Lazy Sunday: 10 August 2014

Y’all, I had a rough. week. I’m treating myself to some day drinks, a new dress, and an afternoon at the Gibbes. Enjoy these reads!

Lazy Sunday, 5 January 2014

It’s our first lazy Sunday of 2014! I really did it up by sleeping 17 hours. Enjoy these links!

Lazy Sunday: 17 November 2013

It’s been an up-and-down couple weeks, huh? Glad Mercury is no longer in retrograde or whatever. Enjoy! Let’s hang out here tomorrow, okay?

  • First things first: I talked to my friend Larry, who is an aid worker in the Philippines, about what might be the best tack to take to help the typhoon victims. He said these guys are the real deal, and are doing permanent, important good. If everyone who read my blog gave PHP500 (about the cost of a fancy cocktail at a nice bar), we’d be able to give meaningful help to people who really need it.
  • Another charitable thing to consider as the season of plenty is upon us: What’s it like to feed your family from a food bank?
  • There is no scenario in which I want to hear anyone say “make love” so this Woody Allen supercut is the worst thing ever. I made it through about 30 seconds before I had to make it stop.
  • I was pretty irritated about the new BuzzFeed Books policy of “only nice reviews” and I guess the New Yorker was, too.
  • Charleston City Paper is pushing back against the homogenized “aw-shucks pansouthernism” that is creeping in.
  • Do you know this about me? I’m casually obsessed with televangelism and performative religious cultures (SURPRISE.).
  • This is just a weird Wikipedia page.
  • Usually, I don’t go in for fondant icing, but I could make an exception for this beaut.
  • Edgar Allan Poe was a true freak, and that’s a fact.
  • As an inveterate, unrepentant, unreconstructed set list stealer, this speaks to my heart.

Book Club: Going Clear

So this week, I read Going Clear as part of a my In Real Life book club. This is my first real meeting as a member of said klatch, and you know how things are kinda awkward while you’re figuring out what people in your book club are like? Well, turns out mine are smart and like to read interesting things. Apparently, no one told them that I love conspiracy theories and cults in advance, so that’s allegedly a happy accident. Allegedly.

Truly, there is no good way to take a picture of a book with that library clear plastic on it.

My weird obsession with Scientology began in 2009 when I was briefly bedridden and had tons of time to think about reptilians, Elvis, and staged moon landings. I find the church pretty terrifying, but also believe that everyone’s religious beliefs (including my own) sound kind of weird when overly reduced. Really, Xenu and thetans and whatever aren’t weirder than the prophesy of a zombie carpenter or the contents of stone tablets from the sky or the notion that we were possibly all grains of rice back in the day, so we should just live and let live. Well, you know, Lawrence Wright disagrees and makes a solid case for why.

I first came across Lawrence Wright’s stories about Scientology in The New Yorker a few years ago. I was comletely glued to it; his writing style is at once dense and accessible, smart, but not smart alec-y. If you haven’t read that article, I recommend you start there. It’s a long study of Paul Haggis‘ public split with the Church in 2009 and will give you a pretty workable framework for what this book is going to be like.

Continue reading “Book Club: Going Clear”

Hotel Great Barrington

It’s weird to think that Wes Anderson has always exactly like one of his characters. Whenever I watch one of his movies, I feel like I’m kind of watching an idealized version of what he himself is like. It’s kind of nice to have it confirmed. In this 1999 article NYT archives, our hero goes to the country to fetch an aging New Yorker writer, beg her to watch Rushmore. She is very ill and frail, doesn’t drive. She takes a couple sly shots at Bottle Rocket and tells him to change his name. He is at once exhilarated, hopeful, turned on, disgusted, and slightly disappointed. She gives him a book. She dies not long after.

No, but seriously, that’s a Wes Anderson movie.

Your Love of Gardening Will Soon Come in Handy

Behold, the humble fortune cookie.

ImageI’ve always loved these– not too sweet, a tool of augury, a completely invented tradition. What’s not to love? Once, I got no fortune in my cookie and got nervous I was about to die. The next time, I got THREE fortunes. What does that mean? 

Well, it means Donald Lau is asleep on the job. That everyone at these joints is asleep on the job. I always thought being a fortune cookie writer (much like a lipstick namer) would be a fun job, but it turns out that job doesn’t exist. So much for job security. Color me totally heartbroken.


Lazy Sunday: 24 March

I’m on vacation still, so I’m leaving you these things to read in my absence:

So, what are you reading this weekend?

Lazy Sunday: 17 March

Weekly things of interest for ya! I’m about to hop on a plane, so post the things I should read in the comments!

Book of the Week: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

This week, I bring you Nathan Englander‘s short story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne FrankPeople made a metric tonne of noise about this when it came out early last year, and I just now got around to reading it myself.

what we talk about

So, the great thing about short story collections if you don’t somehow already know this (maybe you majored in engineering in college or something) is that you pretty much always have time for them. It’s not like getting Anna Karenina in your hands and thinking “I’ll just do this later.” You have time right now.

Anyway, more specifically about these short stories: I loved them. Like any collection of short stories, there are some that are better than others, but three of the eight stood out to me. The eponymous story, “Sister Hills”, and “Camp Sundown” are outstanding examples of stories that grapple with Jewish identity in America, the confusing feelings some American Jews have about their coreligionists in Israel, and the ways in which the trauma of the Shoah still reverberates loudly in contemporary society.  The others take on these themes, too, but when I was reflecting on these stories after I finished, those specific ones resonated with me.

The great thing about Englander is that he’s a Jewish writer unafraid of being pretty Jewish (there’s no glossary of terms or parenthetical insert about what this means or whatever, so keep up), but he doesn’t beat you over the head with it the way Michael Chabon sometimes can or Phillip Roth almost always does. “What We Talk About…”, for example, touches on the universal-but-still-weird feeling you get when hanging out with friends from childhood with whom you no longer have anything in common. “Sister Hills” and “Camp Sundown” tangle with how frustrating your family can be, and the changing nature of filial piety. There’s so much to unpack page to page that I won’t even try to summarize it.

I also loved that he isn’t afraid to be a little funny, or to talk about the Holocaust in ways that are…unconventional, to say the least. “Free Fruit for Young Widows”, for instance, is a fairy tale set up that talks frankly about the horrors of war while making use of magical language. If there’s another example of that somewhere, I don’t know where it is.*

Anyway, I can’t recommend this highly enough, even if you feel like you’ve had your fill of Jewish-American writers writing about Jewish-American topics. It’s a collection with a great mix of gravitas and humor, and his word-pickin’ skills are second to none.

Have any of you read this? What did you think about his stories? Which were your favorites? Did you hear him read his favorite Singer story (also one of mine) on the New Yorker podcast? OMG PLEASE GO LISTEN.

Next week, I’m reading another short story collection. Please join in!

*readers, please note that I love magic realism and will revisit this love early and often.