Breaking Up With the Book Community

It’s certainly been a while since we just talked about life and the internet – which these days are nearly the same things. But as I’ve expressed, everything makes a certain sort of sense now. We’ll take that as indisputable proof that the road to success looks vastly different to everyone.

Some people’s paths are paved in gold jewels and a nice rest stop along the way that looks suspiciously like a Panera bread.

Some people’s paths are sunny and all they have to do is keep on keeping on and make sure they have plenty of water.

Mine just so happens to be a briar patch of bullshit and every single one I hack out of my way is through pure force of will.

The densest and thorniest part of the patch that simply will not let me cut it the hell down is the Book Community. I’ve never been in a place where I was so paranoid about being myself in my entire life. It’s been a hindrance and very stifling, despite how many wonderful people I’ve connected with there.

And it all had to do with me Allowing it to be.

So, we’re going to talk about my role in the toxicity of the Book Community and how the best way to improve my experience in it… is to not be apart of it.

Side note: I know you guys love tea videos and want to hear all of what’s good, but unfortunately for your thirsty selves – this is the Cerebral Hedonist. We drink coffee here.

So, what’s wrong with the Book Community?

To begin with, the Most straight forward answer I can offer is that the book community has absolutely no identity.

Unless one can identify as pure vitriolic chaos.

The community presented to me on Twitter and Booktube, especially in YA circles – and this is my experience with it – is like a child trying any and everything until something sticks and so far, nothing has. It tries it best to converge into a meaningful place of positivity and support while also regularly shifting into a monster of negativity, harassment, and policing.

Its quite a messy little sandbox that once you enter becomes quicksand. Suddenly you’re trapped in it for a year a two and slowly assimilate into the absolutely foolish fantasy that it is. I say fantasy because once you reconnect to the real world of books – or the real world in general, you’re reminded that the majority of it all is just a blip on some obscure conspiracist radar that no one listens to anyway.

The weird entrapment that is booktube and book twitter, for me, begins and ends with a certain level of dishonesty and, more importantly, disrespect. This is namely because there is no minding your own business in the book community. Even when you’re minding your own business, someone who doesn’t know what yours or even their own business is, feels entitled to mind yours as well simply because you’re standing in the same space together. And slowly I started to become one of those people.

I realized I got sucked into it. I would hear about something absolutely trashy and wrong and log in, want to see the bonfire, give my unasked for two cents…. And then feel utterly unsatisfied afterwards.

Because absolutely nothing changes.

This can be said about many fandoms, but the book community is where I seemed to get trapped in it because I never was a discourse hound in any other fandom space. All of the virtue signaling, all the calling-out, and mobbing and policing, and guilting? It felt like a very alien world that damn near changed me. But then I remembered, anything people do on Twitter or their channels or even their Instagram and Tiktoks, any of it has absolutely nothing to do with me. I’m not bored enough to care and I have far too much on my plate to make my life about it. My escape from real life is not seeing what’s going on social media, but actual progress and… books.

The book community doesn’t know what sort of community it wants to be. I realize I don’t have to stick around waiting for it to find out what it wants to be. I don’t have to help it either. I don’t want to.

I understood my parts in it: calling out what I considered very obvious lies; picking apart people’s excuses for being bigoted or whatever; bitching about what’s being read and what isn’t – which is done more than actually propping up the things you think people should be reading. All the confronting, attacking, harassing…

I don’t know… it just feels like bullying after a while. It all feels like bullying.

I guess when I got there, I finally checked myself. All of that stuff truly didn’t matter. In the grand scheme of it all, its not my culture. This is not my language. I don’t speak the language of abuse or aggression as a default. Oh, I will defend myself when provoked, but none of this stuff, the floundering of the book community…

Anything good I could do in the world, anything amazing I could build, anything better I can be, I can achieve without the approval and scrutiny of others. I don’t need someone’s validation to think and feel something or to even just be kind. No one is entitled to what I chose to do and don’t do and I’m not entitled to others.

I’ve always been quiet. I’m not as loud and rambunctious as I act on livestream with the crew. I’m not boisterous or hard. I get excited and overly passionate about what I know and what I believe in, but I am a believer in solving a problem and unfortunately, the book community has no solutions that aren’t a cyclical performance of prop-up, callout, and deplatform. No real solutions other than destroying people. It’s just not in me to be apart of that and it certainly isn’t worth it in what I have set for myself.

