Femmes Noirs

Yesterday, I saw Out of the Past and Leave Her to Heaven, two films that are part of the Femmes Noirs series currently at Film Forum. I really liked them and will hopefully catch another Femmes Noirs double feature before the series ends. Both films are playing again tonight at 10:15, so if you have not made plans and live in New York and don’t mind staying up late, you should totally go!

Leave Her to Heaven (1945) is in gorgeous Technicolor and stars Gene Tierney and Cornel West. Here’s the trailer:

 

 

Out of the Past (1947) stars Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas. Here’s a clip I found on the internet:

 

 

I hope to follow this post up with a complete ranking of Gene Tierney’s outfits in Leave Her to Heaven.

Five Things I Liked This Week

This week was sloooooow. I had a lot of time for reading, so I mostly worked my way through The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – which I’m almost done with – and re-read a few of the chapters in Songs in the Key of Z just because I felt like it. The one really exciting thing that I did this week was…finally book a flight to London! I’m going for a week in November, so hit me up with all of your suggestions. I’ll also be stopping over in Iceland for two days at the end of the trip, so if you have any suggestions for that, I’m all ears.

Here are five things I liked this week:

1. “The Men Who Dare to Be Demented” by Katie Notopoulos (Buzzfeed)

2. “Scout’s Honor” by Rosecrans Baldwin (Oxford American)

3. Fly Art

(This is a Tumblr of classic artwork mashed up with hip hop lyrics.)

4. “The Letters That Warren G. Harding’s Family Didn’t Want You to See” by Jordan Michael Smith (The New York Times)

5. All of the songs I’ve been listening to this week, on one playlist

I Guess It Doesn’t Really Matter

I was going to write about how I left my wallet in a local pizza shop this weekend and didn’t realize it until the next morning, but it’s actually kind of a boring story.I just went to the pizza shop and asked the owner – who my friends and I call “Old Man Pizza” since he is old and a skilled pizzaiolo - if he had my wallet and he said yes and got it for me from behind the counter. And that’s the end of the story.

In the meantime, while I work on my fan fiction about Old Man Pizza, here is a playlist I made for my roommate two weeks ago of some stuff I’ve been listening to lately/this year.

Every Book I’ve Read So Far This Year (And Whether Or Not You Should Read Them, Too), Part Two

I feel like I say the same thing every time I post one of these things: I am way behind on reading. But so far this year, I’ve been in an actual reading slump. Very few books have been able to hold my attention. I was only able to finish reading three books that I’ve started in the past three months. Yikes! Realizing that makes me feel more than a little disappointed in myself. Now I’m really going to try to get some serious “beach reading” done this summer, even though I highly doubt I will actually go to the beach.

***

APRIL

HHhH by Laurent Binet

What’s it about?

This book is supposedly about the two men – one Czech, one Slovak – who killed Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking Nazi official who organized much of the Holocaust. (“HHhH” stands for “Himmler’s Hirn heisst Heydrich” or “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”.) After several chapters, the book becomes not only about the history, but also about the narrator (or the author himself) trying to write this fictional account of how Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis killed Heydrich.

Did I like this book?

Not as much as I thought I would. I’d wanted to read HHhH when it was published here in 2012 and finally got around to picking it up this winter. I think any reader of this blog knows, at this point, that I read a ton of fiction set during the World Wars. It was hard for me to get into this book because of its unusual structure. However, I appreciated reading something that was as much about the process of writing historical fiction as it was about the actual history.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

I think yes, if you’re a fan of historical fiction, like reading about this particular period, or (I guess) post-modern fiction. If you’re interested in reading a book about someone trying to write a book, I would suggest a non-fiction book instead – Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage.

 

MAY

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

What’s it about?

A woman named Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox that has washed up on the shore of a remote island off of the Pacific coast of Canada. The lunchbox contains several items, including the diary of a sixteen-year-old Japanese girl called Nao who, before she commits suicide, has decided to write down the story of her 104-year-old grandmother, a Buddhist nun. The reader is taken back and forth between Nao’s past in 2001 and Ruth’s present, where she is trying to unravel the mysteries of Nao’s family.

Did I like this book?

Yes. It’s sort of hard to summarize but I guess I liked the way the book blended past and present and played with philosophy, especially Buddhist thought. I also was very compelled by all of Nao’s chapters. Even if I was bored with Ruth’s story from time to time, I remained committed to reading because I wanted to catch up with Nao.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

I have been recommending this book to tons of people, so yes. I think there’s something for everyone in here? I didn’t like everything about A Tale for the Time Being, but had a generally positive and thought-provoking reading experience.

 

JUNE

Broken Harbor by Tana French

What’s it about?

In Tana French’s fourth “Dublin Murder Squad” novel, Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy and his partner are assigned to solve the murder of a young family of four who live in a half-empty housing development outside of Dublin. Mystery abounds.

