Tag: Pop Culture

Time for some Cultural Studies

Posted August 17, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Education / 4 Comments

ms marvelWhile writing a review for Ms. Marvel: No Normal I came to the burning realisation that I don’t know how to review art work. As a result of this realisation, I had to leave out any thoughts of the art. This got me thinking, I have a book blog that has been a great tool for developing my skills in reviewing and talking about literature. This blog sadly still gets neglected a little too much but I think I can make use of it for developing my skills.

Knowledge Lost was created to allow me to talk about what I have learnt and I can apply them into a blog post. So I have to wonder why I am not trying to socially critique all things pop-culture. Thanks to two recent books I’m starting to see issues relating to feminism (The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss) and sexuality (Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith) in everything I see. I’ve decided to practice these skills and start critiquing movies, TV shows and obviously art. The goal is to improve my writing skills in these areas and gives me an excuse to look more into pop-culture.

I have plans to talk about a few topics already, so I’m hoping that this blog is going to be neglected less. If you read my book blog you may have seen my manifesto where I have decided to write every day. So stay turned, it might not be as educational as before but this blog is now my new playground to practice and develop my abilities. I think the term for this is cultural studies, it is very similar to literary criticism but it applies to all things related to pop-culture.

The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss

Posted July 19, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

The Fictional Woman by Tara MossTitle: The Fictional Woman (Goodreads)
Author: Tara Moss
Published: Harper Collins, 2014
Pages: 352
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Tara Moss is probably best known as a person you hate; she seems to succeed in everything she puts her mind to. Starting her career early at 14 as a model, she always dreamed about being a writer. People don’t encourage others to be writers but they do tell girls that they should be a model. Eventually she did and it took her around the world and taught her so much; the experiences may not have been all good but it helped shape her life. Eventually she did start writing and her Makedde Vanderwall become a huge success and she created this character as a way to explore her interests in forensic science, psychology and other topics. Now with nine fiction novels under her belt Moss is giving us her first non-fiction book, The Fictional Woman.

The title comes from the idea that people tend to dismiss and stereotype others. Tara Moss is no stranger to this; she even took a polygraph test to prove she wrote her books. While this book starts off as a memoir it is important to know that this is a social critique on the world and feminism. The book begins as a memoir to provide context, an understanding of Tara Moss’ struggles and her life helps to see where The Fictional Woman is coming from. Historical context is also an important part of understanding feminism as well, especially when it comes to gender equality and pop culture. There have been plenty of Spiderman (too many), Zorro and James Bond movies but there has never been a Wonder Woman movie. In literature, the female archetype stems from fairy tales and medieval fiction, heroines tend to face off another woman, often older and depicted as witches. Cinderella type stories require a man in order to live happily ever after and even chick-lit often portrays a gender inequality.

The Fictional Woman explores this imbalance in pop-culture and society and looks at where these archetypes come from. It is impressive to see the amount of research and information Tara Moss puts into this book; it really was eye opening. I highly recommend people read this book but I need to warn everyone it may contain triggers. I’m surprised to see that the imbalance is so prominent in today’s society and I am trying to make more of an effort to read a balance of authors. The problem I found is I tend to pick up books without taking notice on of the author, sure it sometimes easy to know their gender but I don’t research authors before starting a book. I try to make more of an effort and it is an area I need to work on.

I’m really impressed with Tara Moss, she seems to succeed in everything she does; sure I’m a little jealous that she is so talented but I still feel motivated. For those interested, I recently wrote a piece about an author event with Tara Moss on Boomerang Books if you are interested, I talk in a lot more detail about The Fictional Woman. I have never spent so much time thinking about feminism, I plan to do a lot more of it, even read some more books on the topic. I might even incorporate it into my critical reviews; it is an important topic that needs to be addressed.

Player One by Douglas Coupland

Posted October 6, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

Player One by Douglas CouplandTitle: Player One (Goodreads)
Author: Douglas Coupland
Published: Windmill Books, 2011
Pages: 246
Genres: Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Player One tells the story of five people trapped in an international airport during a global disaster. Over the next five hours, these lives are changed forever;  a single mother waiting for an online date, an airport cocktail lounge bartender, a pastor on the run, a cool blonde bombshell incapable of love and a mysterious person known as Player One. The novel follows the interactions of these five people as they react to the chaos as we slowly find out just what happened.

Douglas Coupland masterfully explores human interactions in the midst of a disaster as well as looking at things like human identity, religion and sociology in this sharp and to-the-point novel. Coupland is a bestselling author that writes some very easy to read post modernism and is often dealing with topics such as religion, Web 2.0 technology, human sexuality, and pop culture. This is my first Douglas Coupland novel but it isn’t the last of them. He reminds me a little of a modern Kurt Vonnegut with his philosophical approach to science fiction. Think a modern Cat’s Cradle where the disaster dealing with modern issues rather than those of the atomic age.

