Booksale

The take from a recentIMG_8949 book sale at the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Maybe I’ve read the Jhumpa Lahiri or parts of it already. Been known to happen. After having a love-hate relationship with Augusten Burroughs’ books (“This is not something a normal person would do. But I am not normal.”) I’ve gone over to appreciating his mix of brutality and hilarity again. It’d be hard to miss the universality in his understanding of being human. The hyper-self-consciousness of Augusten-world; the magnetic pull towards certain people and then the sheer oddity of being close to another person.

Haruki Murakami: I loved, loved “Norwegian Wood”. This book looks like it might be a mystery about libraries? Not sure, but it’s intriguing-looking. I read at least the foreword (by Abraham Verghese) of Paul Kalanithi’s memoir and that alone was stunning.

Then there’s Ariel Levy’s memoir, “The Rules Do Not Apply.” That set me back six bucks brand new. Something like a total of $24 for these six books. I’ll be set for awhile.

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Middlestein-ing

I say “Middlestein-ing” because my husband’s family has certain highly neurotic behaviors that the younger generation have made into a verb, as in “They were …..-ing out so bad!” Try this with any family name. It works because every family is its own universe and has its own specific patterns, made up of certain undeniable behaviors.

Anyhow, there’s a short piece in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review about novelist Jami Attenberg devout wish that people not conflate her writing and her life.

She wrote the beloved (at least by me)  The Middlesteins, an “expansive” (quotes because a main character is obese) novel about self-destruction, family ties, divorce and being a child of divorce; and family wounds and the differences between how siblings react. It was really much more lovable to read than I’m making it sound.

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The Animators

This is a pretty ambitious book (also the author’s first novel). Maybe that’s why it took me so long to finish it–around three weeks or so; slow for me. It’s about friendship, it’s about art and the sufferings/decisions/sacrifices that come with making good art, it’s about being thrown out into the world kicking and screaming (maybe my cynical way of saying “coming of age”).

The two main characters are female animators who meet in art school. Animation is the art form that saves both of them from complicated pasts growing up in desolate Southern families. They can run but they can’t hide from their pasts; they simply take them and mine them for material–painful, of course.

Mel (short for “Melody”) and Sharon’s first successful animated film is about Mel’s mother, who comes to an inglorious end after being shanked in jail. Mel deals with her past by drinking, drugs and casual sex, and seems to find solace in her work, while Sharon uses her work to buffer herself from family and a hugely traumatic event involving her best friend from childhood’s father. It takes awhile for this beast of an event to show up in the book (thanks to the skill of the author) and to finally rear it’s ugly head.

I wondered why it took me so long to finish this book, and I think it’s because it was about so many big ticket life items, as above.

I’d recommend it, but only if you’re ready for a big, meaty book that might require some patience. The Animators is worth reading if you want to have characters who are probably not exactly like you enter your life while you’re reading it, and afterwards.

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Tyranny. Resisting it.

Am really looking forward to reading 41kBo7v4xaL._SX353_BO1,204,203,200_
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century” by Timothy Snyder.

A friend recommended this pocket-sized book, which I’m hoping will save my life. The American civilian part of my life, which is in danger of going as numb as a limb that hasn’t moved in an hour.

The book is all streamlined style: Smart formatting and type sizing, short chapters, nice paper. As any good writer or editor would know, it must’ve taken him ages to distill down to what he wanted to say.

 Thank goodness for Amazon Prime, and check back for more on this. I’m thinking it might be a grim read.

 

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Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys

This memoir by Viv Albertine was like a bag of potato chips. Eat some, they’re pretty tasty,51xH61SnhIL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
right? Then go back for more, skip ahead to those crunchy ones you really like while you pass by the not-so-crunchy ones.

Not that she doesn’t have a lot of crunchy parts in this memoir. She’s played with The Slits, a British proto-punk band, had a career as a television and film director, and hung around with Sid Vicious and Joe Strummer in their early days.

Her band breaks up, she has a baby after innumerable painful fertility treatments, learns she has cancer while Baby (that’s how she refers to her daughter in the book) is only three months old. Vincent Gallo is obsessed with and pursues her. The band gets back together.

The more I slowed down and read individual pages of this memoir, the more I liked it. It’s not going to read like a novel, after all. I liked Kim Gordon’s memoir much better (“Girl in a Band”); it happens to be shorter as her voice is very to-the-point. But it’s great to hear the voices of female musicians.

Like a bag of potato chips, take one, go back to it, and maybe you’ll finish the whole bag.

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Spoilt

Spoiled by Caitlin Macy. Cringe-worthy stories. I liked “Red Coat,” a story about a newish stay-at-home wife who ends up stealing her young cleaning woman’s coat out of coat check at her local cafe, when it was published in The New Yorker. In the context of several other stories about the habits of upper class Manhattanites (“Christie,” “Annabel’s Mother” and “Spoiled,” the title story) though, well, ick!

I understand writing about social discomfort, class shame, plain old shame, but these were too confining for me. I’d rather read Mary Gaitskill if I want to be made uncomfortable. At least there’s more variety in her story collections.

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Women’s March Reading List

41r8yICXM-L._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThis might be short as it’s late.

“Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solnit is extremely of-the-moment given current political events: women’s rights to make choices about their bodies are being threatened, and we have a new leader who’s made sexually harassing comments about women. Given also that we have a leader who’s proposed cabinet picks include only one woman, I don’t see a lot of respect here for femaleness and female agency.

In the book she is trenchantly serious but somehow manages to add a touch of humor, oh, wait, that is just the ridiculousness of the things she’s been told by men during her long career as a writer, historian and activist.

I promise to get back on the stick during the week with more reading choices. Too much excitement today with the marches going on. Rebecca Solnit’s book is truly powerful.

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