Dames Nation, are you looking for music to take you from lolling about in the grass...
..to shaking your finest tailfeathers?
Because, if yes, NPR Music’s incredible “Roséwave” playlist-- to which both your Dames have been jamming pretty much non-stop-- could be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s the perfect mix of known top-40 jams from many eras and minor synth bops you’ve never heard, one of those playlists where every song’s best qualities seem to shine through and the ideal mood is maintained throughout. We could not endorse it more highly if we’d made it our damn selves. If you have a favorite Rosé - boozy or not - please do let your Dames know about it; we are always on the lookout for refreshing beverages!
And if you need another peerless playlist, may we recommend the Season 2 accompaniment to Netflix’s Master of None? It’s contemplative & yearning, yet also jam-filled, which is perfect for summer and winter (as if we’d forget our Dames Nationals in the Southern Hemisphere). Everything you’re looking for is here: songs from Italian movies! New Edition! The Venga Boys! Bowie! Pass the Dutchie! The music for your BBQs / beachy day trips / firefly-counting sessions is sorted. If you feel like “ughhh, Dames, this is just too many tunes to listen to, I can’t!” fret not: Variety has you covered with a 5-track sampler selected by the show’s music supervisor, Zach Cowie.
Visual gags we will never, ever tire of:
the sheer physical contrast between
Aziz Ansari (enthusiastic hugger) and Eric Wareheim (equally enthusiastic huggee).
This Week in Hamilton! In Brief!
To support Lin Manuel Miranda's latest Prizeo fundraiser-- for his new pro-immigrant foundation, the Immigrants: We Get the Job Done Coalition-- celebrities have been challenging one another to perform snippets of Hamilton songs on Twitter. Like the ice bucket challenge, but for erudite earworms! The most important takeaways from this:
Jonathan Groff and Lin Manuel Miranda just need to kiss already. VANESSA WILL UNDERSTAND, YOU TWO! THIS MUCH UNRESOLVED SEXUAL TENSION WILL KILL US ALL!
Jaime Camil (aka the irrepressible Rogelio from Jane the Virgin) made a video, which led me to realize that he needs to be cast as King George III, and it needs to happen IMMEDIATELY.
And finally!! Shout it to the Rooftops! An authorized HAMILTON song book has been made available, as have the Hamilton instrumentals! WHICH MEANS HAMILTON SING-A-LONGS AND KARAOKE ARE NOW A THING WE CAN ALL DO! REJOICE, REJOICE!
Your Dames’ Deep Dive on… Summer Reading!!!
Basically our idea of heaven, as illustrated by David Michael Chandler.
Even though it has been eons since We Your Dames were personally subject to the whims of the academic calendar, because one of us works at a university and the other is possessed of arguably the greatest 11-year-old known to man, the rhythms of its schedule have never left our lives. So even though summer usually renders each of us MORE busy instead of less, emotionally the scent of linden blossoms still awakens in our souls a sense of LIMITLESS POTENTIAL and AMPLE TIME FOR LOUNGING. And it’s one of those mental states that’s so strong it imposes its will on our material world. No matter how much we’re supposed to be accomplishing on long Sunday afternoons, no matter how many chores we have or planes to catch, more often than not, we will find ourselves still in a way we usually cannot be, adjacent to a pool or with our feet up on a porch rail, completely and utterly absorbed in THE PERFECT BOOK. Today, on the exact mid-point of the year, we wanted to do a good old-fashioned deep dive into summer reading: what we’ve picked out for ourselves this year, what we’re recommending to you, and what some of our faves out in the internet have to say about it, as a concept. So kick back-- hopefully by your preferred body of cool water-- and read all we have to write about reading.
A Quick Tour of Dame Sophie’s Nightstand & Some Books She’d Like to See on Yours
IF ONLY I could pack so efficiently! Kindly bearded wizard, teach me your ways!
I’ve just read two wonderfully gulpable and thought-provoking books that are not about One Direction (but are totally about One Direction): Zan Romanoff’s Grace and The Fever and Katie Heaney & Arianna Rebolini’s Public Relations. Grace is about a girl about to head off to Kenyon College [delighted yelp of recognition from Dame M., proud Kenyon alumna!] whose unexpected encounter with Jes Holloway from Fever Dream (think: Harry combined with Zayn) upends all her notions of what it means to be a fan, along with her understanding of herself as an expert in the band she loves. Public Relations is a perfectly executed self-insert longform fanfiction about a gifted but under-confident young PR flack who devises a brilliant strategy for and then falls for charming, dimpled, floppy-haired British singer Harry Styles Archie Fox. I loved both of these books, and if you relish pondering what goes on behind the scenes in celebrityland (hint: it’s a ton of emotional labor! Mostly done by women! Many of whom on the fan side go unpaid!), you will, too.
