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Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer

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An irreverent and charming collection of deeply personal essays about the joys of low pop culture and bad taste, exploring coming of age in the 2000s in the age of Hot Topic, Creed, and frosted lip gloss --from the James Beard Award-nominated writer of the Catapult column Store-Bought Is Fine" Tacky is about the power of pop culture--like any art--to imprint its An irreverent and charming collection of deeply personal essays about the joys of low pop culture and bad taste, exploring coming of age in the 2000s in the age of Hot Topic, Creed, and frosted lip gloss --from the James Beard Award-nominated writer of the Catapult column Store-Bought Is Fine" Tacky is about the power of pop culture--like any art--to imprint itself on our lives and shape our experiences, no matter one's commitment to good taste. These fourteen essays are a nostalgia-soaked antidote to the millennial generation's obsession with irony, putting the aesthetics we hate to love--snakeskin pants, Sex and the City, Cheesecake Factory's gargantuan menu--into kinder and sharper perspective. Each essay revolves around a different maligned (and yet, Rax would argue, vital) cultural artifact, providing thoughtful, even romantic meditations on desire, love, and the power of nostalgia. An essay about the gym-tan-laundry exuberance of Jersey Shore morphs into an excavation of grief over the death of her father; in You Wanna Be On Top, Rax writes about friendship and early aughts girlhood; in another, Guy Fieri helps her heal from an abusive relationship. The result is a collection that captures the personal and generational experience of finding joy in caring just a little too much with clarity, heartfelt honesty, and Rax King's trademark humor. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL


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An irreverent and charming collection of deeply personal essays about the joys of low pop culture and bad taste, exploring coming of age in the 2000s in the age of Hot Topic, Creed, and frosted lip gloss --from the James Beard Award-nominated writer of the Catapult column Store-Bought Is Fine" Tacky is about the power of pop culture--like any art--to imprint its An irreverent and charming collection of deeply personal essays about the joys of low pop culture and bad taste, exploring coming of age in the 2000s in the age of Hot Topic, Creed, and frosted lip gloss --from the James Beard Award-nominated writer of the Catapult column Store-Bought Is Fine" Tacky is about the power of pop culture--like any art--to imprint itself on our lives and shape our experiences, no matter one's commitment to good taste. These fourteen essays are a nostalgia-soaked antidote to the millennial generation's obsession with irony, putting the aesthetics we hate to love--snakeskin pants, Sex and the City, Cheesecake Factory's gargantuan menu--into kinder and sharper perspective. Each essay revolves around a different maligned (and yet, Rax would argue, vital) cultural artifact, providing thoughtful, even romantic meditations on desire, love, and the power of nostalgia. An essay about the gym-tan-laundry exuberance of Jersey Shore morphs into an excavation of grief over the death of her father; in You Wanna Be On Top, Rax writes about friendship and early aughts girlhood; in another, Guy Fieri helps her heal from an abusive relationship. The result is a collection that captures the personal and generational experience of finding joy in caring just a little too much with clarity, heartfelt honesty, and Rax King's trademark humor. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL

30 review for Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer

  1. 4 out of 5

    Book Clubbed

    Well, here we are, the year of 2021, where the early 2000s are now being mined for nostalgia as the internet shrinks the gap between present and past. Be on the lookout for my personal essay collection about the halcyon era of 2014-2016, coming out Fall 2022. While this is billed as a collection of essays exploring the aesthetic of “tacky,” the concept is defended only in passing. This is closer to a memoir of her childhood and sexuality, through the lens of pop culture, laundered and presented Well, here we are, the year of 2021, where the early 2000s are now being mined for nostalgia as the internet shrinks the gap between present and past. Be on the lookout for my personal essay collection about the halcyon era of 2014-2016, coming out Fall 2022. While this is billed as a collection of essays exploring the aesthetic of “tacky,” the concept is defended only in passing. This is closer to a memoir of her childhood and sexuality, through the lens of pop culture, laundered and presented as a series of cultural essays. The common thread between the essays seems to be trying to figure out why men she has sex with inevitably let her down. Whatever cultural fascination she had at the time period of her latest conquest is grafted onto the story in an effort to provide it depth. She has all types of sex, which is cool! Sounds like a grand old time! Her own sexual appetite is endlessly fascinating for her, I’m sure, but not one that I’m interested in exploring at great length. In addition, many of her arguments simply don’t stand up to common sense, unless, perhaps, you are drunk at 4 am in a Brooklyn speakeasy. Take, for example, the first chapter, in which she defends the sincerity of Creed. It’s a nice sentiment and I appreciate her standing up for sincerity, as no one likes a cultural elitist. However, she claims that narrow-minded critics could only slander Creed’s music as boring—both in lyrical content and musical composition. Well, yeah…those are the two components of music? What else should they criticize? The production value? There are a handful of topics that all musicians dwell upon: loss, love, grief, ecstasy, and a few variations on those themes. What makes a song good or not is presenting those themes through lyrics, musical composition, and voice. There are, in fact, many many artists who also sing sincerely about those wellsprings, and they are more musically talented than Creed. King loves a good strawman, intricately building them so she can take them down with sassy aplomb. This works well for Twitter but is less engrossing in a full-length project like this. Listen to full episodes at https://bookclubbed.buzzsprout.com/.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brandice

    Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer is an essay collection about enjoying the “wrong” elements of American pop culture. Wrong as in tacky and popularly snubbed after their (debatable) peak prime — Think the band Creed, shows like Jersey Shore and America’s Next Top Model, the tween girl favorite Bath & Body Works scent of Warm Vanilla Sugar, the store Hot Topic, the game The Sims, and the ever popular Cheesecake Factory restaurant. While I haven’t loved all of these pieces Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer is an essay collection about enjoying the “wrong” elements of American pop culture. Wrong as in tacky and popularly snubbed after their (debatable) peak prime — Think the band Creed, shows like Jersey Shore and America’s Next Top Model, the tween girl favorite Bath & Body Works scent of Warm Vanilla Sugar, the store Hot Topic, the game The Sims, and the ever popular Cheesecake Factory restaurant. While I haven’t loved all of these pieces of pop culture, I did, at one time, love some (looking at you ANTM and The Sims)! I still hold no qualms with Cheesecake Factory, arguably high on my list of preferred chain restaurants, if I’m going to eat at one. I admit the volume of its menu can be overwhelming, but this won’t stop me from agreeing to eat there. ”I’ve longed for the Cheesecake Factory myself, because it is the precise same experience everywhere, and because I could go there today or next year or in 2009 or in Oregon or San Juan and find absolutely zero surprises.” I liked some of Rax’s exploration essays much more than others, which is fairly common for me with most essay or short story collections. As a whole, I found Tacky entertaining. There’s an implied reminder not to let the court of public opinion sway your enjoyment of anything — Life is short, embrace what you want! Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday for providing an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Audrey H

    I think my frustration with this book comes from a case of false advertising. From the cover and blurb, I was expecting something way more generalized, a piece of nonfiction that incorporated both psychology and history to talk about the enduring legacy of (tacky) American pop culture. And… that’s not really what this is. Does the book talk about pop culture? Yeah, but the content leans soooo personal that I might even categorize it as pseudo-memoir. In particular, King spends an inordinate amou I think my frustration with this book comes from a case of false advertising. From the cover and blurb, I was expecting something way more generalized, a piece of nonfiction that incorporated both psychology and history to talk about the enduring legacy of (tacky) American pop culture. And… that’s not really what this is. Does the book talk about pop culture? Yeah, but the content leans soooo personal that I might even categorize it as pseudo-memoir. In particular, King spends an inordinate amount of time on her romantic relationships with men, including tons of details on her sex life. I don’t mind this for a chapter or two, but EVERY chapter seems to circle back on a different sexual relationship, whether the man be a tween, a movie star, or a married man she’s having an affair with! It got old, quick. You can combine this complaint with the fact that some chapters hit much harder than others. I’ve never listened to Creed or Meat Loaf, never watched Degrassi, never shopped at Hot Topic, never played the Sims. This makes it difficult to relate / care about those chapters. I did enjoy the Jersey Shore chapter, and the one on Cheesecake Factory. I voluntarily obtained a digital version of this book free from Netgalley and Knopf in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ana WJ

    Rax i'd love to hangout and listen to Creed w u! Rax i'd love to hangout and listen to Creed w u!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kristine Mckenna

