A Mid-Year Reading Round-Up

What it says on the tin and a little note from little ole me.

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We’re gonna keep it short and sweet this week, folks! I haven’t been feeling all too well (but not like the Taylor Swift song) but I didn’t want to leave ya hanging. This specific edition of Hyperfixate will be bi-annual, a good ole reading list. I’ll do another one at the end of the year. I haven’t read as much as I’d like this year, and I’m the kind of person that needs to be reading a couple of things at once, especially since I can’t go out to buy physical books and mostly rely on my e-Reader now. It’s a little all over the place.

So, here’s my 2021 mid-year reading round-up!

Outlawed by Anna North

I’ve already written about Outlawed in this newsletter before. It’s a revisionist Western by Vox journalist Anna North following a young midwife who joins the infamous Hole in the Wall Gang re-imagined as barren women and non-binary outlaws. It’s a quick read, and it left me wanting more. I think about it all the time.

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

I’m a big fan of true crime. I’ll Be Gone In The Dark was a recommendation I took from an episode of My Favourite Murder. A posthumous release and completed with the help of her family and colleagues, McNamara’s book is as much true crime as it is a memoir. It chronicles her own fascination with true crime began, and how she became involved and eventually came around to coining the term Golden State Killer, who was then known as the East Area Rapist. She paints vivid images of what California was like during his spree, as well as evocative portraits of the police officers, survivors, victims’ family, and fellow true-crime enthusiasts. I couldn’t put this book down. There’s also an HBO documentary based on the book that’s worth a watch, too.

Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets by Todd McGowan

This one was more of a re-read than a new read. I needed to re-read a chapter about the difference between love and romance; how love is disruptive against capitalism and how romance is a commodity under that same context. A lot of the book—and my pea brain and I are probably being reductive enough as it is—discusses about how capitalism breeds desire and how once the object of desire is obtained by the subject (us), we realise that we aren’t satisfied with it. That we won’t ever be satisfied by it. This cycle of dissatisfaction is what keeps the subject stuck, it’s what keeps the subject from spotting capitalism’s invisible hand. I think the book does get a lot of flack for how reductive it can be sometimes, as well as how abstract some of McGowan’s work comes off, but I think it’s a good jumping-off point to start reframing how and where this “invisible hand” exists in our own lives. At least, it did that for me. Red Library has a great mini-series on their podcast about the book and they definitely do a better job of talking about it. You can check that out here:

Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World by Leslie Kern

Yes, I got this in a Verso sale. Or rather, I got this when Verso was giving it away for free. I’d been meaning to read Feminist City for over a year now, and as someone who has been in the suburbs for over a year, it made me remember what living in a city was like. It reminded me of how I moved through London and all the things I wasn’t considering whilst moving through London. As much as I moved about London with caution, upon reading Feminist City, that caution started to look a lot like reckless abandon. There’s so much danger in cities for people that aren’t cis, heterosexual, white, able-bodied men. Because they ruled the world for so long, not only was everything built in their image, buildings and public spaces were made to serve them, to give them even more of an advantage. I learned a lot reading Feminist City; a lot about accessibility, a little bit about ethical design, and a bunch about how to reflect on how I move through any city. If you have any more recommendations on books on the subject of physical spaces and ethical design, please let me know! I’m kinda hankerin’ for some.

Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar/Amando a Pablo, Odiando a Escobar by Virginia Vallejo

I was on a bit of a Narcos kick a while ago, back when I was Pedro Pascalified. Whilst Narcos was entertaining to watch, I struggled to reconcile what that meant. This show is based on, dramatized, and fictionalized real events that happened to real people, real atrocities that happened in Colombia. Real people that are still alive to tell their stories. Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar was the most popular one, since I didn’t want to read the memoir written by the DEA agents that caught Escobar. Virginia Vallejo saw it all first hand. Her memoir isn’t just a memoir, it’s a detailed, heartwrenching account of the tragedies and political corruption in Colombia during the later half of the 20th century. What I really took away from this was how vulnerable Vallejo was able to make herself to tell not only her story, but Escobar’s in the process. I also read it in Spanish after I had finished it in English in hopes to improve my currently-first-grade-reading-level fluency.

Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe

I think this book peaked my interest after hearing John Oliver promote it on Late Night With Seth Meyers or something. I have a morbid fascination with the pharmaceutical industry, and this incredible examination of the Sackler family and their role in the opioid epidemic was right up my alley. It’s harrowing, but Radden Keefe’s stellar reporting and storytelling makes the book hard to put down. There’s this part where Keefe writes about Arthur Sackler’s obsession with acquiring Chinese art and subsequently about the first time his family was investigated by the FBI and that juxtaposition made my skin crawl. I can’t recommend this enough.

