Friday Five

You guys, something very exciting is happening to me today: I’m getting my hair cut! More specifically (and most exciting of all!) I’m getting bangs again. So that picture of me on my About page from when I was 3 years old (and refused to wear pants but would wear sunglasses indoors) is going to be an accurate representation of me again! I still even love turtlenecks, go figure. Though I may have to put a moratorium on wearing turtlenecks while I have bangs; there will be just too much encroaching on my face.

The haircut is just the the tip of the Exciting Iceberg that is this weekend. I’m heading down to Brigantine, New Jersey (and no, we are not allowed to make any references to the festering pile of degradation and spray tans that is The Jersey Shore) for the weekend. Fitz is very excited to run along the beach and has been bugging me all week about whether or not he has to wear his swimmies (yes) and if he’ll be allowed to pee in the ocean (no, but he probably will anyway). Then, on Sunday, we’re heading to our favorite orchard/winery for some apple and pumpkin picking, followed by a wine tasting and loading up the trunk with as many bottles of their delicious Peach wine (trust me on this one!) as we can carry. All this means for you is that I will have tons of photographs to share with you on Monday. Win-win.

Without further ado, here are 5 things that have piqued my interest this week:

 

BookBook laptop case, Twelve South

I had never heard of these before my friend Anna mentioned that she was going to buy one for her new Macbook Air. But now that I know about them, I have to have one. Are you kidding me with how cute that thing is? And practical, since it’s hard-backed, so it will protect the laptop in addition to making it look like a vintage book. Sure, it’s pricey. But you can stand it up on a bookshelf! And again, have we not established that I care more about form than function? BookBook, why you so cute?

 

New Zealand, photo by Simon Smith

Stay with me. I recently got Google Earth (I know, I know, I’m about 2 years late to the party) and I spent all day Sunday “traveling” around the world (I even went to the northernmost tip in Europe, in Finnmark, Norway and found some weird secret bunker/where Santa lives). Aside from the obvious perks of being able to “visit” the Eiffel Tower whenever I want (which has been every 5 minutes for the past week), it’s given me a renewed fascination with New Zealand. The culture (this is the country that has given us “Flight of the Concords” and “Summer Heights High”) and the landscape (see above) are just so appealing to me. I’d love to go someday, and hopefully double up the trip with a nice jaunt in Australia. Until then, I’ll be wandering around on Google Earth.

 

“The Most Beautiful Walk in the World” by John Baxter

I picked up this book only a few hours after I saw “Midnight In Paris” because the back cover promised something equally as enchanting as that movie: an account of the Paris of pedestrians, told through historic vignettes and present-day stories, the former of which included copious references to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, all the major players in Woody Allen’s movie. And it didn’t disappoint. I finally finished it this week and just wanted to give it a big hug afterwards. Baxter is just so likable, even though part of me hates him for being an accomplished writer living in Paris with his Parisian spouse and making a living spending his days helping friends buy Matisse prints or giving walking tours to clueless Americans. I just ordered “We’ll Always Have Paris” by him, which promises to be chock-full of stories of love and sex in the city of light. I can’t wait!

 

“West Forty Third Street” and “Central Park South” by Joseph O. Holmes

These photographs of New York are absolutely amazing. The detail captured in each of them is just ridiculous. I wish either of them were still available for purchase, though I think I’d have a hard time choosing between them. Joseph O. Holmes is a Pennsylvania native (yeah, PA!) and he is currently documenting the Occupy Wall Street protests over on his blog. I love photography, and these photos make me want to be better at it. That’s why I love them.

 

Sidecar High Dining Table, CB2

I’ve lusted after this table for awhile, and even tried to talk my friend Aisling into buying it for her new apartment just so I could visit it and cuddle it when she wasn’t looking. I don’t have a need or the space for an additional dining table, but if I did, this would be the table I’d choose. I’m aware it’s completely impractical for any household with more than 2 people (or even 2 people who don’t love all-white interiors or sleek, clean lines) but could you just check out those shelves on the end? So incredible.

What are you up to this weekend? Any seasonal activities like apple picking? Have a great one, kiddos!