    This book is funny. It made me laugh so many times. The author also doesn’t take herself too seriously which is refreshing. I dislike that another thing one is supposed to concern themselves with is having good taste. It would be so awful to be considered doing something tacky. Life is too short to let that weigh you down. If you like something, you just do, and I think it is best to enjoy the joy it brings and not have to always add a label to every action. I think the author does a good job of This book is funny. It made me laugh so many times. The author also doesn’t take herself too seriously which is refreshing. I dislike that another thing one is supposed to concern themselves with is having good taste. It would be so awful to be considered doing something tacky. Life is too short to let that weigh you down. If you like something, you just do, and I think it is best to enjoy the joy it brings and not have to always add a label to every action. I think the author does a good job of conveying this. There are so many pop cultural references and those are fun to read, especially about loving The Jersey Shore and how important The Mall was to teenagers. The Jersey Shore essay was poignant because the author is so close with her dad and it’s something they shared together. They knew it was low brow and silly and did not care. Her dad even calls her at college each week to review the show since she can not see it there. It shows how something dumb can actually have much meaning. As the book goes on though, I felt a shift in the author’s thinking. The book wasn’t about tacky culture and silliness anymore. I suspect the author was going through a rather difficult period in her late teens and early 20’s. Then you know with certainty she is because she is married and in an emotionally abusive marriage. She mentions liking Guy Fieri and the 3D’s that was his show. Yet, there is deep heartbreak she is speaking about. Even though the tone is different, I was quite moved by the way she describes life. She is an honest and true person that doesn’t try to cover her mistakes and wrong decisions. I found that moving. So, the book starts out hilarious and ends on a strong note of loving Meatloaf’s song, Bat out of Hell. It evokes young love,passion, and heartbreak in an over-the-top way. When you’ve just moved out of a destructive relationship, you need a song like that. I’m glad she found it and sang her heart out. I also love the cover. Is it Tacky? Each person can decide for themselves. Thank you NetGalley, Rax King, and Vintage Publishing for a copy of this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nev

    I absolutely love collections of essays and memoirs where people write about the pieces of pop culture that were important to them growing up and made a huge impact on their life. In Tacky Rax King covers things that are seen as low culture or for people who have “bad taste.” This isn’t a snarky book making fun of these things and it isn’t overly intellectual, trying to analyze them as pieces of high art. Tacky isn’t just a book of essays looking at pop culture, it’s heavily influenced by King’s I absolutely love collections of essays and memoirs where people write about the pieces of pop culture that were important to them growing up and made a huge impact on their life. In Tacky Rax King covers things that are seen as low culture or for people who have “bad taste.” This isn’t a snarky book making fun of these things and it isn’t overly intellectual, trying to analyze them as pieces of high art. Tacky isn’t just a book of essays looking at pop culture, it’s heavily influenced by King’s own life and experiences with the pieces of pop culture that she’s covering. The essay about America’s Next Top Model is more about King’s best friend growing up and the magic of friendship between girls/women than it is about the show itself. Similarly the Jersey Shore essay is about her relationship with her father and their time watching the show together. I found all the personal touches and how she was able to weave her own story in with writing more broadly about the essay topics to be really moving. But I can see how readers who went into the book only wanting the pop culture talk & analysis might be let down by how much of the essays are focused on King’s life. I didn’t start reading this collection thinking that essays about The Cheesecake Factory or Guy Fieri would make me cry, but here we are. This book just hit all the right notes for me. Thank you to the publisher for providing an advance copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Renata

    I LOVE that I'm now of an age where there are lots of great books out here that are very relatable for MY coming-of-age points of reference. Is this how middle aged white men have always felt? It's incredible. I love King's voice here, so confessional and with such good observations about trashy pop culture. Chef's kiss. I LOVE that I'm now of an age where there are lots of great books out here that are very relatable for MY coming-of-age points of reference. Is this how middle aged white men have always felt? It's incredible. I love King's voice here, so confessional and with such good observations about trashy pop culture. Chef's kiss.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alanna Why

