Tacky:Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer by Rax King
After a recent deep dive into all things Chuck Klosterman, the American essayist who focuses on popular culture, I became unsure if it was his constant mansplaining or my partner’s sudden crack-like addiction to his books that suddenly turned me off. Luckily for me, I have many pals who consume books at an ungodly rate and are always willing to give suggestions, so I found myself with a copy of Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer by Rax King. King is the woman’s version of Klosterman and I hope she doesn’t take that in offense. Heavily-adjectived, prolonged sentences describing the ins-and-outs of growing up in the ’90s hit a nerve hidden in the depths of the sticky pink gum hanging out in my skull, primarily, the chapter titled Warm Vanilla Sugar. Yes, the Bath and Body Works warm vanilla sugar, you know what I’m talking about. Were you a cucumber melon b*tch or a warm vanilla sugar b*tch (sweet pea or Japanese cherry blossom if you were otherworldly)? King bases all of her sexual tendencies off this saccharine scent: She chose to be dessert and would continue to satisfy other’s unnecessary cravings for the rest of her life. The way she lends her entire livelihood to a bottle of pungent liquid is masterful. The chapter is followed by You Wanna Be on Top?, a seemingly sexual reference (she talks about sex a lot) that only a certain type of teenager would know. Despite my terrible memory, King’s recollections have the ability to refill the drug-induced absence of mental souvenirs from my younger years. America’s Next Top Model was, on its own, an entire phase of life, one that fits so perfectly into the trash culture King does such a good job at compartmentalizing and tacking subsistence to. Creed, hiphugger jeans, cute Starbucks boys and all the other game changing moments of adolescence are wrapped up neatly and handed to us with a bow in this book of coming of age essays. King’s phenomenal colorful way with words gives meaning to all the things you might’ve once hoped to forget. Her words weave your embarrassing memories into a star-map no therapist could ever decipher. I felt I knew myself better after reading this book and found myself hoping that she had slept with Klosterman.
Office Girl by Joe Meno
I want to start off by saying someone recommended this to me without reading it first. Something about a girl with unevenly cut bangs riding a bicycle on the book’s cover screams “Rain!” I guess. Odile, the manic pixie dream girl weaving every hipster cliche known to man in this novel, is a former-art student hoping to change the world with the meaningless ideas she writes in her Moleskine while working her various random office jobs where she falls into unfortunate relationships with people she barely likes. Office Girl basically follows the plot of the endearing hipster flick, 500 Days of Summer, a seemingly perfect relationship gone to shambles because of a fickle girl with big eyes. Jack, the “office boy,” lacks self-confidence and struggles with mental health issues, especially after his wife leaves him and his mother finds him masturbating with a vacuum nozzle. Jack and Odile join forces and bike around town defacing advertisements with illustrations of genitals, performing silly stunts and questioning anything popular. Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love and Odile is planning to move away, which she eventually does. The sickeningly twee plot is exaggerated with little doodles, handwritten notes and Polaroid scans. The book ends leaving the reader with the notion that everything is meaningless and no one is special: Have you ever done anything extraordinary? Probably not. Office Girl lacks structure, a plot and anything you expect from a book, each chapter jumping into a scenario you weren’t briefed on, but that’s the point … I think. The quasi-experimental novel is thinly sketched and extremely digestible. I read the whole thing in four hours and am not even sure if I liked it (but I did buy another one of his books, just to see.)