hello friday! (150424)


i was up and awake at 2 a.m., thinking, hm, what shall i talk about this friday?, when i looked to my right (not very far to my right) to the pile of books stacked rather perilously on the corner of my desk -- or, rather, the pile of things stacked rather perilously -- and, because the books in this pile are usually what i've been reading (or intending to read) currently, i think maybe we'll dive right in.

meg wolitzer, the interestings (riverhead, 2013):  it's been an extraordinarily shitty few weeks, and i know it's been extraordinarily shitty because i've been having a difficult time reading.  when i'm having a difficult time reading, i tend to reread because the familiar is assuring and comforting, none of that nervousness or anxiety that comes with starting something new, so i picked up the interestings again because i loved the interestings for the friendships, the banalities, the exploration of talent and potential, although the last maybe stings a little, given my current crisis in my own writing.  (i stepped away from writing fiction last week.)

a mango:  because i love mangoes.  this needs to ripen a little more, but i cannot wait to eat it.  i hope it's good, but, to be honest, fruit isn't as good in new york as it is in california.  maybe all that goddamn sunshine's good for something.

jonathan franzen, farther away (FSG, 2012):  i pulled this out because i went to see the documentary, emptying the skies, this week.  it's based on the essay franzen wrote for the new yorker (published in farther away under the title, "the ugly mediterranean"), so i wanted to give the essay another read after seeing the documentary (on earth day, when it was released).  it's a great essay -- one of my favorites of franzen's non-fiction -- and the book is just so pretty and well-designed all the way through.

betty halbreich, i'll drink to that (penguin press, 2014):  this was my response to "i need some light, frothy reading," and what a riveting look into privilege this was.  i'm fascinated by money, not gonna lie, mostly because i'm rather amused by the indulgence and entitlement and sheer ego that accompany it, all while the privilege and, again, entitlement are off-putting and repellent.  halbreich has a measure of self-awareness, though, and acknowledges the unnecessary luxuries of her clients and of clothes, and, in the end, i'll drink to that was exactly what i wanted and needed during the week -- light, frothy reading.

ted hughes, birthday letters (FSG, 1998):  i pulled this out to find a poem for my hello monday post and kept it out because this may be my favorite poetry collection.  heh, i say that like i read a whole lot of poetry, but does that matter?  this collection still means a lot to me and warms my cold, cold heart, and i love having it nearby.

rebecca solnit, a field guide to getting lost (penguin, 2005):  like i said, extraordinarily shitty week means i'm stalled on this book, not because it's bad but because i'm stalled.  i'd love for my heart to heal so i can read without feeling twinges again.

marilynne robinson, housekeeping (FSG, 1980):  i started reading this last friday on my way out to coney island, but, wow, i'm already depressed as fuck, so i set it aside for lighter reading.

timothy keller, prayer (dutton, 2014):  sometimes, i read theological books, too.

papers, notepad, etcetera:  i'm not undoing my tower of books and crap to see what these papers are.  i think there's a printed receipt in there, maybe a story draft, drafts of résumés and cover letters -- not very interesting, eh?  moving on!

jonathan franzen, strong motion (FSG, 1992):  damn, i have two franzens in the same pile?  i started reading this a few weeks ago because i miss having fiction by franzen to read, but, see, i have this habit of reading, like, seven books at any given time, and it's always a gamble to see which book sticks and which one is temporarily set aside for a later day.  this one, too, was put aside for something lighter.

flannery o'connor, the complete stories (FSG, 1971):  recently, i went on this buying spree of o'connor books -- got the complete stories then the habit of being then mystery and manners -- but o'connor is someone i seem to be able to take only in morsels because she has this intensity that requires digesting.  maybe it's just me, but, sometimes, i wonder if i'm "getting" her stories because i'm oftentimes left a little unsure at the end, wondering if i "got it" or if i missed something along the way.  this isn't necessarily bad, though, because it makes me slow down -- actually, over the last two years, i've been trying to be a more careful reader instead of simply flying through books.  i've always been a fast reader, so it's been a good exercise to slow down a little and rest on the page, in the story, with the characters and absorb more of everything.  also, i'm not allowing myself to buy any more books until i find a job ... but i am horribly weak when it comes to books, and the CLMP lit mag fair at housing works is this sunday, in which case, shit, well, lit mags aren't books, right?

