Happy Friday and Happy Mother’s Day weekend!
Do you have any plans?
In a few hours we (my parents and I) will be going up to Belfast, Maine to spend the weekend with my Aunt Susan and Bill, whose mother owns an alpaca farm. There will be alpaca shearing, vegan food, and tactful discussions about Infinity War without mentioning to movie fan Bill (it’s so nice to be around other movie fans) that I never plan to see it.
I’ve been reading a lot, falling behind on the films I have checked out from the library, gardening for hours a day, and enjoying the springly weather. I also cooked some interesting pancakes yesterday so that have foods when I return next week. I will report back.
What’s happening on the worldwide web?
- Speaking of movie people, this film looks like it could be amazing. Also really excited for The Seagull, an adaptation of one of the few Chekhov pieces I’e actually read.
- A beautiful essay that I’m at a loss as to how to describe.
- The Duchess of Northumberland sounds like a fun lady- she created the garden at Alnwick Castle, possible the deadliest garden in the world.
- How does Deadpool always win the promotion game? This is genius.
- One of the greatest things about being back in America is the access to SNL’s youtube uploads. I know the main story (DESERVEDLY) is the release of This is America by Donald Glover- but let’s not forget about the Barbie skit.
- #MeToo and Junot Diaz: Cycles of victimization and victimizing, sexual harassment, celebrity and race.
- When two celebrity ladies (internet fashion personae?) give birth in close succession and get together to share their experiences with the early days of motherhood.
- I love this Public Place Meditation Guide– it’s very closely related to some wisdom my mother shared with me years ago: practice seeing the divinity in everyone around you.
- A mathematical model may explain how two brains agree on the experiential profile of smells.
- Possibly the most charming interview I’ve ever seen. I think I may have just fallen in love with all three of these men.
- Have you liked any pages created by Russian bots?Ask Facebook.
- A complex algorithm predicts the likelihood of final season Game of Thrones deaths. Bye, Daenerys.
- An amazing photograph. I love whales.
It was a long time ago that my default Amazon wish list was renamed ‘Book Wish List’ and colonized by- you guessed it- books.
But not just any books- the books that my library doesn’t carry. I’m aware that I pretty frequently sings the praises of the Boston Public Library conglomerate/system, which allows you to check out any book in the Greater Boston area and have it shipped to your local library. But that doesn’t mean they have every book I have ever wanted to read. Almost, but not quite.
I don’t usually buy books. I also don’t usually shop on Amazon anymore (given that they still advertise on Breitbart and I find it problematic). But Mom (who originated this politically-minded ethic) recently told me that we have a fair number of Amazon points. So maybe I’ll make an exception for some new used books around my birthday time…
And that inspired a visit to my list, and then, as per my usual compulsions, some much needed pruning. The oldest book had been added to the list two years ago. Which isn’t too bad, but still almost 1/10th of my life. So some stuff was eliminated and some had been acquired by the library (!).
Here’s what remains:
- Mad About the House: A Decorating Handbook
It hasn’t been published yet, so finding it used on Amazon is not an option, as of now.
- Paris in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide
I recently started following this illustrator on Instagram and am always on the lookout for Paris recs.
- Home Sweet Maison: The French Art of Making a Home
- Parisian Chic Lookbook: What Should I Wear Today?
I enjoyed the original Parisian Chic by Ines de la Fressange. I’ve heard that this one isn’t nearly as good, but I’m still interested.
- My Little Paris
I subscribe to the My Little Paris newsletter via email. They share lots of fun news about the city and favorite locations.
- Une Femme Francaise: The Seductive Style of French Women
Clearly books about Paris, style, and the intersection of the two are one of my pets.
- Don’t Be a Tourist in Paris: the Messy Nessy Chic Guide
- The New Paris
- Impressions of Paris: An Artist’s Sketchbook
- Am I There Yet?: The Loop-de-loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood
Mari Andrew, whose illustrations I sometimes share in links posts, published a book!
- Yours Always: Letters of Longing
- The Book Lovers’ Miscellany
- The Milk of Dreams
Children’s stories by an excellent surrealist author.
- How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life
- The She-Devils
So hard finding this one in English (Les Diaboliques in French).
- Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman
- The Story Cure: An A-Z of Books to Keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise
I liked The Novel Cure, and as a big fan of children’s literature I feel like this one seems pretty promising.
- How to Live Like Your Cat
- What Flowers say: And Other Stories
George Sand short stories.
