No Complaints #101: Peonies, Peaks and Puffing

Thanks for all your happy one hundredth wishes last week. Here’s to the next hundred. . .

Things to read

“Travel writing is traditionally concerned with the writer’s sense of belonging, or lack thereof – the spectacle of being somewhere new, the sense of displacement one feels. Focus on your own sense of self in a place where questions of belonging are at the heart of local politics and culture, however, and you risk misunderstanding the place entirely. Escaping is not a form of understanding, anyway.”

How does old-school travel writing fare in the internet age, when the people the writer has pronounced on can look up the article online and critique it? Email to Pocket.


“When I left Orthodoxy, there was some shock of re-entry into regular society, even though I never really left it. I had negotiated to keep a TV in my mother’s house, and my mother, may God and all the rabbis whose graves she prays over bless her a million times, understood that fundamentalism wasn’t something I could get behind. So I watched ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’, and ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘A Different World’ to see how regular secular Americans related to one another.”

Heart-rending stories, including the writer’s own, about leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Email to Pocket.


“Once the seed was planted in cultural discourse, Mary Sue accusations became impossible to stop –  the toxicity surrounding the term has spread far beyond fanfiction self-inserts. Not long after it was coined, ‘Mary Sue’ became any original female character in fanfiction; for decades, women have been reporting that they stopped writing original female characters, then female characters altogether, for fear of the ‘Mary Sue’ label.”

My friend Elizabeth’s piece about the changing place of the Mary Sue in fanfiction discourse is very good and you should read it. Email to Pocket.


“You know you’re going to have to spend about 30% of your income on peonies each year, and keeping that money  –  the money that is rightfully the peonies’ money  –  mingling with your ‘spendable money isn’t going to do you any favors. Set up a separate account and (try to!) dutifully make deposits throughout the year.”

I don’t know why but this piece about peonies really made me laugh. I blame the onset of spring. Email to Pocket.


“When we got back to my house, we walked into my bedroom, laughing about something or other. He asked, ‘What’s that number on the wall?’ I hesitated, then decided to tell the truth. ‘That’s how much I weigh.’ I’d been keeping a record ever since the last guy I dated told me I’d gotten too fat for him to reasonably be attracted to.”

I include this mostly as a reminder that there are good people in the world. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

S-TownI suppose? All the cool kids are talking about the new Serial show. I am not cool and am therefore reserving judgement until I’ve finished all 7 episodes. Meanwhile, please enjoy – as I did this week – June Whitfield as Miss Marple in a BBC radio version of At Bertram’s HotelIncidentally, I am very keen to read some criticism about the portrayal of class and nostalgia in this particular Agatha Christie story, so if you know where some is to be found, send it my way. (No Complaints readers are excellent purveyors of unlikely academic papers, I have learned.)


Things to watch

A short documentary about Diane Keaton’s clothes in Annie Hall.

A film about a Syrian refugee making a new home in Tennessee.

A fictive flight above real Mars.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

That was my head first.

The guest gif

Reading the news this week.

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

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THE END. See you next time!