Friday Roundup

Hi. This is what I woke up to last Saturday morning:

 

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I’m not too sad that the snow’s mostly gone now because I like wearing non-snow boots, but I did like having it piled up on my window sill like that.

Things I read that I liked this week:

I can’t get enough of the new My Bloody Valentine record. (I still go through a Loveless phase like, once a month so…duh.) Here are two of my favorite music writers talking about why it’s so great:

Matthew Perpetua (Buzzfeed), “My Bloody Valentine’s Second Masterpiece”
Rob Sheffield (Rolling Stone), “My Hundredth Listen to the New My Bloody Valentine Album: Even Better Than the First”

(Sidenote: Did everyone know that Rolling Stone has a WINE CLUB?)

The pope quit and I think John Patrick Shanley’s “Farewell to an Uninspiring Pope” in the New York Times was my favorite opinion piece.

I read this thang – “Connie Britton Is a Late Bloomer” – on Mrs. Coach in the New York Times Magazine and it’s great.

Also, randomly came across this short Michael Chabon piece from the NY Review of Books on why he hates dreams, which I enjoyed very much.

I finished Best American Short Stories 2012. It was good, overall. (I mean, these stories were the best, right?) Honestly, I’d recommend buying it just to read “Beautiful Monsters” by Eric Puchner, which was one of the most surprising stories I’ve read in a long time.

I just started Between the Woods and the Water, a chronicle of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s journey on foot from “the hook of Holland to Constantinople”, which I’m psyched about. (It’s the sequel to A Time of Gifts, which I read this fall.) I’m only 50 pages in but already I have learned so much about pre-WWII Eastern European society! For example, Hungarian dudes rolled up to social events with scimitars and were still dueling pretty much in the mid-1930s.

Anyway, I can’t stop listening to this song:

I’m gonna go listen to it right now. Please be safe while you’re out celebrating your favorite presidents this weekend!

Valentine’s Day Mix

ValentinesDay2013Mix

Happy Valentine’s Day! I made you a little mix of some love songs, happy and sad and whatever’s in-between. Enjoy! ❤

Spotify link: V-DAY

Tracklist:

01. Françoise Hardy – Le Temps de l’Amour

02. Wanda Jackson – Stupid Cupid

03. The Marvelettes – Please Mr. Postman

04. The Isley Brothers – This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You)

05. The Crystals – Then He Kissed Me

06. Frank Wilson – Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)

07. Wilson Pickett – In the Midnight Hour

08. The Contours – Just A Little Misunderstanding

09. The Flirtations – Nothing But A Heartache

10. Gloria Jones – Tainted Love

11. The Mad Lads – Patch My Heart

12.  John Lennon – Oh Yoko

13. The Kinks – Tired of Waiting For You

14. Love – Alone Again Or

15. Brenda Lee – Break It to Me Gently

16. The Left Banke – Walk Away Renee

17. Jackson 5 – Who’s Lovin’ You

18. Sam Cooke – The Riddle Song

Reading NW by Zadie Smith

I mentioned on Friday that I didn’t like NW, Zadie Smith’s recent novel about the lives of thirty-somethings who grew up in the council estates of northwest London. (Um, actually, I could be wrong. Still not sure if this is what it was about.) I still don’t like it. And this surprises me!  I don’t generally dislike many books I read, even though I read a lot of them. I’ve been trying to think of why this is so often the case.

Some possibilities:

1. It could be that I’m more inclined to put down a book that doesn’t draw me in after a hundred pages or so because I have less time to read now and would like to spend that time reading something I’m really into. (Not that this isn’t difficult and kind of anxiety-producing for me. I still feel ambivalent about putting down Rebecca West’s The Fountain Overflows this fall after having been really excited to read it.)

2. It could be that I’m just not thinking about these books enough. When it comes to most other culture I consume – music, television, etc. – I’m usually very content to say that I liked something and move on. I guess I’m inclined to ‘like’ anything recommended by friends or publications I read. (This recent realization has led me to become extremely aware of and concerned about my post-college lack of analytical thinking. As well as my general agreeableness.)

3. Or it could be that, after years of practice, I’ve gotten very good at picking out the books I’ll probably like (out of all of the books ever published in the English language). Also, I’ve been free of reading lists for a while now, which helps in that I haven’t been forced to read anything I really, really didn’t want to read.

