write letters and burn CDs

I was looking up old CD burners the other day. Because of a Tori Amos song. Yes. The song "Pretty Good Year" appeared on an algorithmically generated playlist—a song I haven’t thought about or heard since I was fifteen—and I couldn’t get one of the lines in it out of my head: "And Greg he writes letters/And burns his CDs." It seemed too early to be talking about CDs burners so I wondered if she meant an actual bonfire of CDs. It turns out there were CD burners then, but now there is the mystery of Greg. Who is this guy?

Back to the googles.

Greg was a twenty-three year old in the north of England, who wrote a fan letter to her that said he just broke up with his girlfriend, his life is over, and he doesn't want to grow up to be a miner like his father. Am I actually going to admit in this newsletter that song lyric notes posted to a Tori Amos fanpage made me tear up this week? Yes. Yes, I am. It’s so funny and sweet and sad that kid who wrote a fan letter is all grown up now!

Greg who writes letters and was twenty-three when he wrote that letter is going to turn fifty soon. Is he still in the north? Does he work as a miner like his dad now? Does he have a son who doesn't want to grow up to be like him? Did Greg....vote for Brexit? Is Greg’s son DMing Billie Eilish right now about how much he hates his Brexit-voting dad? WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO GREG. Did he hold on to his tender Tori Amos-loving heart while working in the mines? Or did he escape?

I’m not exactly a Tori fan—well, not since I was fifteen—but I do like that song because she’s sort of making fun of him in a compassionate way. The answer is ungoogleable, but I hope things worked out for Greg in the end.

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With only twelve weeks left, I feel comfortable saying I’m (probably) not going to read a better new book this year than Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House. I had high hopes, the book is hyped as a book can be, and still I was astonished at everything she’s pulled off. It is complex while a pageturner, with all these moving parts that only ever reads as cohesive, a book only she could write that feels like the culture was crying out for it. It’s about abuse, while also about the many directions a story can be told; while also told in a beautifully vulnerable idiosyncratic voice. I’m so happy this book exists and that it is so good!

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I learned about The Road to Fame just this morning from my friend Casey. And I watched it immediately because I cannot resist any story about the perils and hopelessness of this kind of dream. It’s a documentary about a performing arts school in China putting on Fame the musical, as part of a competition to send some of the students to Broadway. Some of the students are extremely rich, some are extremely not; all are very talented (the school only accepts about 1% of its applicants.) It is as harrowing as one might imagine, befitting of the musical they perform. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Thanks for reading.

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