Archive for the ‘Books I am telling you about’ Category

They live.

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Things I read in the last week and a half and neglected to blog about because it has been too hot to do anything other than complain, read or drink sweet tea vodka with lemonade while complaining or reading:

  • David Rakoff-Don’t get too comfortable (actually, I re-read this–I read it my senior year of college but loved it enough to read it again.  David Rakoff is the shit!)
  • Louise Erdrich-the Blue Jay’s Dance: a birth year (this was lovely & contemplative.  It was full of tidbits about birds & tomcats & pierogie recipes.  This book made me think about a lot of people.  It reminded me quite a bit of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  I could read both of these again & again, at different points for the rest of my life and get something new out of each.)
  • Isabel Allende-Sum of Our Days (I swear I wasn’t seeking out another Allende book, but while searching for a book by another Chilean author, this caught my eye, so I read the first paragraph and was hooked and had to read the entire book in, like, 2 days.  I love Allende’s life.  I keep crying while I read her books.  I think OMC is tired of me talking about her.  I am sort of starting to feel like I know her & her family.  I think she is adorable.  I kind of feel like she is my mother.  When she does things in her memoirs that I disapprove of I scoff & react like I would react to my mother.  If anybody else criticized the same things about her I would be furious and would defend her.  Only I can criticize.  This wasn’t my favorite, but who am I kidding, I love this woman.)
  • David Rakoff-Fraud (Very funny.  Very smart.  Super quick read.)
  • Suzanne Collins-the Hunger Games (this is part 1 of 3 in a young adult series.  My friend Kerri lent this to me and I admit I started it begrudgingly, although I think Kerri has flawless taste in books & tv shows–i.e. we like the same things.  The only thing I can compare this book to is Lois Lowry’s the Giver [though I think the Giver is far, far superior, and that Lowry is 20 times the writer that Collins is].  This book is pretty great.  The plot is completly absorbing and the characters are inordinantly ballsy.  I don’t think Collins is a particularly good writer–as I also don’t think JK Rowling is a good writer.  At all.  I do like the Harry Potter series, but do I think she can write?  No.  Awesome plot, shitty writing.  I am all for kids reading, so cannot begrudge these kinds of popular novels that actually make kids pick up a book, but I am also all for writing that is perfection, not writing that exists simply to drive a plot.  That said, I have already pre-requested book 2 and am pretty excited to continue the series.  I would recommend this to anybody who liked the Giver, but if it came down to it, I would recommend the Giver first.)
  • Last night I started a book of essays by Susan Jane Gilman that I am not convinced I love yet.  I might not finish it.  A reviewer (Laurie Notaro) had this to say about this book, which gives further proof that I am a soulless stick in the mud: “If you don’t absolutely love this book, you are dead inside.”  I feel attacked!  I will probably take my dead inside-self elsewhere and read something different.

Other life happenings:

  • OMC is getting kicked out of the US in 18 days.  I am devastated.  I don’t have anything else to say about this.
  • I left the house on Saturday and saw a Bon Jovi/Journey cover band–Bon Journey.  Only in Pittsburgh.  Also only in Pittsburgh would you see scandalous fashion like the fashion I saw at this “show”.  Holy fuck balls.  This city.
  • I love summer storms.
  • I miss my brother.
  • I want to go live in a hut in the woods or maybe in a little cabin on a lake in Northern Ontario.
  • In December, I will be done with grad school forever, or until I get mentally bored and start another program.  Maybe I will be a linguistic anthropologist.  Maybe I will be a goddamn archaeologist.  Maybe I will be a textile historian.  I don’t even know what this is!  Who the fuck knows!  Also, look out world.
  • I had a moment of personal pride last night when OMC’s friends from Ecuador brought their daughter over.  I momentarily panicked about the dog because she is a moron around new people but to my total and complete shock SHE WAS AN ANGEL.  This is the world’s most shocking news.  She played with their daughter gently and wonderfully.  I am blown away.  Completely blown away.  Their daughter loved her!  She asked if she could come over again & play more!  I am the proudest dog-mom in the land.  I have never seen the Bean around little kids so always assumed it would be insanity, but to my total shock, the Bean is somehow better with children than she is with adults.
  • I am going on vacay on Friday with my roommate, Intense Andrew.  We are going to Cincinnati and it is going to be epic.  I get to see my bff!!!!  How lucky am I?!  I am going to cuddle her face and steal her clothes and eat chili and scream and do girly things and shop and drink drinks and cuddle her face, etc.
  • Basically I am simultaneously THRILLED and bummed.


