The Paris Review answers a question about what books you should read to pick up girls. One guy answers it strategically:

“There’s a difference,” remarked one colleague, “between getting a girl to think you’re smart, and getting a girl to WANT to talk to you. The following are books that will make girls want to talk to you.

—Greatest pick-up book of all time is Just Kids by Patti Smith, because every girl has read it and they ALL want to talk about it.
—Any book ever written by Haruki Murakami
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
White Album by Joan Didion
What We Talk About, When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. (Don’t question it. Just trust.)”

And in corroboration, one fellow says: “If it means anything, the only time a girl ever sat down and started talking to me out of nowhere was when I was reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem in college.  Didion has an effect on people.”

They also ask girls on staff what kind of books a bro could be reading that would be hot, so they covered their bases. As I said on Twitter a little while ago, this is perhaps the best illustration ever of the ol’ Hot-Pretentious Scale. Any guy who, for instance, extols the virtues of Finnegan’s Wake is either lying or is to be avoided. But if he looks like Charlie Hunnam, well, you’d forgive it.

Anyway, originally I wrote this up with the tease headline and didn’t answer that vital question. So I cracked this thing back open. How do you pick up the womens?

The thing here is, you can’t be too obvious (Nicholas Sparks), you can’t be too obscure (some of the Paris Review choices, in my honest), and you can’t read too masculine (because otherwise, what stands out, really, if you’re reading Friday Night Lights or Hemingway). The idea is the thing where you stand there and think, “What is that guy doing reading that?” The second-look. So here’s a round-up of a few books that don’t blow to read and–I think–would at least give a lot of girls pause:

  • White Album by Joan Didion — he’s right about this. A lot of girls love Didion, and it’s pause-giving enough.
  • Tender Is the Night — another person in the post suggests picking a lesser novel from a well-known author, not that this is necessarily lesser, just, you know.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo – a classic with a revenge plot of passion (good interiority, good acknowledgment of intellect, without some pretentiousness/sensitivity overload)
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides — for the literary girls
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty — Western, obviously
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude — Love in the Time of Cholera seems too obvious, right? I might think a guy was sort of a cheese ball for that, even if I prefer that book to the other.
  • Wise Blood (or any of the short story collections by Flannery O’Connor)
  • A biography longer than 250 pages, not about an athlete or actor.

To the last bullet, if an objectively hot guy was sitting around reading Truman, smart girls would probably just pass out.

Despite my English degree and hard-ass elitist approach to reading novels, I’ve never read most of the books mentioned in the Review post. I have to say, I’m not exactly hurting to read a lot of them either. But I will gladly holler at strangers who are reading books I’ve read – if I can even see what people are reading.

In the circles of the Paris Review, I guess everybody’s reading gently worn vintage paperbacks purchased at some central used books store owned by an eccentric widower. I’m not. The only thing I’m reading not on my Kindle is the Maraniss biography, because it was given to me for free that way.

Mark Blankenship hit on the side effects of the Kindle last year–the death of the casual book conversation–and Megan McArdle too, talking about the way you could discover a book, at a beach house or on your parent’s shelves and can’t really when it comes to an e-reader. And thus the insularity marches on.

What then, Paris Review? What do you do with the blind approach?

*I’ve read the barest minimum of Didion so that wouldn’t work on me. But Lucky Jim, The Marriage Plot, The Age of Innocence, and Friday Night Lights probably would. What about y’all?


Magic Mike made a hell of a lot of money this weekend for an R-rated movie — $39.2 million — with 73 percent female audience. Magic Mike also only received a B Cinema Score rating (vs. Ted which scored an A-).

I was invited to a screening Monday, where enthusiasm was high, and then saw it again with two friends whose take was more tempered (and then other girls I know that saw it outright didn’t like it). And I think it’s probably an issue of marketing and expectations against the reality.

Like, I think people were expecting something where Magic Mike is the solution to this:

And while the film is many things, it really isn’t that.

