Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged relationships

Marie and Bruce (4/8/11)

When I was a kid I used to stay out of sight when my parents fought, fearful that their vitriol would extend to me. But I always listened, eager to understand the conflict. So it is with Marie and Bruce, Wallace Shawn’s look at the most dysfunctional of dysfunctional relationships. The play begins even before a word of dialogue is uttered. As the audience enters the theater, Marie (a furious and pained Marisa Tomei) and Bruce (a disaffected and cool Frank Whaley) are lying on a large, ill-made bed in center stage. He’s asleep.

Love Translated

Love Translated follows a group of men from North America and Europe as they tour the Ukraine on a trip organized by an international dating service that links male clients with “letter order brides.” Over the course of their ten-day trip, the men travel to several cities, judge a beauty pageant of women who have joined the agency, attend social events, and go on “one-on-one” dates (accompanied, normally, by a translator).

WTF? Women: How to Survive 101 of the Worst F*#-ing Situations With the Ladies

The first time I flipped through this book, I felt like throwing it in the trash. The humor is crude and the tone misogynistic. But then I sat down and read it more carefully (not that it necessarily requires a careful reading). And I discovered that reading it was a lot like watching the performance of a stand-up comedian.


Don’t let the relationship-centric plot fool you; Monogamy is not a chick flick. In fact, it’s one of the more interesting films I’ve seen that explores fears about committing oneself to just one person for the rest of one’s life, from a wholly male perspective. Typically these kinds of heteronormative man-boy treatises on marriage phobia are treated with ample doses of trite and predictable humor.

The Summer Without Men

The basic storyline of The Summer Without Men, while not startling or original, seemed full of possibility: husband cheats, wife goes to her childhood home for a respite to recover, and along the way makes potentially hopeful discoveries about herself. I anticipated a bitter beginning, full of hurt feelings, with some healing by the end. However, either the moment of redemption never arrived, or it was obscured by the lack of clarity in the narrative.

Give Me Liberty

Give Me Liberty, by Valerie Joan Connors, is terrible. The book reads like someone narrating a Lifetime movie: one-dimensional, wooden, and worst of all, boring. You can guess what is going to happen well before it does, no characters are anything but exactly what you expect them to be, and the writing is pedestrian.

Love Will Find a Way

Lola Bleu, aka twenty-two-year-old R&B singer Janell McCracken, has a fine voice, so it’s a shame she doesn’t have better material to showcase it on her debut album, Love Will Find a Way. While some of the songs have catchy melodies, excessive instrumentation detracts from and sometimes obscures Bleu’s voice.

Connected: The Suprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives — How Your Friends' Friends' Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do

Connected is firstly an enjoyable read. There is something compelling about seeing the familiar, mundane details of our every day social life studied from a completely different perspective. Social networks are huge and for the most part we have no idea where we fit into them or just how far they reach. In a way this is Christakis and Fowler's point. What most of us think of as our social network are the people we know and see on a regular basis.

Blood From A Stone (1/22/2011)

Tommy Nohilly’s first play, Blood From A Stone, treads the familiar terrain of family dysfunction, zeroing in on the return of oldest son Travis [played with anguished complexity by Ethan Hawke] to the family’s ramshackle Connecticut home. What exactly ails this prodigal child is a mystery. We know that he is jobless, broke, single, and addicted to pain killers, but the demons that hover near him are never fully revealed. At first, the reasons he’s returned home are also unclear. Is he looking for solace? Hoping for a financial handout?

Blue Valentine

Let me just go right out and say it, Blue Valentine is one of the best movies of the year. It is a major accomplishment for the actors (Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) and the director (Derek Cianfrance).


Brittany: I’m one of those lit geeks who has long loved Jonathan Franzen. I read How To Be Alone on a solo trip to Japan when I was twenty, and it particularly spoke to me as an introverted writer. The better part of a decade later, I’m still so infatuated with that particular collection—though I’ve also read Franzen’s three previous novels, memoir, numerous pieces in The New Yorker, and his longtime partner Kathryn Chetkovich’s Granta essay “Envy” before it was so publicly associated with Franzen—that it was no stretch to know I’d like Freedom. I’ve also read a lot about Franzen’s process as a writer, and frankly, it seems few people have the commitment to churn out the type of work he produces. That doesn’t mean I think it’s above critique; it’s just that I admire his work ethic and generally, the end result.

The Memory of Love

The Memory of Love is a slow and beautiful book. I'm not the biggest fan of art that proceeds at such a deliberate pace, but this is definitely at the top of the heap for such books; the descriptions are lovely and precise, every detail picked out with absolute care. I loved the representations of African life, which felt honest and authentic.

Sex, Power and Consent: Youth Culture and the Unwritten Rules

I have been always interested in the problems, points of view, and so much more in the lives of young people; I also decided at the ripe age of twenty that at some point in my life I was going to be a lecturer! Despite educating teenagers (and being taught by them) for the last twenty years and more, I have not lost my enthusiasm for knowing and guiding them from the perspective of what youngsters of eighteen to twenty consider an ‘old’ wise woman! How do young people live their lives these days? Do they have the same problems that I had when I was eighteen?

Going Away Shoes

The protagonists of Jill McCorkle’s exciting collection of stories, Going Away Shoes, are middle-aged heterosexuals deep in the doldrums of life’s disappointments. Whether because of a stalled career, a divorce, a death, or simply the exhaustion born of juggling family, work and social obligations, these are women who’ve been battered by everyday tragedies and everyday pressures.


“When you [lack] words to make others understand your truths, you [stand] apart from the jabbering masses. You alone [possess] proof of your unique and involuted humanness, and through that, contact with something divine.” Our ability to experience pain is what makes us human, but it is our inability to describe pain that brings us close to god. In moments of great crisis, religious rituals provide us with the right words to say.