When cuteness isn’t enough

Friday, May 1st, 2009

I had been meaning to read Miranda July’s book No One Belongs Here More Than You for the better part of 2 years. I really like Miranda July. I thought her movie, Me and you and everyone we know was supremely adorable and terribly funny and it made my heart ache for hours, and I think that she herself is supremely adorable. She also wears super-cute clothing, and rumor has it, if you write her a letter she will write one back to you. All of these things seemed to say to me that her book would be full of wonder and pandas hugging and rainbows and sparkles. They also seemed to say that she might actually create something enjoyable and good.

Color me the fool.

I should have known from the reviews on the back. I really should have known. Dave Eggers loved this book. Dave Eggers is my mortal enemy (he doesn’t know that, though) and I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN that if he loved it, I would hate it.

I don’t think Miranda July is a bad writer. I actually think she’s a strong writer (I read a review somewhere that described her writing style as “fierce”–maybe so, and wouldn’t Tyra Banks be proud?) who isn’t quite there yet. There are a lot of sentences in this book that are hilarious and that I want to capture and wear as a necklace for all time. At the same time, there is a lot of total garbage. Do you have any friends who constantly say uncomfortable things just for the sake of being uncomfortable? Just for the sake of making you squirm in your seat? I have friends like this, and an uncle too, and while I fully appreciate artwork that freaks me the fuck out because I am so nervous, I cannot honestly stand 16 short stories with only two repeating themes: pedophilia and incest. A lot of her writing verges on vulgar, which is also fine and dandy. Maybe this is just July’s type: awkward and nervous and uncomfortable. Okay, great–three or four freaky, creepy stories would be fine in a collection like this. Can we maybe, just maybe, try to break out of this? I hate to go back to Ty-Ty on this (actually I LOVE IT), but honey, you’d be in the bottom two over and over again for showing the same damn pose every challenge. Do. Something. Different.

I have read countless glowing reviews of this book, and I really don’t get it. I liked one or two of the stories a great deal. She has many great thoughts that seem to just go nowhere. Saying something just to say it, if you will. I can’t excuse this, though. I think July is a wonderful filmmaker and, from what I’ve seen, a gifted artist, but are we excusing her book just because we already know she’s talented? I refuse to do this. I will not let this slide by because she’s adorable. Nope.

I read this book in under 36 hours (it’s kind of skimpy in length and I also have a lot of free time this week)–this might have been my problem. I recall reading one story from this collection in the New Yorker two years ago and really liking it. Maybe I can’t stand the shuffle of one story that’s not unlike another story I just read that’s identical to the story I’m about to read sixteen times in a row.

I honestly wouldn’t recommend this book to anybody. I would suggest maybe an excerpt or two to devoted friends who won’t judge me for recommending such total garbage to them. It’s depressing to think that so many people loved this book, and give it as gifts, and carry it around, and probably quote it in their fiction classes. If I hadn’t already known Miranda July’s work, I never would have given this book a second thought when I passed it at the library. If I hadn’t enjoyed her movie, I never would have finished it.

Can we stop passing cuteness off as talent? Say something new. In a new way. And I will love you for all time. Forever.

A thing I love

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

These three people slept and dreamed, while outside the house the moon grew large, and seemed to move across the sky until it was out over the ocean and growing smaller and paler. In his dream, someone is offering Myers a glass of Scotch, but just as he is about to take it, reluctantly, he wakes up in a sweat, his heart racing.

Sol dreams that he is changing a tire on a truck and that he has the use of both of his arms.

Bonnie dreams that she is taking two–no, three–children to the park. She even has names for the children. She named them just before the trip to the park. Millicent, Dionne, and Randy. Randy keeps wanting to pull away from her and go his own way.

Soon, the sun breaks over the horizon and birds begin calling to each other. The Little Quilcene River rushes down through the valley, shoots under the highway bridge, rushes another hundred yards over sand and sharp rocks, and pours into the ocean. An eagle flies down from the valley and over the bridge and begins to pass up and down the beach. A dog barks.

At this minute, Sol’s alarm goes off.

