Friday Reads: Almost But Not Quite A Romney Roundup

Well, this is the third week I’ve done this and I think now it should be pretty clear to you all that I read the same publications all the time. Suggestions for other things to read are welcome! I encourage you to leave them in the comments.

Some stuff to read over the weekend:

– Pretty much everything in this week’s issue of The New Yorker (the first three are subscription only):

Haunts (New York Magazine): Mark Jacobson writes about old Brooklyn and new Brooklyn and the Barclays Center.

Mitt’s Stake (New York Magazine): More about Mormon Mitt.

What Does City Pigeon Taste Like? (Prevention): Thankfully, my friend Mandy ate pigeon and wrote about it this week so the rest of us didn’t have to.

When We Were “Seventeen”: A History in 47 Covers (The Awl): Obviously. Old magazine covers are my fave.

12 Proposed U.S. States That Didn’t Make the Cut (Mental Floss): Weird American history! (h/t Bailey)

– Q&A: Comix Stars Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware and Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (Rolling Stone): This is delightful. Totally forgot Dan Clowes had been nominated for an Oscar. (via The Hairpin)

Last Call for College Bars (New York Times): Everyone has read this by now, right? But still…ugh.

Over the River and Through the Woods

I stayed overnight at my grandma’s last Friday. I took the train up there, which was/is always really nice because riding the Hudson line on the Metro-North kind of feels like you’re on a boat since you can only see the water out the window (if you’re sitting on the river side) for most of the ride. And it really makes you feel like you’re getting out of the city, which I hardly ever feel when I take the 25 minute ride on the Harlem line to my parents’ house.

My view from the train window.

My grandma – who we call La – lives in Orange County, in the middle of the Hudson Valley region. (Embarrassingly, I just had to look up what part of the Hudson Valley Orange County is in and discovered that it has a pretty wacky Wikipedia page with lots of “fun facts”.) During the twenty-four hours that I was there, we spent a lot of time sitting and chatting at the kitchen table. I’m a sucker for old-timey stories, so basically I’m a grandparent’s dream. I even like hearing the ones that I’ve heard before. Like the one about how my grandpa would call my grandma up for a date, but he’d have to call the telephone at her grandmother’s boarding house across the street because my grandma’s parents didn’t have a phone and her grandmother would yell “Yoohoo!” from her porch so that she could run over to take the call. Could it get any old-timier? No.

In addition to old stories, I also love old things. La – like all good grandparents – has a lifetime’s worth of  books, objects and photos in her house just sitting there waiting to be rifled through by someone like me. (My other grandma has a lifetime’s worth of stuff x10 because she – like me – is somewhere on the hoarder spectrum…but she’s not the one I visited this weekend.)

Decades-old history books are my favorite. Here’s the inside cover of a book that I found in my grandma’s spare bedroom called Inside Europe Today by John Gunther, published in 1961:

Inside Europe Today, 1961

And here is a book on how to win at Trivial Pursuit, which – even though I’m very confident in my Trivial Pursuit abilities – I wish I had asked to borrow:



Notice the leather-bound sets of National Geographic from the 1980s in the background. I haven’t looked through them ever. Not once! That will be my project for next time I’m up there.

This particular bookshelf has a great combination of 20th century paperbacks:



Memoir, religion, western, psychological thriller – you can find anything at Grandma’s House! Also, that little statue is one of my favorite tchotchkes ever. (Note to my family: Who gave that as a gift?)

But seriously, this is my favorite thing about my grandma’s house:

Me & My Cousins (& Siblings)

These pictures have been on the same bulletin board for a long time now. And I never get sick of looking at them. (I’m the one with the big white bow, FYI. It was my thang in the early nineties.) I’ve been pretty addicted to finding childhood photos for the last couple of months, so the above image was like the ultimate Flashback Friday Instagram post for me. (Wishing now that I had documented the other bulletin board, fridge photos and shelves full of First Communion portraits…)

It’s taken a long time – almost a week! – to post about this trip because my computer is beyond busted right now. Which is a story for another day, I suppose. But I guess when I originally decided to post on this subject, I was feeling really warm and fuzzy about being able to just hop on the train and hang out with my grandma and look at old things and hear old stories. And I still am feeling that way! It might be a while before I post something this sentimental, but I am looking forward to it anyway.