The Art of the Steal

Last night I watched the most incredible documentary I think I’ve ever seen (maybe after The Cove, which I would not advise watching if you are prone to crying during mass animal slaughter), called The Art of the Steal, chronicling the outright bastardization of Albert C. Barnes‘ will and trust, and the moving of his private, intended-for-education, premier-in-the-world collection of Post-Impressionist and Modern art, by both “charitable” institutions and the city I live in, Philadelphia.

Up until last night, I could turn a blind eye to every negative thing someone said about my city. I was born here, I was raised here, I went to school and college in this city. I work here. I live here. I was proud of this city, despite it’s obvious flaws and shortcomings. I can live with flash mobs (not the fun, dance-y kind you see on commercials) and terrible infrastructure and even the accent that I seem to be immune to, but the systematic and calculated degradation of a man’s will and the planned theft of his collection for profit and tourism? Not something I can take lightly. I am downright ashamed of my city after watching this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMe3r9PLtpI

It reminds me of an unpublished Shakespearean sonnet: How can I invalidate your will? Let me count the ways!

I’m all for making art, especially great art like that in the Barnes collection (181 Reniors! Be still my heart!), more accessible to a broader group of people in an effort to enrich their lives and provide an unparalleled cultural experience. But if the person who owns the art wants to keep it as a school? You listen to the owner. Even after he dies.

Having been to his Foundation and the grounds he intended the collection to stay in, and also have grown up only 5 minutes from the new location, I think I can safely be completely enraged like I’ve never been enraged before. White People Problem #3 (after “The dry cleaners didn’t use starch!” and “There isn’t enough hot water for my bath!”) is: They are trying to mess with art! The “they” in this film is as varied as our former mayor, former governor, and a whole host of other baddies who should hope I never, ever meet them in a dark alley.

If you love art and/or have a conscience, you need to see this movie.

Friday Five

Happy Friday, kiddos! As we speak, I am on a train to DC for a long weekend that fingers-crossed (!!) doesn’t get rained out. I’ll be doing all of the requisite tourist-y things, like taking pictures of myself hugging the National Monument, or giving a peace sign in front of the White House, and also hitting up a baseball game and maybe playing a game of Bocce at an Italian wine bar. I’ve had a nagging pressure headache for the past few days, so let’s hope it goes away and I can have a relaxing mini-vacation. Of course, all of this is assuming I can tear myself away from this hilarious video long enough to leave the hotel room. I’ll be back blogging on Monday with lots of fun things to share with you, so in the meantime let’s have a look at this week’s Friday Five:

Salted caramels

My darling friend (and a reader from the beginning!) Aly bought me a box of salted caramels the other day for seemingly no reason. This, along with her adorable-ness and her penchant for somehow being able to wear heels to any occasion (bowling party) without even breaking a sweat, makes her one of those friends you just wish you had. I’m a huge salt lover, but I’d been skeptical about how salt would pair with something as sweet as chocolate covered caramels ever since these candies started popping up everywhere.  Wow, was I wrong.  These are delicious and the combination is reminiscent of chocolate covered pretzels, only more decadent and incredible. If Aly’s intent was to fatten me up so I have even less chance of being able to function in a pair of heels: woman, mission accomplished.


Woven Skirt, Forever 21

I vowed I would never, ever shop at this store again once they lodged a ridiculous lawsuit against the hysterical blogger behind WTForever21.com. Which, if you haven’t checked out before, go do it now. I sometimes laugh so hard at the things she posts that I am reduced to tears (“On what occasion, precisely, is a person supposed to wear this dress? Some undetermined instance which calls for both the casualness of a denim vest and semi-formal nature of coal colored chiffon? A hillbilly funeral, perhaps? Dinner at Saddle Ranch and then drinks at Applebee’s? Forever 21, WTF?”). The lawsuit had no basis in reality, but they were flexing their bully muscles and threatening the blogger with legal action because she used their name. Sorry, F21, satire is totally protected speech. Anyway, I had sworn off this store finally, and not because I got tired of all the clothing only surviving one go-around in the washing machine before being reduced to shreds. But then I saw this skirt, and my heart did a little flutter, and for under $25 I had to snatch it up. I feel like I’m cheating on my principals, but it is so cute.

