Gimme 5 (aka the best of everything so far in 2018)

It’s the time of year when established media outlets and blog boys alike put out their “Best ____ of 2018 so far” lists. Ya know I’m no different. However, I don’t make money off of my last name dot com, so I don’t need 50 different lists to appease my advertisers. I limited myself to five of each. If you don’t see your favorite album/film/goldfish, it was probably 6th on my list. Or I haven’t encountered it yet.

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Gimme 5: albums from the first half of 2018

One Stone by Trixie Mattel (self-released) March
A drag queen superstar goes against making EDM club music in favor of earnest Americana. Must listens are “Little Sister” and “Red Side of the Moon.”

Clean by Soccer Mommy (Fat Possum) March
The cream of the crop when it comes to college-aged people mastering their feelings with a guitar. Must listens are “Your Dog” and “Scorpio Rising.”

Saved by Now, Now (Trans-) May
These high school besties turned pop power duo didn’t disappoint after it took five years to make this album.  Must listens are “SGL” and “Holy Water.”

Nightstand by Tancred (Polyvinyl) June
Jess Abbott could have written the soundtrack to any angsty teen movie from the late-90s. Must listens are “Apple Tree Girl” and “Underwear.”

Verdugo by Richard Edwards (Joyful Noise) June
The result happens when your life and health go to shit but so you write two albums – the bummer one and this one. Must listens are “A Woman Who Can’t Say No” and “Olive Oyl.”

 

Gimme 5: books from the first half of 2018

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara (Ecco)
Before RuPaul made drag mainstream, there was the queer community of NYC in the late ’80s struggling to find acceptance. This is their story. [My interview with the author can be found here.]

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove)
Modern-day Nigerian folklore crossed with a sincere coming-of-age story is perhaps the best way to describe this novel.

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley (MCD)
Essays about topics ranging from porn to volcanoes to personal musing. Expect to laugh, cry, and dry heave.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder (Hogarth)
A woman in the midst of an existential crisis mixed with a cocktail of depression and anxiety has a sexual relationship with a merman. Or does she?

Florida by Lauren Groff (Riverhead)
A collection from one of the best writers out there. She explores different characteristics of the state through time and location with such emotional precision. [My interview with the author can be found here.]

 

Gimme 5: returning TV shows from the first half of 2018

The Americans (FX)
A final season about Cold War Russian spies in America that wasn’t watched or respected by nearly enough people. Standout episode: “START.”

Atlanta (FX)
Completely different, yet somehow exactly the same from the first season. Auteur television perfected. Standout episode: “Teddy Perkins.”

Brockmire (IFC)
Baseball is America’s pastime. Hank Azaria is America’s future. Minor league baseball has never been so fun. And that’s saying something considering how fun MiLB is already. Standout episode: “Knuckleball.”

Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix)
It never takes itself too seriously and is lighthearted and hefty throughout. Sometimes even in the same scene. Standout episode: “Suspicious Objects.”

Westworld (HBO)
Well, well, well. If there was a show I turned sour on, it’s this one. Still, I can’t stop thinking about it week in and week out. Standout episode: “Kiksuya.”

 

Gimme 5: new TV shows from the first half of 2018

Barry (HBO)
Bill Hader proves he’s more than a funny man in this dark hitman comedy. 

The End of the F*ing World (Netflix)
Two disturbed teens go on a dangerous roadtrip across England that is filled with drugs, sex, and murder.

Queer Eye (Netflix)
Five men so fabulous a second season came out less than half a year later.

The Looming Tower (Hulu)
Problematic, sure, but an honest retelling of America’s darkest hour.

Killing Eve (BBC America)
A twisty murder mystery that avoids the typical tropes and has stand out performances lead by Sandra Oh.

 

Gimme 5: films from the first half of 2018

A Quiet Place by John Krasinski, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck (Paramount)
It took 90 minutes to explore the themes The Walking Dead still hasn’t figured out.

Black Panther by Ryan Coogler(Marvel)
The best(?) superhero flick since The Dark Knight. Wakanda forever.

Isle of Dogs by Wes Anderson(Fox Searchlight)
The film auteur returns to stop motion and surpassed all expectation.

Love, Simon by Greg Berlanti, Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger(20th Century Fox)
Queer stories are more important than ever; especially for teens.

You Were Never Really Here by Lynne Ramsay (Amazon Studios)
Joaquin Phoenix returns to form and might as well be nominated for Best Actor right now.

 

Gimme 5: podcasts from the first half of 2018

Keep It with Ira Madison, Karen Brown, Louis Vitrell (Crooked Media)
Pop culture commentary with a political twist.

Homophilia with Dave Holes and Matt McConkey (Earwolf)
One of the best podcasts on queer culture other than Nancy.

Nancy with Tobin Low and Kathy (WNYC)
Speaking of Nancy. The best podcast from 2017 is back and better than ever!

Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo (CBC)
Canadian true crime about indigenous women. More light needs to be shed on this.

I Think You’re Interesting with Todd VanDerWerff (Vox)
One of my favorite critics chatting with people he thinks is interesting. VDW has great views on culture and is a must read.

