As I mentioned yesterday, I promised to share what I thought about “Writing Down the Bones,” the book on writing by Natalie Goldberg, a Zen Buddhist Jewish woman, published the year I was born. There are just so many thing right with that equation that I knew going into it it was going to be good. And it was. There are 67 chapters, each a page or two long, and each can be read individually when you need an extra dash of inspiration or encouragement, or all together. I tackled them all together, in order, over the course of a few days. (PS. Theresa, I’m totally sending you a new copy and keeping this version, since I dented the cover accidentally by carrying it around in my bag with me everywhere. Sorry!)
As with ‘Bird by Bird’, there were parts that were so relevant it felt like the author was writing specifically to me. That is one of the most magical feelings every possible, because it makes you realize you’re not alone; someone else felt the exact same way as you about something and was able to articulate it. Especially with something as big and scary as writing. Here are some passages from “Writing Down the Bones” that I found particularly poignant and mentally earmarked to come back to:
It is important to have a way worked out to begin your writing; otherwise, washing the dishes becomes the most important thing on earth — anything that will divert you from writing. p. 26
And because I needed further validation that Paris is the best place in the world for a Delicate Artistic Soul like me:
In Paris, I was astounded by how many cafés there were. It is considered impolite to hurry a customer. You can order one coffee at eight a.m. and still be sipping it with no pressure at three p.m. Hemingway in ‘A Moveable Feast’ (it’s a great book! read it!) tells of writing in cafés in Paris and how James Joyce might be a few tables away. When I arrived there last June, I understood why so many American writers became expatriates: there are probable five cafés to every block in Paris, and they are all beckoning you to write, and writing in them is very acceptable. p. 101
There is no perfection. If you want to write, you have to cut through and write. There is no perfect atmosphere, notebook, pen or desk, so train yourself to be flexible…If you want to write, finally, you’ll find a way no matter what. p. 110-111
And Goldberg is completely right. The other day at work, I was walking back to my office from a neighboring client’s building, and a line of dialogue popped into my, so perfect it had to have been placed there by some divine intervention. I repeated it out loud a couple of times while I rooted around in my bag for a scrap of paper and a pen, and I quickly scribbled it down so I wouldn’t forget it. I probably looked like a lunatic. All the days I spent hunched over my computer, willing the words to appear on the screen in front of me, and nothing. And then! Out of nowhere (and I’m giving credit to the book for this one, which kept insisting you are a writer even when you’re not actually, physically writing) words!
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that this past weekend was an extremely productive one for me: I wrote over 3 thousand words in the matter of five or six hours. I had been hovering a few under the 18k mark for months (a shameful admittance: when I saved the document, I noticed the last save date was January 19, exactly four months ago from the day. Oops.) and after crossing that milestone, I just kept going. And going and going and going. Sure, I’m maybe less than a fifth of the way done the book overall (and I’m still struggling to figure out how everything fits together), but I was so happy after being able to cross off those post-its that hung from my computer monitor, I went around high-fiving everything in my house. Walls, Jamal, myself, Fitz, my computer, etc. I’m letting go of the fact that it took four months between spurts, and instead focusing on the next 20,000.
Thank you for lending this to me, T! I loved it. What are you guys reading these days?
I’m almost finished with a great book Theresa lent me, called “Writing Down the Bones.” I’m planning on doing a real review tomorrow, but one of the things I wanted to share was the author’s insistence that there is no perfect place to write. You can’t design the perfect writing space and expect the writing to come flowing freely just because you’ve matched the chairs fabric to the curtains. I’m not sure she’d still feel that way if she’d seen this amazing nook:
I could write the next Great American Novel in that room, I just know it. Writer’s Block? Banished by the overwhelming wonderfulness of its French farmhouse style! It has something to do with the white-washed clapboard walls, the linen tablecloth, and all that dried lavender. Here’s how to get the look (writing expertise not included or guaranteed!).