Paris Bus Scroll, Home Decorators

Bus scrolls have been popping up all over design blogs and house tours these days, but getting your hands a true vintage (or even believable reproductions) bus scroll can cost upwards of $200. Enter Home Decorators. I swear that store is such a hidden little gem that no one even knows about. Which is why an amazing, 60″ wall scroll meant to look like a vintage Parisian bus route can cost only $34. THIRTY-FOUR DOLLARS, are you kidding me? I feel like I’m stealing. They have one for London and New York as well, but you know where my heart is. Only downside is that it’s back-ordered two weeks, and patience has never been my friend. I’m helping to pass the time by pinning tons of photographs of Paris over at Pinterest.

 

One Day by David Nicholls, B&N

I bought a copy last Friday after seeing ‘Midnight in Paris’, and was able to get a copy that didn’t have the movie-tie-in cover. I know this qualifies as a White Person Problem, but I’d rather not buy the book at all than carry around a copy that has a movie poster for a cover (the only notable exception includes ‘Possession’ by A.S. Byatt, but I was young and had a girl-crush on Gwyneth Paltrow, sue me). ‘One Day’ was an easy read, but full of very sweet moments, and very heartbreaking ones as well. It was engrossing, and I’d recommend it without hesitation. But it definitely made me want to cut all my hair off again and move to Paris. More.

 

from here

Every once in a while, in all of the insane amounts of browsing interior design sources I do on a daily basis, I stumble upon a photograph of a space so amazing that I literally have problems breathing properly. You guys, this is one of those pictures. Of course it is in London. Oh. My. Gosh. I want to throw a big fluffy area rug right in the middle and set up a reclaimed wooden desk by those windows and spend every day writing in a notebook and drinking tea in old porcelain teacups and wear a big sweater the whole time. Also, I would have a pixie-cut again. If this room had a bathroom and kitchen (who am I kidding) I would never have to leave. And how glorious that would be!

Alright, lovelies. What are your hot weekend plans? If I were staying home this weekend, I would totally throw on that big sweater and curl up on the couch with a book. I’m reading this book now! Enjoy the weekend!

Friday Five, Big Poppa edition

Okay, wait. I don’t want to be held accountable for false advertising, so I want to clear up the title of this post: No, there will not be any references to the one and only Notorious B.I.G., because hi! I am about as square as they come and my musical collection includes more Beethoven than Biggie, and have I not told you about the time I went to see Riverdance live? And that I bought a t-shirt? Far be it from me to make gangsta rap references and ask you to take me seriously.

Anyway.

Today is August 5th, and while I’m enjoying the fact that my Friday Five actually falls on a 5 (it’s actually Friday Five!), there is far more significance to the date than that. Five years ago today, I lost my dad. It had been coming for months, but spending an entire summer in the hospital (from ICU to the inevitable hospice), didn’t make the actual event of losing him any less sudden or painful. I’d like to say it’s gotten easier over the past 5 years, and it a lot of ways, it has.

But without a doubt, my dad was the most amazing human being I’ll ever know, and was also the best friend I’ll ever have. He was a wonderful collection of knowledge, a gifted artist and architect, a kind and quiet soul, but also possessed (perhaps incongruously) one of the funniest and crassest senses of humor and could always be counted on to make a joke that would lighten any mood (though the subject very well might have been farts or the fake girlfriend he always joked he had, named Trixie LeTharge, the red-headed Burlesque dancer who never shaved her underarms). He collected interesting gadgets (a wallet-sized pen that could write in space, a spelunking headlamp he wore to read books in bed, giant travel bags that folded into small pocket sized pouches), had thousands and thousands of books, and knew almost everything about art, history, music and culture that you’d ever need to know. The term for when an artist paints himself into the background a portrait? He knew that. Pat Metheny’s entire discography? He had it. Stranded in the Memphis airport at 2am and needed someone to talk to? He’d answer. He might call you “bitchmuffin” (endearingly) at some point in the conversation, but he’d still answer.

