Since this is the world we live in, the thick of 2022, and apparently people aren’t terribly familiar with the Satanic Panic but there seems to be quite a bit of discussion concerning it as of late, I will direct your attention to the FAB Press essay collection SATANIC PANIC: POP-CULTURAL PARANOIA IN THE 1980s.

If you are too young to be familiar with the Satanic Panic: it was a period of time during the 1980s where suburban institutions insisted that the ills of culture were due to teens being wooed to devil worship via media and coercion. At the time, it was inescapable. The scare permeated all of commentary and political culture which, as you can imagine, resulted in the Streisand Effect, boosting anything and everything, having a reverb effect on all artistic endeavors.

FAB’s SATANIC PANIC is an expertly curated collection of scrutinies of life during that time, one that ranges the gamut from what you’d expect: D&D, cartoons, metal and MTV, to forgotten culture like the wall-to-wall lies of the memory recovery of Michelle in the book MICHELLE REMEMBERS as well as HBO’s INDICTMENT: THE MCMARTIN TRIAL. It also looks at Satanic Panic beyond the US, including the UK and Quebec and Australia.

It’s an extraordinarily comprehensive look at the irrational pop culture paranoia of Satanism at the time, all wrapped up in an immaculately attractive package.

You can wrangle your own copy at:


Pauline Kael’s TRASH, ART, AND THE MOVIES is an essay I want to hand out to everyone.

Kael simmers about being bored with films, about how she luxuriates in the garbage nowadays as opposed to the ‘prestige’ pictures, such as 2001 (a film she deftly eviscerates, an unpopular opinion around here, but one I respect given how she backs it up).

Ultimately, it’s Kael saying: stop trying to preach, give me something new, something interesting, take big swings! Trash with a glint of charm is far more intriguing than most art, and stop pawning off all film as art, because so many works are born of a simple consumerist need.

It’s a timeless piece, one that holds up over fifty years later, one that is still provocative.

Instead of blathering on about it, I’ll simply send you along to read her words. The entirety of TRASH, ART, AND THE MOVIES is available here:

Or in her third collection of film reviews and essays, GOING STEADY: FILM WRITINGS 1968-1969:

Or if you have a HARPER’S MAGAZINE subscription, you can read it here:


If you’re a writer, or just a casual reader, the essay “What Working at a Used Bookstore Taught Me About Literary Rejection” by Carl Lavigne is an insightful look at how people seek material to read, and the ennui of confronting reams of books that have been discarded.

At one point in the essay, he notes that the bookstore he works at stocked a signed copy of his friend’s novel. Carl brought the book back home, afraid of the repercussions that would occur if his friend would see that that unread book on the shelf.

I trawl through used bookstores all the time — usually picking up books from authors I’ve never heard of but appear intriguing — and often find that I’ve inadvertently purchased a signed copy. In fact, the book I’m currently reading — I won’t name it — was signed to a friend of the author who had invited them to a writer’s colony that, presumably, they used to work on the novel. Like Carl, I thought: “Maybe the friend died. Maybe they had a falling out. Maybe the friend loaned it to someone, never got it back, and the loanee sent it along. Maybe it was simply an unwanted copy.”

Every writer wants a physical copy of their work to be cherished, especially if it’s a copy you took the time to sign.


The crux of TWIN PEAKS is Laura Palmer’s death, a death due to a family and town that let her down, that turned a blind eye, that didn’t reach out. LAURA’S GHOST: WOMEN SPEAK ABOUT TWIN PEAKS is a collection of essays and interviews about women who have worked on, or been affected or influenced by TWIN PEAKS, conceptualized by, interviewed by, and collected by Courtenay Stallings.

It’s primarily focused on the film prequel, TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME, as well as Jennifer Lynch’s gut-punch of a novel THE SECRET DIARY OF LAURA PALMER (which created the foundation that would become TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME), but there’s plenty of discussion about the original series, as well as TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN.

While it does feature interviews and discussions with Sheryl Lee, Jennifer Lynch, Grace Zabriskie, and Sabrina S. Sutherland (Lynch’s “right-hand woman”, to use Stalling’s own words), the bulk of the book is focused on those involved in the fandom of TWIN PEAKS. Not all of the interviews are about relating to Laura’s sexual abuse and incest, but several women certainly do share their experiences, and most interviews and pieces note how Laura helped them process their own trauma and abuse. Especially noteworthy is film essayist Willow Catelyn Maclay’s piece, NORTHERN STAR but they’re all worth your time.

It’s a fantastic and insightful collected work that may change how you perceive the series, or may have you nodding your head and commiserating over shared trauma, or perhaps both.

I highly suggest purchasing it via media writer Matt Zoller Seitz’s online bookstore. He’s a fantastic booster of intelligent, non-CIS-white dude pieces on film and TV — I wouldn’t have heard about this book if it weren’t for him — plus, you get a signed copy.


I haven’t read all that much from Joan Didion — I loved PLAY IT AS IT LAYS and enjoyed select essays I’ve stumbled over through the years. I’ve seen PANIC AT NEEDLE PARK, read a couple of other novels, and watched the recent doc on her. In other words, I’m not extremely well-versed with her work, but I am familiar enough to know when a writer has clearly been influenced by her.

I’ve been ragging on myself as of late for my absolute inability to read influential works in any proper order, and I’m especially kicking myself here regarding SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHAM — a collection of previously commissioned essays — which I explicitly picked up because Emma Cline (THE GIRLS, DADDY) lists it as one of her favorites.

It features Didion penning a number of deep-dives into classic Hollywood, just as the studio system is beginning to crumble. (She has a singular essay about how Howard Hughes represents America and I’m absolutely shocked it wasn’t mentioned in Karina Longworths’ recent opus regarding him, SEDUCTION.) She interlopes on the set of John Wayne’s THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER. I discovered that SLEATER-KINNEY’s album THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD has that name partially because SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM is Carrie Brownstone’s favorite Didion collection. (Yes, it’s technically a line from Yeats’ poem SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM but it’s most certainly a nod towards Didion, as she writes about the importance of the poem in the preface of her collection.)

The most surprising revelation came in GOODBYE TO ALL THAT, when Didion discusses living in New York City for eight years. Obviously, Didion’s best known for perfectly describing living in California, and I’d never suspected she’d spent such a long time away from it. I should have known, given the fact that PANIC AT NEEDLE PARK is a character piece about junkies living in NYC, but I assumed she’s spent some time living there to research a piece. Instead, she lived a long journey there in-between heading back to California.

Unlike Cline, SLOUCHING isn’t my favorite of hers, but it is up there. I imagine some of the pieces will stay with me for years, while one or two I’ve already forgotten. I’m guessing any proper Didion fan has already consumed it but, hey, I hadn’t, and it’s never too late to dive into a classic.