David Bowie’s new song, “The Next Day,” features Gary Oldman as a priest, Marion Cotillard as a prostitute-turned-saint, lots of blood squirting everywhere, a blind woman with her eyeballs sitting on a tray in front of her, and most curiously of all, no discernable chorus. You’d think a song that bizarre would feature at least something you could sing along to, but it’s weird: every time I’ve watched it my brain has blocked out the background music. I guess it’s trying to process how gorey the rest of it is, and is distracted by Mr. Sexypants himself, Gary Oldman. Even as a weird priest with a hair-style reminiscent of Dracula, dude’s still got it.
Warning: graphic and weird.
I was hesitant to even post this video because it does just give me the heebie jeebies, but a) my last Tuesday Tunes was about the Backstreet Boys, I have to redeem myself, and b) it’s been waaay too long since I posted about Gary Oldman, and the last time I did I might’ve broken his heart by telling him we had to see other people.
In case you don’t follow me, and even if you do, here’s a smattering of what you can expect:
Sam tweeted me a link to this story a while ago, and I swear my jaw hit the keyboard. A woman fled her apartment in the 9eme arrondissement in Paris before the start of World War II, and never returned. She died a few years ago at the age of 91, and her frozen-in-time apartment was finally reopened for the first time in 70 years. It had remained completely untouched (how? I feel like if that happened in America the city government would have seized everything after six months of neglect) and among the relics was a portrait of the woman, by artist Giovanni Boldini that later sold at auction for £1.78million. Everyone loves La Belle Epoque Paris and the early part of the 20th century, but imagine finding a time-warp apartment that is authentically historical. Aside from the overwhelming smell of dust it must have been the most magical thing in the world.
When Lauren tweeted me a link to these incredible time lapse videos of Paris (made from stitching together thousands of photographs by Mayeul Akpovi), I knew I had to share them. You know, once I stopped weeping into my keyboard. Jarring music choices aside (a nice background of accordion music would have been preferable), these are absolutely mesmerizing.
God, I miss Paris. Is it time to go back yet?
By now, everyone and their mother has heard of Baggu, but I never really caught on to the trend until recently. Don’t get me wrong, we try to use as many recyclable bags as possible for groceries and other stuff, but we’ve usually gotten ours for free and they’re not anything to write home about (though Trader Joe’s has a really cute selection). Baggu come in a variety of sizes, are under $10, and are made with ecologically friendly dyes and materials; the bag is one continuous piece of nylon (less waste) that can hold up to 50lbs each. They also come in about a million different fun colors, and (my dad would have loved this part) they fold up into their own carrying pouches. You can even turn your old bags in to be recycled and receive a discount off a new order. Want!
(Note: this post is not sponsored in any way, I just really like that striped bag).
I made an eye doctor appointment for tonight after work. It’s been about a year and a half since my last one, and recently my eyes have been feeling, how should I say it, like they are burning out of my skull. I’m using moisturizing eye drops two or three times a day, and my eyes still end up blood shot and burn-y at the end of the day. Now, admittedly I haven’t been wearing my glasses consistently, and I did spend a good chunk of the last week ugly-crying all over the place, but I’m thinking it has less to do with those factors and more to do with my current prescription. My eye doctor said my eyes could adjust to this prescription after a while.
I realized while looking back through my blog archives that I’ve had my glasses (the Huxley style from Warby Parker) since September of 2011! What?! And then I went all Gary Oldman and got the same style in clear frames. Obviously. Depending on the results of tonight’s appointment, I might be ordering a new shape frame. The Sims (above) look great, but I know what you’re thinking: they’re virtually indistinguishable from the Huxleys. Except they’re thinner and less aggressively hipster-y. I don’t need new glasses, I could easily send my current frames back to Warby Parker and have them update the lenses if my prescription changes, but where is the fun in that?
I’m putting it to a vote. Sims: yea or nay?
On Saturday, Herbie, Audrey and I went to see “The Great Gatsby.” In 3D, because obviously. We dined like kings beforehand, in case you missed the extravagant feast of breakfast foods on Instagram. The three of us were varying degrees of excited about the film, but we all seemed to agree that you shouldn’t go into it thinking it will be exceedingly true to the book. This is going to get spoiler-y, because it’s hard to write a movie review without giving some major plot points away. If you haven’t read “The Great Gatsby” yet, that’s not my fault. Readjust your priorities.