Extra credit: regardless of your level of interest in One Direction, I encourage you to read this lovely & moving profile of Louis Tomlinson, frequently overlooked by critics and beloved of fans. I can’t stop thinking about his late mother, his inability to reconcile his perception of the public’s perception of his songwriting skills and business acumen with the reality of both, or his struggle to recognize his work as an artist as real work, even though it falls outside of his identification as a working-class man. Can we get him a formal membership in the club of great songwriters whose mothers died way, way too young? I feel like a series of long heart-to-hearts with Paul McCartney or Bono would do him a world of good.
My current read is When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon, a Nora Ephron-type YA romance featuring two first-generation Indian-American protagonists. Here we have a restlessly independent girl who just wants to go to Stanford and do great things with her life, and a boy who plans to go to MIT (instead of following his secret dream of being a comics artist) and is also trying to square away an arranged engagement. An engagement with Dimple, who wants nothing to do with it. I’ve just read the passage where Dimple, completely taken aback, has very sensibly hurled her iced coffee in sweet Rishi’s face, so I’m smitten with them both already.
Coming up, I’m looking forward to a mishmash of things I’ve been meaning to read and some things I just picked up at the big library conference last week, in no particular order:
Rich People Problems, the last book in Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asiansseries (linked in Angie’s piece above), which I like to describe as “What if Edith Wharton, but among the fabulously wealthy of Singapore?”
A Study in Scarlet Women, by Sherry Thomas: a gender-swapped Sherlock Holmes recommended by DamesPal Ally!
The Story of the Lost Child, by Elena Ferrante: because while I’ll probably never be ready to finish reading The Neapolitan Novels, I really can’t wait any longer to find out what happened to Lila, and how Lenu will tell her story
Charlotte Sometimes, by Penelope Farmer: the inspiration for The Cure song of the same name, which has a plot that gives me some Tuck Everlasting Vibes, and is back in print thanks to the good offices of my literary sweethearts, The New York Review Children’s Collection
The Good Times are Killing Me, by my hero Lynda Barry: soon to be back in print thanks to the good folks at Drawn & Quarterly
A bunch of Eve Babitz books about being an LA Woman: of all the authors on this list, most likely to be the one whose entire backlist I burn through in short order
Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, by Ruth Gilligan: interweaving stories about the Jews of Ireland (I had no idea our diasporic reach extended to Hibernia, and am very intrigued)
The Inquisitor’s Tale, Or: The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, by Adam Gidwitz: honestly, that subtitle alone is enough for me, but if you need further inducement, this won a Newbery Honor in January
Trouble Boys, by Bob Mehr: a big, juicy book about The Lost Boys of Rock, The Replacements.
A true & correct depiction of the state of Dame Sophie’s bedside table.
A Quick Tour of Dame Margaret’s Enormous Purse & Some Books She’d Like to See in Yours
Dame M. filling her purse every morning.
The current Queen of my Purse, bookwise, is Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw. We here at the Dames Aerie are known Jo Walton fanatics, as our ceaseless attempts to make everyone in the world read (or listen to) her Small Change Trilogy have surely demonstrated. But what makes her so special as a writer is the broad variety of books she produces while still maintaining a style that one can recognize and appreciate from book to book. As with the Small Change books, Walton once again picked a favorite author of hers as the basis for Tooth and Claw-- in this case, noted Victorian Hufflepuff Anthony Trollope-- and puts her own spin on his work… by making it about dragons instead of the British nobility. If Sophie is serving you Edith Wharton, but among Crazy Rich Asians, I’m here to recommend the same, but among bloodthirsty mythical beasts-- because even when We Your Dames are a little different, we’re ultimately cut from the same fine muslin.
As for my starting line-up, we have a fine bevy of varied contenders. There’s dishy-but-incisive non-fiction, like Anne Helen Peterson’s Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman, finally published last week to predictably glowing reviews, and smack-dab in the middle of my wheelhouse. Then there’s Phyllis Rose’s gossipy classic, Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages, which looks in-depth at five marriages in Victorian England-- John Ruskin and Effie Gray; Thomas Carlyle and Jane Welsh; John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor; George Eliot and G. H. Lewes; Charles Dickens and Catherine Hogarth-- and which I have only been meaning to read for LITERALLY EVER. And then, finally, there’s The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like It, Joanna Scutt’s look at the woman who, in the 1930s, taught unmarried women how to relish their singleness. This last one is not out until November, but thanks to #Damespal Katie, I already have a copy to #GalleyBrag about and can tell you all to BE ON THE LOOK OUT.