    3.5 rounded up. I wish some of the essays were a little longer and better connected as an overall narrative, but I had a lot of fun with this funny, breezy and heartfelt collection. I think if you enjoy Samantha Irby's writing, you will really like this! 3.5 rounded up. I wish some of the essays were a little longer and better connected as an overall narrative, but I had a lot of fun with this funny, breezy and heartfelt collection. I think if you enjoy Samantha Irby's writing, you will really like this!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    I initially picked this up book up based on its title and cover art. I honestly thought by the image of a lady in a martini glass that it was safe to assume that this book would be an insightful exploration into tacky and kitsch culture of mid-century United States. I was severely mistaken. I began reading and discovered this book is actually a memoir of sorts, incorporating early 2000s pop culture in a manner similar to fellow millennial Grace Perry's "The 2000s Made Me Gay." Despite initially b I initially picked this up book up based on its title and cover art. I honestly thought by the image of a lady in a martini glass that it was safe to assume that this book would be an insightful exploration into tacky and kitsch culture of mid-century United States. I was severely mistaken. I began reading and discovered this book is actually a memoir of sorts, incorporating early 2000s pop culture in a manner similar to fellow millennial Grace Perry's "The 2000s Made Me Gay." Despite initially being put off that the cover art doesn't match the era being written about, I gave this a chance because memoirs are my favorire and Rax and I are close in age. I read patiently through the first half of the book, although I felt like King's writing style skips around somewhat confusingly, weakening the connections between her memories and the pop culture she is referencing. Some of my favorite essays from this book include Rax and her Dad watching Jersey Shore and tween Rax's friendship with the twenty something year-old neighbor man. Then came the second half of the book, which felt full of unneccessary recollections of her sexual exploits. We get it, you might have a libido and definitely belong in the subreddit r/ihavesex. I think King hoped that (over)sharing some of these memories would help connect the reader to her experience more emotionally, but I found a fair amount of the details to be gratuitous, if not somewhat immature. I am giving this 2 out of 5 stars. I am interested to see how Rax grows as a writer. In the interim, I think the cover, title, and even the book's description are misleading and should be reconsidered before publishing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Isa

    I mean, how else am I meant to spend a 7-hour train ride except to hunker down with one of the funniest books I've read all year? Excellent. Full review to follow (along with my reviews of everything else t hat I read on this wedding/vacation week)! I mean, how else am I meant to spend a 7-hour train ride except to hunker down with one of the funniest books I've read all year? Excellent. Full review to follow (along with my reviews of everything else t hat I read on this wedding/vacation week)!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    I actually ended up really liking this! I was a little put off at first by buzzfeed-y writing because one can only read so many essays about pop culture in that style, but either I got over it or it improved as the book went on. and the first essay insisted that I appreciate the band creed which I simply cannot do. but overall it was very vulnerable and sweet! felt like she had a different outlook and experiences from anything I've read before. *3.5* I actually ended up really liking this! I was a little put off at first by buzzfeed-y writing because one can only read so many essays about pop culture in that style, but either I got over it or it improved as the book went on. and the first essay insisted that I appreciate the band creed which I simply cannot do. but overall it was very vulnerable and sweet! felt like she had a different outlook and experiences from anything I've read before. *3.5*

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    Essay collections are usually very hit or miss for me, and whooo boy, is "Tacky" a hit. Rax King's essay collection kicks off with a very divisive hot take: Creed is good. Whether or not I agree with this, it's absolutely the kind of searing debate I'd get deeply invested in on Twitter or LiveJournal. This was an early sign of how well the text agreed with me, mirroring the giddiness and vaguely embarrassed delight I experienced watching the millennial-geared PEN15 on Hulu. I recognized myself-- Essay collections are usually very hit or miss for me, and whooo boy, is "Tacky" a hit. Rax King's essay collection kicks off with a very divisive hot take: Creed is good. Whether or not I agree with this, it's absolutely the kind of searing debate I'd get deeply invested in on Twitter or LiveJournal. This was an early sign of how well the text agreed with me, mirroring the giddiness and vaguely embarrassed delight I experienced watching the millennial-geared PEN15 on Hulu. I recognized myself--the media that made me who I am--in nearly all of King's essays. Her voice was equally sophisticated and (I mean this in the best possible way) stupid. Her candor reminds me of the trivial yet deeply important pop culture arguments I regularly have with close friends. It makes you feel connected, like the story is shared especially for you. King not only manages to strike this delicate balance early on, but she maintains it in each essay. The chapters are packed with honest recollections of the impact (mostly 2000s-ish) media had on her along with deeply personal stories of finding herself through changing relationships, family dynamics, and sexual experiences. She shares the media we all experienced while examining the deeper influence it had on her present-day personhood. Come for the laughs, stay for the "oofs." This was an absolute joy to read. I cannot recommend it enough. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an advanced copy for review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sylvia