From Raymond Carver’s short story, Kindling (in the collection Call if You Need Me). I often try to explain to people why I love Carver so much, and I usually find myself incapable of doing so. When I was 16 I read my first collection of Carver stories (Cathedral) and I immediately fell in love with his writing. At times when I am feeling restless and unable to read long works of fiction, I turn to Carver and fall back in love again. I find Call if You Need Me a really, really wonderful collection: fiction, personal essays, a fragment of the novel he never finished, and some of Carver’s book reviews–which I particularly love for their sparsity and conciseness. Man, Ray, do I ever miss you.

Simple kinda life never did me no harm

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

At about 75 degrees my tolerance for the heat disappears and I collapse on the tile floor in my underwear. I spent a big part of the weekend doing just this. It feels good, and I use no energy to do so. I also periodically crunch ice cubes with the dog.

To escape the heat, I did one of my favorite things this weekend. I went to West Virginia! This means I did no reading at all, whatsoever (this is sort of a lie: I read volumes 3-4 of the Walking Dead and most of Julie Doucet’s My New York Diary–the former which still underwhelms me a lot and the latter which is so great I can’t even describe it. Doucet draws like a clusterfuck. There is so much on every page and in every panel that my little eyeballs get gigantic. Also I like that she is French Canadian, which is irrelevant. But the Walking Dead pretty much sucks & I can hardly follow the storyline or what order the panels/conversations are in, which strikes me as incredibly stupid, on my part AND on the part of the illustrators. However, because I am a glutton for punishment I will continue reading them.)

Either way, yes, I went to West Virginia in a sad attempt to escape my 85 degree apartment. I ate at least 3 donuts.



We drove down the Ohio River a ways. We stopped in Beaver. We made a lot of dumb jokes. I knitted a lot. The dog slept a lot. I ate a bunch of snacks. THEN BEST OF ALL: we went to the Fiestaware Outlet. I go here probably twice a year, because it is one of my favorite places on the planet. I have more Fiestaware than I know what to do with (seriously, cupboards of the stuff), but this doesn’t stop me from continuing to shop there.

Fiestaware Outlet!

Fiestaware Outlet!

fiestaware-071 I bought a few things that I don’t necessarily need, and a few things that will make excellent presents, and a few things that I actually did need, which was exciting. Everything looks nice in Fiestaware. It’s problematic.

This is an excellent day-trip. I recommend it for all who appreciate fine, minorly imperfect Fiestaware at a serious discount.

Also, donuts make this trip even better than it already is.

It is theoretically going to cool down this week, so hopefully I can crack a book or two without breaking a sweat.

I have 16 books checked out of the public library.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

I’m finding that way too often I read books and neglect to blog about them. Usually I blog because I am overly caffeinated and need to channel some caffeine-fuel into something. Lately I have been cutting down on coffee, which has been good for my teeth but most of all, bad for my brain.

In the past week I’ve read:

Tim Gunn’s Guide to Quality, Taste and Style

Daniel V’s Guide to How Style Happens


Michael Greenberg’s Hurry Down Sunshine.

Because I am supremely biased and adore Tim Gunn, I liked his book. I haven’t talked about narrative voice since I was a wee non-fiction major in college, but HOLY SHIT his voice is strong in this book. I wish he were my relative or maybe lived in my closet and could dispense valuable fashion advice. Like could warn me not to wear short shorts with red cowboy boots or something. My blind bias did not hold for Daniel V: while I would give anything to kiss him on the lips (sorry OMC!!!) or wear one of his dresses, and while I found this book quite lovely and well-done (in addition to being beautifully bound), I kind of thought it was tedious and boring. Stick to dresses, dude. Let Tim do the writing.

Hurry Down Sunshine was the kind of book I absolutely had to read in three days. I needed to finish it. I had to know what would happen. Greenberg’s daughter Sally was inexplicably “struck mad” (his words) one day when she was 15, and upon her (adult) approval, he decided to write about the experience. Sally is a brave, muttering, strong character, and her story is both devastating and a little inspirational. I was impressed that Greenberg could write so well about something so close to him. This wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but I was certainly propelled to finish it quickly.

I finished up with school for the semester last week, which accounts for my free reading time. I do honestly read a lot that I don’t blog about (because it wasn’t that compelling, or I wasn’t caffeinated enough, etc), but in an effort to maintain this as a record of my yearly reading, I am making a mental note to start at least mentioning things that I read.