I’m finding this novel really hard to review because honestly, I don’t want to give anything away. This is the kind of novel you enjoy more if you don’t know too much about it. I don’t want to give the impression that this is a heavily philosophical novel, Coupland writes in a way that is accessible for readers of all ages. Almost like a YA novel but for a more serious reader you have all these ideas worth exploring; this is the stuff I have the most fun with. I just love a complex novel that seems basic on the surface but if you are willing, you can spend hours trying to analyse.

I don’t think this reads like a post-apocalyptic fiction, but it does feel like this is the right genre. The entire novel takes place in a bar over five hours and feels more like a postmodernist novel rather than anything else. I’m not going to spend time trying to work out what genres to fit this into but rather just wrap up this review.

I know this is a little short but I really don’t want to give too much away. Just tell people to try it, maybe not the type of novel for females but if you like Vonnegut or like the sound of this novel then maybe this is for you. I’ll be interested in hearing people’s thoughts on this book. I’m sorry this is a weird review but better to say too little than too much. It’s only 200 pages long so won’t take too much effort to try.

Reading Non-Fiction

Posted September 15, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

I’m not a non-fiction reader, much to my own disappointment. A few of the non-fiction books I have read have been good and the book that inspired me and turned me into a reader was in fact a non-fiction book. Recently I’ve been inspired with an idea; this idea will require a lot of non-fiction reading and research. So I need to motivate myself in becoming a bigger non-fiction reader.

My research will require some reading up on philosophy, art history and maybe even pop culture which will be good for my blog Knowledge Lost and hopefully will give me some new posts for that poor neglected site. Here is what I need, I want to become a better non-fiction reader so I would love some recommendations of books that I might be interested in and are really interesting reads. It doesn’t have to be related but that would be a bonus; I just want some motivation and I hope some great recommendations will help. Also I need tips and advise to become a non-fiction reader. Do audiobooks make for a good way to get through a non-fiction book?

My idea may never be realised but I feel inspired to research it, even if it takes me a lifetime. My goal to become a non-fiction reader will hopefully be a result in this inspiration. My goal is to read at least one non-fiction a month; this challenge may turn me into the type of reader I want to become. I love learning new things but I need to force myself into reading those non-fiction books. One of the biggest problems is working out how to review these books, so I might just do a mini review or something in order to take some of my pressure off.

I’m not going to tell you about my idea but I will give you a list of books I plan to read; this is a very random list but these books I hope will give me some inspiration and guide me down different paths that might help. I know some of these books will be a big help, others are just interesting or books on my shelves already that might help in one form or another.

  • Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder by Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss
  • If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland
  • Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo
  • The Culture Club by Craig Schuftan
  • The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick
  • The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan
  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas G. Carr
  • You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney
  • Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry’s Greatest Generation by Daisy Hay

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu

Posted May 4, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Young Adult / 0 Comments

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani BoianjiuTitle: The People of Forever Are Not Afraid (Goodreads)
Author: Shani Boianjiu
Published: Hogarth, 2012
Pages: 320
Genres: Young Adult
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Lea, Avishag and Yael grow up in a small town on the Israel/Lebanon border leaving normal teenage lives. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid tells the story of these three normal Israeli girls from passing notes in school, talking about boys to turning eighteen and being conscripted into the army. Winner of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” authors to watch list in 2011, Shani Boianjiu’s debut novel is a coming of age novel unlike any before. Growing up in this intense war torn world changes everything, even for three normal teenage girls.

First thing I would like to say is I was hugely impressed with The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, I never expected to find a New Adult novel that offers so many different elements. While this seems to be marketed as a Young/New Adult novel, I think this is because the old “coming of age” formula seems to go hand and hand with these two genres. Though this is so much different; these three girls are plucked from their normal teenage lives, put into the army and forced to grow up rather quickly.

There are some really interesting themes throughout this novel. Firstly there are the major themes of growing up as an Israeli girl and conscription, and Shani Boianjiu is the voice of experience here; at the age of 18, she entered the Israeli Defence Forces and served for two years. So you get the sense that maybe this novel is semi-autobiographical but not knowing much about the author I wonder which of the three girl’s best resembles her. Though I have a feeling that Lea, Avishag and Yael all have an element of Boianjiu in them; I like how she has the three different personalities within the book to help show the how war really effects a person.

This brings us to the theme of War; while for the most of the book they are living in a perpetual state of war, the conflict between Israel and Lebanon still puts them into real danger. Though the reader has to ask themselves if eighteen too young to deal with war; they are still in a state of self-discovery when they are thrown into such an extreme situation. I know it is part of their heritage but when you talk about war and even RPG children (“children who tried to shoot RPGs at soldiers and ended up burning each other because they were uninformed, and children”) you really have to wonder how old is old enough to deal with war.