There’s nothing my dad didn’t do for me, or wouldn’t have done. He is responsible for so much of who I am today, including the part of me that requires at least an hour of quiet time to decompress after social functions, the part of me that could eat sushi for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and most importantly the part of me that cannot tolerate musical theater (STOP SINGING AT ME AND USE A FULL SENTENCE). I fell in love with art through spending Sundays at the museum with him, or sitting in his studio while he painted, the house smelling like espresso while classical music played in the background. When I decided I wanted to learn to use a film camera in high school, he handed me his Contax without hesitation. And when I decided I wanted to major in Photojournalism in college a month after he passed away, I got to use his entire collection of Zeiss lenses. I really want to get back into shooting seriously.

So, this week’s Friday Five is an homage to my incredible daddy.  Because aside from having brunch with my brother and his beautiful wife and my three amazing nieces and our moms over the weekend, there is no other way I’d want to remember this day than for all the love and happiness and goofiness he brought to my world. Especially all those times  he sang along to New Kids on the Block with me in the car, stood in line in the pouring rain for 4 hours to see O-Town (oh my god, the shame. I’m better now, I promise), all those lazy weekends spent watching “CBS Sunday Morning” and eating his yummy tomato and chive omelets, and all those trips to Salem every summer for vacation. Oh, and especially when he almost got us kicked out of one of the witch-hunt museums for laughing too much. This seriously explains why my brain lacks the “socially appropriate” filter.

Five things I love thanks to my dad:

 

Cable-knit sweater with elbow-pads (!!!), Lands End

My dad hated wearing color. His wardrobe was that of any artist/architect: muted browns, black, gray the occasional khaki (ever present were his signature socks and sandals combo, or loafers in the winter). He also had a love of giant wool sweaters. And elbow-pads. I took one of his sweaters when I was in high school, a luscious, dark green wool pullover, and wore it with everything, despite how comically oversized it was on my tiny frame. I still have it, and it’s one of my favorite staple pieces for the fall, with leggings and a solid pair of riding boots. Every girl needs a masculine, chunky wool sweater like the one above from Lands End. It’s such a great snuggly piece, and it just begs you to curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine (or in my dad’s case, a big fat doob) and a good book.

The Burning of the House of Lords, JMW Turner

Turner was one of my dad’s heroes, one of his greatest influences in painting. My dad was an Impressionist through and through, and painted a lot of landscapes, so Turner really spoke to him. Being that he wasn’t religious, my brother and I decided to have his memorial at a fine arts academy instead of a traditional church service. He had book after book of his work, and even a coffee mug with the above image on it (it now sits in my cupboard). I remember seeing this painting every morning when I woke up at his apartment on the cover of this book, which sat right by my bed (oh my god, it costs how much? I’d never sell my dad’s copy, but geez!). I’m lucky in that the museum here has it in their permanent collection. This would look beautiful framed and hung over a fireplace. One day, when I’m super rich. Or maybe even sooner!

A Fish Called Wanda, Amazon

Back when people still rented movies, pre-Netflix, pre-DVDs even, my dad and I would go to TLA Video every Saturday and pick up a good haul. The policy was rent 2, get 1 free, so we ended up watching a lot of movies over the years (and I ended up paying a lot of late fees when I promised to return them but forgot). Among the goodies we watched, my dad showed me A Fish Called Wanda at probably a younger age than I’d show my own kids (not that I have them, but I will absolutely make sure they watch this some day). Ignoring (or including!) all of the bawdy moments, this movie is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s in my top 5 all time favorites, too. It’s smartly written (thanks to John Cleese, who also plays an adorably droll barrister in it) and an absolute gem. Michael Palin is at his best, Jamie Lee Curtis is to die for, and Kevin Kline, well, he won an Oscar for his role in this. My dad and I used to quote his character all the time. “What was that part in the middle?” and “Asshole!” If you haven’t seen it before, go, immediately, run don’t walk, as fast as you can, and pick up a copy. I can’t even tell you anything about it because I don’t want to ruin it. But I promise,  you won’t be disappointed. It might also be the only time that dogs meet terrible fates and you laugh so hard you have trouble controlling your bladder. Really.

