Shock: Eric Reads the Week, #54

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?

This week: a Scandal/HTGAWM crossover, Tiffany Haddish for all the things please, and everything is embarrassing.

I am so engrossed by this book I am reading in which I have no idea what's happening. It's nearly 500 pages long and I'm halfway through and could not tell you what it's about. Every night I faithfully pick it up from my nightstand because I am very eager to return to this fictional world where things are occurring that utterly baffle me. I read for a bit and then place the book down, chuckling, and say to David "Welp, still no clue what this book is about! Ah well, perhaps anon!" And David nods dutifully but bemusedly because how many weird quirks can a person have?

I'm going for the record.

I've decided to work really hard at aggressively enjoying things I enjoy because I find it's harder to come by these days (womp womp) but also produces better returns than reveling in terribleness. Not to say I don't like to revel in how outrageous things sometimes are, just that I simply don't think I can even be outraged anymore. If the president tore his mask off and revealed that he was an alien, I'd be like "Ah well, what can you do?" But when I actually, deeply, wildly enjoy something it's a sort of shock. Someone's like "How was the play or whatever you went to; let's read it for filth?" And I'm like "It was... superlative!" And everyone gasps. That's brunch.

Anyway, that's the way I feel about this book.

This book is so perplexing to me. It is written well--I should clarify that--by a person who won the Man Booker Prize (not this year, of course. Tiffany Haddish won the Man Booker Prize this year. But still.) The thing is, in this book, things just occur without any sort of dramatic foreshadowing or narrative shape. They're just happening. And all of the things I'm very interested in hearing more about happen off-the-page. There's no sexy stuff or war or fights. Just British people riding trains and looking at art, which--I have to admit--is very much my thing indeed. I keep being told that various characters are attractive but I can't really picture it because even the descriptors are coy and mysterious, which is sort of like when you have a hot friend who only Instagrams pictures of sunsets or, once, a sort of blurry family photo and you're like "I know God didn't give you perfect genes and an iPhone X with Portrait mode so you could not show off for your stalker-ass friends. Get these sunsets out of here. I rebuke this."

I'm not even sure why I'm reading this book. Someone tweeted that the ending was very good. That's apparently all I need. Just be a stranger whose opinions I sometimes care about but mostly don't and tweet "I cried at this" and I'm ready to whip out my credit card. I had to order this book from England because it's not published in America. What a lunatic. There are so many books that are published in America. I should read those. I should read my own damn book which isn't done yet because I am too busy trying to figure out if the main character in this other book is hot or not. I am so perplexed by it that I thought about Google image searching the characters' name, as if a picture of a fictional character exists out there. Are there people making fan art about hefty British novels these days? What world am I living in?

I don't even really know if the main character is the main character. He just showed up about 100 pages in and started looking at frames and riding on trains and I was like, "Okay, I guess this is the guy I'm putting my chips behind now. Sure. Are those other people coming back? What's the deal with Gordon Pinnock? Should I just forget about him? Too late. I'm wildly invested. I've made fan art."

Right now the main character is on a trip to Wales with a character named Ivan with whom he is in love but who doesn't love him back, which feels like a development, though I've been burnt before. The main character is young so I suppose it's necessary that he endure this particular rite of passage but I keep yelling at the book "Please leave Wales and go back to the frames or come to America and I'll make you tea or something!" Because we've all had Ivans that we've pined over for naught but, honestly, can we not at this time?

This is the second book I've read in which the main character's life is derailed by an unrequited affection for a man named Ivan. The first was The Idiot by Elif Batuman, which was superlative! I loved that book so much, but that's mostly an aggregate assessment because I was obsessed with the first half of the book in which the delightful main character complained constantly and was generally weird-but-brilliant at Harvard and I was simply okay with the second half in which she ill-advisedly followed Ivan around the globe even though we were all at home screaming at the book "Please stop taking International Flights to see Ivan; he is bad news, not of the Afterschool Special variety, but of the Bildungsroman ilk and you're just smarter than that!"

I am putting Ivans on notice.

No offense is your name is Ivan. I'm sure you're wonderful. But also I have some doubts.

If I ever find out what this book is about I'm going to be so excited. But if I don't, ah well. What can you do?

This week was full of stories that just stretched our ability to be surprised: Tiffany Haddish topped herself by giving yet another fantastic interview, we got the Shondaland crossover we've been begging for. But first... this idiot.

I Don’t Know How to Feel About This Shocking Trump Tell-All

This book is the equivalent of the Burn Book from Mean Girls. Aren't we better than that as a country? I live for the drama but also the drama is slowing draining all life from me. I'm like The Picture of Dorian Kardashian. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Brad Pitt Uses an Alias to Flirt With Normals

The story goes that the actor was in line at Coffee Commissary in Los Angeles, flirting with a fellow customer. The customer introduced herself as Lydia; Brad Pitt then introduced himself as William. Lydia replied, "Oh, you look like a Bradley." Props to Olivia Benson over here for solving the case. This woman was like "I didn't watch Legends of the Fall once a week for all of high school for you to hold a skim green tea latte and tell me your name is William. Not in this life. Not on my watch." [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Everything I Need For 2018 I Found In Tiffany Haddish's New York Times Interview

Every word that this woman says in this interview is gold. Can we take E Pluribus Unum off of the money and just put a link to a Tumblr where all her best quotes are collected? Honey, forget about Bitcoin; the value of the dollar would shoot through the roof with the addition of every Haddish bon mot. Somebody call that Hamburglar who's running the Treasury and tell him I have an idea. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Race to the Rose: Arbitrary Rankings From The Bachelor Premiere

In case you haven't heard, Arie is a racer. His whole life is about racing. This season of The Bachelor will feature actual races. (A counterpoint to last season's Bachelorette which featured an actual racist. Ah, near homonyms.) Every week, like the leaderboard at at NASCAR race, Arie will be making a mental ranking of which women he thinks he wants to spend more time with. He'll wave the checkered flag in the direction of continued courtship. He'll send some women back to the pit stop to rotate their tires (I have no idea what this means). And each week, we faithful viewers at home will rank Arie and the contestants based on a different, wholly arbitrary set of criteria. That's the true challenge. So, without further ado, the most important arbitrary rankings from night one of The Bachelor: Vroom Vroom Edition. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

We Are Not Worthy of the Scandal/HTGAWM Crossover

The Winter Olympics is cancelled; we have all the superhuman performance we need right here. Sorry, Nancy and Tonya; maybe next year. Not since Whitney and Mariah's riff-off in "When You Believe" have we been blessed by such a one-two sensory punch of excellence. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Random Thing from the Internet...

For her 40th birthday, Oprah invited Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, and Aretha Franklin to give her life advice. V. normal thing. I plan to do the same when I turn 40, but until then, I just rewatch this video.

Ah well; what can you do?