Archive for June, 2010

Kindle Me Poor

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

I don’t entirely get it, but the Kindle has the magic power to enable me to read a 400-page book in two days*. At $9.99 per, I’m going to have a very expensive habit if I don’t supplement with books made up of actual molecules.

Sigh. Nothing is ever the entire solution.

You may quote me.

*I partly get it. I’ve been sick.

1) Life Would Be Perfect if I Lived in that House. This is one of those memoirs that feels like it was written because the author had a contract and needed a topic. I don’t begrudge Daum her real estate and interior design fantasies, as I am infected with a rabid case of same, but she could have captured the entirety of the book’s wisdom in 3000 words.

2) Speaking of authors who have contracts and need topics, Lynne Sharon Schwartz (my grad school advisor!) admits as much in the opening to her new memoir, Not Now, Voyager. Which kind of put me off the book. Which resulted in, perhaps a little too insta-karmically, my not buying it after having downloaded a free sample on the Kindle.

Free Kindle samples, will you kill literature?

3) I can hardly imagine reading Alice Munro on the Kindle—sacrilege! And anyway I had received her newest collection of stories, Too Much Happiness, as a holiday present in December. (Thank you, Barbara.) Oh, the exquisite pleasure of an Alice Munro story! I had read most of them already, whenever they were published in The New Yorker, and as they are capital-L Literature they always improve with repetition.

Munro lays out the emotional complexity of a novel in every story, but her work is never crammed and always patient. It’s the opposite of so much else out there, including Daum, which takes a kernel and attempts to puff it into an entire bowl of popcorn (or some other, better metaphor implying a more substantial end result). In this way Munro is one of the most generous writers ever, possibly on par with Shakespeare in terms of how many characters she is willing to meticulously craft and then release into the world.

I know. Who gets compared to Shakespeare? Like, ever? But I think so. In that way.

Thank you, Alice Munro. You are mind-blowing.

In Which I Talk about My Most Recently Netflixed Movies

Friday, June 25th, 2010

1. What was all the fuss about Junebug? Amy Adams’ performance? She was good enough, but it seemed like the kind of extremity-of-feeling role that isn’t as hard as the subtler day-to-day stuff.

Anyway, Junebug is slow and emotionally nonsensical. I don’t understand what we’re supposed to believe/feel about George, the errant husband and prodigal son. The movie seems to ask us to like him, when he’s just a boring and uncommunicative (albeit sexy) jerk.

2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, on the other hand, is a funny, sweet movie. The previews made it look like a Superbad-esque journey into juvenile gross-out humor, so I’d put it off for a while.

Not that I am against Superbad. I just have a limited tolerance.

In fact, I mostly adore Jonah Hill and feel that the ways in which he is both like and unlike Seth Rogen should be humorously broken down by someone in a blog entry. But not me.

One Day

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

After hearing an interview with the author on NPR, I read this.

I enjoyed it. At first I thought, “This is an excellent thinking person’s/literary snob’s summer read.” Then I got to the very unexpected twist. And I thought, “This novel is more serious than I was taking it to be.” Or maybe, “This novel is not fully aware of its tone.” Either way, worth reading.

Oh, and one more thing: This novel believes that a lifelong womanizer and alcoholic can be reformed at 40 by suddenly realizing that he’s in love with an old friend. So . . . I don’t know about that part.

Also, my first Kindle experience! After a short adjustment period and a bit of frustration in not knowing how long the book was*, the read went smoothly. I think I have been Kindle-fied.


*Apparently it’s 448 pages? But I read it in two days! I guess, well. Yeah.

Beautiful Boy

Monday, June 21st, 2010

At the request of a friend, who is going through an analogous experience, I read this book.

It’s wrenching and, well, beautiful. It’s not literary, and at first I struggled to settle into the pace, which felt rushed and telescopic. But by mid-way through, when author David Sheff sinks deeply into his pain, I was won.

