Tackiness gets its due in cultural critic Rax King’s vibrant debut.
On this episode, Rax King discusses Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have To Offer (Vintage, Nov. 2) with host Megan Labrise and guest co-host Johanna Zwirner. In Tacky, King, a James Beard Award–nominated writer and host of the podcast Low Culture Boil, taps into her lifelong love affair with low cultural artifacts including but not limited to: Jersey Shore (the show, not the place), Meatloaf (the man, not the meal), Creed (the band, not the set of rules to live your life by), sexting, shopping malls, and the Cheesecake Factory
Here’s a bit from our starred review of Tacky: “Throughout, the author connects points in her life to cultural touchstones, showing a fearless willingness to share her personal history and views with readers. She argues that when comparing high and low culture, ‘what’s low may drag out for years as slow and hideous as a funeral dirge, but it still hits hardest, every time.’ In the end, whether describing her teenage discovery of Hot Topic (‘full of orange- and green-dyed heads as richly hued as Truffula trees’), her first marriage through the lens of the video game ‘The Sims,’ or delivering a heartfelt essay on her connection with her father over Jersey Shore, King deploys a reliably consistent blend of humor, emotion, and insight. ‘Life is short,’ she writes. ‘It’s important to attach oneself to the pieces that stick, regardless of whether somebody else believes the stuff is any good. An engaging, hilarious, unabashed look at what we love in culture and why we should value it for what it is.’”
King and our hosts discussthe book’s epigraphs, from Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, and Jersey Shore’s own Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi; what’s afforded quality critical consideration and why; the role time plays in cultural criticism; Josie and the Pussycats, the distinction between the good and the perfect; what Susan Sontag was on about in “Against Interpretation”;and much more.
Then editors Laura Simeon, Summer Edward, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick offer their top picks in books for the week.
The Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life by Amy Butler Greenfield (Random House Studio)
Soul Food Sunday by Winsome Bingham, illus. by Charles G. Esperanza (Abrams)
In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain by Tom Vitale (Hachette)
The Days of Afrekete by Asali Solomon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Also mentioned on this episode:
The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone (Dey Street/HarperCollins)
Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography by Laurie Woolever (Ecco)
Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora by Bryant Terry (4 Color Books)
Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas (Avery)
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.