and that is the pile!  as it goes, though, tonight, i'll be finishing a book that isn't in this stack, kazuo ishiguro's an artist of the floating world (penguin, 2013) (drop caps edition), for book club tomorrow, which also means i get to bake strawberry cream scones because it's book club + brunch because what's a book club meeting without food?

have a great weekend, all!  enjoy this battle between winter and spring if you're in nyc!

hello friday! (150410)


hello hello!  it feels like it's been a long week, partly because i was away for two days and partly because i haven't been sleeping well, so i'm constantly tired.  it's been a great reading week, though, so i can't complain!

i finished reading the book of strange new things and picked up flannery o'connor's the complete stories -- and isn't it beautiful???  FSG recently reissued her books with these beautiful covers, and i want to collect them all.  and i want to know what happened with purity ... any beautiful cover art FSG releases now, and that's the first thing that pops into my head, "this is so gorgeous! ... whathappenedwithpurity."  it's going to be a Thing from 2015, maybe even the Thing!

instead of taking o'connor's the habit of being with me to hudson, i took catie disabato's the ghost network and devoured it in less than twelve hours.  i would have devoured it in one sitting, but i started reading around midnight and was bone-tired from not having slept much the night before and taking the train and walking around, so i had to succumb to sleep with fifty pages left to go, which i was loathe to do, but, sometimes, your body wins out.  the ghost network was loads of fun, though, and so well-written, and i loved all the stuff with guy debord and the situationists because i studied them in college and wrote about the society of the spectacle, so the book also stirred up all these nostalgic *feels* for my comp lit days -- but, anyway, nostalgia aside, the ghost network is fabulous, and i can't recommend it enough.  it's out next month from melville house, y'all!  go check it out!

in hudson, my friend and i went to check out the local bookstore (obviously) where i picked up rebecca solnit's the faraway nearby and promptly started scarfing it down before making myself slow down and take it morsel by morsel because, oh my god, it is so, so good.  i love her writing, and i love how she writes about writing because, here, read this:

writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone.  or rather writing is saying to the no one who may eventually be the reader those things one has no someone to whom to say them.  matters that are so subtle, so personal, so obscure, that i ordinarily can't imagine saying them to the people to whom i'm closest.  every once in a while i try to say them aloud and find that what turns to mush in my mouth or falls short of their ears can be written down for total strangers.  said to total strangers in the silence of writing that is recuperated and heard in the solitude of reading.  is it the shared solitude of writing, is it that separately we all reside in a place deeper than society, even the society of two?  is it that the tongue fails where the fingers succeed, in telling truths so lengthy and nuanced that they are almost impossible aloud?


sometime in the late nineteenth century, a poor rural english girl who would grow up to become a writer was told by a gypsy, "you will be loved by people you've never met."  this is the odd compact with strangers who will lose themselves in your words and the partial recompense for the solitude that makes writers and writing.  you have an intimacy with the faraway and distance from the near at hand.  like digging a hole to china and actually coming out the other side, the depth of that solitude of reading and then writing took me all the way through to connect with people again in an unexpected way.  it was astonishing wealth for one who had once been so poor.

("flight," 64-5)

her writing style isn't flowery or prose-y; it's simply plain good.  she isn't sentimental or outright funny, but there's this wonderful warmth to her writing that i find encouraging and reassuring, a wisdom that makes her feel like a mentor -- and the faraway nearby makes me think of selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed in that i derive a lot of comfort from them both because they make me feel less alone, place me in a world where there are other people, other writers, who are out there struggling with similar thoughts and similar passions and similar ambitions, the word "similar" used in very loose ways.  both books have been recent reminders that we read to feel less alone, that books are and/or contain companions, that we are somehow in this (whatever "this" is) together.

i also started reading amy rowland's the transcriptionist via oyster books, and i'm enjoying it thus far.  for some reason, i keep picturing an older setting, like the 1950s, 1960s, so i keep having to resituate myself in contemporary times, but, in this case, i wonder if that's a bad thing -- but let me continue reading this and ruminate upon what i mean by that some more.  (and see if i continue feeling so as i get deeper into the book.)

and, well, there's my week-in-review.  it's been a great reading week and a terrible writing week.  and, yes, i know, i still owe y'all a march recap, and it will be up by the end of the weekend, and i can actually say this in good faith this time because i was up until four a.m. this morning trying to finish it.  it's not quite as polished or thorough as i'd like, though, so i shall finish working on it and post it over the weekend!  thanks for being patient!

