I’m not trying to brag, but I’ve been a reading machine over the last few months. Right now, I’m breezing through Teddy Wayne’s Kapitoil, and it’s very charming. The narrator is a Qatari programmer who arrives in the U.S. to work for a financial company. The story is told through his journal entries. English isn’t his first language, and the end of each entry contains a list of definitions of words the narrator has encountered that he didn’t previously know. This one made me laugh out loud:
pre-game = drink alcohol in the apartment before external parties to reduce panicked feelings
Last week, I went to San Francisco for a couple of days. That kind of quick trip, and flying two days in a row, makes me feel so exhausted and confused. It seemed that everything smelled strange, sort of like barbecue sauce. I didn’t have enough time in California, but also I just wanted to get home. Driving back from the airport, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ Same Love came on the radio and I began to sob.
If you didn’t notice, this is now a blog about songs that make me cry. (Which is roughly all of them.)
San Francisco is vibrant and bustling and hip. I felt a little out of place. At best, I used to be able to prance through a city I was visiting on my own, not cool on the level of its inhabitants, but brave and bold and happy to be there. This trip, I ambled around, aimless and nervous. (The only positive interaction—and it was only sort of either—I had was when I walked past two girls strolling in the opposite direction. I overheard one say to the other, almost angry: I love her tights. I wanted to hug her, but I kept walking, feigning oblivion)
I spent my last afternoon walking through the Mission—an area I had never spent time in—and I adored it. Vintage shops and bookstores and eateries line the streets, and I think it was fated that I stroll along them. Heading toward my last stop, a bookstore on 16th, and running out of time, I stopped instead in a hot pink thrift store. A too-slow shopper (the worst!) was blocking the dress aisle, so I headed instead for the books. I browsed the hard covers, snatching up a two dolllar copy of Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs, and then, in the new arrivals section, there it was: a 1983 copy of the out of print first novel by Nadine Gordimer, the Lying Days. I read a library copy of the book years ago, and it meant very much to me. I’ve searched for a copy for ages, and there it was. I almost cried (I know, I know) but I held it together and floated across the Bay to Oakland airport, overjoyed and lugging a now very full bag.
I’m calling it: Summer is here. It’s June, my birthday is next week, and even here in Portland, it’s hothothot! (I’ve already had three or four sunburns!) I’ve been devouring books, lately, but I’d love a few suggestions. I’m pretty stoked, because I’m more than halfway to my 2013 goal of reading twenty-five books. (I’ve read fourteen.
The New York Times just published suggested beach reads, but none of them really appeal. Right now, I’m reading the Swell Season (by Josef Škvorecký, and also the inspiration for the awesome band’s name). I’ve bought a lot of books that I haven’t yet read (I’m especially looking forward to Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, Gary Shteyngart’s the Russian Debutante’s Handbook, and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.) I’ve even been toying with the idea of trying to read Infinite Jest, though admittedly I haven’t been a huge fan of David Foster Wallace in the past. (Don’t shoot!)
I’d love to hear what you’re planning on reading this summer, or what you’ve enjoyed lately.
photo by irina troitskaya
Last weekend, N played a show at a farmer’s market out in the suburbs. Nearby, there was a store with a huge sign: $ BOOKS. It looked a little sketch, but I decided to check it out because, duh, dollar books. I cleaned up, y’all, and now I’m looking for any reason to go back to the ‘burbs.
A few Gatsby things:
I’m still a little skeptical about Carey Mulligan as Daisy, but how gorgeous is she on the cover of Vogue? That lime green dress is perfection.
I think I’ll re-read the Great Gatsby (as soon as I finish Ghostwritten! So good!) in advance of seeing the movie. I haven’t read it since high school. A former co-worker recently shared an article claiming the book is awful. I’m inclined to disagree, but excited to revisit it.
Baz Luhrmann decided to remake the Great Gatsby after listening to an audio version of the book on the trans-Siberian Express. Mr. Luhrmann, on the trip:
You could actually recommend this as therapy to someone who was really in trouble: Get in a tin box, travel through Siberia, listen to ‘The Great Gatsby’ and drink red wine till you’re drunk.
Sign me up.
photo for vogue
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood.
Dude gets me, as always. This lonely weekend is tough. I couldn’t sleep last night—tossed and turned, then gave up on sleeping and watched a movie and TV, made a cup of tea. I went to get Skittles in the middle of the night. It’s not like me. Now I feel jittery and on edge, about ready to jump out of my skin.
I finished Absurdistan last night, a riotous romp of a book. Gary Shteyngart is smart and funny and enormously talented.
(Also, outfit photos here.)
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