Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Edge of (20)17

The post title may have been more appropriate going into 2017, but I only thought of it now, so here we are.

For me, 2017 felt like living through several years at once. Here's a quick round-up of some of my favorite pieces of culture from the past twelve months:
 


The most French bicycle
Books

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo - This is one of the most remarkable books I've read. It follows a couple in Nigeria struggling with infertility while trying to push back against polygamy. Each twist is enough for its own novel, and yet Adebayo continues to surprise the reader with her precise look at a marriage.

No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal - As I wrote in July, this novel follows two Indian immigrants in Ohio as they struggle with loneliness and grief. It's beautifully written and even side characters have depth and complications. It remains one of my favorite novels.

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach - A woman returns to upstate New York after her twin sister supposedly dies in a fire, yet seems to have set up a twisted scavenger hunt to draw her back from Paris. This remains a favorite from 2017 for its creativity and careful pacing.

Marlena by Julie Buntin - Cat examines the brief, intense friendship she had during high school with Marlena, a drug-fueled teenager she met after moving to northern Michigan. I hadn't realized how much I crave novels that examine the nuances of female friendship until I finished and wanted to reread it immediately.

Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan - Economics professor Rachel Chu agrees to join her History professor boyfriend Nick Young at his best friend's wedding in Singapore. Little does she know that Nick's family is one of the wealthiest families in Asia. The first book is hilarious, dramatic, and heartwarming and somehow the sequel is even better. I'm partway through the final book in the trilogy, Rich People Problems, and can't get enough. Kwan's footnotes throughout are delightful.




TV

Riverdale for its over-the-top camp and ridiculous antics. The characters make such dramatic, teenage choices, but they do so in the face of a serial killer and a drug cartel and the pep squad and some really shady real estate dealings. One episode featured not just a knife fight, but a Rebel Without a Cause-style drag race! What more could you want? (Shoutout to the writers for crafting off-brand name dropping, such as "ShareBnB" and "Spiffany's Jewelry." The Riverdale prison is called Shankshaw. I mean, how can you not somehow love it for its audacity?)


The Good Place for its thoughtful approach to philosophy and its incredible characters. The ensemble cast is remarkable, and Ted Danson is a standout for his character's arc this season. Also it remains my favorite half hour of the week for the lines I repeat to myself constantly, such as "Anytime I had a problem, I threw a Molotov cocktail, boom! Right away, I had a different problem."

Brooklyn Nine Nine for every scene Andre Braugher is in.

Big Little Lies because if you put that cast and that soundtrack together I will love it. (I also called the ending early on and am inordinately proud of myself. Correctly guessing the end of suspense fiction is my favorite talent that I can't put on my resume.)

Podcasts

Dial M for Maple - AV Club Senior Editor Marah Eakin and the Onion's Director of Development Operations Cameron Scheetz discuss Riverdale in depth. I love listening to their analysis of a teenage drama that, this season alone, has featured a serial killer, gang tumult, and a party drug called Jingle Jangle. Discussing pop culture is one of my favorite things to do, especially when it includes characters named Jughead and Jellybean.

Homecoming Season 2 - Talk to me about it. Though it felt a bit like a MacGuffin-heavy season, Catherine Keener, David Schwimmer and Amy Sedaris are ridiculously good. It's a master class in how to manipulate people.

Making Oprah - WBEZ Chicago takes a deep dive into Oprah's career and rise to global fame inspired by the closure of Harpo Studios in Chicago. I have fond memories of watching Oprah at 4:00 on weekdays, especially when my grandma visited, and journalist Jenn White does a great job covering such a big subject.

Music

Melodrama by Lorde was my new album of the year. I fell in love as soon as I heard the line "I'll love you 'till my breathing stops/I'll love you 'till you call the cops on me." This is one of the rare albums where I can't help but sing along to every song.

What I wrote in the second half of the year

Comedy
Essays
 What stood out from your 2017?

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