An illuminating, sympathetic, and cautionary celebration of superfans, young and old.

FANGIRLS

SCENES FROM MODERN MUSIC CULTURE

An appreciative assessment of how “girls and young queer people create modern mainstream music and fan cultures with their outlooks and actions.”

VICE features editor Ewens probes the phenomenon of fan bases comprised primarily of girls and women, an important subculture within the music industry that she believes is misunderstood. Often, writes the author, the experience of fandom feels like the gathering of a like-minded collective with the unique ability to empower and identify with each other and to “scream alone together.” Ewens covers a wide swath of territory: holding down a sleeping bag in a ticket line at a London venue at 3 a.m.; interviewing older devotees of Courtney Love and Amy Winehouse as well as sexagenarian Beatles groupies; and watching the allegiant “emotional assembly line of girls” after a solo Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance) concert. The author expertly brings out the reality of their passion and devotion, and she reveals the often underappreciated interdependent relationship between musicians and fans. Adding a personal layer to the narrative, Ewens writes about her teenage years spent longing to “self-define” with connections to artistic cultures, specifically music, which seemed to buffer “everything hideous that was happening to me as a teenage girl.” The author also explores how fandom can blur sexual boundaries, and she zeroes in on the celebrated fan bases of certain megastars—e.g., Lady Gaga and her cherished “little monsters” and Beyoncé and her “Beyhive” collective. Refreshingly, Ewens shows readers that it’s not all wristbands and official merchandise. Somberly, she discusses the fervent fears of parents for their obsessive daughters, particularly in light of events such as the 2017 terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, which killed 23 people. Offering a welcome new perspective on music fandom, the author effectively captures the solidarity of fans bound by their love of music.

An illuminating, sympathetic, and cautionary celebration of superfans, young and old.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4773-2209-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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