The Book of Jakarta edited by Maesy Ang and Teddy W. Kusuma

I had been meaning to read Cerita-Cerita Jakarta for a really long time, and never could get my hands on a copy because they always sold out! But one fine day, I actually got my hands on a copy of the English translation! Some lovely friends of mine translated two short stories in this collection of ten and they’re all excellent. The Indonesian fiction I read growing up were always either young adult fiction or books I had to read for school, a lot of historical fiction I really enjoyed. But The Book of Jakarta was refreshing, inspiring, and more importantly present in the sense that it gave me the opportunity to really explore worlds that were right around the corner. There’s this great story about a rideshare app journey gone wrong in a Jakarta that’s sinking underwater and it’s everything to me.

Dari Dalam Kubur by Soe Tjen Marching

I’m still reading this one, simply because I have an emotional breakdown at the end of nearly every chapter. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, especially Indonesian historical fiction, just because that’s what I grew up reading and that’s where my curiosity would springboard off of to keep me going through classes at school. Dari Dalam Kubur is excellent and heartwrenching so far. What’s so powerful about the way Marching writes is that she can weave the childhood frustrations of a young girl and the woman she becomes as she discovers piece by piece about the world around her so seamlessly. It’s viscerally human. Set in the 1965-66 massacres that murdered, imprisoned, raped, kidnapped, and destroyed so many Indonesian lives, a book like this pushes past the taboo ingrained in our culture and makes room for the voices we thought we had lost.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Yes, the TikTok girlies got to me. I keep seeing Evelyn Hugo everywhere I go—on my Twitter feed, my For You Page, my best friend telling me what she’s reading—this is apparently everyone’s favourite book that I’ve never read. I was skeptical at first, but I devoured this book much to my own dismay. I’m a sucker for Old Hollywood bombshells. I’m a sucker for things that are not Mank. It’s fun, it’s heartbreaking, there were moments that genuinely made me tear up, but I wouldn’t go so far to declare that it lives up to the hype. It reminds me of what Tumblr was like for me growing up, in the same way Red, White, and Royal Blue did (a book I also enjoyed), if that makes sense. I don’t usually enjoy anything told in the first person either, but this was refreshing because I wasn’t in the mind of someone annoying like Thomas from The Maze Runner. I like that both our narrators, Monique and Miss Hugo herself, were just as unreliable as they thought the other was; they kept sussing each other out until a bond was forged. I really liked that. Read it if you want a bit of fun. And hot blondes.

5 Menit Sebelum Tayang by Okto Baringbing

I got the first two volumes of this comic as a gift from my dad. It follows the trials and tribulations of a newsreel editor and later on a reporter as they try to pull a story together before it airs (hence the title), and how they have to face the state of affairs in Indonesian media as they keep moving forward. It reminds me of jobs I’ve interviewed for, places I’ve trialed or interned at, even people I’ve shadowed. It’s funny, it’s not full of itself, and it definitely puts the unsung heroes of the TV newsroom in the spotlight. In the first issue, the main character, the editor, wanted to quit. That told me everything I needed to know to keep reading.

I’ve also been re-reading a lot of comic books. I’m about seven volumes into Invincible now, and I’m making my wildest childhood fantasies come true by collecting all the Walking Dead comics (not single issues because I don’t think I have the patience) after growing up reading them very legitimately and legally with digital copies. Image Comics came out with the first issue of Skybound X which features the first chapter of Rick Grimes 2000, a sci-fi re-imagining if not canonically divergent continuation to the tale of Mr. Don’t Dead Open Inside. There are aliens and robots. I’m obsessed. I’m re-reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed because I’ve been feeling a bit out of it within myself. Sing to me, Paolo, like the Lizzie McGuire movie. I am not sure I’ll be able to finish Lonesome Dove but I’m going to give it the good ole college try.

I have also waded the waters into trying out TikTok as a medium. That app scares me half to death. But, again, the good ole college try.

What have you been reading this year, Reader? Could you recommend me some in the comments? If you feel so inclined? I’m always looking for recs so let me know!

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That’s all for this week!

A tiny note from me: as I haven’t been feeling very well in the brain department, I may be migrating a piece from my old blog into here just in case I can’t come up with anything in the following week. I apologize in advanced. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. It’s nothing I can’t handle but I do feel like I need to slow down before I turn to mush. We can’t talk about the Emmys if I turn to mush.

Take good care of yourselves,

All my love,

Ari.