The Witches Are Comingby Published 05 Nov 2019
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**Named one of Esquire's most anticipated books of 2019**
The firebrand New York Times columnist and bestselling author of Shrill—soon to be a Hulu series starring Aidy Bryant—provides a brilliant and incisive look at how patriarchy, intolerance, and misogyny have conquered not just politics but American culture itself.
What do Adam Sandler, Donald Trump, and South Park have in common? Why are myths like "reverse sexism" and "political correctness" so seductive? And why do movie classics of yore, from Sixteen Candles to Revenge of the Nerds, make rape look like so much silly fun? With Lindy West's signature wit and in her uniquely incendiary voice, The Witches are Coming lays out a grand theory of America that explains why Trump's election was, in many ways, a foregone conclusion.
As West reveals through fascinating journeys across the landscapes of pop culture, the lies that fostered the catastrophic resentment that boiled over in the 2016 presidential race did not spring from a vacuum. They have in fact been woven into America's DNA, cultivated by generations of mediocre white men and fed to the masses with such fury that we have become unable to recognize them as lies at all.
Whether it be the notion overheard since the earliest moments of the #MeToo movement that feminism has gone too far or the insistence that holding someone accountable for his actions amounts to a "witch hunt," The Witches are Coming exposes the lies that many have chosen to believe and the often unexpected figures who have furthered them. Along the way, it unravels the tightening link between culture and politics, identifying in the memes, music, and movies we've loved the seeds of the neoreactionary movement now surging through the nation.
Sprawling, funny, scorching, and illuminating, The Witches are Coming shows West at the top of her intellectual and comic powers. As much a celebration of America's potential as a condemnation of our failures, some will call it a witch hunt—to which West would reply, "So be it. I'm a witch and I'm hunting you."
The Witches Are Coming Reviews
Thank you, Netgalley, for an advanced copy for review!
I have been reading a ton of feminist literature recently and they were starting to blend together, so I took this nice and slow.
This book was fantastic, taking a place for me among the recent feminist literary giants like Feminasty or Good and Mad of the past year or so. Surprisingly, I hadn’t heard of Lindy or her social media storm and other happenings of the past few years, so I went in unbiased, and I was glad for it.
Firstly, this book is quotable as heck. For the sake of this being an advanced copy I read, I think I’m not allowed to quote anything, but consider it sufficient to say I want to just print this book on a scroll, walk to public areas, unravel it across the pavement and get up on a soapbox to read it aloud. It’s great. Any chapter would make an excellent oration – in fact, the audiobook version, if being made, will probably be fantastic, just like Feminasty was; some stuff needs snarky enunciation and so forth. The book was written in a great tone for those formats of delivery – alternating internet slang with millennial street lingo with scholarly rhetoric that I want to engrave on something. That exact tone, casual with strong tones of exasperation, made it extremely readable and relatable reading.
Lindy covers a lot in this book, a lot that rational women today should be mad about, concerned with, or fighting for actively. Her frank explication of #MeToo, abortions and how they really aren’t the big deal everyone thinks they are, Adam Sandler’s comedy, heck, even GOOP by Gwyneth Paltrow. Lindy’s there with an unvarnished take on most things that have come up in at least my own personal life. Trump is more than hateful rhetoric, she impresses, he is the embodiment and symptom of hate and gross behavior that has grown like a tumor beneath America’s skin for years and years. And climate change. She doesn’t hold back, and she is a native of Seattle, close to where I live, so her no-holds-barred take on how this crisis will affect it specifically hit home for me.
As I finished reading, I felt both hopeful and choked-up with frustration, just as Lindy is throughout these pages. We can do something to mitigate climate change, we can choose not to watch South Park or Adam Sandler movies, we can vote Donald Trump out (or impeach him, at this point).
I like that Lindy didn’t present a rose-colored glasses vision of anything; her blunt honesty is everything we need, and probably exactly why she was hounded on social media so viciously. Most can’t handle frank truth from feminists, and that’s a fact. But Lindy is hilarious, she makes sense, she is convincing. The witches are coming, and we can join and help them.
This was goddamn incredible - a fantastic, funny, insightful clapback of a book. I sometimes incorporate my favorite quotes from a work in a review, but if I did that with The Witches Are Coming, I'd be copying and pasting the whole book. This was my first read from Lindy West, and I was astounded at how much I love her writing. She discusses serious issues here, the most pressing and infuriating issues of our moment, but couches them in brilliant and funny entryways to make them accessible and inarguable to anyone. If your politics are even 20% similar to West, you will be snapping along so hard your fingers will fall off.
She discusses how America is intensely allergic to acknowledging when things are wrong through the story of Grumpy Cat's real name or Chip and Joanna Gaines's religious affiliation. She discusses the farcicality of "witch hunts" and shaming "identity politics" by talking about a gear-swapping Facebook group her husband is a part of (trust me, it makes sense when you read it). She discusses online harassment, portrayals of women and abortion in media, the privilege of wellness culture, and so much more.
