Reading Resolution: “My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness” by Nagata Kabi

3. A book written in East Asia: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

List Progress: 7/25

With a title like that, I was not sure what to expect with the 2016 graphic novel My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, by Kabi Nagata. I knew it was an autobiographical account of a woman’s experience with a Japanese sex worker, and my partner had assured me that it was not as heavy as the title implied, but I had no real idea what the tone would be. The title is frank, blunt and almost casual about something deep, and that ended up being my experience with the novel as well. Nagata dives right into her eating disorders, self-harm and sexuality with a skipping tone and cartoonish style, which feels almost necessary to keep the subject matter from being overwhelming.

I read this book over the course of a couple days, practically flying through the sparsely text-filled pages, but I feel like I have such a complete view of Nagata and her situation (and a broader perspective on Japanese mental health issues and sex work). This is a manga that manages to be a fun read while also peeling back Nagata’s skin for the world to see. And that is an amazing balance to find.

In the first chapter, Nagata gives a speed-run through her history of mental health issues that largely cropped up after she graduated high school and felt suddenly unmoored. For all that this is a book about her seeing a lesbian escort, the discussion of her sexuality comes later, after she spends the time laying a lot of groundwork. If you are uncomfortable with her blunt way of speaking about mental illness, the first chapter will probably weed you out of the audience, but if it is something you can read, I would recommend going on.

The middle third is largely about her actual experience with the sex worker, and the final third pivots into a story about artistic creation. Nagata published a short version of this manga online in 2015, and it quickly gained popularity and shot her slow-moving manga career into the spotlight. She finds herself having to navigate this popularity and the results of having her fame based around such a revealing and personal story. The ending feels a bit overworked, as she quickly tries to analyze a situation she is still in, but I would still consider it a very strong and rounded work.

I am a queer woman who has battled her own mental health issues over the years, so My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is perfectly crafted to hit me hard. But Nagata’s writing, art and message are accessible enough that I can see why it has resonated so much with audiences. And if nothing else, the bravery required to be publically vulnerable to this degree has to be admired.

Would I Recommend It: Yes.

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Reading Resolution: “The Shining” by Stephen King

22. A book by an author you have never given a fair shot: 
The Shining by Stephen King

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List Progress: 6/25

I don’t know where I got the idea that Stephen King books are pulpy, but it has been set in my head for a while. I don’t know if it is a knee-jerk reaction to a prolific author, thinking that anyone who writes that much that quickly must be writing insubstantial books. It might be my subconscious perceptions about the horror genre and the authors who write it. Or I might have just been soured knowing how many campy adaptations of King’s work are out there. But I will be honest that I was expecting a certain amount of schlock when I picked up The Shining, his third novel, published in 1977, and his first major hit. I was expecting some pulp.

I could not have been more thrilled to find an incredibly strong book with stirring prose and depth to pair with a fast-moving horror plot. And I can attest that the horror strikes home, because I have been having some very intense dreams this last week. All of which is to say, I was very wrong about Stephen King, and very wrong about The Shining.

At over six hundred pages, many of them filled with horrifying abuse and violence, this is not a book to take on lightly. But the lush prose and creative imagery keeps this from being a slog, and the characters kept me engaged until the end. I have never seen the Stanley Kubrick movie adaptation of The Shining, but from what I have heard, the characterization there leaves something to be desired in sacrifice to imagery. But this book spent so long building the relationships between the formerly-alcoholic Jack, his wife Wendy, and their psychically-gifted son Danny, that the horror scenes carried so much more weight. I liked all three of these people and wanted to see them safe and well, which in my mind is one of the most important ingredients in a long-form horror story.

For those who have not picked it up from cultural osmosis, the story is this: writer and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance has lost his teaching job and has one last chance: accepting a job as winter caretaker for a remote hotel that is blocked off in the snowy mountains for several months every year. He brings his wife and five year old son, and they live in isolation until ghostly beings start to awaken in the haunted Overlook Hotel and come for Jack.

It bears mentioning that the three of them are not stuck in the hotel until at least one third of the way into the page count. This space is spent slowly teasing out the intricacies of their personalities, relationships, and situation and is probably my favorite part of the novel, building slow, careful suspense. Honestly, once the explicitly scary things starting happened, I lost a bit of interest and thought the middle third could be tightened a bit. But the conclusion made it feel very worth it, the inevitable disasters that had been built up from the first page and crawled towards across the whole book. Deeply messed up, scary as hell, and beautifully written.

I don’t know if I will dive into more Stephen King soon; this one was an intense ride to get through and I can only take so much brutality in my media at a time. But I am very glad that I stretched my reading boundaries on this and at some point in the future will be thrilled to try his work again.

Would I Recommend It: Oh yes, but with trigger warnings for abuse, violence, addiction and racism.

Watching Resolution: “The Decoy Bride” (2012)

9. A trashy movie: The Decoy Bride (2012)

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List Progress: 4/12

Oh, Netflix rom-coms, what strange joys you have brought into my life. My roommates and I have built several running jokes around quoting Jenny’s Wedding (2015) and how it uses “She Keeps Me Warm” in two different scenes in wildly inappropriate ways. My Santa (2013) is a beautifully incompetent holiday movie perfect for drunk watching. And now, browsing through cheap rom-coms has brought me another bit of inane fluff to enjoy: The Decoy Bride (2012).