My Fledgling love of sci-fi (bad pun)

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Sometimes when it’s insanely nice out I get a little depressed, because I would secretly rather be inside reading. This weekend was one of those times. It pained me to do so, but I forced myself outside. I went to the dog park numerous times. I went on many walks. I went to a barbecue. I sat on the fire escape. I drank beer. I obsessed over knitting lace WHILE drinking beer WHILE sitting on the fire escape:

Lace ribbon

Lace ribbon

This pattern is so fun and joyful to look at while working on it. It is like a magical surprise of happiness with every new row.

It finally turned gloomy yesterday, and I was able to sit around doing nothing to my heart’s content. I finished all of Preacher. I am sort of crushed to be done with it. I really, really savored volumes 1-6, but I FLEW through the last three because I was so excited to find out what was going to happen. I was like a little kid with this series.

Yesterday, listening to records and drinking copious amounts of coffee, I also finished Octavia Butler’s Fledgling. It’s kind of like Twilight’s sophisticated grandmother. Butler is obviously an established writer and has a greater grasp on, say, coherency and language than Stephanie Meyer can ever hope to. I don’t ever read science fiction (and I don’t really know why not–I would probably like it), but I enjoyed this immeasurably. Butler is a really sparse, meager writer, but her grasp on storytelling is phenomenal. In Fledgling she has created the fantastic, scary world of the Ina (like vampires, only not) and I was extremely sad to have left it. My finishing of Fledgling coincided with the end of the weekend: the saddest time of all, multiplied by two because I am now bookless. I don’t know where to turn. I feel empty and a little naked.

What next?!

When Pittsburgh will be loved

Monday, April 13th, 2009

I am a total fool for a good book review. When Dwight Garner (NyTimes, 3/31/2009) AND Sally Kalson (PG, 4/8/2009) loved Saïd Sayrafiezadeh’s political memoir, When Skateboards Will be Free, why, I thought I would love it too! I love a good memoir, after all, and when Garner mentioned that Sayrafiezadeh GREW UP IN PITTSBURGH, why, I dashed immediately to my public library and requested the book immediately.

I found myself feeling immensely lukewarm towards this book. I read it in the backseat of my parents’ car, going to visit my brother in Toronto and while returning from said visit. I also enjoyed part of it in the immigration detainee office at the Buffalo border crossing (this is the second time in two trips to Ontario that I have been detained. Do I scream “criminal” or something?), which was deeply ironic given the subject matter. Maybe my dislike of this book was colored by my mother incessantly asking me what I was reading, or how again to make a purl stitch (the woman is apparently incapable of learning to knit). No, that couldn’t be it. I have been reading over my mother’s questions for two decades.

My love for Pittsburgh is so great that it is sometimes a little sad and scary. My love for Pittsburgh can sometimes overwhelm my sense of reason. However, when Sayrafiezadeh wrote that his house on Ophelia St. was one block from the Monongahela River, I cringed. Um, try three blocks, one major highway, railroad tracks and at least one mile from the Mon, yes. When he wrote that the Mon was untrafficked and empty, I cringed. What?! Are barges invisible?! Likely much of his memory of Pittsburgh has dulled in 20 years. Sure. I can accept that. Likely some of of his writing about Pittsburgh is hyperbole. I can accept this. I like a nice non-fiction device as much as the next James Frey. But a portrayal of Pittsburgh this inaccurate, this ugly and deceitful, this I cannot accept. I demand accountability from those who dare to write about Pittsburgh.

I would only recommend this book to: Browns fans, haters of Pittsburgh, socialist wannabes, and people who are not related to me because my relatives love Pittsburgh far more than me.

I took this picture last summer. It is South Oakland, the dirty ghetto that Sayrafiezadeh once lived in (apparently within view of the Mon river). I love this view, I love this neighborhood for what it was, and I love this city. Aspiring memoirists, you can stay in Brooklyn.

South Oakland

South Oakland

Of the suburbs

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Something that makes me smile:

“It is the bottom of the day, the deep well of shadows and springy half-light when late afternoon becomes early evening and we all want to sit down in a leather chair by an open window, have a drink near someone we love or like, read the sports and possibly doze for a while, then wake before the day is gone all the way, walk our cool yards and hear the birds chirp in the trees their sweet eventide songs. It is for such dewy interludes that our suburbs were built. And entered cautiously, they can serve us well no matter what our stations in life, no matter we have the aforementioned liberty or don’t. At times I can long so for that simple measure of day and place–when, say, I’m alone in misty Spokane or chilly Boston–that an unreasonable tear nearly comes to my eye. It is a pastoral kind of longing, of course, but we can have it all.”