Did I like this book?

Well, yes. I mean, I’ve never not been amused by a Tana French novel. I read The Likeness last year, followed by In the Woods. This is now the third book of hers I’ve read. I was left a little unsatisfied at the end of the book but was generally very entertained the whole time I was reading it. (I still liked The Likeness the best, even if it’s basically The Secret History, but in Ireland and with undercover cops.)

Should you read it? Why or why not?

I think this much-better-than-your-average murder mystery makes for a great summer read. A “beach read,” even!

 

Advice For Yesterday, Today, the Future

“How old will Haley be when Aidan graduates from high school?”

One of my brothers, I can’t remember which one, sincerely asked this question last year while all eight members of our nuclear family sat around our kitchen table eating dinner. Though I hadn’t been paying attention to the conversation, I began to answer.

“I’ll be,” I said.

“Thirty,” Aidan finished.

Aidan is the youngest.

“No, I’ll be twenty-nine,” I said. “You’ll be seventeen. I’ll be twenty-nine.”

“Yeah, for like one more month,” he said.

My birthday is August 3. Aidan’s birthday is August 5. We were born almost exactly twelve years apart.

“Still, I won’t be thirty yet,” I said.

***

Aidan is still a few years away from graduating from high school. I’m still a few years away from turning thirty. But I thought of that exchange while I was sitting at my brother John’s graduation last week. Nine years ago, I sat where John was sitting, on the steps to our high school, sweating through my white satin dress while speeches were made and honors awarded. I’d imagined what it would be like to graduate from high school since I was little. I’d also thought about the graduation days of my siblings and wondered what my life would be like when I watched each of them receive their diplomas. I would be twenty when Jim graduated. Twenty-one at Tori’s graduation. Twenty-four at Dayton’s. Twenty-six at John’s. Twenty-nine at Aidan’s.

Now: Four down. One to go.

Has my life on the day of these four graduations resembled anything I had imagined?

Well, no. Not really.

As a teen, I thought that after one graduated from college, all of the things that were supposed to happen in life just happened. Kind of like The Game of Life. Get a job, make money, find a partner, buy a house, have children. Or whatever the order is.

I certainly didn’t consider the possibility that these things wouldn’t happen easily or at all. I thought that by now, I’d be zooming along that road, maybe stopping on the “Get Married” tile. (I don’t need to tell you this, but I had a very skewed sense of when certain milestones should occur.) I wonder what seventeen-year-old Haley would think of poor (literally poor), partnerless, twenty-six-year-old Haley. She’d probably judge her. But I – twenty-six-year-old Haley – would tell her to calm down. (Even though she hates it when people tell her to calm down.) Like, you’re going to do some fun, weird, interesting stuff in the next ten years. Also, some shitty stuff will happen. But it will make you wiser and a better human! And also, you’re never going to “figure it out”, so just enjoy doing the things you like to do and stop worrying.

All that being said, I still worry. But not really about achieving adult “milestones”. Mostly about if I’m spending my time wisely, how to fix perceived mistakes, and whether I’m drinking enough water.

***

Perhaps this isn’t the most fitting time for me to be waxing philosophical about life and my past and current selves. This year isn’t a big anniversary of my own high school graduation. My youngest sibling doesn’t graduate for another three years. And I am a few years from finishing out my twenties.

However. There is a reason I was thinking about all of this and I’m getting back to it now.

Again, I was thinking about all of this because my brother John graduated last week. He’s going off to college – Go Irish! – in less than two months. I didn’t give a toast at his graduation party last week and I probably wouldn’t be able to say in person the things I want to say to him as well as I can (I hope) here.

As the fifth of six, John’s in kind of a tough spot. He’s not the baby – though he was for four years – and he could never hang with the big kids, as hard as he tried. Growing up, he took endless shit from those of us at the top. We demanded that he leave us alone, stop telling us pointless stories, and accept defeat in the epic wrestling matches that took place in our basement. And then, after being horribly mean to him, we’d ask him to love us. (He was very cute and also the best cuddler.)

Somehow, John made all of that work for him. Today, at eighteen, he is a kind and loyal friend. An improved storyteller. A fierce-as-fuck competitor, a runner who is always thinking about how to win. And also, still very cute and the best cuddler.

I don’t know how much John thinks about the future. Probably at least a little bit, since the future plays such a huge role in the last few years of high school. But if I could give the John of today a little bit of advice – and I only will if he’ll let me – I would tell him to chill out on thinking about the future. Or I guess, think about it, just don’t have any expectations. Literally, nothing ever turns out the way you thought it would or wanted it to turn out. Learn from the choices you make and the things that happen that are out of your control. And – this is lame but I’m going to say it anyway – always try to find the humor in whatever situation you’re in. It makes things easier.

Good luck, Johnny. (Even though I don’t think you need it.)