(sometimes, i wonder who i'm talking to here ... hi, readers!  or hi, myself?  have a great weekend!  i'm going to be eating all the chocolate i can find my hands on.  and do some spring cleaning, the konmari way!)

hello monday! (150406)

mmm, so, the monthly recap did not get written over the weekend (clearly), but, in my defense, i was still (am still sorta) recovering from a bad sinus cold.  i'm also going out of town tomorrow for an overnight trip, so shall we say march books will be up by thursday evening?  yes?  ok!

last week, i read michel faber's the book of strange new things (which is easily one of the most beautiful books i have laid my eyes upon) with a friend on instagram, and we finished over the weekend.  i spent the last 50 pages sobbing my eyes out because the oasans had burrowed their way into my heart to an extent unbeknownst to me until i started crying and could not stop, and the book has sat with me these last two days, which i dare say is a pretty good thumbs-up as far as an endorsement of the book goes.

i particularly appreciated how faber wrote peter (the main character and the missionary to oasis) -- faber wasn't judgmental of peter, even when peter really started exhibiting the more gnarly parts of legalistic christianity, but neither did he try to soften the edges and try to make peter more "likable" (for lack of a better word).  i liked that peter was human even in the ways that he internalizes his faith; he is so many legalistic, self-absorbed christians i know and have grown up knowing; and, in many ways, i found the book of strange new things to be refreshing in its presentation of faith, while also being fascinating for not having a particular slant either way.  peter is who he is; faith is what it is; and it is up to the reader to make his/her own judgment.

(or maybe this is me being sensitive to faith and expecting disparaging views toward faith and religious people in books [and pretty much everything].  there is also that.)

themes i respond strongly, viscerally, emotionally to in books:  loneliness, siblings, loss.

tonight (monday night), i went to hear jennifer weiner who gave a talk titled "how to be authentic on social media" as part of pen america's DIY series.  this shall be the write-up from the talk because i wrote down exactly three things:

  1. weiner made a defense for twitter as being a place where writers can practice, to try out new things and essentially get feedback because followers will respond so you can get a sense of what works and what doesn't -- and i wrote this down because i don't particularly agree with this.
  2. emily gould (who joined weiner in conversation after the talk) likes birds and knows about birding!  (i did not know this!)  she likes people best then cats ... then birds are somewhere there.
  3. gould said she agreed with about 98% of what weiner said about twitter but disagreed with about 2%, part of which was that she thinks that it should be okay for writers who aren't comfortable with twitter not to be on twitter (and with which i vehemently agree).

weiner was exactly as i expected -- funny, personable, gregarious with lots of digs directed at franzen -- but, ultimately, i am a non-[public-]tweeter, and i find all this "if you want to be a writer now, you have to be on social media" thing immensely discouraging.  but neither does it compel me to get on twitter ...  however, i am an instagram fiend, and i think that's quite enough.

the 2014 vida count is out and ... what can i say about it that hasn't been said yet.

i'm going out of town tomorrow for an overnight trip and am looking forward to it, to hopping on a train and getting away for thirty-six hours.  i'm taking flannery o'connor's the habit of being (her letters) with me, and i like how blunt she can be -- or i suppose "blunt" might not be the right word, but o'connor doesn't necessarily play in niceties, and i appreciate that.

i should end this here and pack or something, but i feel like lingering.  i'm feeling a bit soul-weary tonight, a little lonely, and i'm thinking that maybe i should reread something because i'd like to sink into an old friend, seek out the comfort of something familiar and warm and safe.  what to read, what to read -- i guess we'll see what my heart lands upon on friday!

have a great week all!  and, if you're in the nyc area, enjoy spring!