Even more on brand for my summer, though, is a PASSEL OF YA LOVE STORIES! Much like Sophie, I’m eager to dig into both When Dimple Met Rishi and Public Relations. Beyond that, however, I have a bunch of others I’m practically salivating over. First among them is #Damespal Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, quite aptly described as the queer historical road trip novel you’ve been waiting for. I actually read this one in manuscript form but I am DYING to re-read it-- or listen to it on audio, where it's narrated by Christian Coulson, aka Hot Young Tom Riddle from the Harry Potter movies. In additon, I’ve been waiting to read Maurene Goo’s I Believe in a Thing Called Love ever since I first glimpsed its massively adorable cover in this very newsletter last November, and now it’s FINALLY OUT. I can barely wait for my hold to come in at the library!!
Then finally, what’s the best thing to supplement YA romance? ADULT romance, of course! On the agenda this summer: Loretta Chase’s Silk is for Seduction, about sisters running a fashion house during the Victorian era’s most sartorially absurd period; Alyssa Cole’s wonderful novella featuring Freedom Riders in the deep South in 1961, Let It Shine; and Aya De León’s modern-day heist romance, Uptown Thief.
And, finally, I’m going to leave you with a list of favorites that I happen to think are absolutely perfect for the summer.
What could be more essentially summery than reading a nice, Golden Age mystery series? While Dorothy Sayers’s Peter Wimsey novels are justly beloved, I’m instead going to shout out Josephine Tey’s tragically under-read Inspector Grant novels. There are just 6 of them-- just enough to get you through the summer, but not so many you need to feel overwhelmed. And they are uniformly excellent-- just formulaic enough to be comforting, but with enough quirks and tweaks to keep you on your toes.
The only thing equivalently essential is a romance series. My current favorites are Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series-- Act Like It and Pretty Face-- which follow love stories between stage actors in London’s West End. If you miss Slings & Arrows, you NEED to read these books… yesterday.
And, finally, partly because our beloved friend Anna (½ of the wonderful podcast Bellwether Friends) gave them to me in the summer (back in the long ago days when she was my boss still!), I will always think that Connie Willis’s time travel romp To Say Nothing of the Dog and her scientific research romantic comedy Bellwether are perhaps the world’s most perfect summer reads. Try them out and just SEE if you don’t agree!
Summer Reading Link Roundup!
Connie’s is the hair flourish we all aspire to.
If you’re looking for erudite-but-dishy takes on both high fashion and retail, longtime #Damesfav Lisa Schmeiser’s round-up of her favorites in that genre is going to leave your Goodreads profile SHOOK.
Because we all always need diverse books, #DamesPal Angie Manfredi has put together a tantalizing round-up of page-turners in a whole slew of genres - mystery, coming-of-age, family saga, urban fantasy - all featuring POC and Native/First Nations authors & protagonists.
How to Pick a Good Summer Read is very funny & light in the manner of a soap bubble (and quite useful in the manner of a sink full of beautifully-scented yet grease-cutting suds). This is one of those humor pieces that has moments of genuine IT ME insights such as “I want to be able to understand the novel half-drunk on rosé.” Which is great! Though next time we’d just love it if the New Yorker would refrain from making jokey references to eating disorders, please and thank you.
Here at Two Bossy Dames, we strongly believe that a Beach Read is whatever you take with you to read at the beach, so the transformation of a Beach Read from just that into what it’s most widely understood to be now -- a compulsively readable story that is overtly feminine, or at least marketed to an audience presumed to be female -- is, to put it mildly, profoundly irksome. Surprise, it’s kind of been that way forever? And yet, this piece is not a hate-read; it’s an interesting look at book marketing and may lead you to some choice tales for yourself.
Dame Sophie, intermittently behind on podcasts, just knows this Spring Reading episode of Call Your Girlfriend is fantastic.
Dame Sophie is definitely going to steal some of her summer reading list from Hillary Clinton, as she plans to finish Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, and am strongly considering Commissario Guido Brunetti books, too. And Dame Margaret heartily endorses Secretary Clinton’s taste in mystery novels, particularly Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, which she listened to nearly in its entirety at the peak of Listless Summer last year, for it allowed her ears to imagine themselves in a cool Canadian wilderness however sweltering the rest of her body might actually have been.
AND FINALLY, if that’s not enough for you ghouls, how about taking a look at this “mixtape” of biographies & memoirs of notable women that Rachel Syme has put together? Your shelves are sure to end up groaning underneath its bounty.
And with that, we leave you with only this fond wish: that all your friends, family, and loved ones will entirely understand you when you declare the following: