Friday Links (Week 1)

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now (now that I’ve realized just how long they get and how, by the time a new month rolls around, half of my links are outdated!)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)”

My Favorite Authors: An Added Addendum

we_have_always_lived_in_the_castle_cover

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.

Shirley Jackson:
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”

My Favorite Authors: The Playwrights

the_crucible_by_mikemyers

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.

PLAYWRIGHTS!
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?

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Shakespeare
    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!)

My Favorite Authors: An Addendum

fr2780

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Top Books of the Month

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”

My Favorite Authors

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:

 

Henry James

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”