I look really sad here but I’m mostly confused because I’ve been wearing this lipstick for like 8 hours
Books I’ve read lately:
Every Day Is For The Thief, Teju Cole: This is a small book and I pretty much inhaled it. It’s a novel about an ex-pat who goes home to Lagos, and is confronted with everything that’s wonderful and strange and awkward and sad in the city. It’s billed as fiction but also includes photographs by the author so it sits at this kind of weird true-not true line where you’re reading stuff and seeing documentary evidence of it but you know it’s been, I guess, invented and altered and changed. The narrator has a lot in common with the protagonist of Open City, but this book - written earlier and published in Nigeria before it was brought out in North America - isn’t really as Great, it’s doing a much different job. I liked that he talked about his influences in it a lot, especially Michael Ondaatje, whose Running in the Family I haven’t read since high school but I kind of want to go back to now. It’s definitely got a sense of movement to it, but it’s also more or less a series of vignettes, an accumulation of impressions. The past few years I’ve been really drawn to big grandiose things that try to wrap themselves around everything - I read War and Peace a couple of years ago, even - but I’m finding myself moving toward fragments, towards thinking in fragments and accumulations as opposed to grand theories of everything. I loved fragments when I was younger, was drawn to lists and collages, so I guess it’s more of a coming home.
My Paris, Gail Scott: This was really nice to read right after Every Day Is For The Thief, they made a nice kind of pair of Flaneur City Novels. This is a novel as a kind of diary of a Canadian woman writer doing a residence in Paris, and feeling like an outsider. It’s “haunted,” the acknowledgements say, by Benjamin’s Arcades Project. The diary entries are yearning and insecure and uncomfortable, full of longing to get the right kind of Paris experience and exude the right kind of Parisian femininity, a feeling that I get having spent a year as a temporary visitor in a great Euro city and constantly worrying that I was wasting my time while also watching a lot of injustice unfold, but feeling unsure what my position should be, what my stake was. (I was in London in 2011, which was pretty much the Year of Riots.) My Paris written in an English that borrows its sentence structure from the French, like it was literally translated, a kind of poetic franglais that it takes a little time to get used to. I adored this book, it was wonderful, I found myself pulling out my mostly-unread Benjamin and flipping to random chapters.
Inside Madeleine, Paula Bomer: I read this feeling like I should like this collection of short stories. They’re thematically linked, kind of repetitions with variation, about difficult women. Unlikeable women, women who want too much, women who have crushes on their bad girl best friends, women who beg for sex from uncaring boyfriends, women who put themselves at risk, etc. etc. I don’t know, I couldn’t say what was wrong with it, it was well-written and I don’t have a problem with it as a project, but it didn’t work for me. I think it came down to the narrative voice. It described all these women as a rush of obviously ill-conceived thoughts and feelings but it kind of always seemed to kind of push you (as a reader) to sit outside of these women, to feel more knowing than them, I guess?
The Emperor’s Children, Claire Messud: This - a 2006 novel about the 2001 New York literary world - kind of feels like a period piece already. Each section is identified by a month and I got about halfway by the time I put together enough of the cultural references to realize what year it was set in, and then the bad boy Australian editor is all “We’re going to launch our new satirical magazine on September 13” and I was like, “Oh, boy, I see where this is going.” I mean, it is very well-written and the characters are vivid and flawed and engaging, but it feels very much like it was trying to grapple with history while it was happening and it can’t really draw too many conclusions yet. Five years is a long time, but it’s not really that long a time, if you know what I mean. (However I am disappointed that the planned Noah Baumbach film adaptation never happened, I think that would have been great.)
American Innovations, Rivka Galchen: This, I loved. It’s a series of stories about smart, neurotic women leading really ordinary but not totally ordinary lives. The stories are, for the most part, kind of banal, like the one about a nerdy girl who has a sexual awakening in the form of a crush on a tattooed McDonald’s worker, full of detail about crumbs falling in milk and going to the Renaissance Faire and it was just the right amount of everything. There’s occasional movements to full “magic realism”, like the title story, about a woman who grows an extra breast on her back, or the one about a woman whose furniture walks out on her (it seems, there are no other witnesses), but mostly it’s just really normal life stuff, made strange through the way the stories are told. The characters withhold information, they’re private, they’re hard. One is about a strained mother-daughter relationship that’s also a set of accounting transactions. One woman refuses to read her now-ex-husband’s blog about their relationship. The endings of all the stories are these kind of great, funny, statements of denial but that also manage to be beautiful. There are a lot of things other authors do in these stories, some of them are even kind of “in dialogue” with other famous works, but they feel new, somehow.
Like a lot of people my age, the first time I remember being aware of Robin Williams was his virtuoso voice work in Aladdin. (Or maybe it was Hook?) Even in the cheesy family movies he did in that period (which were among my favourites, I watched Mrs Doubtfire a LOT), it was pretty obvious to me that he was a genius. You’d watch him on talk shows and he was like a human cartoon. But he also kept giving these wonderful, warm, sensitive, 100% serious dramatic performances. I didn’t know about his past then, I just knew that something exciting would happen if he was on a screen.
In recent years “Robin Williams movie” has not exactly been a selling point. For a dude who could do basically anything he wanted, you had to wonder about his taste. Like, I’m a champion Sentimentality Apologist, but I’m not going to pretend that Patch Adams was anything but mawkish. But, if you can extrapolate anything from even his “bad” choices, it’s that he had a pretty big heart?
I don’t think I’ve watched a Robin Williams movie in years, but he was such a big piece of my childhood.
i saw Against Me! play a secret show at a small venue in Brooklyn on Sunday night and it was a perfect, perfect, perfect set and the first time I’ve...
He said he wanted to take me out last night. He was like, I wanna wine and dine my lady.
I had a bad day at work. My...