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Sunday Book Review, a la Wacky Mommy: “Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl,” by Carrie Brownstein; “Snow & Rose,” by Emily Winfield Martin

October 8th, 2017

Hello, loves. How about a book review? Or two?

I wasn’t a Sleater-Kinney fan, and I’m not a Portlandia fan, I mean, at all. I’m not saying that as an insult, although it sure sounds like one, now that I’m putting it out there. I’m sorry (not sorry). Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, eh? Allegedly?

Sleater-Kinney put out some good albums, I’ve heard they were righteous live, they just weren’t my cup of tea. “Portlandia,” though, oh, Portlandia, I have my little attitude about you. The show makes me flinch.

First of all, they have a character named “Nance” who is a total dolt, and my friends tease me about her. Especially my friends from L.A. “Nancy” has turned into a joke name, it would seem. The new Ethel, as it were. Hello, Opal! Agnes, how are you? Where’s Myrtle? And so on. But mainly, Portland, to me, to a lot of us locals (I was born and raised there), Portland is like yo’ mama. You can kvetch about her all you want. (Not to her face, of course, cuz she might smack you.) But if anyone else talks shit about her? Watch. Out.

So that’s Wacky Mommy, aka Nancy, aka Nance, vs. “Portlandia.” I also hate that Portland is like, a thing now. “Dude, where’s my town?” is a frequent refrain with my friends and me. Whatever, man. I’m totally Portland, so of course Portlandia pisses me off. Shocker.

However. Brownstein doesn’t even talk about “Portlandia,” in her story until a little bit toward the end of the book. (This may be a pro or a con for you, dear reader.) Maybe that will be memoir #2 for her. I’ve always read a lot of biographies, autobiographies and memoirs, even when I was a kid. They’re a good genre. (“That’s my favorite jenner!” as my old friend Milly would say.) (Yes, I had a friend named Milly, in addition to relatives named Pearline, Opal, Jewel and Eunice. What’s it to you?)

“Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl” (the title comes from the Sleater-Kinney song, “Modern Girl”) is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. (Riverhead Books, Penguin Random House, 2015, 244 pages, $27.95, worth it.)

I’ll put it in my top five, how about? It’s astounding, really. Brownstein’s writing is, by turns, pure, broken, yearning, harsh. Also sweet. She was brave, writing this. I appreciate that. It’s a helluva story. In fact, I’m not giving you any more details about it, because I don’t want to tell it for her, aight? Aight. OK. One quote:

“When my father came out to his mom, my grandmother said, ‘You waited for your father to die, why couldn’t you have waited for me to die?’ I knew then that I never want to contribute to the corrosiveness of wanting someone to stay hidden. Despite all my initial conflicts about trying to reconcile the father I had as a child to the one I have now, I am thankful that he is happy, that he did not waste another second. Now there is someone to know.”

Oh, that’s good.

Next book: “Snow & Rose” (Random House Children’s Books, 2017, ages 8-12, 224 pages, $17.99). Speaking of Portland, again, now comes a book written and illustrated by Portland artist/author Emily Winfield Martin. This is an elegant, well-made book. While it is aimed at the younger set, I know some grown-ups who would be terrified by it, and some youngsters who would gobble it up… and vice versa, so there you have it. I’ll re-classify it here as “all ages.” This fairy tale, based on the story of Snow White and her sister Rose Red (Brothers Grimm tale 161), is well-written, yes, and beautifully illustrated, a gripping, engaging version of the original-retold tale. But more than that, the book itself is well-made. It feels good to hold and read. One of my friends, a bookmaker and artist, who also repaired books, mentioned once that a book can be “too precious.” (ie — a journal that no one wants to write in because it’s so beautiful.) People can be intimidated by books.

It’s a fine line, so to speak. “Snow & Rose,” is just right. They are two sisters, living alone with their grieving mother in the woods. Their father has disappeared, but has he been killed? Is he lost? They have a cat named Earl Grey and a friend named Ivo. (Spoiler alert: There’s a librarian. Also goats. A huntsman, wolves, bandits and a bear.)

You’ll like this one.

The illustrations are flawless, by the way. I read it through once, just through the pictures, then re-read it, using the words and the pictures. Beautiful.

Happy Sunday, bon appetit,

WM