Finally, the book looks at the influence western society has on the Middle Eastern culture; I’m sure girls thought about boys and sex but there is a definite changing that comes through in the novel. References to Dawson’s Creek and Mean Girls and the whole attitude towards relationships (breaking up every week) and sex really feels more like something from an American teen drama than an Israeli town. I don’t know much about their culture but I know enough about pop-culture and the difficulties that western society has on Muslim and Jewish heritage to notice this real culture clash.

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid really is an interesting New Adult novel; it is smart and thought provoking and yet it’s really funny as well. I remember the cheesy lines made me chuckle like the idea of a mother not wanting her daughter to have a party because she was worried that her friends will break her hymen. All these elements seem to work together to produce a novel that is both easy to read and unlike anything I’ve read before.

I was never sure what to make of The People of Forever Are Not Afraid but I’m glad I had a chance to read this novel. It’s a debut novel that shows us that Shani Boianjiu is an author to watch in the future. It’s not without its flaws, the repetitiveness got to me a little but in the end all the good aspects of this book outshined any problems. It’s the type of novel that made me want to turn back to page one and start reading it again. I’m not a fan of Young Adult and New Adult novels in general but I can’t help but recommend this one to all readers.

Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood

Posted October 4, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Fantasy / 0 Comments

Geekomancy by Michael R. UnderwoodTitle: Geekomancy (Goodreads)
Author: Michael R. Underwood
Series: Geekomancy #1
Published: Pocket Stars, 2012
Pages: 255
Genres: Fantasy
My Copy: eBook

Buy: Amazon (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I’ve never really been able to get into Fantasy too well but occasionally I find an urban fantasy novel that I really enjoy. Geekomancy tells the story of Ree who discovers that she is a Geekomancer; a human that derives supernatural powers from pop culture. One day she is a struggling screen writer work as a barista at a comic shop, the next she is discovering the town’s magical flip-side as well as her own abilities. Ree needs to help Eastwood in solving the mysterious increase of teen suicides while discovering who she is.

While this is a typical urban fanstasy novel this offers so much more; I would say a must read for any geeks out; there are many references to The Princess Bride, Buffy, Firefly, Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, Doctor Who, Sherlock and the list goes on and on. Many people talk about this book as a book that Kevin Smith would write if he wrote urban fantasy; while I see the homage towards Kevin Smith, I also feel like this is homage to Joss Whedon as well.

In some parts I think Michael R. Underwood did step into the realm of the cliché but overall I think this book was a fast pace geek-out and any predictability was overshadowed by the millions of pop culture references. This is the kind of book I would recommend to anyone looking for another nerdfest after finishing Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This book would have been so much fun researching and Michael R. Underwood said he has been researching this book his whole life but let’s face it; it would be a good excuse to watch the entire series of Buffy or Sherlock again or to play some more video games like Crimson Skies.

Geekomancy had a nice balance between pop culture and urban fantasy to satisfy a reader like myself who is a little wary of reading fantasy novels. This novel is the beginning of what seems like a great series and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel. While the plot is fairly standard, what Michael R. Underwood has done with the pop culture references and blending humour and fantasy elements into this book has resulted in a fast paced enjoyable nerdfest.

Did Pop Culture Destroy Literature?

Posted April 8, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Culture, Literature / 0 Comments

Isn’t it interesting that in pop culture, we think we know icons like Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. We know their basic story but until we read the books that made these characters famous, and then we realise that we have missed so much of the concepts and story.

Frankenstein is referenced  in countless  movies but ia most commonly associated with the monster, not the doctor. It’s just a tale of a monster terrorising the villages and  until you read the book you don’t understand it at all. I remember reading Frankenstein for the first time and discovering this isn’t a book about a monster.  This is a book about society and how we judge and treat people.

When it comes to Dracula, we all know the story of the Vampire, Count Dracula from Transylvania, but we don’t have a clue on just how interestingly the book was written. I went into the book thinking I was going to be reading a novel, but I discovered a series of letters, diary entries and ship logs that told this story in such an unsuspecting way.

Now unfortunately pop culture has ruined the plot of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde but it has left out a lot of the interesting concepts. The book explores the idea of separating the Good from the Evil in the doctor, who was trying to explore the evil inside of himself and still live with his conscience clear. Or maybe it’s a story about living life with split personalities.   There are so many interpretations, but all in all its a book about the duality of human nature.  Pop Culture just tells a story of a doctor discovering this potion by accident.

The interesting thing is that no one really knows where Mr Hyde goes all those nights and what he does. This has lead to many of conversations through the ages trying to work out what Mr Hyde was up to; Some say it’s a metaphor for Homosexuality but I believe it’s open for personal interpretation. So the reader can make his own discovery on their evil side.