Best European Countries 2012

Ranked by how much I liked the story from that country in Best European Fiction 2012. (You’ll notice some countries are on here twice because stories from that country that are in more than different language were included in the collection. And also that the countries of the UK are each counted separately. And also that all of the countries of Europe are not on this list because stories from some countries were not included in the collection.)

1. Czech Republic – “I, Loshad”, Jiri Kratochvil
2. Norway – “Down There They Don’t Mourn”, Bjarte Breiteig
3. Switzerland (French) – “The Children”, Noelle Revaz
4. Iceland – “The Ice People”, Gerdur Kristny
5. France – “Juergen the Perfect Son-in-Law”, Marie Darrieuessecq
6. Hungary – “When There Were Only Animals”, Zsofia Ban
7. Ireland (English) – “Kennedy”, Desmond Hogan
8. Georgia – “Before the End”, David Dephy
9. Bosnia and Herzegovina – “Magic” and “Sarajevo”, Muharem Bazdulj
10. Wales (English) – “Bigamy”, Duncan Bush
11. Liechtenstein (German) – “Tomorrow It’s Deggendorf”, Patrick Boltshauser
12. Scotland (English) – “enough to make your heart”, Donal McLaughlin
13. Slovenia – “Memorinth”, Branko Gradisnik
14. Ireland (Irish) – “…everything emptying into white”, Gabriel Rosenstock
15. Netherlands – “Pearl”, Sanneke van Hassel
16. Portugal – “Tourist Destination”, Rui Zink
17. Croatia – “Zlatka”, Maja Hrgovic
18. Estonia – “Logisticians Anonymous”, Armin Koomagi
19. Belgium (Dutch) – “My Hand is Exhausted”, Patricia de Martelaere
20. Poland – “The Sorrows of Idiot Augustus”, Janusz Rudnicki
21. Belgium (French) – “Rara Avis”, Bernard Quiriny
22. Switzerland (Rhaeto-Romanic & German) – “Sez Ner”, Arno Camenisch
23. Finland – “Passiontide”, Maritta Lintunen
24. Germany – “The Case of M.”, Clemens Meyer
25. Serbia – “Without Fear of Change”, Marija Knezevic
26. Russia – “The Telescope”, Danila Davydov

These have been left unranked because I just couldn’t finish these stories. (Maybe if I had read them in a different time and place I would have liked them, but for whatever reason, they just weren’t clicking with me.)
– Spain (Galician) – Agustin Fernandez Paz
– Slovakia – “Agnomia”, Robert Gal
– England – “Catastrophe”, Lee Rourke


I’ve been making my way through this book for a little while now. (See here and here.)

I was very surprised by some of the stories I liked and disliked in this year’s collection. (Actually, technically last year’s collection since 2013 is coming out next month.) I’m not sure how I would have felt about some of the stories if the collection had been set up differently. In the past, the stories were ordered alphabetically by country. This year, they were organized by category. I was fairly consumed by trying to figure out how some of the stories fit into their particular categories while reading. So, maybe I had higher or lower opinions of some stories than I would have if they had not been organized by category since I may have been judging them based on how well they fit into a category like “Love” or “Music”? I don’t know.

Anyway, I would recommend that anyone who enjoys reading fiction to take a look at this book. Literature in translation! It’s a great thing that we don’t often pay attention to these days.

[Image via Dalkey Archive]

Friday Reads: Religion and Royals and Other Stuff

I think this is now a weekly roundup! I hope you enjoy these as much as I did and aren’t bothered by the fact that like half of them are from the New York Times. (I wasn’t reading super diversely this week.)

