNCE it wasn’t bad enough.

“Underneath that psychobabble,” Grose writes, taking issue with the phrasing “Conscious Uncoupling,” “is the message that goes along with all Goop productions: Even Gwyneth’s separation is better than yours…”

Is that what’s underneath the “psychobabble?” Really?

I didn’t get that at all. Perhaps if I was in the middle of a messy divorce, I’d be envious of couples who seem outwardly to be approaching separation maturely.

My response? I actually considered for a minute or two that Paltrus mag cheatingow and Martin might be trailblazers.  Better coverage of “conscious” uncoupling than the ugly divorces we normally expect from Hollywood.

Unless, of course, we want celebrities to feel heartbreak and pain because it makes us feel a little better about our own.

The truth is finally spoken out loud at the end of the article when Grose writes of Gwyneth and another celebrity mother, “Their stories are meant to make mere mortals feel inadequate.”

Huh?

I may be susceptible to the “new-agey psychobabble” Grose mocks (I used to be on Goop’s mailing list), but I am under the impression that Gwyneth Paltrow is as mortal as the rest of us are. Maybe even moreso, since she is living her life on a worldwide stage.

Could be that I was won over by the restaurant scene in Notting Hill

but I operate on the assumption that even famous actresses feel shame, anxiety, humiliation, fear. I don’t see any reason to perpetuate the stereotype that they don’t.

My takeaway from Grose’s article is not an urge to join a rallying cry for honesty in media. It’s not a desire to band together as “normal moms” with limited budgets to spread rage about the injustice of personal trainers or nannies or vegan chefs.

I just feel sad.

For women who feel so disconnected from themselves that they have to look to others as perpetrators of their unhappiness.

Women who feel compelled to publicly shame other women, through blogs or through gossip.

And for this reason, I almost didn’t write this blog. I worried that by writing this post I was doing the exact same thing Grose was with her piece on Paltrow.

And then I remembered intention.

And how intention, God willing, often shines through, even when the language we are using may be misconstrued as branding, marketing, or public relations spin.

Gwyneth’s intention — even though I don’t know her personally — came through loud and clear to me in the quotes attributed to her yesterday.

She’s not looking to hurt or attack anyone. She’s not looking to rebrand marriage or divorce or motherhood.

She just thinks before she speaks.

Before she acts.

That’s what came through to me.

She thinks before she speaks.

And this is a brand I’m happy to be an early adopter of.

 

 

Blogger challenge: My ideal hours would be …

Sitting on the carpet combing tracks down your long brown hair with a blue-handled brush —

Sitting on the carpet across from your wrinkled hands shuffling cards for a game of Gin —

Sitting on the carpet with my knees tucked inside my nightgown, mouth cartoon-like forming the words,

“Tell ’em Large Marge sent ya.”

Little you giggling —

Sitting on the carpet by the sliding glass door where the morning sun warms me like a cat napping.

You there, reading the Wednesday paper on Sunday, butt up in the air. You there, coming in from the market with bunches of brown paper bags, no handles, filled with Pepsi Free and Herr’s potato chips.

You. You. You.

*

Lying in bed on the top bunk in a wood cabin in Maine, you pushing my mattress up with your feet.

Lying in bed in the dark before midnight, phone between my pillow and my ear, you strumming the opening chords to “I Will.”

Lying in bed next to you watching Clueless, high on the Percoset you crushed into my black tea with honey —

Lying in bed just after the kids fall asleep, but just before I’m too tired to talk about my day … and yours.

You there, looking over at me, wondering what to do next. You there, proposing a back rub.

You. You. You.

*

You, your back to me, dancing drunk to Blues Traveler.

You, your back to me, roller blading down F Street.

You, your back to me, stir frying chicken strips in Teriyaki sauce, Billie Holiday singing “What A Little Moonlight Can Do.”

You, your back to me, on the beach behind Dolphinarium, music too fast for slow dancing.

You there.

*

You on your belly, too old anymore for Playmobil, for running over Roman soldiers with a Greek chariot —

You in the winter sun, face painted like an 18th century whore, dancing with ten other five year olds to “Gangnam Style.”

You leaning down, button nose towards the purple poppy, sniffing it the same way your father did when I fell in love with him.

You, head of curls on my lap, breathing with ease once again. You there, scent like shampoo.

You there. You. You. You.

= = = =

This post is in response to a Blogger Challenge proposed by friend Kronfusion. For more posts on #idealhours, check out the hashtag on Twitter.

RIP Blockbuster: A pop culture haiku

(This haiku was inspired by “R.I.P. Blockbuster, You Frustratingly Magical Franchise, You” by Kevin Fallon in the Daily Beast)

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RIP Blockbuster Video

By Jen Maidenberg

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Neighborhood stop for

high school dates rated PG.

Press play. Then make out.

==

blockbuster-closing