Girl Talk: Booze, Boys, and Platonic Bed Sharing

Lena Dunham poses with her autobiography "Not That Kind of Girl"   via Huffington Post

Lena Dunham poses with her autobiography "Not That Kind of Girl" 

via Huffington Post

Honesty is a virtue we all desire but are rarely able to practice. Lena Dunham however is the exception, for in her new book, Not That Kind of Girl, she reveals to her audience the raw awkwardness that is her life. From uncomfortable sexual encounters to unlikely bonds of friendship, Dunham recounts all the embarrassing incidents that have occurred throughout her painfully unfortunate (and equally hilarious) life history.

In her first chapter entitled “Take My Virginity (No Really Take It),” Dunham gives us first hand accounts of college experiences everyone has had. She even delves into the ones we have all deemed too embarrassing to even mention. In a hilarious description of a cheese and beer party gone awry, Dunham recalls how a friends tearful meltdown caused her to miss out on finally losing her V-card. To add insult to injury, the reason for the meltdown was because said friend was threatened by her roommate after leaving a note that asked her to stop having high pitched banchi sex.

In another account Lena tells of how a houseplant single handedly managed to save her from becoming an ad for planned parenthood. Despite being thankful to the drunken frat boy who finally stole her virtue, Dunham admitted she was more grateful to the mini palm tree whose low hanging foliage managed to expose the condom that had fallen off mid coitus.

When Dunham discusses love and friendship, she gives reference to two of the strangest yet impactful relationships of her life. The first was with her online Russian pen-pal-turned-boyfriend. His untimely death was met with little-to-no sympathy from Dunham’s friends and family whose own . So not only had she  On top of being made out to be so desperate that she invented a fake dead boyfriend, Dunham was also the subject of persecution when it came to her favorite male friend bonding activity. Apparently many of Dunham’s friends and family thought it strange for a girl to cuddle with her guy friends for whom she shared no romantic feelings; for Dunham it was just a typical Wednesday afternoon activity.

So whether it was being rescued by a common houseplant or defending her right to snuggle, Dunham proves that both in love and life that she is no ordinary girl.

by Graeme Belzer '18
gbelzer@gm.slc.edu 


 

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

From frontman to author: Frenette reviews 'Wolf in White Van' by The Mountain Goats' lead singer

photo by Lily Frenette

photo by Lily Frenette

Does the name of this author sound familiar? Probably not. He published one novel prior to his latest release, Black Sabbath: Master of Reality, in 2008, but otherwise gained no literary notoriety. His name usually becomes familiar when it is mentioned in conjunction with his band, The Mountain Goats. Yes, he is that guy – the lead singer and songwriter – who has been called one of the best lyricists of his generation. Even though Wolf in White Van was just published last month, it has already received a lot of attention and was nominated as a long-list finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction.

Wolf in White Van, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, tells the story of Sean Phillips, the creator of a completely text based, role-playing game called “The Trace Italian.” When he is sued by the parents of one of the players for causing the death of their daughter, Sean begins to reflect on what has led up to this point of his life, namely an incident that disfigured him. All readers are told is that it involved a gun; the rest of the story creates the mystery of the novel.

In the aftermath of the incident, Sean’s imagination flourishes, creating the game that becomes his life. The Trace Italian is a stronghold built in Kansas to protect the few remaining humans on Earth from the radioactive wasteland America has become. Sean receives letters from players explaining how they want to play the game, which he narrows down to a single choice and then mails the consequences of the choice back to them. “The Trace Italian” is Sean’s escape from thinking about his injury, but it is impossible to completely forget something that changes one’s life completely.

Each page is a new piece of the puzzle - explaining Sean’s family, his childhood, the trial, his life in isolation, his interactions with the players, and finally attempting to explain why exactly the incident occurred. As each piece is revealed, readers get closer to the truth of what happened.