Red Dwarf, British cult sci-fi show from the 90s

How do I even begin to explain this without everyone thinking I’m a closet sci-fi nerd? Or did the mention of Riverdance solidify any doubt you may have had? My dad and I both tended towards insomnia (that or we couldn’t shut up long enough to fall asleep) and one night at around 2:30am while channel flipping we caught this show on PBS. I’m just going to throw caution to the wind here (along with all regard for what my readership of 10 –ten! omg!– thinks of me) and tell you this show is hilarious. Weird, yes, but hysterical, and totally aware of it’s weirdness. The premise is that a space mining ship (called Red Dwarf) has an accident and everyone on board is wiped out, except for one crew member (called Lister), who was in suspended animation (stay with me) and is awoken millions of years later and only has for company a hologram simulation of his dead bunkmate (called Rimmer), a life-form who evolved from his pet cat (named Cat) and a service robot (named Kryten). Whew, I need to take a nerd-break. Oh, the hijinks they get up to! My dad and I used to have to special-order the seasons on VHS from Suncoast video or wait to catch them on tv (again, pre-dvds, pre-DVR) and we watched them ad nauseum. I was lucky enough a few years ago to get the entire series on dvd for Christmas, and despite how geeky and campy the show seems now, I think about all the time my dad I spent watching this show and how much fun we had with the series, and for that, I’m totally okay with outing myself as a huge nerd.

Paris, photo by Jens Versteegden

It seems broad to include an entire city on here, but you have to understand how much the man loved Paris, and how much he truly belonged there. He loved the city for all its beauty, its timeless architecture, its narrow streets lined with cafes and museums, the people, the language, and most of all, the Eiffel tower. He truly felt at home there. We always talked about buying a small apartment, a walk-up, with all the original details, and promised we’d do nothing but eat baguettes and crepes. It’s no surprise that my dad spoiled me rotten my entire life (so, in a way, I should be thanking him for this blog’s existence) but when he came back from a trip to Paris when I was young, I remember running right up to him as he exited the plane (pre-9/11), leaping into his arms and asking, “Whatdya bring me?!” Not, “Hi, Daddy! Welcome home!” No. The time for pleasantries and hearing all about which arrondissement he stayed in and what his new favorite cafe was would come later. I had my greed to attend to, dammit, and I wanted my presents. I’d asked for an eiffel tower statue, a beret, and a french magazine. He happily obliged me all three, and I have all but the magazine today. After he passed away, my brother and I were cleaning out his apartment and I found a small, pocket-sized notebook in which he’d written down every detail of every day he spent in Paris. Short little things, in his beautiful penmanship: “Crisp weather, sat outside. Had an espresso and sketched. Lovely waitress.” I wish I’d gotten the chance to go with him and enjoy the city together.

Here’s to you, pop. I miss you tons and tons. Thank you for teaching me to appreciate classical music, for taking me camping, introducing me to photography, indulging me with art (but not Picasso), and for teaching me love really stinky cheese. I totally forgive you for that time you ate my pet water-frog.*

my daddy and me at my brother’s wedding, Martha’s Vineyard, 1997

Enjoy your weekend, lovelies. And go hug your dad. And if you’d like, donate to the American Cancer Society to support cancer research.

*this cannot be proved, but my dad swears he came home and Otis was missing from his little tank. with the snap-on lid. and we never found his body. and my dad loved eating frogs legs. you do the math.

Love, Etc.

Hello out there! I’m not dead. Nor did I fall down another flight of stairs and land in the ER, again. I’ve just been wholly inundated with the enormous, obnoxious, horrendous task of moving. You know, that old beast that rears its ugly head every 12 months and makes you cram all of your belongings into boxes and bags and schlep them from one place to another. This time, on top of all the usual hellacious-ness that comes along with moving, I got an extra special treat: moving in 110 degree weather! Aren’t I lucky? It actually would have been fortuitous timing if I’d been laid up (again) on crutches and unable to lift even the lightest of boxes from my apartment. Drat.