    The blurb says this is irreverent and charming. Yes to irreverent and NO to the charming. With some understanding of the self hatred and lack of self respect that Rax has, she proceeds to chronicle in great detail her sexual exploits mainly with strangers and men who are totally unworthy with only a sex organ to recommend them. This is not tacky….this is sad and pitiful.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    Anyone who grew up in the late 90s/early 2000s and found themselves drawn to so-called lowbrow things in pop culture will feel at home among Rax King's essays. Jersey Shore, Bath & Body Works, Guy Fieri, and the band Creed are just some of the topics King tackles, but it's more than just an ode to Warm Vanilla Sugar body spray. She finds a way to weave these bits of nostalgia into stories about her late father, divorce, sexuality, etc. This is a winning combination of memoir and cultural critiqu Anyone who grew up in the late 90s/early 2000s and found themselves drawn to so-called lowbrow things in pop culture will feel at home among Rax King's essays. Jersey Shore, Bath & Body Works, Guy Fieri, and the band Creed are just some of the topics King tackles, but it's more than just an ode to Warm Vanilla Sugar body spray. She finds a way to weave these bits of nostalgia into stories about her late father, divorce, sexuality, etc. This is a winning combination of memoir and cultural critique. Thank you to the publisher for providing an advance copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    olivia

    i genuinely cannot remember a book making me laugh out loud as often and heartily as this one did. we owe rax so much for writing a book infused with true dedication to Feeling Emotions™ and unironic love of things we're supposed to be ashamed about. a delight and a pleasure to read. i genuinely cannot remember a book making me laugh out loud as often and heartily as this one did. we owe rax so much for writing a book infused with true dedication to Feeling Emotions™ and unironic love of things we're supposed to be ashamed about. a delight and a pleasure to read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Destiny DeVooght

    This book was so weird, and yet oddly comforting. I would recommend it to anyone who writes and has felt joy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Muffin

    I loved this! I expected pop culture hot takes - and there were a few - but found instead a deeply considered, moving, and often hilarious series of essays about the ways we mark time when we seen otherwise determined to keep repeating mistakes.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin Conlon

    Rax King first entered my radar when I read her essay “Peace, Love, and Taco Grease” about her ex-husband, Guy Fieri, & the joy of a good burger. When I saw that this essay was a part of this book, I knew I had to get it. “Tacky” is what it says it is: love letters to the worst culture we have to offer. It is funny & sentimental & doesn’t take itself too seriously unless the situation calls for it. The writing is good, descriptive, genuine. This was the perfect way to end the year.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kurt Neumaier

    Maybe being sincere is cool?? This was a cool book and I never thought I would get so emotional reading an essay about Jersey Shore.

  20. 4 out of 5

    alyssa

    (3.5 stars more like) This felt like the author really wanted to write two books; Essays to Tacky Culture and Sexploits/Near Love Stories. Honestly i would be down to read either book from this author. Her writing was fun and fresh and kept me reading even when i didn’t relate to her experiences, but i was a little disappointed that it felt like i didn’t get what i expected? Like the book starts out REALLY strong, then there’s a really creative “ode to warm vanilla sugar”, and then there’s like a (3.5 stars more like) This felt like the author really wanted to write two books; Essays to Tacky Culture and Sexploits/Near Love Stories. Honestly i would be down to read either book from this author. Her writing was fun and fresh and kept me reading even when i didn’t relate to her experiences, but i was a little disappointed that it felt like i didn’t get what i expected? Like the book starts out REALLY strong, then there’s a really creative “ode to warm vanilla sugar”, and then there’s like a sexventure memoir broken up into chapters that are each differentiated by a different tacky pop culture phenomena (usually a tv show) - with no chronological order so you kind of just have to vibe. I would have LOVED if the beginning/ode part of the book continued as different essays and creative pieces (more of these!! i loved that!!!) as a WHOLE book, OR an entire book that was a chronological romp through the author’s sexploits that didn’t need to be loosely tied to a 2000s tv show. Anyway, what i’m saying is i really liked this at the concept/beginning and then my passion fizzled out by the end...but the book was a fun read the whole time so i can confidently say i would read something else by this author in the future. This book was pretty good. i didn’t really relate to any of the author’s experience’s, nor do i know who she is, nor did i relate to any of the 2000s pop culture references (i just missed most of them in my life), and yet i read the book in two days and couldn’t seem to pull myself away from the world the author was giving to me. Cool book, would have been better if it was 2 different books 🤷🏻‍♀️