From Richard Ford’s the Sportswriter.

To whom would I recommend this book? Not people who want a quick read–this book took me a little under a month to finish. People who aren’t necessarily the best kinds of people. People who sometimes find small bits of wonder in every day things. Frank Bascombe is my favorite kind of hero: the one who’s entirely unaware, the one who isn’t even really a hero at all. I loved this book. I’m so happy to have finished it–it was rough there for a bit.

Battling the common cold.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

I am currently terrified that I might be getting a cold. I have that weird itchy throat feeling. It started yesterday on the bus. My head got all bloaty, and my eyes were burning, and I was sneezing like mad. I kicked into cold-battling overdrive last night. No way am I getting sick this week. NO WAY. It is THAT time of year schoolwise, so hello tons of papers and hello tons of patrons. My precautions consist of:

  • frenzied handwashing (seriously every twenty minutes. I am out of control and was almost incapable of using public transportation today)
  • slurping down an Emergen-C once an hour (wasn’t this stuff debunked? Why am I still relying on it? I hope the debunking was debunked)
  • crossing my fingers and eating a Zinc lozenge every two hours
  • hoping that Emma is on to something with this incredible, delicious soup (I think you are, Emma! It’s amazing! I used way more garlic than you said to, but I am a garlic-hound and it only made it more tasty!)
  • laying on the couch last night, snuggling with my dogfriend reading Daddy’s Girl (Debbie Drechsler), David Chelsea is in love (David Chelsea), Aviary (Jamie Tanner) [I am honestly Not Wild About This Book At All), the Sportswriter (Richard Ford)--I know, I'm still reading it--and watching Always Sunny incessantly.
  • treating aforementioned dogfriend with all the love I can offer her. I don't like to be all animal-hokey (okay, yes I kind of do), but I swear she can tell when I am not feeling 100%, and on those days, she snuggles me like her life depends on it. Oh, this dog. Last night she got her special, favorite dinner of: normal doggie kibble (1/2 serving), 1/4 of an apple, 1 whole carrot chopped and peanut butter. Isn't this the face of a champion snuggler?
my special dogfriend

my special dogfriend

Time will tell if I’ve escaped the wrath of the common cold. Back the fuck off, cold. I’ve got my eye on you.

Spring break.

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

I don’t get a spring break, because I am a working class schlepp, so that title is a big ol’ joke. I get the week off of classes, which is good and fine, but otherwise–HAH. 9-5. I am taking an untraditional mini-vacay tomorrow and going north, the way the birdies don’t go (so not Cancun). OMC are taking a brother-trip to Toronto for a long weekend (we both have brothers there. We are so friggin’ cute. We planned it that way.)

I had to put off Louise Erdrich readings because I think I burnt myself out. I finished the Beet Queen and ultimately have high praise for it, but when I started to read the next in line, Tracks, I just couldn’t do it. I feel bad about this, but I’ll pick it up again later (I accidentally have two copies of it checked out of two different libraries. This signifies I have two problems. One: forgetfulness, the other: obsessiveness). Over the weekend I instead started the Sportswriter, by Richard Ford, which I kind of think is hilarious but am not sure if I’m supposed to. I will get back to this, too.

Other readings:

  • Jar of Fools: a picture story - Jason Lutes (Sherman Alexie wrote the intro and I was like, “Argh hero.” Pretty dec.)
  • Sweater Weather - Sara Varon (this book is fucking adorable and you will hug it close to your chest and want it to be your friend and drink hot chocolate with you, if you are anything like me. It reminded me infinitely of Salamander Dream, by Hope Larson, which is equally adorable and friendable.)
  • Walking Dead v.2-3 – Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore (I don’t want to think these are good, but there it is, they kinda are. Oops? I read v. 1 over a year ago and then kinda forgot about the series because I was so obsessed with Lucifer.)
  • Preacher v. 1 - Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon (This, so far, is AWESOME. I love the story. I loooove it. It’s seriously so exciting.)

Also, I finally got season 3 of Always Sunny (thanks OMC!!!). This show is probably for people who don’t have morals. What can I say. I think it’s incredible.

In Toronto, I will get to visit my favorite bookstore of all time, which means I will return with piles of loot that I don’t and won’t have time to read for months. This is part of being me, though, and I have accepted it. Stoked!