50 fiction recommendations from the last 5 years

Today, I start working part-time my favorite bookstore – Changing Hands in Phoenix. I am incredibly stoked because I love bookstores. I often spend any free time that I need to kill at a local indie or at Barnes & Noble. I even worked at BN in Augusta, Maine and Tempe, Arizona (where I dated someone at each one… so there’s that).

For nearly three years, now I have interviewed authors for various sites including Electric Literature and the Millions. I’ve provided some reviews and criticism as well; mostly at Writer’s Bone. If you didn’t already know, I love books. Now that I am going to be on the front lines of the book world a few days a week, I went through my favorite works of fiction – mostly novels, but some short story collections as well – so I could be ready to suggest some works people may have missed.

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Ten books to read from 2017 (part 1 of 6)

Every two months, I’ll wrangle up ten of my favorite books that I’ve come across to recommend to friends and family (plus random internet strangers). These might range from books I think are the “best” to ones that just surprised me to authors I interviewed. Here are ten from January and February in the order that they were released.

A lot of people have been viewing all of pop culture – including literature – through the political lens of 2017. While it’s important to make these connections, it’s not always necessary. Remember, books are written years in advance. They’re purchased by publishers who pick a date in the future that they feel will be the best for sales. Some of the books on this list are easy targets when making connections to the new President Administration. Others are not. However, they all have something in common even if they don’t seem similar at all.

Some explore the past. The future. Some look at the fringe aspects of society. Some take place in America. Some don’t. All of the books explore the beautiful, as well as haunting, aspects of humanity. They all stand on their own and will still be seminal reading experiences they’re read during a more stable period.

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‘Redeployment’ reviewed

RedeploymentThe war in Iraq was monumental in my life. Not in the sense that I knew anybody who shipped off and never came back. It didn’t even give me a sense of patriotism pulsing though my body. They were just there, looming over my life in a post-9/11 world. I picked up Phil Klay’s short story collection Redeployment because I read a review claiming it was the first book to shed a light on these wars with a realness than no other writer has yet to capture.

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5 more short stories you can – and should – read online right now

UPDATE 2: Yet another 5 short stories you can – and should – read online right now can be found here.

UPDATE: Another 5 short stories you can – and should – read online right now can be found here.

My friends over at Paste Magazine wrote an article called “5 Short Stories You Can – And Should – Read Online Right Now.” It’s good. It contains one from the 1880s, 1950s, and three that were written since 2010.

It got me thinking about short stories that I like. I started seeing if they were available for free – either legally or not. We know that there is a lot on the World Wide Web and it’s easy to find a lot of PDFs or just copy/pasted stories out there. Here are five that I like; in no particular order. Unsurprisingly, most of them come from my favorite source of short stories: The New Yorker.

“That Bus is Another World” by Stephen King – 2014 

I wouldn’t call myself a Stephen King fan (I’m not outside of Different Seasons and Misery). I’m not a fan of horror. But I am a fan of a suspenseful narrative. And that’s what this story is. You’ll have to read a PDF scan of Esquire to get this online, but it’s there. It follows a man named Wilson who is late to a meeting he flew into New York to take. In typical King fashion, the story is not what it appears. There’s a bus, obviously. What happens on that bus is definitely another world away from Wilson. It’s a breezy read that leaves you both wanting to know more, but begging that you’ll never find out.

“Cold Pastoral” by Marina Keegan – 2012

I have been obsessed with the late Marina Keegan as of late. Her story is tragic: a rising literary star who graduated from Yale with a job waiting for her at The New Yorker, only to have her life cut short at 22 by a car accident. Her family and writing mentor put together a collection called The Opposite of Loneliness (named for an essay she wrote shortly before commencement). “Cold Pastoral” is one of those stories. It eerily deals with death. In it, the narrator’s sort-of-boyfriend dies. The character is left with a feeling of emptiness, but also of anxiety. She wasn’t the love of his life; they were just consistently having sex. Keegan beautifully weaves in numerous emotions in such a short amount of space.

“Alma” by Junot Diaz – 2007

Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her collects nine interlinked stories surrounding the relationship between a young man named Yunior and his love interest Alma. This is the shortest in the collection with a word count under 1,000, but that doesn’t mean there is any less impact. Written in second person, you become Yunior. You’re called bad names as Alma claims horrific things about you. You’re sucked in almost instantly and aren’t let go until Alma decides to let you go. There’s a resounding punch to the gut that any man – or even woman – who reads this will take some time to recover.

“Story, With Bird” by Kevin Canty – 2014

This was published pretty recently. Admittedly, I don’t know much about Canty, but I love this story. It’s not a traditional story in the sense that it just delves into bits and pieces of a narrative, but leaves a lasting impression of those moments in time. It’s about a couple who likes to drink more than they like each other. It really impacted me because it was similar in tone and theme to a story I had been editing for a few weeks. If you want to read a good, atmospheric story, then this is one short on you definitely need to click.

“Just Before Black” by James Franco – 2010

This may not be the best story by the actor-turned-director-turned-curator-turned-writer. Franco might not even be a good writer. But this was my first introduction to the actor’s stories and it stuck with me. It was nice to read a story by someone who wasn’t a “writer.” Not yet anyway. Reading it again four years later, I understand why not everyone was in love with Franco’s early work. Yet, it’s still interesting to read if you like how his views on suburbia developed; especially in his collection Palo Alto.