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kirsti

    A memoir in essays. King finds a different example of pop culture to explore in each autobiographical essay: Meat Loaf's album Bat Out of Hell, the video game The Sims, Guy Fieri's empire, and so on. A memoir in essays. King finds a different example of pop culture to explore in each autobiographical essay: Meat Loaf's album Bat Out of Hell, the video game The Sims, Guy Fieri's empire, and so on.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Manda Nicole

    Tacky is about how pop culture can imprint on our lives and shape our experiences; As a child of the 90's much of these essays felt like they were calling me on my own tacky past with humor and only slight shame. From Hot Topic to Brown Sugar Vanilla body spray Rax King summed up my pre-teens better than I could have. King has a wonderful command of the written word, spinning prose that provokes all types of emotions and make an impact that will be felt deeper than you may expect. This collectio Tacky is about how pop culture can imprint on our lives and shape our experiences; As a child of the 90's much of these essays felt like they were calling me on my own tacky past with humor and only slight shame. From Hot Topic to Brown Sugar Vanilla body spray Rax King summed up my pre-teens better than I could have. King has a wonderful command of the written word, spinning prose that provokes all types of emotions and make an impact that will be felt deeper than you may expect. This collection isn't all fun and games though, and some really tough things are brought to light in an honest heartfelt way. This is about more than Jersey Shore and frosted lip gloss; Friendship, growing up, hard lessons are also some themes that come along with the humor. There is nothing like intelligent, flowing prose from a very high level writing about something that's far beneath most peoples desires for themselves. Tacky is anything but. 4 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended if you grew up in the 90's or the early 00's. Thank you to netgalley for providing me an advance copy of Tacky by Rax King for me to read and share my honest thoughts. I am so grateful for the opportunity to preview the brilliance that is Tacky.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Beals

    I enjoyed reading this but wow it was not at all what the blurb on the back described it as. Nearly every essay was actually about her relationships and sexual experiences, with some pop culture thrown in (and sometimes shoehorned). The jersey shore essay was perfection, though.

  24. 5 out of 5

    CJ Connor

    This essay collection was seriously incredible and hit a ton harder than expected. Loved the Hot Topic vignettes. 2000s-era Hot Topic was truly a sight to behold.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    As someone who likes to tell people that she has "excellent taste in bad taste," I NEED THIS BOOK. It sounds like an ode to kitsch and I'm all about that trash life. As someone who likes to tell people that she has "excellent taste in bad taste," I NEED THIS BOOK. It sounds like an ode to kitsch and I'm all about that trash life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Leigh Kramer

    I picked this up after I heard the author being interviewed on It’s Been A Minute With Sam Sanders. It was a great interview but it also meant I had a completely different idea about what this book was about. I thought it was going to be an exploration of pop culture but it turned out to be more of a sex memoir. I could potentially be interested in reading the latter but since the blurb didn’t indicate that content, it led to a case of mismanaged expectations. As to the reason why I read in the fi I picked this up after I heard the author being interviewed on It’s Been A Minute With Sam Sanders. It was a great interview but it also meant I had a completely different idea about what this book was about. I thought it was going to be an exploration of pop culture but it turned out to be more of a sex memoir. I could potentially be interested in reading the latter but since the blurb didn’t indicate that content, it led to a case of mismanaged expectations. As to the reason why I read in the first place, King’s ode to tackiness—or really, just loving what you love regardless of what “critics” say—really resonated with me. It’s fun to think through the various musicians, books, TV shows, etc. I love despite what snobs say. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures so I am singing the author’s song. To that end, the chapters on Creed and Meat Loaf were among my favorites. She makes a lovely connection between Jersey Shore and the death of her father. She offers a nuanced portrayal of the intimate partner violence she experienced with her ex-husband and the pop culture pairings for those chapters were unexpected but perfect, especially Guy Fieri. I would have loved more along those lines but what we got is very much worth reading. As with other essay collections, some are stronger than others and some stick closer to the book’s purported aim than others. I’m not sure what the author thinks about various parts of her history (particularly her experiences with BDSM, her drug use in light of her parents’ former substance abuse, how she feels about infidelity now) and that may be in part because she doesn’t know either. That’s her right but it makes for a less cohesive book. She may have benefitted from more distance between some of the events in question before writing about them. Content notes: intimate partner violence (chapters titled “The Sims and the Heart-Shaped Bed” and “Love, Peace, and Taco Grease”), infidelity, death of father (COPD), drug use, slut-shaming, fatshaming (including by ex-husband), bullying, BDSM, sex, marijuana, alcohol, inebriation, vomit, parental divorce, ableist language, references to past parental substance abuse

