Monday, August 27, 2012


'Pin Picks: The Ninth Circle

We're back! There was a tiny hiatus from 'Pin Picks to accommodate a brief flurry of poetic preoccupation, but nothing could keep me from fulfilling your desires and wishes for more than a week or two. Maybe three, if there was an extinction-level event.

Actually, if there was an extinction-level event pending, I would absolutely have a tremendous themed reading list for the end of the world. A little On the Beach, a little Margaret Atwood, a little Philip K. Dick...

Well, we'll wait until we're sure the Earth is falling into the Sun to break the glass on that one. Today, let's make Liz happy. Liz, WHAT are your favorite books?

1. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole – Lord knows we've had loads to say about Toole, so let's just stick to what Toole suggests about YOU. You like your books a little on the gonzo side. A bit rococo. Just on the verge. And funny, obviously. You need some funny.

2. Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh – Hey, let's get serious. This book is really important. To most of us, probably? Not just the nerdy writers, either. Fitzhugh gets at the ideas of self-loathing and self-reproach in a horrible, horrible way. God, right, and that MOMENT when Harriet sees the faces of all those kids who got their filthy little hands on her journal. And why don't we have dumbwaiters, anymore? What a great name, too. Think about it! Dumbwaiters. Wow. (Diaries, descriptions, dark humor.)

3. Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain, Charles R. Cross – Yeah, we can handle your needs. Most definitely. Music and wildness and fame. Regret? Yeah.

Okay! We're getting a reading. It's gotta be Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, by Legs McNeil. UNFFF, this book. Literally everything Iggy Pop says in this book should be on a t-shirt. The Sex Pistols. NICO. Nico.

Please Kill Me is completely, riotously hilarious. And ridiculous. You don't need to care about punk, I should mention. Or drugs, or sex, or Lou Reed, or elaborately-shredded t-shirts. It might help, but anyone would be entertained by this book. Laura Bush would be entertained by this book. Mitt Romney would chuckle. Trust. Trust me. C'mon.

38 Comments / Post A Comment


I am happy this is back!!!


I was really surprised,thx@k


Yup, adding Please Kill Me to my Goodreads now.

Cat named Virtute

Harriet the Spy!!! Yes, love this, for all the reasons you mention and more, Nicole. So much to say about wanting to be an individual while wanting to belong and be loved. Ahhhh, I want to go dig out my copy now.


@Cat named Virtute So good! I liked her so much that I did a fit of spying one afternoon after reading it. Turns out my neighbors basically weren't home ever.

Lily Rowan

I was totally obsessed with Harriet -- went as her for Halloween one year (no one got it) -- and reread the book recently, and now I'm not sure why I was so into her! Poor Harriet. I guess I think it's interesting that my idol wasn't more aspirational or something.

Cat named Virtute

@Lily Rowan I'm actually thinking of going as Harriet this year. I want to get a group of lady friends together and go as a gang of YA heroines (and antiheroines in the case of Harriet I suppose). A whole posse of Matildas and Francie Nolans and Turtle Wexlers and Pippi Longstockings and Lyra Belacquas.

Lily Rowan

@Cat named Virtute Turtle Wexler, OTOH, is the BOMB.

That's such a fun idea!


@Cat named Virtute Turtle Wexler! Be careful, though, if you're her for Halloween - not everyone will get the joke when you kick them hard in the shins.


@Cat named Virtute I went as Pippi Longstocking several times as a child, so if anyone needs instructions re: how to put their hair into sticky-outy braids using a coathanger, just let me know.

Beatrix Kiddo

@Ophelia I went as Pippi too! Nobody knew who I was.


@Ophelia Pippi Longstocking! I can't believe there are people who know that character, outside the Scandinavian peninsula (or are you from there?). Never went as her, since there's no Halloween here but still trying to be her every chance I get.


@Cat named Virtute Smart of you to try to spy on people! I just carried a notebook around my house for a few days and got bored and jealous of Harriet. Best NYC YA novel after "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler," IMHO...


@Cat named Virtute and @Ophelia I was under the impression that everyone everywhere knows who she is because Pippi Longstocking is one of the most badass characters of all time. She keeps a horse in the house! and drinks coffee! and is constantly unsupervised while her pirate father collects gold or whatever!
But anyway, I thought she was pretty big in the 80's at least? Maybe "kids today" don't know?

Nicole Cliffe

I have a treat for you tomorrow, so table this conversation!


@Cat named Virtute
That is a fantastic Halloween idea! You should host a party and throw it open to everyone. I would come as Laura Ingalls, in scrappy pig-bladder-kicking mode, though I would secretly be tempted to come in ride-on-hot-boy's-cutter-with-my-calling-cards mode.