But most importantly, just when you start to get a bit disillusioned with American society, she reminds you that the world is a beautiful place worth saving, that this country is ours and that your beliefs should not be shaken by all the people trying to shake them. You should hold firm in your activism and give a big ol "fuck you" to anyone who laughs at you, paints you as hysterical/angry/unproductive, tries to "trigger" you, harasses you, or tries to turn you standing up for what is right into the punchline of a joke.
Thank you for writing this kickass book, Lindy West - when it comes out, I am going to make all my friends and family read it. (Thanks to NetGalley and Hatchette for giving me the privilege of reading this ARC.)
This is such a beautiful ARC. I’m excited to read this necessary work.
Thank you to Hachette for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
“This is a witch hunt. We’re witches, and we’re hunting you.”
God, I missed Lindy West. I mean, she didn’t go anywhere and I read Shrill only two months ago and I still haven’t seen the show and she’s written pieces for a dozen or so other media outlets, but I still miiiiiiissed her!
While Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman was a lot of West’s own personal life, growth and realizations, The Witches Are Coming examines societal shifts more holistically and offers a ruthlessly necessary cultural critique. If her previous book was in part a crash course on the history of the internet up through the first half of 2016, we’re now taken on a trip through many generation-defining events that have taken place over the past three and a half years. The election of Donald Trump, Brexit, the #MeToo movement—these all have happened in the relatively short but also inexplicably long period since. In addressing not only these happenings, but the inevitable backlash to the backlash, Lindy West provides a thoughtful and well-reasoned examination of subjects that still are too discomfiting to bring up in some ‘polite company’. And she does it all with the same level of cutting humor that you’d come to expect from her work.
And, guys, it’s really really funny. I was cracking up over even the chapter titles. Come on, Ted Bundy Was Not Charming—Are You High? That’s fucking classic; I want it embroidered on a pillow or something. And she replicates one of my favorite parts of her last book, which was the reflective look at one the idols of her youth, Howard Stern. But instead of Stern this time, she devotes entire chapters to examining the legacies of comedy legends such as Adam Sandler and Joan Rivers. Even some of the chapter titles, like Is Adam Sandler Funny? , would be enough provocation to set off a pack of furious fanboys to defend his honor, but I beg you all to take the time to read what she’s written. These aren’t hit pieces; the conclusions she reaches are nuanced and even the criticisms aren’t really levied at the performer personally, but at the society that shaped as well as consumed them.
Even those who weren’t #blessed with their own chapter received credit where it was due. Ricky Gervais and Louis C.K.’s contributions to comedy aren’t merely tossed aside by a changing world, but they also aren’t immune to being challenged by it. One of the funniest chapters features Gwyneth Paltrow in all her Goopiness and it’s not mocking or glowing in the way we’ve come to expect towards her, but instead is refreshingly giddy and candid. West balances comic whimsy and difficult truths with the same level of deftness as Mary Poppins, disguising the bitterness of medicine with a spoonful of sugar. It really does make it all easier to swallow.
Most chapters feature a story from West’s own life, either a hilarious anecdote or a moment of frustration, that is used as a segue into a topic of importance for her. A few are really Trojan Horses that don’t reveal their true nature until further into the piece, but some are upfront about the content for good reason. In What Is an Abortion, Anyway? she discusses not just her own real abortion, but her fictional one as well. Her insistence to include Shrill’s main character, Annie’s, abortion in the pilot was the same determination that birthed the #ShoutYourAbortion movement online. While not as satirical as the other essays, it’s just as sharp and truly beneficial to anyone who considers themselves pro-choice.
Real talk, I was so giggly while reading this. My Kindle copy is so full of highlighted passages that if I had done the same thing to a physical copy it would be like 65% highlighter. Her self-awareness makes her so endearing and her biting wit is funny as hell—I just thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this book. The end left me optimistic and with a sense of pending accomplishment, which, yeah, is probably unearned at this stage, but with a clear path forward. I don’t know what else to say; Lindy West left me feeling happy and gave me some hope.
*Thanks to Hachette Books & Netgalley for an advance copy!
This book feels incredibly timely. It could've been literally written last week, what with Lindy West mentioning the limitations of kindness as a political device and Greta Thunberg. (Is she a literal witch or has she just been paying better attention than the rest of us? Is it both? They're probably not mutually exclusive.)
I laughed out loud multiple times and I also sighed more than once. I highlighted parts of my egalley and shared them on my Facebook* and shared some via text to some of my favorite people.
This is the book we need right now. Yes, parts made me angry, but most of it gave me hope. I feel like we're all dealing with right-wing gaslighting and it's good to have someone saying, "No, this is all really happening. No, you're right."
Also? It's so funny. Like, ridiculously funny. Like, laugh so hard on your commute that the stranger next to you will get up and move away funny. So it's a win-win!
* = Yes, I have a Facebook page still. Mark Zuckerberg is awful and the site is awful but it's where I see my friends and pictures of their kids and grandkids. It's where I see pictures of my friends' dogs and cats and where I learn how to be a better person, thanks to a lot of my intersectional groups and my smarter-than-me friends.