And I was struck and moved by Sheff’s humility. I guess there are few things more humbling than a child’s addiction, but I imagine that it would be far easier to shut down in the face of such an onslaught of suffering. After years of struggling with a beast he can’t  control, Sheff remains kind, compassionate, open, and interested in the problem.

A great book to give to anyone who deals with familial addiction.

Gorgeous, Stylish, and Happy-Go-Lucky

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

I hereby publicly declare my love for this duck.


Thursday, June 17th, 2010

After I heard the authors on Fresh Air, I bought the book.

When John began to read it (first), he was so fascinated that he ended up reading the entire prologue aloud to me.


(It’s about the infamous Collyer brothers.)

This week it was my turn, and I gulped the book down in 4 or 5 sittings. As a compulsively neat/orderly person, it was more than a little unsettling, but the tone is so thoughtful and compassionate that I was able to stay with it through the end. (Also: John had warned me against the chapter on hoarding animals, so I skipped it. I am constitutionally unable to tolerate cruelty to animals.)

I think what I’m left with, in addition to the itch to purge my drawers and closets, is a great respect for both the authors and some of their subjects, particularly a  brave woman they call Irene. She was willing not only to work with the therapists to try to clear her home but to report every belief and feeling that came up for her while doing so. Not easy.

Anyway, as with so many psychological issues/defense mechanisms, hoarding seems to be something of a matter of degree: i.e., we all have the behaviors to some extent, but some people have them to the point of dysfunction. So if you’re even a little overwhelmed by the volume of stuff in your life, this book could help.

Dessert of Appetizer

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

As some of you may know, I have a predilection (some might say a gift) for prandial innovation.

It began when I was a child, and I asked my mother for dessert of breakfast.

“There is no dessert after breakfast,” she would say.

But I begged to differ. Who wouldn’t want to follow a bowl of cereal with a nibble of chocolate or a couple of quarts of ice cream?

As a young adult, I invented Dessert of Snack, which truly changed my life. And in my early 30s, I displayed my true genius for invention by coming up with Dessert of Dessert of Snack. (Not recommended for the inexperienced palate.)

Well, my friends, I have done it again. Last night after eating merely a single fresh spring roll, I decided that it was time for dessert. And in a flash of thinking unconstrained by convention, a new course was born: Dessert of Appetizer.

Live it, love it, eat it.

You know I will.

New Jokes Every Night

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Last night as we’re going to bed:

M: [Says something funny.]

J: [Laughs.]

M: I have new jokes every night!

J: [Laughs.]

M: Seriously. Eight and a half years, and still, new jokes!

J: [Laughs.]

M: [Laughs.]


M: Why is that funny?

J: For—[hysterics]—about a million reasons.

M: Is one of the reasons that it’s predicated upon the assumption that I’m supposed to have new jokes every night?

J: Yes.

M: Hmm. What if you’re just an easy laugher?

J: [Laughs.]

M: Like, sometimes I hear you giggling on the phone, and I think, WAIT JUST A MINUTE.

J: [Hysterics.]

M: And then I think, “Does he laugh at almost anything?”

J: [Howling on floor.]

M: And then I just have to block it out of my mind to keep on living.

More on Franzen

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I have a little secret. It’s this: The Corrections is overwritten. But it doesn’t matter, because most of the sentences are gorgeous anyway, and Franzen’s genius re: family dynamics and the way personality is both formed and gets played out vis a vis parents/children/siblings is colossal.

Ergo, The Corrections still ranks in my Top 3 Books Ever, along with The Line of Beauty and The Golden Notebook.

In case you were wondering.

Meanwhile, I’ve just learned that Franzen has a novel coming out on 8/31, a million years from now, and I’m panting with anticipation to see whether a) the recent story in The New Yorker was an excerpt and b) how his writing has matured. If a) is true, then b) is thrilling indeed!


Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Somebody’s blog is a year old today.

As a gift, I am giving you this gorgeous thing.

Try not to cry.