In May of 2019, journalist Lili Anolik published a doozy of an article in Esquire chronicling “The Secret Oral History of Bennington: The 1980’s Most Decadent College”. This past September, Anolik turned that juicy piece into a season-long podcast called Once Upon a Time…at Bennington College, utilizing her previous research to explore themes of talent, fame, privilege, and excess more deeply. The piece and the podcast concern Gen-X literary stars like Bret Easton Ellis, Donna Tartt, and Jonathan Lethem, the Bennington class of 1986 who would go on to shape the face of literature in the 1980s and 90s. To recap: Ellis scandalizedwith Less Than Zeroand American Psycho, two works so vulgar and soulless (on purpose) that they sent older generations into a tizzy with concern for “the youth”. Tartt’s debut novel The Secret Historywas immediately dubbed a classic shortly after its release (and is a current TikTok sensation). Lethem gained fame with his National Book Award winning Motherless Brooklyn, which captivated Hollywood actor Edward Norton so thoroughly that he held the film rights for 20 years, finally releasing an adaptation in 2019.
But more than that, the podcast is about the glittery mystique of literary circles that flourished in the pre-social media age. This was a time when culturally resonant authors were treated like celebrities, scoring invites to the MTV Video Music Awards, for some reason. Reminiscing about Ellis’s launch into stardom as an enfant terrible, Bennington alumni recall the author’s glitzy college graduation party, which was attended by Andy Warhol (Jean-Michel Basquiat would make appearances at later parties as well). While all this glamorous success took place in New York, Bennington College, a small liberal arts school in Vermont, is key to these authors’ works, and is memorialized by its most (in)famous students. In Ellis’s The Rules of Attraction, the school is dressed up as “Camden College”, home to a host of despicable, ultra 80s characters. The Bennington of Donna Tartt’s world (this time called Hampden College) is one of old world Romance (capital R), a Brideshead-esque place of philosophy, decaying decadence, and not-so-secret drinking problems (the two might occupy the same universe: Ellis’s work mentions a group of students who “dress like undertakers”; presumably the Classics group in Tartt’s novel).
I am a huge fan of superhero stories and comics but I’ve recently fallen out of touch with all of the new releases and keeping up with single issues. Instead, I have slowly started to become obsessed with the new line of DC and Marvel original graphic novels aimed at young readers and teens. These stories contain all of our favourite superheroes but they re-imagine our heroes as young teens. Whether you have been a fan of these superheroes for years and are looking for a fresh take on their origin stories or you are just looking for a quick introduction to some superheroes, here are some amazing books to get you started!
As always, the links below will take you the VPL catalogue where you can request the books for yourself.
While this novel doesn’t re-tell the story of more famous Green Lanterns such as Hal Jordan or John Stewart, it is a wonderful novel about family and legacy. In this graphic novel, 13-year-old Tai Pham inherits his grandmother’s jade ring when she passes away. He soon starts to realize that the ring is not just a ring and he is chosen to be a new Green Lantern of Earth. This is a wonderful story as it can be read both by fans of superheroes and those who know very little about them, as the novel mainly focuses on Tai’s connection with his grandmother and his relationship to his city and how to protect it using his new powers.
Here November is, a precursor to the long hard slog of a Canadian winter, and what a chilled November it is. It’s a month of in-betweens and a month of rushing: to get out of the cold, to enjoy what daylight there is, to get our shopping done or take advantage of the sales, to hurry toward our still-far-off holidays and the new year, anything to distract us from right here, right now.