So upward and onward.

The Cerebral Hedonist – my beloved passion project – encompasses everythign I want and believe in. I have no desire or ideations of being an influencer, of being this huge personality who has a bunch of people excusing and defending everything I do. Nor am I an activist. I’m not here to fight everyone’s battle and I’m saying its okay I don’t.

The Cerebral Hedonist is something better than a following and fans. It’s a curated community. Everything about us is collaborative from the point of creation to the point of appreciation. Having so many to appreciate this alongside us is more than I could have ever dreamed of. We’re trying to build up people who are building us up. Feedback, ideas, and propping up others who take the time to prop us up and appreciate what we do. This is the community I desire. Where if you love something, you are free to support it.

I’m curating a space of mutual respect.

A respect for the lives, feelings and minds of the people who find their way into my quiet place. It says that I have not forgotten that behind these keyboards, phones, screens, you are all just people. You’re people with your own personal aspirations and dreams who don’t deserve to be treated as a number and have no obligation to be part of something that doesn’t put you in a good place of mind and help you excel.

This is slowly expanding shared universe. Everything you create and put out there is a world, star, galaxy, and sometimes a whole other universe that we all share. We are growing together, each working on our individual pieces and I think somewhere in trying to keep up with the book community and all that made me forget.

Whelp, I couldn’t find what I was looking for in any fandom I dipped my toe into, so I chose to build my own. The Shoal is something I want to keep growing, making it bigger and better with each new heavenly body until it spans into its own cosmos. Now I have people ready to take that journey with me and its awesome. We’re all here on the path of success and they all lead to the stars.

So, in conclusion, I don’t really need the book community anymore. I made own and we got each other. From now on all my book talk will be just for me and I will continue to hopefully lead by example in my little corner of the world.

And with that cathartic statement. I’ll see you guys next time with some new creations.

If you guys want to help me on this journey, check the description box below and explore the universe I’m building and if you want to support it, join my Patreon or donate to ko-fi. Every little bit helps me build and focus! Thank you for listening.

Stay Well Read

-The Scholarly Squid-

Connecting Worlds – Across the Universe w/ Alechia Dow

Welcome my Squidlies!

I present to you the debut of Connecting Worlds!

Today we reach out and make our first step in building a brand new universe with the woman that inspired it all, Alechia Dow.

With each question, we’ll come together through life, mental health, and FOOD as we lay a foundation for a new world and a new home.

Thank you for joining us.

I hope you come. I hope you stay, and I hope you connect with us…

((Close Captioning and Full Transcription Coming Soon!!!!))

I hope you enjoy! Follow Alechia on Twitter and Check out Her book “The Sound of Stars”!

#ENDSARS: Please support and help our people in Nigeria.

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All forms of support are welcome and remember to check out the Cerebral Hedonist YouTube Channel for more content and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest news.

We’ll see you in the next one!

You Wouldn’t Get It (A Joker Review)

((Originally Posted Novemeber 10, 2019))

As someone with a severe mental illness, I go into most movies that boast a character “suffering” from mental illness with certain expectations and it’s never good. Either the person is a violent, irrational killer because they have a mental illness or they’re an absolute savant that somehow makes the neurotypicals believe that the severely mentally ill are just secretly misunderstood geniuses waiting to be discovered.

I am neither of those things.

I haven’t really seen many depictions of mental illness that stray from these two polarities. Those that attempt tend to be from ages ago and don’t quite hit the mark. Shutter Island, A Beautiful Mind, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They still tend to make me question how much research went into it. Then I’m reminded that there wasn’t much published research at the time and it certainly wasn’t required for authenticity. Now that there is, we have the chance to show mental illness in theatrical settings the way it “really” is. It can be true for some, overkill for others, but one thing is true: It is NEVER glamorous.

Welcome to the Cerebral Hedonist. I’m Harli V. Park and this is my review of Joker.

Joker is a character I went in as a fan of. His antagonism goes beyond the realm of just being against the hero, and into the dark, and lately, rarely visited area of pure evil. He is a character well-known and well-loved for his unapologetic and unjustified villainy set against any and every one. So when I heard a drama was being made about the polarizing character that dared to be an origin story, I was skeptical at first. Then, I saw the trailer. Within that trailer, I saw an homage to insanity, a symbolism of the downward spiral and after re-watching to catch every detail that drew me in, I knew I had to see it.