The film 100% roped me in with two names high up in its billing: David Tennant plays the romantic lead, a nebbish author engaged to a movie star, and Dylan Moran plays a tabloid editor who I assume had a bigger role in an earlier cut of the film, considering he has two major scenes that seem to set-up a subplot that never manifested. Tennant’s character and his fiancee are hiding away on a small Scottish island to keep their wedding out of the limelight, and a local woman named Katie, played by Kelly MacDonald, gets roped into serving as a decoy bride in a fake wedding to throw off the press. She and Tennant get stuck together, rom-com tropes ensue.

The Decoy Bride isn’t bad because it’s fluffy or trite. It’s bad because it’s poorly put together, and the gaps make the fluff not hold together as well. I can see the ghosts of at least three earlier drafts in the script: one where Dylan Moran’s character had a bigger plotline, one where the fiancee had a meaner edge, and one where the star’s agent doesn’t disappear halfway through the film. The leftover script fragments leave the film very uneven and scattered, and the slap-slap-kiss development between Tennant and MacDonald does not have enough time to develop into something worth leaving a fiancee at the altar for. They have some chemistry, and I could watch David Tennant read a phone book, but not enough to bring together the gaps in the script.

The best moments in my mind are when it goes fully into cheese. A sequence where Tennant is stuck in a 70’s trendy bagpiper outfit, a collection of scheming old people trying to sell handicrafts to tourists, MacDonald making fun of the gift bags from the fake wedding, those are all cute moments. They just need a more secure script to hold them together.

It’s cute, it’s dumb, and it grossed $759 across its entire theatrical run. That about sums up a trashy movie in my mind.

Would I Recommend It: Ehhhhhh…if you need some absolute brain candy, there are better and worse films out there. A lukewarm yes.

Bay Area friends, come see my short play “Sh*t Farming For Fun and Profit” at the PlayGround Festival of New Works

I am thrilled to announce that my ten-minute play, “Sh*t Farming for Fun and Profit”, has been chosen for presentation in the 22nd PlayGround Festival of New Works. Along with five other short plays, “Sh*t Farming” will be presented as part of the Best of PlayGround collection, the top picks from the past year of Monday Night PlayGround in San Francisco.

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Best of PlayGround will be running from May 10th through 27th, with tickets available now. I will post more about it as we get closer, but I want to spread the word. This will be one of my first professional stagings of a piece, and I could not be more excited. I welcome anyone in the San Francisco area to join me and see a great night of new theater.

Watching Resolution: “Love, Simon” (2018)

  1. A film released in 2018: Love, Simon (2018)

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List Progress: 3/12

There are enough reviews for Love, Simon out there that if you want to know factual information about the movie, you can find it. So I am going to talk about the experience of seeing it in the theater.

I saw Love, Simon in a theater in the San Francisco Bay Area with my girlfriend sitting next to me. A few rows ahead of us, there were a handful of teenagers in the audience. We were fairly far forward, so I cannot speak a lot to the entirety of the audience, but I can say that those teenagers were having an intense emotional experience.

Lots of “awww’s”, both over cute moments and sad ones. Lots of vocal cringing and groaning during uncomfortable scenes. And at the reveal of the love interest’s identity, one impassioned shipper murmured “nooo” as her OTP was apparently crushed. It was like seeing someone’s fandom introduction play out in real time, and it was a feeling that I remember vividly and fondly from my own younger years. And getting to see that happen over a mainstream queer film meant a lot to me.

Love, Simon is a fluffy teenage rom-com with charming actors and some clever writing, nothing more, nothing less. But in a cinematic landscape of heartbroken dead queers, I will always take it. And I wish there had been more of it around when I was a kid.

 

Would I Recommend It: Buy a bag of popcorn and sit back for some good fluff.

Watching Resolution: “The Lego Batman Movie” (2017)

11. A children’s film: The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

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List Progress: 2/12

Na na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na na Lego Batmaaaaaaan!

I love this movie. I love this silly, silly movie. A spin-off of 2014’s The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie takes one of the best parts of that film and gives him a full film to stretch his legs. But if you are worried that the joke of Lego Batman being super intense and extreme all the time might wear thin over a full running time, you might be pleasantly surprised. Unlike many other Batman parodies that came before it, this film balances the larger-than-life central character with a strong supporting cast and a lot of clever writing. Between the obvious affection for the characters and all of the mythos gags in the script, this movie was clearly made by people who love Batman, but do not put Batman on a pedestal.

But what about the other half of the title, the “Lego” part? I was a fan of how the original The Lego Movie used its conceit, pinning the story around the act of creation, but for most of this film, this seemed like a Batman movie that could have been made with any type of animation, not specifically modeled after Legos. However, once the movie had lulled me into forgetting I was watching little plastic toys act out comics lore, the climax was built brilliantly around how the characters are literally Lego figures and can be used as Legos. Add into that the fact that the Lego company apparently had free reign to use any intellectual property that they have made figurines of, and it gets pretty surreal and amazing. If you ever want to see the Joker have a canon conversation with Voldemort and the Wicked Witch of the West, this is your movie.

It’s not perfect. The last third drags a bit and I wish Barbara Gordon had some more quirks of her own rather than being relegated to the empathetic straight man role. But the dry sense of humor had me cackling at a ton of points and Will Arnett is an amazing voice actor for this role (remembering he also plays the clinically depressed BoJack Horseman made this a bit of a trip to watch). The film is shockingly clever and snarky for a big budget animated film about a product placement, but what can I say? Good writing is good writing.

Would I Recommend It: Ooooh yes.