The author of the widely praised Wordslut analyses the social science of cult influence: how cultish groups from Jonestown and Scientology to SoulCycle and social media gurus use language as the ultimate form of power.
What makes “cults” so intriguing and frightening? What makes them powerful? The reason why so many of us binge Manson documentaries by the dozen and fall down rabbit holes researching suburban moms gone QAnon is because we’re looking for a satisfying explanation for what causes people to join—and more importantly, stay in—extreme groups. We secretly want to know: could it happen to me? Amanda Montell’s argument is that, on some level, it already has . . .
Our culture tends to provide pretty flimsy answers to questions of cult influence, mostly having to do with vague talk of “brainwashing.” But the true answer has nothing to do with freaky mind-control wizardry or Kool-Aid. In Cultish, Montell argues that the key to manufacturing intense ideology, community, and us/them attitudes all comes down to language. In both positive ways and shadowy ones, cultish language is something we hear—and are influenced by—every single day.
Through juicy storytelling and cutting original research, Montell exposes the verbal elements that make a wide spectrum of communities “cultish,” revealing how they affect followers of groups as notorious as Heaven’s Gate, but also how they pervade our modern start-ups, Peloton leaderboards, and Instagram feeds. Incisive and darkly funny, this enrapturing take on the curious social science of power and belief will make you hear the fanatical language of “cultish” everywhere.
Reveals the diversity crisis in children’s and young adult media as not only a lack of representation, but a lack of imagination
Stories provide portals into other worlds, both real and imagined. The promise of escape draws people from all backgrounds to speculative fiction, but when people of color seek passageways into the fantastic, the doors are often barred. This problem lies not only with children’s publishing, but also with the television and film executives tasked with adapting these stories into a visual world. When characters of color do appear, they are often marginalized or subjected to violence, reinforcing for audiences that not all lives matter.
The Dark Fantastic is an engaging and provocative exploration of race in popular youth and young adult speculative fiction. Grounded in her experiences as YA novelist, fanfiction writer, and scholar of education, Thomas considers four black girl protagonists from some of the most popular stories of the early 21st century: Bonnie Bennett from the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Rue from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC’s Merlin, and Angelina Johnson from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Analyzing their narratives and audience reactions to them reveals how these characters mirror the violence against black and brown people in our own world.
In response, Thomas uncovers and builds upon a tradition of fantasy and radical imagination in Black feminism and Afrofuturism to reveal new possibilities. Through fanfiction and other modes of counter-storytelling, young people of color have reinvisioned fantastic worlds that reflect their own experiences, their own lives. As Thomas powerfully asserts, “we dark girls deserve more, because we are more.”
The Horologicon: A day’s jaunt through the lost words of the English Language
I’ve just finished reading this book. The author doesn’t recommend reading it straight through, instead treating it as a reference work to be consulted at the appropriate hour of the day, unless one wishes to go mad. I used to read dictionaries for fun (don’t ask) so, really, it’s quite probable that I am already mad. That being the case, I’ve spent the past couple of morning’s making my way through this witty volume.
I laughed like a drain all the way through. Mark Forsyth is a clever writer; his talent for finding and using obscure words is truly remarkable. No longer will I suffer from utcare; I shall rise from my bed and take up this little volume. And when Bulls’s Noon comes I shall probably still be looking through it.
I really must get his first book, The Etymologicon; if it’s as good as The Horologicon I am certain of a good read.
I heartily recommend this book if you’re interested in the lost words of the English language, ever feel tongue-tied, in need of new ways to insult your boss without getting the sack, or just want a new word to say that you, or somebody else, are drunk.
Review: Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Frances Lincoln Limited Publishers
While I was in the British Library on Monday I saw a few books about Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice, and being a little bit of a Janeite I couldn’t resist buying this book for the train journey home. It is a fairly substantial hardback of 225 pages illustrated with drawings and photographs from the various editions of the book and film/tv adaptations that have been made. It took me a bit longer than the train journey to read, but certainly made the time pass agreeably.
The contents cover everything from the writing of Pride and Prejudice to the characters and various adaptations in books and films, and the ‘selling’ of Pride and Prejudice. Who knew you could get skateboards with quotes on them?
It is fairly obvious that the book was published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. The writer is clearly enamoured of her subject and holds definite opinions about it. It is enjoyable to read, and covers many interesting topics. The book is informative and would probably have been useful to my younger self when I was studying Pride and Prejudice for my GCSE English Literature. I particularly found the discussion of translating P&P interesting. The fine irony of Jane Austen, her wicked wit, cannot be easy to translate, although anyone who gives it a go deserves a medal for trying.
However, there is a slight feeling of snobbery and prejudice against anyone who dares to adapt the original (personally I like ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ – it’s funny) and the authoress also becomes repetitive at times. We all know P&P is a great book; you don’t need to tell us a dozen times a chapter.
Borrow it from the library if you’re studying Pride and Prejudice, only buy this book if you really can’t resist.