So I did.

Ironically, I actually teared up. Not in sympathy, but in response to how similar and far too true to life some things were for Arthur Fleck. In fact, in all the reviews, I have yet to see a person with a severe mental illness comment on those very real things. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m not going to spend a whole time summarizing as the trailer and interviews will give you the general story, so lets just skip all that and I’ll tell you what this movie was like for a low-income mentally-ill person and why I think it was amazing.

The story itself is not so much a great triumph of cinema as the acting of Joaquin Phoenix is. I viewed it less as a movie in the general sense and more as an intense character study of the Joker. Once you enter that perspective, you can see the genius of it and it opens you to a point of view you would not often take – the point of view of the “madman.” Most reviews and commentary are highly focused on what was real and what wasn’t and I feel that’s a disservice to the film in general. Everyone is so intensely focused on the madness of Arthur Fleck that they are not focusing on why the madness in Arthur spirals oh so dramatically and intensely.

The message is not about a crazy guy who lost his mind. It’s not about a society on the brink of collapse. It’s not about how the media glorifies violence to the point of desensitization. It’s not even about who is solely responsible for everything that went wrong with Arthur Fleck. All of these things are tools for the real point.

Throughout the film, you are given multiple instances where personal choice is the determining factor in a web of events leading to the “Rise” of Joker. It gives you the illusion of being just a series of random events with a lead character as the focal point. However, the events are not important. It’s the choices made by all of our supporting cast. The not so noticeable background players around him. Here’s the greatest Set Up of all time:

“Ever just have a really bad day?”

Joker opens with an unnamed clown dancing merrily on the sidewalk to ragtime piano. He appears completely out of place and out of touch with the grunge around him. He seems happy even in such a dour setting. He’s there to entertain you. A group of kids steal the sign he’s twirling and make off with it for no discernable reason. Rather than letting the store owner know what happened, our clown chases them down in a cartoonish sequence. In something that would be very comical in most circumstances – our clown is hit by the sign and then kicked and beaten in something straight out of a merry melody or a looney tune. In this, you get the first sense of brutality in the film and what’s to follow our clown. You later realize that the piano player doesn’t report what he witnessed; he chooses to say nothing. The store owner himself chooses to believe our clown stole the sign and abandoned the job rather than a bunch of ruffian kids made off with it in a cruel joke because that sign cost money, and he wants it from somewhere. Further still, our clown’s boss dismisses his side of the story despite having worked with him for years. Thus, you are introduced to Arthur Fleck: the avatar of everyone’s poor choices and lack of personal responsibility.

Whether or not the events in this film are real or all a part of Arthur’s afflicted mind, Joker shows you repeatedly the results of personal responsibility. This is what is all too real about this movie. From his mother never taking responsibility for her illness for the sake of her child to Thomas Wayne knowing a child was in the hands of a delusional, mentally ill woman – having all the power to stop her from hurting another innocent person and doing nothing.

You can ask, “Why is he responsible for what a batshit ex-employee is doing?”

Easy, because he knows that this is happening and has the power to do something about it. He chooses not to… with dire consequences later.

Everyone in Joker has power in some form that would stop the death of Arthur Fleck and the birth of “Joker” from ever happening. There is no responsibility taken by anyone within Gotham. Even the cleric in Arkham Asylum who hears Arthur Fleck admit out loud that he’s committed a crime doesn’t bother to contact law enforcement with what he just learned and the information needed on Arthur’s mother that would lead them straight to him. This passivity shown by all the characters around Arthur feeds into the downward spiral as Arthur relinquishes personal responsibility for himself and his mental illness. And why shouldn’t he? Everyone else has because everyone has their own problems – usually problems they, like Arthur, are not taking responsibility for either.

Joker shows such a batshit scenario that is so scarily true to life for the mentally ill that it’s easy to see how one not so strong can give up and give into their darker urges in order to be seen and heard in a cry for help that often is acknowledged far too late.

This is why I find Joker so fascinating and a work of art.

It’s not the technical aspects – though they play a huge part in conveying – but the storytelling that makes the life of Arthur Fleck as surreal and real as it is. There is no “glorification.” There is no “it was all in his head.” There was no “he was absolutely evil from the start.” There was only the choices and the stomach-clenching knowledge that if you are not the Joker in this scenario, then you are one of the supporting cast who had the choice to stop him and instead, blamed someone else for not doing so.