The defense/pitch I was making in the basically 80-percent-male WFB office last week was: There is a lot of ridiculous stripper stuff, but it’s got some Boogie Nights to it, it’s got a lot of bro moments (Mike’s explanation for why 19-year-old Adam is working at the club: “Money, women, and a good time.”), and Olivia Munn wanders around topless in the second scene, the morning after a three-way with Mike and another girl. I don’t think there are actually a lot of guys who’d walk out of the movie and be like, “That was the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

But what that also means is that it’s not the solution to that equation above. The movie, like a lot of Steven Soderbergh movies, is preoccupied with the realities of certain pockets of capitalism. The film follows stripper, auto-detailer, construction-crew manager, and aspiring custom-furniture maker Mike into a loan meeting with a bank; it hits again and again his quest for equity in a new strip club to be launched in Miami; and, when something goes bad, the film has Mike dive into his savings to help somebody out. (This, incidentally, is how you know Channing Tatum is a real deal movie star: Both screenings I was in gave this collective groan when he starts counting out the bills.) It also circles a few realities of club drugs, and the general seediness of strippers.

I liked all that! Magic Mike offers a realistic Tampa, with people who work in real jobs, and struggle to make the right decisions (and, in one case, ultimately do). Matthew McConaughey begins as the goofy owner of the club, and turns somewhat sinister and pathetic as it continues–you might not care for that, I suppose, but he’s very good. I even liked Alex Pettyfer as the toolish college drop-out who Mike gets a job stripping, and Cody Horn as his hard ass sister.

Stripping itself isn’t all that sexy–it’s actually kind of weird, which I think a lot of girls maybe forgot–but Channing Tatum dancing is, and always will be. And that’s for whom this movie is an excellent showcase (which…I mean, that’s kind of what I care about, if I’m being honest). It’s not a goofy camp fest, really, but you do get the benefits of Soderbergh’s naturalistic approach, which suits Tatum, and the ever charming Mike dancing and flirting and making fun of people. That’s something, right?

Some actual (positive) reviews worth reading:

Peter Suderman on the Soderberghian elements of Magic Mike – i.e. the capitalism study, the normal jobs, the realistic Tampa.

Keith Phipps on the business of it all, as well.

Drew McWeeny on the Channing Tatum and Steven Soderbergh’s success here

Kurt Loder on the brass tacks of the movie

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So, Katie Holmes filed for divorce on Friday. It sounds all kinds of inane to insist this or any celebrity divorce could really be worth following, but this one deserves that ludicrous banner.

Right off: She filed for sole physical custody of her daughter. Whatever the expectation was with the arrangement they have, it was probably not sole custody for her. So it’s not going to be a gentle breeze and some Coke and rum here.

She also filed in New York; New York divorce courts are more likely to grant sole custody to a parent, apparently, rather than Californian ones, if the parents do not get along. There are also some tax surprise stabbings, apparently, with her filing there.

The latter point demonstrates some forethought here, and when you start lining up the pieces, the entire enterprise starts to look more like a fortified escape than anything.

Holmes is:

  • Back with her old representation from before she got together with Cruise (seven years ago).
  • Speaking through an attorney.
  • Renting an apartment in New York (unclear if that’s the apartment Cruise deeded to her last year or not), where she’s spent a fair, documented amount of time in the past year with her daughter.

She didn’t just throw this together last week, especially given the—more or less—surveillance she’s under from staffers inevitably connected to the ol’ Church of $cientology.

(And timing-wise, too: Rock of Ages was a harbinger of the Mid-Atlantic’s power situation this weekend.)

Everybody’s saying that it’s Scientology—that she was never on board, and now that the little girl is about to get thrown in that dunk tank, it was time to bed knobs and broomsticks on out of there. Makes sense: Holmes is from an upper-middle-class Catholic family in Toledo; her father is a divorce lawyer oh and also SCIENTOLOGY IS A CULT.

