Reading and listening in retrospect

by | Feb 25, 2023 | Culture

Looking back, I was a weird teen with weird tastes. When I consider the development of my interests, I remember I went through so many erratic changes. In junior high, I went through the inevitable and cliché emo phase. Then, as high school rolled by, I adopted the persona of a precocious yet pretentious intellectual. I read The Catcher In the Rye one too many times, I reckon. Still, now that I’ve become a somewhat mature adult, I’d like to think that my tastes have stabilized. 

It’s time to revisit some of those favourites. These works shaped me, but they might not be as objectively good as I initially thought. 

Make Something Up: Stories You Can Unread – Chuck Palahniuk

If I could describe Chuck Palahniuk’s books in one word, it would be “shocking.” Palahniuk’s book Fight Club was what sparked my interest in his books. His writing was nihilistic and confrontational. Make Something Up is an anthology of short stories. I had read a similar anthology of short stories by Palahniuk, but I enjoyed the variety of the short stories from Make Something Up. All of them were bizarre. 

I decided to reread the most memorable short stories, including “Knock Knock”, “Zombies”, “Loser”, and “Cold Calling”. The short stories are satirical and revolve around taboos subjects like death, disease, identity, and sex. “Knock Knock” tells the story of a son trying to humour his dad with a terminal illness with off-colour humour. “Loser” is about a group of fraternity brothers taking drugs and attending a game show. Evidently, these short stories can be controversial and uncomfortable to read. After reading them, I felt a little bit of disappointment. The short stories are as shocking as I remembered, but there really isn’t any point to the short stories’ shocking elements. The book’s discussion of the taboo is not so much presented to the readers as it is beat into them. For this book, it seems as though Palahniuk tried a little too hard to be edgy. 

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys – Gerard Way and Shaun Simon

I had completely abandoned any affiliation I had with emo bands when I left junior high. However, I had not given up my appreciation for a comic associated with an emo band’s album concept. The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys or Killjoys is a comic book that expands on the fictional universe from My Chemical Romance’s Danger Days album. The comic’s setting consists of an apocalyptic society fighting against a powerful and ever-watching corporation. The comic’s ‘hero’ is a young teenage girl who is prophesied to be the messiah who will save the dystopian city.

Rereading it flooded me with fascination. Despite the number of times I’ve read the comic, it’s still as impactful as it was when I was younger. The comic is filled with vibrant colours and eye-catching imagery. The representation of several queer and BIPOC characters impresses me, considering the comic’s 2013 release date. 

Vacation – Baseball Gregg

The number of albums I discovered in high school is impossible to count. I listened to various music genres – punk, ska, indie rock, goth, alternative, prog rock. Baseball Gregg’s indie surf pop album was something I listened to during my bus commutes in the wintertime while staring out the window. When it ended, I would replay it. 


Vacation’s tracks fall into either of the following categories: enjoyable or mediocre. The album’s most attractive feature is its use of the synthesizer. Unfortunately, the vocals – safe, forgettable, and inexperienced. Vacation is like if the indie genre and The Beach Boys shook hands and made an album. Despite its bright Californian sound, there’s something undoubtedly sad about the album. My appreciation for Vacation comes from a place of melancholic nostalgia.

Automatic For The People – R.E.M.

R.E.M. is a guilty pleasure. So many people in my life dislike the band. One of my friends hates Michael Stipe’s “whining” and compares it to Gord Downie’s singing style. Yet, I used to walk to the library and borrow this album. I ask myself, was this album any good? I’ve been postponing a re-listen out of fear that I’ll ruin the fond memories I have of the album. 

The album is not as bad as I had feared. Tracks like “Try Not to Breathe” and “Drive” are hypnotic and contain clever instrumentation. Then, you have tracks like “Everybody Hurts” that will have you instantly gritting your teeth as you try not to think of its ironic use in TV and film. This album’s a mixed bag, but I’ll die arguing that R.E.M. has some fantastic songs in their discography (Automatic For The People, included). 

There’s some benefit in revisiting albums and books that you’ve previously worshipped. Even if it leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, you’ll have a new understanding of your tastes — both new and old.

Joelle Fagan

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