Bystander Syndrome is a bitch.

That is what made the Joker such a great and impactful display of mental illness, society, and the massive consequences of even the smallest things.

Joker is standing there telling you a really good joke…

And you’re laughing because it’s true.

Stay Well-Read…

If you enjoyed this and want to help us continue to do what we do, please consider becoming a patron or supporting us in one of these avenues:

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We’ll see you in the next one!

-Harli V. Park –

The Marks We Leave Behind (The Ocean at the End of the Lane)

(This review was originally written and published on 04/23/2017)

As it is well known I am a huge and unabashed fan of Neil Gaiman. I breathe for the man’s writing and imagination and sheer wit. I picked up View from The Cheap Seats — which is a nonfiction collection that I highly recommend if you’re a writer in need of inspiration — as soon as it was released in my store. So finally finishing the Ocean at the End of the Lane, I realized it has left its mark on me as much of Neil Gaiman’s work does on me and I am in for the long haul.

This review will be spoiler free as possible because I do not want to spoil this experience for anyone else, but there will be general synopsis given so if you don’t want that, I should say you remain here at the start while the rest of us travel down to the end of the Lane and into the world of Lettie Hempstock and her Ocean.

Welcome to the Cerebral Hedonist and here comes a thought…

The main character who can only be known as “the boy” as it is told from his point of view and no one seems to want to use his name, lives on a lane in fairly rural country.

Somewhere in England…

We’re here to talk about the story, not my inability to use a map.

Anyway! As a grown man he returns to his family home and decides to visit the farm of an old friend. As he is welcomed by his former friend’s family, he is told she’s somewhere in Australia with her father. So instead “the boy” goes to sit on a bench in front of a small pond and begins to relive the events of their faithful meeting…

He has quite an interesting summer as this is not a coming of age story, but rather a study in who we are as children versus who we become as adults and if the sacrifices of others around us to help us grow were worth it.

. This is… a fairy tale in its purest and most interesting form. Its quite adult in its presentation and a bit of a departure from his usual style such as in Coraline, Star Dust and the Graveyard book. I found that this is because this book was written for his wife, Amanda Palmer, who doesn’t care much for fantasy/horror despite having married a man who lives and breathes it. The imagery manages to be heavily realistic yet containing small implications that not all is as it seems. The horror begins when it is realized that Lettie Hemstock has made a dreadful mistake in involving “the boy” and it costs her quite dearly.

Dave McKean

It lead to events that infect “the boy’s” life that are fantastical yet real enough to wonder if perhaps this is simply the boys childish imagination telling this tale or if these things are truly happening. It’s actually quite disturbing as you go along and you realize there is no villain in the general sense. They are simply people of various kinds confronting the ever changing world and the disappearance of the world before it. They are simply people trying to survive.

It’s dark, beautiful, and touches you in strange sort of way that you wouldn’t expect. I would have to call it tragic for me because as I read the last of it, I literally cried. I had not expected something so awful yet beautiful to happen and that “the boy” narrating this story was the last proof of Lettie Hemstock’s mark on the world as it continues to change and things of old are forgotten.

Honestly, despite it being a departure from Neil Gaiman’s usual narrative voice (at least the one I’ve become used to), the impact was just as hard, just as deep, and just as endearingly wonderful that it gave me a sense of awe upon finishing the last page.

I highly suggest you read this book. It’s a bit hard to get through at times as it drags minutely in certain parts and as I said its not his usual writing style, but once you have read it the impression sticks with you like a folklore you hear in the dark.

I would call this a horror/fantasy due to its dark themes and content. Its certainly not for children but I give it the highest recommendation possible if you are like me and enjoy a little darkness in your fairy tales.

Lettie is a beautiful character and “the boy” is a wonderful voice and I hope that when you pick it up, you get drawn into Lettie’s world and the Ocean at the End of the Lane.


For More Reviews: The Well Read Squid

If you enjoyed this and want to help us continue to do what we do, please consider becoming a patron or supporting us in one of these avenues:

Merchandise: Where you can purchase artwork and merch

Patreon: Where you can get exclusive access to all sorts of goodies starting at only $2 per month! That includes Bonust Content for Indigo Inc!

Ko-Fi: where you can buy us a coffee to help us get through the next piece

All forms of support are welcome and remember to check out the Cerebral Hedonist YouTube Channel for more content and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest news.

We’ll see you in the next one!