But it’s over now, thank god, and I’m mostly unpacked and settled in, and I’m happy to report that my new place is far nicer than my last place already, because it doesn’t have a fireplace that drops whole bricks down the flue while you’re trying to sleep (it does, however, seem to have an affinity for GIANT SPIDERS, OMG. I’ve killed like 3 in the last 2 weeks). Also, my new place comes with a pretty cute roommate, whereas at my last apartment, I was my own cute roommate (and I lived up to the title whole-heartedly, I’ll have you know).

As a treat to myself, and to ward off any lingering post-traumatic stress from lugging boxes down the stairs, then up the stairs, then down the stairs, and sweating through my throwback New Kids on the Block t-shirt (jealous?) I took myself to see Love, Etc last night. It was the first time I’d ever gone to see a movie alone, though I’m sure I missed large bits of the movie because I was too busy being all self-congratulatory and sussed with myself for being brave enough to wander into a social event solo. It was exciting! I had BOTH armrests to myself!

Oh, and the movie was really, really lovely and I recommend you run right out and see it. If it doesn’t make your heart swell, you must not have one at all.

It was beautifully done, perfectly paced and the stories of everyone involved were all equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking in their own ways. The most profound statement about love came from Gabi, the (gorgeous) 18 year old Brazilian idealist: “Love is like building a house. Every day, you add a brick. Love isn’t, ‘Oh, she’s so beautiful, now I’m in love.’ No. Love is something you build with someone.” And interestingly enough, one of the men in the film, Scott, is a director and is seen attending his opening night of the play “The Understudy”, which I went to see last January! The play was hilarious and a real gem, and not just because Zach Morris was in it.

But of course, the elderly couple just stole my heart. All I’d like(/want/need), more than anything else in the world, is to end up like that little old couple. Crazy in love with someone for 50 years.

Go out and see it immediately! Even if the only date you can find is yourself, you’ll be happy you went.

Reading Material

With a longer commute these days (I went from a 10 minute walk to a 35 minute, subway & bus trek; arguably not the worst commute in the world) I’ve found myself desperate to have a book to read in the mornings and afternoons. I get so absorbed in whatever I’m reading I have ever since I was a wee little thing.  The other morning on the bus, I had my nose buried so deep I almost missed my stop! However, I’ve been lacking the time or energy to go to Barnes & Noble to buy a huge stack of new books, because I get so overwhelmed by the selection and I have no idea where to even start (I’m one of those horrible people that totally judges books by their covers).

Knowing I’d need something more substantial to read every day than my facebook newsfeed on my phone (don’t hate), I scanned my massive (IKEA!) bookshelf for hidden treasures I hadn’t read yet. I came up with these three:

Dry, by Augusten Burroughs

I bought this years and years ago with my dad on a whim. I must’ve been in early high school, and I don’t think I fully understood the premise of the book (more than likely I didn’t even read the back cover). Soon after bringing it home, I discovered it was the author’s account of his battle with hardcore alcoholism. I must’ve wrinkled my nose with displeasure, and relegated it to the bottom of my bookshelf. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t read fluffy, beach-reads all the time, but at 16 “heavy” for me meant re-reading Catcher in the Rye for the 10th time. I’m glad I held onto this book though, because it was a really incredible read. Parts of it made me really uncomfortable because it was so painfully raw and honest, and it’s one of those books where you wish it wasn’t all true. It reads like fiction and is thoroughly engrossing. I finished it in a week only reading on the bus each day.

Loving Edith, by Mary Tannen

Apparently this book is harder to find than the lost city of Atlantis (dammit, way to ruin my analogy!). I picked this up in a used book shop so long ago I don’t even remember when it was, but the book shop is long gone if that is any indication. Again, one of those books that was decidely out of my age range when I picked it up, but my dad wasn’t going to ever say no to buying me a book (0r, well, anything, to be honest), so it came home with me and sat on my bookshelf for over 10 years, moving from apartment to apartment to apartment, making the cut every time I donated a box full of books to Goodwill or the library’s used book store. And just like “Dry,” I’m really glad I kept this one. It’s quirky, it’s touching, it was easy to read. The characters were all relatable and it was a sweet story.  Plus, it’s rare! You can’t even search for it at Barnes and Noble.