  27. 5 out of 5

    Meryn

    I loved this book. It wasn’t what I expected, which was essays on pop culture, but instead was so much more. It’s a visceral memoir delivered through pop culture, which hit squarely in my strike zone. On paper, the only thing I have in common with the author is a love of the TV shows, movies and computer games she writes about, but I found myself relating to so many of the emotional truths she shared from her experiences, even though our circumstances couldn’t be more different. I have a hard co I loved this book. It wasn’t what I expected, which was essays on pop culture, but instead was so much more. It’s a visceral memoir delivered through pop culture, which hit squarely in my strike zone. On paper, the only thing I have in common with the author is a love of the TV shows, movies and computer games she writes about, but I found myself relating to so many of the emotional truths she shared from her experiences, even though our circumstances couldn’t be more different. I have a hard copy and it almost made me break my rule of not writing in my books; there were so many great lines I wanted to highlight. I’m not normally one to reread books but as I moved through “Tacky” I kept thinking about how I couldn’t wait to revisit it. Rax King is so insightful and perceptive in a way that only comes from lived experience, and she’s so honest about herself and others without being self-pitying or glorifying her bad choices. Her voice was so refreshing. A third of my way through the book I ordered a copy for my best friend. It’s that good.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Madison

    I definitely had several "OK, we get it, you have sex and do drugs" moments while reading this, but I always appreciate a good ode to the great American shopping mall. I also appreciate any and all enthusiasm directed toward Josie and the Pussycats, though I do wish that particular essay gave way more credit to Adam Schlesinger's hand in making that movie the gem that it is. It's fun to see more and more millennial essayists waxing poetic about the early 2000's--I used to read people like Chuck I definitely had several "OK, we get it, you have sex and do drugs" moments while reading this, but I always appreciate a good ode to the great American shopping mall. I also appreciate any and all enthusiasm directed toward Josie and the Pussycats, though I do wish that particular essay gave way more credit to Adam Schlesinger's hand in making that movie the gem that it is. It's fun to see more and more millennial essayists waxing poetic about the early 2000's--I used to read people like Chuck Klosterman when I was younger and often felt like I had no point of reference for a lot of what they mention, but these days I kind of understand why people love the navel-gazing, nostalgic essay so much.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cameron

    I couldn't put this book down. I would recommend this to anyone who guiltily watched Degrassi, had multiple birthday dinners at Chili's, or genuinely thought "I wonder what Angelina from Jersey Shore is up to? Hope she's okay." It's okay to like popular or low brow things. It's okay to earnestly feel something from a Fast and the Furious movie. It's okay to like something that is earnest period. And it’s okay to have big emotional connections or breakthroughs through the music of Nickelback. Hav I couldn't put this book down. I would recommend this to anyone who guiltily watched Degrassi, had multiple birthday dinners at Chili's, or genuinely thought "I wonder what Angelina from Jersey Shore is up to? Hope she's okay." It's okay to like popular or low brow things. It's okay to earnestly feel something from a Fast and the Furious movie. It's okay to like something that is earnest period. And it’s okay to have big emotional connections or breakthroughs through the music of Nickelback. Have I tested up at the lyrics to Photograph, you bet your sweet ass I did (I really went through a lot with my mom’s cancer). I think other readers bring a valid critic that it is billed as an exploration or study of tacky when it really is a vehicle for personal stories. And once you get accept that, it’s like a bat out of hell. That Jersey Shore essay really made me tear up on my flight back to Austin. Never thought I would cry at a deli order or the image of a father/daughter wearing matching GTL shirts... but here we are.... in the year 2022

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carey

    This book is more memoir than the title lets on, but that isn't a bad thing. This book is a memoir, an ode to the things we love to hate and hate to love, poetry, and a meditation on love, sex, identity, youth, and food. It's funny, and sad, and silly, and deep It's just really so goddamn good. If Rax King and I had been in the same MFA program, I would have been so jealous but also her biggest cheerleader. This book is more memoir than the title lets on, but that isn't a bad thing. This book is a memoir, an ode to the things we love to hate and hate to love, poetry, and a meditation on love, sex, identity, youth, and food. It's funny, and sad, and silly, and deep It's just really so goddamn good. If Rax King and I had been in the same MFA program, I would have been so jealous but also her biggest cheerleader.

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