Books stocked by the Monkey’s Paw, a neat Toronto bookstore that I posted about a while back. (Not trying to brag, but I totally scooped the New York Times.) This is the same shop that has the Bibliomat! I think it’s time for a Canadian field trip.
photos by andrew rowat
I guess my one redeeming quality is that, yes, I will be a crying mess in bed, on the floor, in the movie theater, in the car (Oh! In the car! My favorite place, perhaps, to cry.) But I’ll also need to step out of the room to dry my teary eyes when things are good, when my heart is full to bursting and I am overjoyed. Last night, I sat around a cozy fire with a peculiar mix of strangers and friends, older and younger. A woman in her eighties told us about her partner, and how they were together since she was fifteen. They married at eighteen, she said, and after he died two years ago, she is learning how to be an adult, alone. He was the greatest man, a special one, she said, and her daughter-in-law nodded in agreement and I hoped no one saw my eyes go all misty. Later, we went down to the basement where the boys played guitar and young voices and older ones joined in, singing classic folk songs and Radiohead and the Talking Heads, and of course I didn’t sing because I’m too shy, but I set aside the worrying and the stress and the uncertainty of it all and I was happy. Everyone had these beatific, easy smiles and our bellies were full of beet hummus and roasted asparagus and pasta salad and the weird, ugly cookies I made (of course!). I felt all right.
A woman I had just met touched my shoulder and she said how pretty my long hair was. I didn’t apologize for myself or say that it was only just okay; I said thank you, and I tried to feel like I had qualities of merit. That I was an okay person in a room full of okay people.
I’ve been clutching certain books around like precious tomes, touting them to anyone who will listen. They are evidence for my newest theory, one I so hope is true, that maybe everyone’s mid-twenties are sort of a disaster. I’ve spent all my life waiting for things to get better, but instead I’ve been just a sad, weird, lonely person in high school and in college and in law school and now as an almost adult (oh, please).
You should read Anagrams, I tell my girlfriends who are a few years younger, and I paraphrase the quote that meant so much to me when I read it a few months earlier. I hope that I am wise and sage, that in a few years they will realize that things at twenty-three weren’t as final as they think. That the relationships they tout as very serious might end and that they won’t necessarily be engaged or with child or in escrow. That they will be as lost and confused as I am. That things won’t be what they expected. One friend looked at me conspiratorially and said that even the friends whose Facebook statuses change from In a Relationship to Engaged to Married, or the ones with perfect jobs and smooth, glossy hair are just as aimless, if only in different ways. Maybe the big secret is that I’m not alone in this.
In Houston, a classic movie theater was turned into a bookstore. Sadly, it has since closed, but isn’t this neat? What about if they had a smaller theater/reading room where customers could read and sip coffee or tea?
photo via web ecoist
Truly mediocre accompanying outfit post here.
This morning I finished reading the Housekeeper and the Professor, a quiet and lovely book by Yoko Ogawa. I’ve spent a lot of time reading (and loving) contemporary Japanese literature, and when I came across one of Ms. Ogawa’s books, I knew it was right up my alley. What’s there: Baseball, Japanese culture, interesting characters, effortless descriptions of perfect food (though none can top Murakami’s endless meals of seaweed salad and seared fish and steamed tofu and rice and…)
The story begins with a housekeeper assigned to work for an aging mathematics professor. Mathematical concepts and puzzles are woven into the book, and they’re engaging and interesting and not without symbolism, but here what’s most exciting are the relationships forged between the main characters. Ms. Ogawa’s writing is simple and effortless and lovely. Reading the book, I slipped into 1990s Japan. I sat listening to the Hanshin Tigers on the radio and I heard the rustling of notes clipped to the Professor’s suit and I rubbed Root’s flat head.
I guess I should have known that this would be a near-perfect book with praise like this, from the Los Angeles Times: “This novel has all the charm and restraint of any by Ishiguro or Kenzaburo Oe, and the whimsy of Murakami.” The Housekeeper and the Professor, though, stands all on its own as a truly masterful little story that’s totally captivating and wonderful.
photo (cherry blossoms in japan) by masahiro miyasaka
"All the good in the world you can fit inside a rambutan. And still have enough room for you and me." - Shehan Karunatilaka, the Legend of Pradeep Mathew
photo by paul vo
Everything is fine. This weekend was fine. We went to a dinner party and I was only a little shy. We went thrift shopping and browsed record shops and bookstores. (I accidentally bought six books—David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten, Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan and the Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Shehan Karunatilaka’s the Legend of Pradeep Mathew, Yoko Ogawa’s the Housekeeper and the Professor, and Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital.)
We finished Arrested Development—I had only previously seen the first two seasons. Quick, recommend a good TV series to watch on Netflix. We watched the High Cost of Living and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. I kept reading Revolutionary Road, and kept wishing I didn’t see Leonardo DiCaprio delivering Frank’s lines in my head.
I painted my nails, which I haven’t been biting lately, and we went to brunch and I worked on a silly writing project. I spent a lot of time being excited and also a little nervous about our trip to Atlanta in just over a week.
All of the days run into each other and I feel bleary and strange as ever.
Lorrie Moore, Anagrams
Maybe it’s a thing, you know, feeling sort of adrift and uncertain at twenty-six. I can’t decide if that makes it worse or better. I feel more unsure and worried and sad than I did this time last year, or as a college student unable to speak or move, or even than I did in high school, when I was sure that things would get better—get this—when I was in my twenties. Actually, then eighteen seemed like that magic number. I was sure I would get exactly what I wanted: freedom and independence and confidence and maybe, I hoped, I would even finally get pretty, or at least less ugly. When I started college, I sat all day on my twin bed reading the Catcher in the Rye and hoping no one noticed me. I pushed my get-it-together age back to twenty-two. I’m still waiting on all of those things I was so sure I’d have by now.
I just started reading Anagrams, and I know you’ve already read it, and that I’m years behind the curve, as always, but the book feels like it means a lot, like it was written precisely for me, to read in this exact moment, which seems especially interesting because it was published the year I was born. (And maybe the year you were born, too. Of course the book wasn’t written for me, but it’s nice to feel like it was.)
Yesterday I had an especially hard day. A lot of days feel tough lately, but I couldn’t do a thing but lay in bed and read and feel so sad and low. Later, I sat across the couch from N, reading while he watched a documentary, and as I read I began to cry. I held the book in front of my face so he wouldn’t know. I’m always crying about nothing at all, but it felt like I was crying about something, and I didn’t want to talk about it. About the way I feel, just like Ms. Moore wrote, stupid, and untethered, and misguided. Right now, it feels like every day is really hard to get through.