Geeking Out

On Sunday, I met my friend Alli in my old neighborhood to do some writing. I’d intended on working on a short story that I’ve been revising – well, mostly deleting and rewriting – for a few months. Of course, I didn’t end up deleting or writing another word of it. Instead, I started writing a sort of sad sack essay on being lonely in Paris when I was studying abroad there in the fall of 2007. I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently because, well, it’s fall and I was in Paris in the fall and I just happen to be thinking about that time rather than the falls of my childhood or high school or college. Anyway, I mention this because someone else published an essay on Paris and loneliness this week. You can read the beginning on The Hairpin but to read the rest you have to buy the story – it comes with all of the other ones in the same series about travel – on Amazon. (After I’m done writing this post up, I will go back to trying to turn my own essay into a not-super-depressing piece of garbage.)

Also on Sunday, I went to The Strand, as I like to do when I’m in that neck of the woods, to buy my book club’s next read. We’re reading Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, which I read, I think, after my freshman year of college. It’s one of my favorite books, but somehow I’ve never acquired my own copy. Now I do have one of my own, which I got by asking one of the booksellers at The Strand to climb a ladder and take it from one of the higher shelves. I usually don’t even get books from the high shelves because I mostly  go to the Strand to browse and end up with too many books anyway, so I always tell myself that I don’t need the ones I can’t reach. (Also, I am afraid of ladders.)

Anyway, I started rereading Geek Love yesterday and was flooded with memories. First of all, I am still in awe of the prose. I think I got the same giddy feeling I had while reading the first chapter when I was 18 or 19. And secondly, I have been thinking about Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea pretty much constantly since I opened the book. I happened to be super into that album while I was reading Geek Love the first time and it was perfect. Like, I have never been simultaneously obsessed with two pieces of art that, I thought, so complemented one another. But I’m staying away from that album for now. Making the same magic happen again seems pretty unlikely and I don’t want to be disappointed.

While I’m on the subject of music…I don’t write enough about it. I usually write about what I read here every week, but what I’m listening to takes up just as much space in my brain. My fall soundtrack has been inspired by a few things:

1. Music for Maniacs: I’d totally forgotten about this blog. But then I noticed that WFMU was linking to it on Twitter and…I fell down a Music for Maniacs black hole. This dude mostly covers eccentric/outsider music and puts together some pretty great mixtapes. He also made me see Annette Funicello in a whole new light.

2. Kurt Vile’s KV Mixtape: I saw this on Stereogum yesterday and haven’t stopped listening to it. Well, haven’t stopped listening to most of it. The songs on here inspired his recent album, Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze, one of my favorite albums this year. (Back in April, I wrote something about going to a Kurt Vile show.) I highly recommend! (The mixtape and tracklist are at the link, on Soundcloud).

3. Wikipedia: Sometimes I just re-go-through this list of Jangle Pop Bands. Like you do.

4. Modern Vampires of the City: I have listened to and seen a lot of Vampire Weekend in the last few years. (Most recently, I saw them perform at the Barclays Center this past Friday.) I didn’t really listen to Modern Vampires of the City until the middle of this summer, but I’ve found that it’s one of very few albums released this year that I keep going back to, so.

5. Stuff that sounds like Broadcast: So, mainly Broadcast. And also The Postmarks. (Who, incidentally, I was very into when I was in Paris six years ago.)

That’s that. Except I have a few other quick links to share today!

I read a two week-old New York Magazine on the elliptical last night…I got through an article on the GOP’s plot to kill Obamacare and this other one on Rebel Wilson (which was not as good or as enlightening as I had hoped, though I found out that she also likes Hello Kitty, so that’s a thing).

And today I’ve been reading this Paris Review interview with Woody Allen, which was conducted between 1985 (mostly at his table at Elaine’s) and 1995.

Reading Week: Psycho Killer, Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Here’s a new thing that I’m going to start doing: posting more things regularly. A while back, I had been writing about what I had been reading during the week on Fridays. And then I stopped. Fridays tend to be not-the-best posting days for me since Thursday nights are not-the-best writing nights for me. So, now I’m trying Wednesdays. Let’s see if this works.

I’ve lately been on a real tear when it comes to reading books. Last week, I was in such desperate need of a new non-fiction book that I went to the Barnes & Noble by my office. I don’t generally shop at Barnes & Noble because I prefer to give my money to independent bookstores, like Word, but I was leaving on a mini-trip the next day and wouldn’t have time to get there. I picked up The Psychopath Test and Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.

I read The Psychopath Test first. And very quickly. It took me like 24 hours. Because it’s very good! I have friends who’d read it and raved about it when it came out two years ago and I’d been meaning to borrow it and then I never did. And I hate borrowing books anyway because I’m such a…psycho, I guess, about taking care of my own books that it’s too painful for me to carry around someone else’s book knowing that I could potentially maim or ruin it. Anyway, I read The Psychopath Test while at my friend Gerilyn’s house in Quogue with 24 other people. Reading a book that makes you think about whether everyone is a psycho is an interesting experience while you’re around a ton of people you don’t know on an overnight trip. Also, I had to explain what the book is about approximately 89 times because everyone kept asking me. I tried not to get frustrated though, because none of them knew that that’s one of my pet peeves. (The book is about…ugh. Just read the synopsis on Amazon. It’s by Jon Ronson so you already know it’s good.)

I started Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down immediately after I finished The Psychopath Test on the LIRR. I had read parts of this book on The Awl a while back and was immediately drawn in by Rosecrans Baldwin’s account of his year and a half in Paris as an American Francophile. I found that I could relate to a lot of it. I spent almost four months in Paris during the same period (September-December 2007). I remember well what it was like to be excited almost every day just because I was walking around Paris. I also remember well what it was like to be completely unable to shake the feeling of being foreign and doing everything wrong, even when I thought I was blending in or doing things right. Reading a book that allowed me to experience those emotions again was kind of exhilarating. I was sad when I finished it. I wish Baldwin and his wife had stayed in Paris a little bit longer. I wish I had stayed in Paris a little bit longer.

I’ve now moved on to Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. It’s a young adult fantasy novel that heavily features dragons. I’ll let you know how I like it when I’ve finished.

In terms of reading things around the internet, there have been only a few things I’ve really liked (or had time to read in full) in the past week or so. “Murder By Craiglist” by Hanna Rosin (in The Atlantic this month but available online) really stands out. She investigates the Ohio murders of several middle-aged white men by another middle-aged white man, who had found his victims by posting an ad on Craigslist for a farm caretaker. Her motivation for writing this story is really interesting and I won’t spoil it by explaining it here.

And I hope that maybe one of these other things will strike your fancy:

Funny: I Want to Make Love to You Like in the Movies by Josh Gondelman (McSweeney’s Internet Tendency)

Beautiful Essay About Family History: Knight of the Swan by Molly Minturn (The Toast)

A Celebration of T.I.: The Making of T.I.’s “Trap Muzik” by Insanul Ahmed (Complex)

An Introduction to a Feud Between Famous British Literary Sisters: “A Narrative of Jealousy and Bafflement and Resentment” by Katy Waldman (Slate)