Kiss, Marry or Kill: 12
The wildest book of the year, the coffee mug I never leave home without, "brightsiding," why Instant Pot went down, and the ethical quandary of deepfakes
This is my weekly series for subscribers only, where I’ll share things that caught my eye this week in a fun and flirty way (kiss), a sustainable way (marry), or a not-so-good way (kill). And yes, this trendy game is technically “f***, marry, or kill” but we run a family-friendly-ish show around here.
Kiss (things I like right now)
Yellowface, by R.F. Kuang. Before I bought the book, I checked to make sure the author was Asian. (After American Dirt, that’s now a standard practice.) I had no idea how on-the-nose that small act would be.
Every blurb I’ve seen for this book uses cutting words: “razor-sharp,” “biting,” “brutal,” “eviscerating.” Constance Wu, the actress starring in Crazy Rich Asians, called it a “psychological knife fight with a deranged clown.” I’ve never written a blurb that fun in my whole life, but I can’t imagine Gretchen Rubin writing anything I’d be able to call “deranged.”
Yellowface was gorgeously constructed, viciously satirical, perfectly paced chaos. (Ms. Kuang can write her ass off, that’s the first thing.) The characters morphed so slowly and subtly that you didn’t even realize it had happened—wait, was she the victim? Wait, does she not know she’s the villain? I felt so certain in my opinions, until I realized how deeply tangled I was in the delusions of the narrator, slowly gaslighting herself until I almost kind of believed it too. It’s the slowest of slow boils, fueled by a dizzying succession of social media witch hunts, the vagaries of publishing, and a D-list author’s desperate desire to be someone.
As a side note, I was deeply fascinated by Kuang’s unflinching portrayal of publishing, which was basically another character. (I highlighted a lot of passages.) Yes, it’s fiction and meant to be “satire.” And also, as an author who has benefitted from the systems at play in Kuang’s story—she’s not wrong. Add a healthy underpinning of privilege, racism, and cultural appropriation to the entire narrative, and this book took me on a wildly entertaining emotional and intellectual ride.
Also, the ending. Like, what the f*ck. Please read or listen to this book so we can talk about it.