 No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July

Look, I’m going to be honest with you and admit that I bought this because it was bright yellow. I’ve been in my “yellow phase” for a while, and have accumulated a collection of things in varying shades and degrees of utility: a Pantone coffee mug for the design nerd in me, a cable knit scarf, an American Apparel hoodie, an umbrella, galoshes, a vase, a lamp, a lampshade, a tray, a clock, tights, two shirts, a cardigan, a clutch, and probably a dozen other yellow things. I love me some yellow. Having heard good things about Miranda July’s writing, I picked this little number up. It’s just okay. At certain parts it just tried too hard. But it’s yellow, and for that, it is wonderful (clearly, The New Yorker book review isn’t going to be pounding down my door anytime soon).

I’m running dangerously low on decent reading material! Any suggestions, kiddos? Come on, help a book-nerd out. Bonus points if it’s yellow.

Bookworm

I don’t consider myself a very black-and-white person by nature; I’ll shades-of-gray all over something before coming to a conclusion about it. This holds true in all areas of my life, except for literature analysis. It makes me want to crush things when I have to talk about what the author could have meant by saying a character took a pickle dish down from the shelf (side-note: Ethan Frome is forever a comedy, thanks to 11th grade English). Yes, there are evident themes in Lord of the Flies, but that book was picked apart so much that it was ruined for me. I don’t want to perform surgery on a book, I just want to read it.

I remember sitting in a Creative Writing workshop course in college and listening to the other students dissect a story I’d written, and being amazed at the things they were reading into, things I’d never intended or meant when I’d written it, but things they were just sure meant something else. Uh, if I meant for the protagonist’s decision to lock herself in the bathroom to be a metaphor for upper class guilt, I’d have put  a footnote in all caps that said that. But I didn’t, so stop reading into it.

Thankfully, reading has not been ruined for me. I still love nothing more than curling up on my sofa with a good book (and a better cup of tea) or reading until I fall asleep at night. My dad was the kind of person who read a book a day, almost, and was good friends with local booksellers. He spent years reading to me in bed at night, both of us eventually falling asleep. Over dinner, we’d read from the Etymological Dictionary (and yes, I endured a fair bit of teasing for that).

Anyway, here are some of the books I’ve read/been reading recently:

Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

I loved this. Santa left it for me under the tree this year, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s beautifully written. The author has a refined voice, and the end left me, literally, speechless. I had to sit quietly for a while when I finished it, to let it all sink in. Once you read it, you get why you’re not supposed to talk about it, and truly, I don’t want to ruin the magic of this story for anyone else. Trust me though, it is definitely worth a read.

Incendiary, by Chris Cleave

Again, the author has this staggering command of a woman’s voice. Plus, lots of Arsenal references! It’s a pretty dismal, very realistic story on a fictional terrorist attack. I’m almost finished, but I don’t want to be.

Columbine, by Dave Cullen

I have a very weird fascination with Columbine; the event itself, not the book. I was 12 when Columbine happened, and it was the first major, life-changing thing that totally reshaped the way the world worked for me. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what had happened. Guns at a school? That just didn’t fit anywhere in the world I’d known my entire life up until that point. A few months after Columbine, my school installed metal detectors. Dress codes came a few years later.

I went to see “Bowling for Columbine” when it came out, but after reading this book (well, okay, so I’m halfway through it but I can’t read it when I’m by myself because it scares me too much, and it’s extremely dense due to being a compilation of 10 years of research) I realize how narrow Michael Moore’s take on the whole thing was. He went into the movie declaring that guns were the entire problem, that it all happened because of America’s problem with guns. I’m not saying that point isn’t valid, but Dave Cullen goes further into the story with this book, by talking to victims’ families, taking full pages from the shooters’ journals, and interviews with hundreds of people connected and affected by the tragedy. It’s definitely worth picking up, but if you’re a chicken like me, don’t read it late at night or before you go to bed, or you’ll be left sleeping with the lights on.

What books are you reading these days? Any recommendations? I’d love to know!