First of all, the movie starts with a voice-over of the opening lines of the book. Kind of: “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’
Funny that both “Moulin Rouge” and “The Great Gatsby” start with a depressed, drunk protagonist at a typewriter. Funny in that it’s not funny at all and makes me hate Baz Luhrmann even more, and we’re only 45 seconds into the movie. At about the one minute mark, Baz starts smacking you in the face with the symbolism of the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock and the eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg. You know, symbolism, which was handled delicately in the book! DELICATELY, BAZ. That was my biggest gripe about the film before I even set foot in the theater: I knew the subtleties and the nuances would be totally lost amid the flapper-themed keg party Baz had his cold, black heart set on. For fuck’s sake, Jay-Z was an Executive Producer. Can you imagine that introduction? “F. Scott Fitzgerald, have you met Jay-Z? You’ll get along. You wrote perhaps one of the most important American novels in history, and Jay-Z knocked up someone from Destiny’s Child. You spent time in Paris to hone your creative talents, rubbing elbows with the likes of Hemingway and Getrude Stein. Jay-Z and Kayne West wrote a rap called ‘N*ggas in Paris.’ IT’S LIKE YOU’RE THE SAME PERSON.”
Anyway, I hated the first half of the film. It was overwhelmingly, obnoxiously ostentatious, but lacking the self-awareness to see the irony of being over-the-top. It wasn’t excessive to mirror the excess of the roaring 20s, or to draw parallels to Gatsby’s opulent lifestyle, throwing parties to fill the emptiness of his existence. It was just opulence for the sake of opulence, and because Luhrmann has a heavy hand and can’t exhibit any form of self-control. The music was anachronistic and if we’re going to start making hip-hop versions of classics, I personally can’t wait for the Snoop Dog soundtrack of “Macbeth.” It was so Baz-y that it might as well have been called “Moulin Gatsby!” and was all just too claustrophobic for me. At one point, there was a confetti canon in the shape of a giant champagne bottle and life-size inflatable zebras in the pool.
What is this I can’t even.
Everyone raved about the costumes before the film was released, but I was mostly underwhelmed. No, you don’t get points for nailing the style of the timeframe in which your movie is set. That’s your job. Sticking sequins on every exposed surface does not authentic make. Baz managed to cock-up enough other important details that I’m not going to throw him a mercy-bone for making sure Carey Mulligan had the perfect Louise Brooks bob (but she totally did though).
But when all the glitter settled and Flux Pavillion’s grating dubstep nightmare “I Can’t Stop” actually finally stopped, we were left with Leonardo DiCaprio as a phenomenal Gatsby. He was incredible. His affectation, his undeniable swagger in a linen suit, his tearful speech to Tobey Maguire’s doe-eyed Nick about everything he’s done in his life for Daisy’s love, his maniacal chase to reclaim the past, it worked. It worked wonderfully, and Gatsby alone, away from the party was the first moment in the entire movie that I stopped hating everything about it.
Carey Mulligan is flawless, and that’s all I have to say about that. The role of Daisy is impossible for so many reasons (adding to the list of reasons why we should stop trying to translate this book to a movie) but she delivered a truly absorbing performance. These two alone sold the whole monstrosity for me. I bought into it and I let myself forget how the book ends, and it was beautiful watching them dance quietly, consumed by each other.
I’LL NEVER LET GO, JAY.
Other Things I Liked: 1. The JG logo that was pervasive across the whole movie, including the branding for the film. The art deco feel was flawless. 2. When Myrtle gets hit by the car. Always. Every time. Even when I read it, I start applauding internally. 3. While I maintain the music was unnecessarily current, this Lana Del Rey song just worked so perfectly. I’ve been listening to it on repeat for days.
4. Leonardo DiCaprio sitting anxiously next to macarons. SWAG.
5. That they incorporated the last page of the book verbatim into the ending. Could I have done without the Baz-effect of floating typewriter letters in the night sky, swirling around to form “borne back ceaselessly into the past”? A duh, but I’m just grateful for scraps at this point, okay?