And that’s why this could turn real interesting real quick. Holmes is digging trenches. She forced her way out, right? Cruise doesn’t have the clout he had last go around—and Scientology’s more sinister elements are more documented. If this gets nasty enough, the full limits of Scientology could become an issue of public consumption. They won’t, because Cruise would settle before that. But they will absolutely come for her.

Everybody should want these jokers exposed—but at the very least, here’s hoping Katie Holmes can hold off the hordes to keep her daughter.

ETA: Jon Henke makes this excellent point on Twitter: “The big questions will be what the CofS has on Holmes, and how much Holmes is willing to play information war back.” It’s access, money, and blackmail that keeps everybody in line.

Also, everybody go read the Village Voice on this, who are the experts. They point out, which I left out up top: Nicole Kidman got screwed in her divorce when it came to custody.


What I did during prom

May 20, 2012

In my Secret Circle review a few weeks ago–episode entitled “Prom“–I noted that I never attended prom. What I left out, however, was what I did during my senior prom.

To Instagram the overall ambiance with words: During this period, I wore Birkenstocks daily and so frequently quoted Bill Simmons’ columns that sometimes my brother, years later, interrupts me with, “But, Katherine, what does the Sports Guy think?” I actually went 0-6 on high school dances when you roll in homecoming. That was a perfectly reasonable outcome, between what you could charitably call a surly and aloof temperament at the time and this general situation:

So, even if I had wanted to go, people weren’t exactly trying to talk me into prom.

Anyway, with enthusiasm disproportionate to the task, I instead opted to work on a photography class project.

Earlier in the year, I had actually won a regional award for my photography portfolio—all about the things we’d done growing up (spies, shootouts, superheroes), modeled by my brother and my friend John, presented on glossy fiber paper. Another girl from my school won a gold award as well; her portfolio featured her sister as a celebrity. So our projects were basically “my life lol,” which set us apart, since across all mediums, every other winning project was a grim, life-negating cannonball into the void, like they were standing on a diving board, whispered “Cannonball,” and then limply fell into a pit of crude oil. This is probably the reason we won awards. That lineup was a double-screening of Blue Valentine and Shame–by the end of it, you too would just stagger out, like, “Is there something with Channing Tatum in it maybe?”

After a year of work on that, we were allowed to shoot a color roll of film for a final nearing-graduation good time. I can’t exactly remember the point of this, but I decided I’d put literary quotes in unexpected places. The Beautiful and the Damned, East of Eden, and All the King’s Men were involved.

I hail from an area of affluence, where some Laguna Beach action blew up around prom season—kind of an elaborate shadow puppet routine for what you think 25 looks like at 18, using the means allotted. And, hey, fair enough!

My parents’ house sits on a hill, however, and if you open the front door, at 10 o’clock about 150 yards away, you can see a particular neighbor’s house. There, that night, was the base of operations of pre-prom photos and requisite prom hunger games.

Meanwhile, those 150 visible yards away, I am literally, literally, literally writing, “AND WE LOVE TRUTH” on the driveway in sidewalk chalk.

And not in small letters either!

This was a full-width, blacked-in letters situation, surrounded by a probably 4 ft. x 10 ft. white-chalk background. I’m out there lettering the most maudlin quote in the world, like laboring, covered in chalk, the Black Knee you get from kneeling on a driveway, and sweat. And it wasn’t just any lettering. I had a print-out of “And we love truth”—a quotation from All the King’s Men—in Times New Roman, so I could accurately blow the thing up as it would appear on the page. It was like a smoke signal dispatch from the unpopular. I might as well have been out there writing, “I AM NOT GOING OUT TONIGHT” or “IT REALLY CAN ONLY GO UP FROM HERE.”

Things were said, as my brother once told me. Probably by my parents, who had to be like, “Maybe we played this wrong.”

So that’s what I did during prom!

(And no regrets. YOLO, etc.)