- Book of My Mother
- A Book of Book Lists: A Bibliophile’s Compendium
- The Book of Forgotten Authors
- The Joy of the Snow
Elizabeth Goudge, noted children’s author.
- Gio_Graphy: Fun in the World of Fashion
- The Place to Be
The best destinations for different moods, according to Lonely Planet.
- Dress Scandinavian
- I’d Rather be Reading: A Library of Art for Book Lovers
- The Art of Discarding: How to Get Rid of Clutter and Find Joy
The original KonMari method.
- Siddhartha’s Brain: Unlocking the Ancient Science of Enlightenment
Buddhism and neuroscience- pretty up my alley.
A mid-20th century ghost story like The Uninvited and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. hard to find.
- Ladurée Savoir Vivre: The Art of Fine Living
- Quiet Houses
Intertwining yet distinct ghost stories.
- A Child Again
Robert Coover cynically and nostalgically retells childhood fables and tales.
- The Name Therapist: How Growing Up with My Odd Name Taught Me Everything You Need to Know about Yours
- The Diary of Lady Murasaki
- The Library
Zoran Zivkovic is an excellent name.
- The Blood of the Vampire
Like Dracula, one of the original Gothic vampire novels. Also check out Sheridan’s Carmella.
- Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances
It’s kind of funny because the books tend to fall on one of two extremes. the library doesn’t carry them because they’re more obscure, but half are more light/frivolous obscure while the others are foreign/old/scholarly.
It’s been a nice week- I hope on your end as well! Continue reading “Friday Links 7/14”
We’re trying a new thing with the links posts now (now that I’ve realized just how long they get and how, by the time a new month rolls around, half of my links are outdated!)
So here’s a somewhat more abbreviated list of things on the inter-webs that I found interesting. Wishing you all an excellent Friday night and a lovely and relaxing weekend. Continue reading “Friday Links (Week 1)”
Let’s wrap this one up! I have something like eight authors to go through on this round (and eight is my favorite number) so let’s get started.
Namely, her hazy and suspenseful fiction. You may have read The Lottery, an excellent short story. You may have been introduced to her, as I was, through We Have Always Lived in the Castle. There’s a cat in that one. And a character named Connie (more people should be named Connie). Funnily enough, a friend who actually asks for and heeds my book recommendations tells me that the Connie in this book reminds him a lot of me. And I’m flattered- which says something about the character but possibly more about me because (spoiler) she’s quite possibly poisoned her family. Also a girl whose nickname is Merricat, which is kind of freaking awesome. The Haunting of Hillhouse is also really really good. And the movie is good but diverges from the book regarding some important plot/character developments- but both are enjoyable and gorgeously atmospheric. I have to admit that I like her nonfiction less (Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages are about her family life and I think her husband and children sound impossible to live with (and she does too, tbh)) (But also I’m a misanthrope so maybe don’t take my word for it?) If you’ve disentangled my convoluted parentheses, points to you! Continue reading “My Favorite Authors: An Added Addendum”
Alright, playwrights; come on down!
Also I’m home this weekend and it’s f’ing awesome (do I not want to swear because I’m in the sanctity of my parents’ kitchen?- Probably not because I swear all the time here too). But I’m typing this in fuzzy pajamas at the kitchen counter: As I said, f’ing awesome.
So hey, playwrights! Also I finished Play It As It Lays (Hi Joan Didion) on the train yesterday (I kind of accidentally sneaked onto an Acela, but that’s a story for another time) and it was a soul-flattening look at the empty abyss. Good stuff. Probably going to need to read a Cliffnotes summary today so I can order my feelings around someone else’s cut-and-dried academic structure.
Okay, back on track. A disclaimer: I really considered including Henrik Ibsen. I really like Henrik Ibsen. But I fell out of love with him a few years ago and haven’t read anything of his since Peer Gynt (that was weird). But maybe he’ll join us in the upper echelons of my love someday. And Eugene O’Neill. I’ve only read Long Day’s Journey into Night. Gorgeous and sinister. Do read Eugene O’Neill, even if he’s not on my list yet (because I know you’re just waiting for my recommendation, hahaha). I also need to read more Moliere. And Racine. But I like novels better than plays, so who knows when that will happen. I’ve also read a fair amount of Euripides in my life (I don’t know why). They’re pretty good, but not my favorites.
But who is?
- Tennessee Williams
Someday I will have read all of Tennessee Williams’ oeuvre and I’ll have nothing left to live for (except maybe Eugene O’Neill). Almost every single one of these plays is deeply affecting, interesting, and beautifully crafted. The Glass Menagerie, *A Streetcar Named Desire, *Suddenly Last Summer, *Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Rose Tattoo, Clothes for a Summer Hotel. Loved all of them. Except Camino Real. I couldn’t read Camino Real. Bonus: a lot of these plays were made into equally amazing movies around the 1950s. I put an asterisk next to ones with excellent movie versions (that I’ve seen, anyway).
- Peter Shaffer
First, I didn’t know that Peter Shaffer had died this year until I stated writing this. May a great writer rest in peace. Don’t recognize the name? He wrote Amadeus (speaking of plays with astonishing movie adaptations). He also wrote Equus, which became famous as the play that Daniel Radcliffe/Harry Potter stripped naked for. Yeah, that’s not why I like it. It has horses in it. Who needs naked Daniel Radcliffe when you have horses. I haven’t read Shaffer’s other works (yet) (there aren’t many), but both of these really grabbed me.
- Arthur Miller
So I’ve only read The Crucible and Death of a Salesman. And I’ll start with Death of a Salesman because I have so much to say about The Crucible. Death of a Salesman has one of my favorite lines: “Life is your oyster, but you’re not going to crack it open on a mattress.”
The Crucible is one of the most gorgeous things that I’ve ever read and perhaps that has ever been written. It’s one of those pieces that makes you want to become the devil incarnate (No? Just me?). Abigail is one of the most interesting and badass women in literature. The Salem Witch Trials are a fascinating topic, even when fictional (Hi ParaNorman)- and not only to those of us born and raised in New England. They performed The Crucible at my high school (before I was in high school) but because my Dad was a teacher we went to see it. I remember it being very well done, riveting even. The book is like that too. And my memory is that the movie version, with Winona Ryder as Abigail, is fairly good.
Very unoriginal, but I’m a fan. Without getting into whether he wrote the plays or who he was or whatnot… My favorite is Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was the first one I read, I think the summer after fifth grade. Dad and I read it together. I remember being on vacation, he smashed a mosquito with the book (No Fear, Shakespeare- we were reading one side and discussing the meanings) and there was a smudge on it forever after. It’s funny, but I guess I’ll remember that mosquito forever. I wonder if he would be pleased to know that he was murdered with Shakespeare rather than Twilight or People Magazine or something. Anyway, Shakespeare is prolific- there’s something for everyone, whether you like romance, tragedy, comedy, war stories, history, what have you. Just try to erase from your mind all of those times you had to do class readings in high school English. (Now let me shout a few titles: OTHELLO! HAMLET! THE SCOTTISH PLAY (superstitious?)! THE TEMPEST! AS YOU LIKE IT! ROMEO AND JULIET! MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING! THE TAMING OF THE SHREW! KING LEAR!)
In the few months since I posted a list of my favorite authors (one of my first lists here, incidentally) I haven’t been able to stop thinking of those poor lost souls I didn’t include who rightfully deserved their place on said list.
So today I’m going to remedy some of that by focusing on the nonfiction authors and playwrights I omitted.
As a refresher, an author or playwright is objectively a favorite if they have multiple works, most of which I love/find amazing/enjoy.
So step right up, nonfictioners and theater people!
- E.B. White
So Charlotte’s Web is brilliant. Stuart Little is brilliant. The Trumpet of the Swan is even better because Boston and Swan Boats and the Public Garden. But E.B White wrote some really astonishingly good and beautiful essays and I stayed up reading them all night before Thanksgiving my freshman year of college after being introduced to them through English 115 [we read Death of a Pig in class (And to all those people who thought he was mocking the pig and its pain- He wrote fucking Charlotte’s Web! Context people- you really think E.B. White is a pig-hater?! Idiotic)]. Somehow I didn’t get turned on to this when I was made to read Once More to the Lake my senior year of high school. (Probably because the class, professor, and short story were all of lesser quality). So White’s farm tales feed my soul. The New York ones are also quite good.
- Joan Didion
At the moment I’m reading Play It As It Lays, which is lovely and bleak. Mom recommended it. She likes lovely and bleak (as do I). She’s also the reason Carson McCullers will be up on a coming installment of this list. But Play It As It Lays is fiction, you say. Shut up. Because she’s also on here for Slouching Toward Bethlehem and The Year of Magical Thinking. That last one. Ouch. Ooof. All of it in the feels. I read it shortly after Dad’s rock climbing accident. I sometimes wonder how much loving a book has to do with serendipitous alignment of mood, circumstance, another factors. I do sometimes just set a book aside because I know I’m not in the right mindset to properly get it. Which is another of the benefits of having favorite well-trusted authors. You can just say, “I’m feeling Steinbeck.” or “Wow, that Thomas Hardy just razed my soul, please find me a Jane Austen before I curl into the fetal position.” But anyway, Didion: points for naming her daughter Quintana. Pretty awesome.