If I had to grade it I’d give it a C. If you take away Baz Luhrmann it jumps to a solid A. What worries me the most is that this is setting a precedent for future book-to-film translations, and if we’re setting the bar at “OUTRAGEOUS SENSORY OVERLOAD EXTRAVAGANZA” in 2013, I fear for whatever version my future child will have to endure (6D total immersion with holograms, no doubt). Not everything needs to be “made current” and given a timestamp of a different era. The book worked so well because of the prose, and when you take the focus away from that, what do you have? An Australian megalomaniac with a hard-on for sparkle.
Heather at It’s So Suburban had one of the funniest tweets I’ve read in a long time a few weeks ago: “Holiday I made up: Pink Peony Day on Pinterest. It’s today.” If you’re on Pinterest, you know why this is particularly accurate, but definitely apropos recently. It’s peony season! It’s here again! I’m making it my mission to track some of these gorgeous blooms down and fill my house with them. The petals are so soft and fluttery they almost look like fine pieces of silk. Peonies are one of my favorites, and truthfully every day should be Pink Peony Day. What do you say?
This post is incredibly difficult to write, and I never expected to have to write it so soon, or that it would be so hard when the time came. That’s the thing about pets, though, they find the spaces in our hearts that are too small for humans, and they curl themselves up there and fill our lives with goofiness and sweetness for the time they’re with us. This week, my mom’s dog Mahlai had to be put down. She was (only) nine, and one of the cutest, most wonderful pups I’ve ever known. She was also one of the littlest; seriously, we didn’t call her a peanut for nothing. But it’s like Shakespeare wrote, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” She was 10lbs soaking wet, but she kept everybody in line (Fitz was too much of a wildcard for her). When my old pug would barrel into her, she’d grab his neck fact with her teeny little crooked teeth and yank. She’d perch on the sofa and scowl at the shenanigans my mom’s other dog, Sookie, would get up to (I don’t call her “Sookie Monster” for nothing). She had the shortest legs, so when Sookie would inevitably beat her to whatever toy someone threw for them to retrieve, Mahlai would growl to back her up and, deciding her work here was finished, leave the toy and walk away. She was far too dignified for nonsense.
My mom got her as a puppy the summer before my senior year of high school, after my childhood Shih Tzu, Chelsea, passed away. Knowing I’d be going off to college, my mom wanted to make sure she had a companion. Enter Mahlai (pronounced like the “Dahlai Lama” but with an ‘m’, so basically “Molly,” but not, and don’t let my mom hear you say that that’s an acceptable way to spell it). She was the perfect lap dog and was never required to do anything but be adorable and tiny. She never learned a single trick besides how to “sing”: she’d throw her tiny head back and howl this beautiful, raspy little sonata. Oh, well I guess there’s also the weird trick she only did with me, too: If she was sitting on my lap facing me, I could tilt my head back, then bring it back down and look at her, and she’d tilt her head back. We could do this for hours. I don’t know how we even figured that one out, but it cracked me up every time.
She sneezed a bunch, was afraid of fast-moving objects, the opening of trash bags, and she hated those damn squirrels that kept running on the power lines in our backyard. She liked low-fat American cheese slices, neck scratches, snoring, loved her Valentine’s Day Garfield toy with heart-shaped wings the most, and wouldn’t eat her food if it was over a day old. She was happiest being loved and doted on, but sometimes she wanted you to just leave her alone already, didn’t you see she was trying to sleep?
Did I mention she was freaking adorable? Because she was!
Look at her, tolerating her bully of a younger sister so calmly!
Every Christmas, I received a present “from Mahlai.” I’m sad she won’t be signing my cards this year, or wearing her little Hanukkah sweater, or generally being cute and tiny the rest of the year through. She isn’t hurting anymore, though, and that’s making it bearable. For me. Less so for my mom or for Sookie, who surprisingly (un-surprisingly?) has been so, so sad over losing her best friend. I like to think Mahlai is busy getting to know Chelsea, and that the two of them are happily annoying my dad by breathing on him (his official party stance was that he hated dogs, but we knew better). That’s what they do, right? They go to a better place, without pain, and with all the American cheese they could ever want.
Rest in peace, sweet girl. We all miss you and love you very much.
Hi! My name is Erin.
I like sleeping, Paris, gin, books, Oxford commas, and Gary Oldman. Read More→