Copies of Wolf in White Van can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and Powell’s Books. There is also a copy in the library, which will be returned shortly to the shelves and then available for everyone’s reading pleasure. To sum it all up: the story creates a windy path, is told non-linearly, can be a bit confusing, but is completely worth it. Within Darnielle’s prose, readers will be able to hear the lyricism and storytelling that makes his songs so successful. Sean’s story grows with each chapter, until readers feel as if they are the players searching for the Trace, but instead of a fortress, The Trace Italian is the secret of Sean’s life.

by Lily Frenette '18
lfrenette@gm.slc.edu

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Frenette reviews alumni Neely-Cohen's debut novel "Echo of the Boom"

Alumni/Author Maxwell Neely-Cohen '08. Photo courtesy Kathryn Greenbaum.

Alumni/Author Maxwell Neely-Cohen '08. Photo courtesy Kathryn Greenbaum.

When reading for fun, readers look for one of two things: the familiar or the novel. Each appeals in a different way. One reminds readers of their own life, so they can slip into the character’s shoes and imagine they are the one going on those  adventures. The other kind of story amazes readers, but they are left unable to relate to the character’s adventures. Maxwell Neely-Cohen crafts a story which imbues the unknown in the novel with a sense of familiarity, leaving readers with a sense that their lives could mirror that of the characters. He was also kind enough to answer some questions for The Phoenix about his new book.

"Echo of the Boom," Neely-Cohen’s first novel, follows four characters as they grow and interact in a high school setting during the War on Terror. While the story is extremely fascinating, it can be a bit confusing to keep track of the story with four leads. Even Neely-Cohen admits that writing the story was, “incredibly difficult,” and that he figured out the storylines, “just through brute force.”

Here is what you need to know to keep track of who is who: Steven knows more about bombs than any kid his age should, thanks to his attention to detail and ex-spy father. Efram is unable to connect with his surroundings in the aftermath of a family scandal. Chloe plays the role of the mean girl. She is a bit sadistic and hurts her friends just for the fun of it. Molly loses her mother in a tragic car accident and is thrust into a life of isolation with survivalists as her only companions. Though these lives seem unrelated, the connections between the characters keep readers engaged throughout the novel.

The inspiration for "Echo of the Boom" can be traced back to Neely-Cohen’s time at Sarah Lawrence: “Geopolitics, warfare, technology, music- these were things I was obsessed with while in college. It was also the younger siblings of some of my classmates who inspired me to write about contemporary teenagers in the first place.” He says nothing is based directly off of his SLC experience, but that he would, “really like to write something that somehow involves [it].”

There is no one overarching theme to the novel and that is part of what makes it appealing to so many people. “Some [people] really focus on what the book says about violence, the religiosity of nuclear weapons, the experience of growing up only knowing The War On Terror,” said Neely-Cohen. “Others really like how it approaches youth culture and technology and high school mayhem, and ignore the other stuff,” .

When asked which professors most impacted his writing, Neely-Cohen had a hard time pinning down just one. “Ernesto Mestre-Reed and Stefanie Sobelle” (both of whom no longer teach at Sarah Lawrence), “were massively influential on how I learned to tell stories. Philip Swoboda and Fredric Smoler gave me an amazing view of history. And my don, theoretical physicist turned Associate Dean of the College, Kanwal Singh, taught me a great deal about language and systems of thought.”

He also acknowledges another, unexpected, influence. “I was also very lucky to have freakishly talented classmates who taught me just as much as my professors.” But, with this being SLC, that is not too surprising. Everyone who goes here has a story to tell. It is almost more surprising if one learns nothing from one’s peers.

Despite how calm Neely-Cohen seems about his first novel, published by Rare Bird Books, he does confess to some new author jitters. “Mostly I'm just happy that anyone is reading it at all.”

Maxwell Neely-Cohen will be speaking on Oct 10, at the Housing Works Bookstore Café in NYC, as part of “Vol. 1 Brooklyn Presents The Greatest 3-Minute Suburban Stories.” Copies of "Echo of the Boom" can be found at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or Indiebound. The library doesn’t own a copy, but one can be requested through Interlibrary Loan. Pick it up and experience this intriguing story.

by Lily Frenette '18
lfrenette@gm.slc.edu

 

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.