Vintage Contemporaries (Talking Covers): Talking about those old Vintage Contemporaries covers. (I actually read this one last week but I think it’s still good.)

Why I Love Mormonism (New York Times): Some/a lot of thoughts on the Mormon idea of God and Mormonism’s place on the spectrum of contemporary Judeo-Christian religion or something.

A Literal Epidemic of Crutch Words (The Atlantic Wire): Basically a follow up to the original discussion of crutch words we use today.

Salman Rushdie on Salman Rushdie (The New Yorker): An account of the days and months after he was sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini.

David Carr on Neil Young (New York Times Magazine): I think I love anything written about Neil Young and this was no exception.

Prince Harry, Millenial Royal (The Awl): From Emma Garman’s wonderful series on British celebrities.

An Interview with Jessica Valenti (The Hairpin): Nicole Cliffe interviews Jessica Valenti about her book Why Have Kids?

John Jeremiah Sullivan on Cuba (New York Times Magazine): OK, I haven’t read this yet but I know it’s going to be good because John Jeremiah Sullivan is always good. (Did you read his thing on the Williams sisters a couple of weeks ago?)

And in case you’re interested, here’s what I’m reading in books this week:

– Still working on this.

– Just started The Night of the Gun by David Carr (lots of David Carr this week) and I feel, um, not great about it so far. But I’m only 10 pages in!

– Also picked up In Cold Blood, which I have never read even though I really like true crime books? And duh, it’s really good.

TV Hangover

Unless I have something planned, it’s hard for me not to watch shitty TV on weekend mornings when I’m hung over because it’s hard to do anything at all that involves thought. And once I start watching TV, it’s hard for me to stop. What follows is a true account of everything I watched on Sunday – good, bad and ugly.

10:30 AM. I can’t find anything on the movie channels so I press the On Demand button and do my usual scan through all of the free TV shows. I try to watch last week’s episode of Copper – which I know will be horrible – but it’s not available. So I do what any good American would do and check to see if Here Comes Honey Boo Boois On Demand.

Chloe, my favorite toddler, freezing up during competition.

It’s not. (I still haven’t seen a single episode.) So I turn on Toddlers and Tiaras.

I’m able to get through two episodes of that show with a break for coffee somewhere in the middle. I’m totally, totally into it for the whole two episodes but I can only watch so many mothers – who are all either black-hearted or extremely naive and all (looks-wise) on a scale between 1990s Rural Gas Station Attendant/Troll and Plastic Surgeried to Resemble E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – dress their kids up like a-holes and volunteer them to be judged mostly on how sincerely they can fake their smile for a panel of deeply strange adults.

12 PM. I start the first of two episodes of Eat Street – a Diners, Drive-Ins and Divestype show about food trucks on the Cooking Channel. It desperately needs fewer people talking about just how local and fresh their food is that they serve out of a truck and more Guy Fieri.

1 PM. I discover the answer to my prayers, a marathon of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. I get in a just OK episode about Maine and half of an episode about different food obsessions before I venture out again for a long walk.

4:30 PM. At this point, I can say that I’m not really hung over anymore so I make a nice late lunch/early dinner and read The New Yorker while my roommate watches a few episodes of Bleak House (BBC, 2005), which I have already seen four times. (All eight, ninety-minute episodes). She stops watching with two episodes left to go.

Sometime after that, we watch an episode of Foyle’s War because we live in a quaint English nursing home. This episode – Season 2, Episode 3 – failed simply because it wasn’t the previous episode we had watched, which involved a gay war hero who murders his pregnant-by-another-man girlfriend (who is involved in an elaborate petrol-siphoning scheme because she is also a petrol truck driver).

9 PM. Boardwalk Empire season premiere. As we all know, this show is good but probably never blew anyone’s mind. That being said, I really liked this episode. (Even though I miss Jimmy’s face and haircut). At the end, I felt like I couldn’t wait to watch the next episode but also that I’d come a long way from the Toddlers and Tiaras of that morning.