Why Don’t You Understand?: A Gender Relationship Dictionary

Is it just me, or should a person with designation “Dr.” in front of her name know the difference between sex and gender? True: language changes all the time and words gain new meanings. So, as American society becomes increasingly uptight when talking about sex (the act), sex (the anatomical distinction) has been replaced in our vernacular with a word that refers to the classic assumptions for social role play placed upon each sex: gender. (It would seem we’re the new Victorians.) This ambiguity isn’t the only issue I have with Dr.

Crow Mercies

When picking up a new poetry collection, I give it an initial read and then sit with it a while, thinking about whether any particular poems or lines stuck in my mind, or whether I had any specific feelings while reading. Sometimes I draw a big blank, which usually means that particular collection doesn't merit another read. Collections like Crow Mercies are different. Even during my first reading of this collection, I found myself stopping to reread poems again out of excitement. This is certainly the kind of book that ends up a permanent fixture on my bookshelf that I come back to again and again.

The Photograph

The Photograph begins with an old man slowly examining old photographs with his hands. The viewer feels almost intrusive watching the gnarled fingers pass over the pictures he knows so well that he need only touch their frames to bring the images to mind. The slow, tender motions of the old man are a direct contrast to the brash, young protagonist, Sita, who is introduced in the next scene.

Cold Snap: Bulgaria Stories

There is hardly anything more satisfying to read than well-crafted short stories. Cynthia Morrison Phoel’s debut collection of tales from Bulgaria intertwines the stories of several families living in fictional Old Mountain, many sharing a concrete post-Communist apartment building, neighbors in crumbling plaster houses; and often, surviving similar struggles in their attempts to find love and meaning in life and to escape the poverty they have always known.


“This night I was trying to describe what my orgasms were like, but I doubted if what I wanted to say would sound compelling to anyone but me...” explains Suzanne, before writing a letter to a convicted rapist who is serving his sentence in prison and whom she has established a relationship with. Maureen Gibbon’s Thief is the story of Suzanne, a complex woman trying to make sense of her own rape, while exploring her own sexuality.

Lily's Odyssey

This book is such an incredibly intimate look inside one woman’s life that I was almost ashamed of myself for reading it. The author’s voice is so true in its halting, neurotic narration that it was difficult to remember that this is a work of fiction. We first meet Lily when one of her abusers dies and the reader is gently led through her mind’s wanderings as she tries to make sense of her role as a victim of incest. From the outside, Lily could be seen as any other woman raised in the Catholic Midwest during the baby boom generation.

Jack Goes Boating

I had no idea that Phillip Seymour Hoffman had such a devoted fan base. Yeah, he won Oscars for his work in Capote and Doubt and he did liven up overrated stinkers like The Talented Mr. Ripley and Magnolia. Still, I was shocked by how many people streamed into the theatre to see his directorial debut, Jack Goes Boating. Nearly all the chairs in the 600-seat space were filled.

Going the Distance

When I first read about this film in the making, I was psyched. I’m a huge Drew Barrymore fan, and it appeared that finally, a romantic comedy was in the works that presented a more modern interpretation of male female relationships. It looked like it might actually include both sides of the story rather than just a fairy tale version of the woman’s desire to be desired. Mission accomplished… sort of.

The Big Bang Symphony: A Novel of Antarctica

Lucy Jane Bledsoe’s The Big Bang Symphony begins with one big bang and ends with another. A plane crashes on its way to McMurdo Station on Antarctica while carrying several of the continent’s summer residents, including Rosie Moore and Mikala Wilbo, two of the three female protagonists of the story. Everyone survives except for one unnamed woman; we find that her death and the crash subsequently inform the lives of the main characters, as we follow Rosie, Mikala, and Alice Neilson as they attempt to carry out their respective work on “the Ice.”

Not that Kind of Girl

Painting people into camps is really easy to do: either they’re good or bad, respected or mocked, smart or silly. For Natalie, high school—and life—is a pretty simple game of either/or. And she knows what she is: she’s a senior. She’s student council president. She’s going places. There’s no room for the other side, and definitely no room for the myriad shades of gray that make up the vast middle.


The first feature film of Lyès Salem, Masquerades is a lighthearted and quirky comedy about an Algerian gardener, Mounir Mekbek, who dreams of a life beyond the confines of his sleepy village. His arrogance combined with his “responsibility” for a narcoleptic younger sister, Rym, make him the laughingstock of his community. He is a misunderstood dreamer who has aspirations, but can’t quite seem to pull himself together to meet the goals he has set for himself.

Wise Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship

Wise Teacher, Wise Student by Alexander Berzin explores the intricate and complex relationship between Western students and Eastern teachers. This particular type of relationship has its own unique set of challenges due to language barriers, cultural divides, and occasionally conflicting expectations.

I'm Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog

Diana Joseph has weekly breakfast dates with her Satanist neighbor, a dog that tirelessly humps everything (including her petrified son), terrible relationships with men (including one that produced the previously mentioned son), and issues with her brothers.

Hannah Free

If LOGO and the Hallmark Channel had a baby, they would name her Hannah Free. The story goes like this: an aging lesbian couple, together for four decades, both now find themselves confined to the same nursing home, but unable to see one another.

Cotton’s Queer Relations: Same-Sex Intimacy and the Literature of the Southern Plantation, 1936-1968

As Michael Bibler mentions in the introduction to Cotton’s Queer Relations, it seems impossible that there could be enough material out there to serve as the basis for such depth of criticism on an incredibly narrow topic.