@Beatrix Kiddo me TOO! Lots of people would guess Anne of Green Gables, which is someone else I was for Halloween at least once.
Then in high school I dyed my hair red.


@Cat named Virtute how about the girls from Sharon Creech novels?? I forget their names, but I remember Alex Cheevy's from Absolutely Normal Chaos and of course Walk Two Moons GAH those stories!


@matilda Salamanca Tree Hiddle!

Cat named Virtute

@matilda Ha, I have done all these things (Pippi costume, Anne costume, dye hair red in high school).

@Helvetica Pippi is pretty well known in Canada and the US--the books were all translated into English, and there was a really corny movie version (that features fairly prominently in an episode of Gilmore Girls also).

But talk of Scandinavian children's characters is REALLY making me want to assemble a group to go as Moomins and friends for Halloween some year.

Cat named Virtute

Also my brain has been ascribing A Confederacy of Dunces to John Irving all this time, and I only just realized that now. BRAINS.


uggghhhhh.... I don't get the Nico love. She purposely got her son addicted to heroin, for god's sake. And, I'm pretty sure my neighbor's dog has a better voice. But, Please Kill Me is an awesome book, as are Confederacy of Dunces and Harriet the Spy.


Oh, Harriet the Spy! Again a book where kids are very independent at a young age while living in a huge city. I love tomato sandwiches to this day because of Harriet. Also, dumbwaiters. I assume there are no more dumbwaiters because too many kids were trying to be like Harriet and got hurt. Kind of like public play grounds and teeter totters?


@Yarnybarny Tomato sandwiches are fucking delicious.

maybe partying will help

I know everyone here hates Chuck Klosterman, and I UNDERSTAND, but I love Fargo Rock City so much.

Please Kill Me is really great too and I read it in high school partly because I wanted to be a punk but mostly because it was mentioned on Gilmore Girls.

Also I am really glad Pin Picks has returned! Still my favorite feature. XD

Nicole Cliffe

@maybe partying will help Hey, Chuck Klosterman's essay on Billy Joel is great.

maybe partying will help

@Nicole Cliffe

It is! And his essay on Val Kilmer almost made me like Val Kilmer.

Porn Peddler

holy shit heavier than heaven was so good. I read it A BILLION YEARS AGO and now I feel like I should do it again.

I saw this and read "Pin Picks: The Ninth Circuit" and was going into angry fangirl mode because JUDGE KOZINSKI IS THE BEST, GUYS! WHY WAS HE NOT INCLUDED, HE IS A GREAT ESSAYIST!


Completely bypassing the point: my goodness, I just read On The Beach and cannot get it out of my head. It is beautiful and brutal.

I usually long for more books that don't play to redemption arcs/eventual reconciliations or understandings/happy endings, but the way this book dashes your hopes repeatedly while painting such realistic (we're all quite boring and/or crazy really, guys, let's be honest) characters has got all under my skin. Bleak books must be taken in moderation, it seems.


@Apocalypstick Ooh, I have Feelings about bleak books. (Although I have not read On the Beach.) I just read one bleak book that worked REALLY well, and one that...did not. The reading of the good one just super-emphasized the badness of the bad one.


@frigwiggin What was the good one? Did it also taunt you with the idea of resolution then remain gloriously straightforward in its bleakness, or was it more The Road steady soulcrushing with not even a glimpse of hope?

cecil hungry

@Apocalypstick On the Beach is my go-to depressing book, for when I WANT to cry uncontrollably... the part with the radio is where it really gets me. Such an amazing book.


Please Kill Me is one of the best music history books ever, it might actually be in my top 3 of any genre.

Oh, squiggles

I really wanted to do this, but I cannot pick 3 favorite books. I have mentally been debating this since this series was first suggested, and it honestly seems impossible.

Frankly, I need more than one new book recommendation. I need a new author recommendation. I have always loved reading prolific authors, and getting a new book every couple of years or so. But some of my favorites have unfortunately died, or their writing has changed, or I have changed and I am not as interested in their new stuff.

Could I get a recommendation for a new author, if I list my favorites?

maybe partying will help

@Awesomely Nonfunctional

Do it do it! I might not be any help, but surely someone will be!

Nicole Cliffe

@Awesomely Nonfunctional Most definitely.


Hey, this was my list! I haven't read Please Kill Me but it's totally up my alley. It's amazing how much you got about me just from three books that seemed (to me) completely unrelated. Everyone should do this! Thanks a lot Nicole!

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