I read NW with my book club. the books I’ve tended to like the least or dislike entirely have been books I’ve read with said book club. We choose books by a process of nomination and voting so I think we usually end up with a book that most people are happy to read. However, we’ve discovered recently that the books in the past year that have been almost universally disliked — including NW — have ended up sparking much more interesting conversations than the books we’ve generally liked.

Discussing exactly why none of us really liked NW on Monday night made us really pick the book apart. And it made me really think about and verbalize the real reasons I didn’t like it. It wasn’t just that I was bored during certain parts or that I was confused and upset by the ending. I think that I was genuinely disappointed that this book was not the important novel that I imagine Zadie Smith aimed for it to be.

The main characters — Leah and Natalie — fell very flat for me. I found many of their choices in the novel to be confusing and I didn’t come away with a good sense of exactly who either of them were supposed to be. Some of my favorite characters, many of whom appeared in the novel only briefly – for example, the drug-addicted mistress of a secondary character – were my favorites simply because they were actual CHARACTERS who did and said things that made sense for them to do.I felt the most engaged with the novel during the parts where Smith displayed her very well-known, wonderful ear for dialogue. (I mean, I haven’t spent much time in London, but I watch a lot of British television and  I really felt like I was there.)

And I felt the most hopeful that the novel would succeed when I was connecting with a particular character. For example, during the novel’s second distinct part, in which we spend a day with a doomed man named Felix, I felt invested in that character and was interested in how his story would connect with Leah’s story, which was the first part of the novel. I felt the same way through much of the novel’s third part, which is the story of Natalie’s life told through a series of over one hundred vignettes. But as her story got longer it became more and more disconnected from the first two parts and by the end of it, there weren’t very many pages left to tie everything together, which is where the novel went off the rails and then ended in a spectacularly confusing crash.

And now I have no choice but to compare NW to that empty train in Sweden that a cleaning lady recently crashed into an apartment building.

Bottom line: Read this book, but only if you want to be disappointed and utterly baffled. But honestly, I think you should all just read or re-read White Teeth instead.

A Thing That Happened Over the Weekend: An Early Valentine’s Day

This weekend, in honor of St. Valentine’s Day, my roommates and I decorated our apartment like so:

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(The original idea was to use only heart cards but we got kind of lazy. We hung a bunch of hearts from the middle of the chandelier, though!)

Then we had a party. (The 2nd Annual Valentine’s Day Party/1st Annual Semi-Formal Valentine’s Day Party.) We served snacks like these sugar cookies (I used Martha Stewart’s recipe):

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I also made some raspberry brownies from this recipe I found on Epicurious and my pal Julia kindly brought a beautiful and very delicious red velvet cake which I’m both happy and sad to report was utterly destroyed by people eating with it their hands as the night progressed.

We danced until very early in the morning, first to some songs that were on-theme, and then to some songs that maybe were not. I’m pretty sure a lot of fun – possibly too much fun? – was had by all or at least most. A very big thank you to everyone who came out to party even though it was so, so snowy and an even bigger thank you to our neighbors for not calling the police!

Friday “Roundup”: Love At First Sight

I was stuck inside for most of today, working from home. (But really, really working all day, which is why I’m just posting this now.) This is what I look like home alone in a not-quite-blizzard:

Anyway, I didn’t have a lot of time to read fun things to link to this week because I was mostly trying to finish books in my down time. Actually, mostly trying to finish one book in particular, NW by Zadie Smith.. I ended up finishing it last night and ugggghhhhh I can’t believe I didn’t light it on fire when I was done. I hope to post a review after I’ve verbally expressed all of my frustration to the good ladies of my book club on Monday night.

I also read a great short story in the Best American Short Stories 2012 collection called “The Sex Lives of African Girls” by Taiye Selasi. (You can read it online if you happen to have a Granta subscription.) I was heartened to read in her commentary that this was the first piece of fiction that she had finished in like eight years or something. (She was lucky enough to have Toni Morrison read her story before anyone else, which will not be the case for me should I ever finish anything again, but whatever.)

The only thing I can really think of that I really liked on the internet this week…

Love at First Sight by Jane Marie (Rookie): Boy oh boy, do I wish Rookie had been around when I was a teenager! I’m very glad it’s around now, anyway. This piece was informative and relatable and I think that all girls should read it for it is full of really good advice.