- Antoine de St. Exupery
Okay, forget about The Little Prince for a minute. I know it’s hard. Because that book is a lot and because it’s the Expert that’s been shoved down everyone’s throats forever. I know the fox is wonderful. I know the rose is a callous, disillusioned, shallow bitch (Like all women, am I right?) (The answer is NO, misogynistic pigs). FORGET ABOUT IT AND GO READ HIS STORIES ABOUT FLYING. PLANES. Both fiction and nonfiction. Wind, Sand, and Stars. Night Flight. Flight to Arras. His journals of the war years. I want to include a quote to impress upon you that overwhelming beauty of his writing about planes and flight. But I can’t pick one. And the quotes, beautiful in and of themselves, are actually glorious when they’re all nested and twined together in a complete story. They’re not long but the amount of human feeling, profundity, and aspiration they encompass is like filling your lungs fully with air for the first time. And they’re so little talked about it kills me.
- Ernest Hemingway
Haha, yes okay maybe this is cheating a little bit. My favorite Hemingway is A Moveable Feast. *Swoon*. But Hemingway is known for his fiction. Which I also quite like (with exceptions). Like you’d think To Have and Have Not would be perfect given that I love the movie based on it (Bogie and Bacall, MORE SWOON). But it’s not, one of the few times the movie is head and shoulders above the book (don’t kill me). But hey, he has some good short stories. The Sun Also Rises is good. Except ew, bullfighting. The Old Man and the Sea is definitely good.
Let’s be honest: Hemingway is holding on by the ends of his nails. I’m even taking into account his love of extra-toed cats. Without that he probably wouldn’t be on here. (Also he was really attractive.) The thing is A Moveable Feast is one of my favorite favorite books. And that’s enough to make up for my more tepid admiration of some of his other works. They’re not as favorite-y as they could be, but A Moveable Feast is here to make up the difference.
- Peter Mayle
I love Peter Mayle. I love reading about Provence and Provençal culture. It makes me happy. And his anecdotes are truly amusing. A Year in Provence, Encore Provence, and Toujours Provence. But I’m not very fond of Peter Mayle’s fiction. But the anecdotes about the mistral? Parisian gastronomic delights? Truffle gangsterdom and swindles? His crazy neighbor (like the French version of a hillbilly?). Such excellent summer reading. Or, you know, also good for chasing away winter blues. Always is good too. An important point here being that I’m a bit of a francophile (if you haven’t noticed) so if you’re indifferent to the French (or if, like my Pop Pop, you’ve avoided and disliked them ever since you met some rude ones while in the navy) I don’t know that these will be up your alley.
Okay, I lied! This is long enough- I’m saving playwrights for a separate write up. There are four of them. Debate who they are in your heads until then.
It has been four weeks minus a day since I got home from my junior year of college (!) which means it’s been exactly four weeks since the most dehumanizing test of my life (Physical Chemistry II, anybody?)
Here, a list of the best of the books I’ve read since my
triumphant return. Spoiler warnings.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers: I love Carson McCullers, if I post an addendum to my list of favorite authors, she will be on it. My Mom has been recommending this book to me for a long time and I’m very glad that I finally heeded her always-sage advice. The Heart is a shaking book. And my Mom lied to me. I asked if Mr. Singer would be okay in the end and she assured me that he would be. Of course if you’ve read this novel you know that Mr. Singer shoots himself. It’s a book that explores the deep loneliness, searching, and successive disillusionments that is human life. The failure to understand the people around us, the pain of not being understood. Continue reading “Top Books of the Month”
What qualifies an author to be counted among my favorites?
I have very high standards, as befits such a coveted distinction. You know Orwell is just rolling over in his grave because he’s not on here.
It’s a fairly simple standard actually: if a book is written by one of these authors, I don’t have to worry too much about the risk of disliking it… because I generally won’t.
So in no particular order:
The first book I read by Henry James was The Portrait of a Lady and it took me so long to begin because the first sentence was so convoluted I was terrified. But it’s an absolutely beautiful book, as are most of his novels and short stories.
Continue reading “My Favorite Authors”