In our monthly book club, we discuss whatever we happen to be reading and ask everyone in the comments to do the same. What Are You Reading This Month?
We’re Not Here To Entertain: Punk Rock, Ronald Reagan, And The Real Culture War Of 1980s America by Kevin Mattson
One could argue the “culture wars” are never-ending, but some battles are undoubtedly fiercer than others. Kevin Mattson’s absorbing We’re Not Here To Entertain chronicles one such era, drawing upon a wealth of archival research to unpack a “culture war from below,” specifically in the form of punk music, ’zines, literature, and movies that flew beneath MTV’s radar during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. It begins with the crash of influential publications Search And Destroy and Punk in the late ’70s, then pivots to the rise of bands like The Minutemen, who bristled at the glitzy aesthetic of West Coast rock, and visual artists who rebelled against the dominant air of ’60s nostalgia. From there, Mattson digs into punk’s national influence on art, exploring its impact in areas beyond New York and L.A. Ultimately, the book posits the DIY culture of ’80s punks as much more than just reactionary, an attitude that would behoove us to act as we’re confronted in 2020 with a monopolized media landscape and a pair of political parties that want nothing more than to own each other. [Randall Colburn]
Wicked Things by John Allison (illustrated by Max Sarin)
Cartoonist John Allison has been writing and drawing about the residents, past and present, of the bizarre little hamlet of Tackleford for 22 years now, most prominently in his Eisner-winning Boom! Box series Giant Days. Allison’s latest project, Wicked Things, takes one of the very best characters from that entire two-decade period—teen detective and force of nature Charlotte “Lottie” Grote—and places her on a collision course with the adult world. You don’t have to be familiar with Allison’s past work to get a kick out of Wicked Things, which sees Lottie face off with the international teen detective community (and pretty much immediately get embroiled in a murder, natch)—although seeing Lottie and her pal Claire on the “big screen” of a published, non-web-based comic does carry an undeniable thrill. Drawn by Max Sarin, all three extant issues offer up Allison’s signature blend of absurdist dialogue layered over real young people feelings, as Lottie tries to work out her place in the world as she ages out of the “teen” detective demographic. (And also tries to clear her name, of course.) [William Hughes]
The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
I loved The Royal We, the first non-YA novel from Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, the creators of red carpet blog Go Fug Yourself, so it makes perfect sense that I’m eating up its sequel, The Heir Affair. When we last left Nick and Bex—the future heir to the British throne and his Chicago Cubs-loving American bride—they were fleeing the scene after their own wedding, chased away by a tabloid journalist and a seedy-seeming scandal. The Heir Affair finds the lovebirds dealing with the aftermath and coming once again to terms with what it means to be in the public eye. There’s palace intrigue aplenty, romance that feels real and enviable, yet another scandal, and even a little baseball drama. It’s simultaneously witty and fluffy, and I tore through it faster than you can say “Meghan Markle.” It’s the perfect posh summer read. [Marah Eakin]