Monthly Archives: June 2010

Wednesday Metadata

Here we go, just in time for summer:

Jezebel’s guide to the best beach/pool/boring plane ride reading: The Best in Completely Trashy, Guilty-Pleasure Reading

You’re a Horrible Person, But I Like You: The Believer Book of Advice

Edited by Eric Spitznagel, with an introduction by David Cross

The introductory letter sums up the premise of this book:

“Dear David Cross:

We’re thinking about publishing a book of advice. It would involve getting a bunch of our favorite comedians and writers and actors (and whoever else is available) to answer questions on a variety of topics, particularly those in which they have very little knowledge or experience. Does this seem like a good idea?

Best,

The Believer magazine

San Francisco, CA”

This is the perfect book to read after you finish HFCLM: Stories by Alice Munro.

Here’s a complete list of the contributors:

  • Aziz Ansari
  • Judd Apatow
  • Fred Armisen
  • Maria Bamford
  • Todd Barry
  • Samantha Bee
  • Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter
  • Andy Borowitz
  • Michael Cera
  • Vernon Chatman
  • Rob Corddry
  • David Cross
  • Larry Doyle
  • Paul Feig
  • Jim Gaffigan
  • Zach Galifianakis
  • Janeane Garafolo
  • Daniel Handler
  • Todd Hanson
  • Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim
  • Ed Helms
  • Buck Henry
  • Mindy Kaling
  • John Lee
  • Thomas Lennon
  • Al Madrigal
  • Aasif Mandvi
  • Marc Maron
  • Adam McKay
  • Eugene Mirman
  • Morgan Murphy
  • Bob Odenkirk
  • John Oliver
  • Patton Oswalt
  • Martha Plimpton
  • Harold Ramis
  • Amy Sedaris
  • Sarah Silverman
  • Paul F. Tompkins
  • Sarah Vowell
  • David Wain
  • Rainn Wilson
  • Lizz Winstead

The Believer is a literary magazine published by McSweeney’s.

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories by Alice Munro

This collection of short stories by Alice Munro features women dealing with difficult matters of the heart as they face sickness, death, loneliness, infidelity, broken hearts, and renewed love. The stories are set in Munro’s native Ontario, Canada. I’ll be up front with you: this book will leave you with an insatiable hunger for some lighthearted entertainment. It’s probably best to read it story by story with small breaks in between. The plots are all too real. Munro seemed to focus on the most private aspects, good or bad but mostly bad, of her characters’ psyches as they react to life’s valleys.

My two favorite stories were “Comfort” and “Queenie.” “Comfort” is about a woman, Nina, whose husband took his own life after battling MS. Her husband, a high school teacher, had fought to keep Creationism out of the school curriculum. After his death, Nina tries to keep his principles alive, but it comes at a significant personal cost. I liked “Queenie” because the characters were around my age. Queenie is an 18 year old who marries a grumpy old man for whom she was a caretaker before his first wife passed away. Her once-close stepsister follows her to Toronto to keep an eye on her and try to understand why Queenie made such a terrible decision.

Despite its heavy-handedness, what makes this book great is how well Munro plays out her characters’ thoughts and emotions. She is extremely detailed in this aspect. You can probably relate to (at least one of) the characters because what they are going through is real, and no thought or emotion is hidden. Their reactions are irrational and surprising at times, and the stories can be a bit anticlimactic, but they are not beyond the scope of reality, and that is something I can appreciate.

On My Desk

Currently reading:

  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories by Alice Munro
  • This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson
  • You’re a Horrible Person, But I Like You: The Believer Book of Advice edited by Eric Spitznagel with Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis, Fred Armisen, Judd Apatow, & many more

Up next:

  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  • Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Cum Laude by Cecily Von Ziegesar
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman

How To Be A Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking by Nigella Lawson

How to be a domestic goddessMy Aunt Carole gave me this book this past Christmas, and I keep grabbing it off of my bookshelf in my bedroom. That’s right, it’s in my bedroom. Perhaps it’s the cupcake on the cover that puts me in a trance, causing me to lay down on my bedroom floor and pore over it for hours. Most likely, it’s Nigella’s writing and sense humor and the rest of the pretty pictures. I haven’t even tried any of the recipes (yet), I just like to read her commentary for now.

Nigella Lawson is one of my favorite people on this planet. She’s Oxford-educated (she has a Master’s in medieval and modern languages!) and she loves to eat. One of my favorite episodes of her show Nigella Bites ends with her grabbing a bar of chocolate out of her pantry and some warm milk before going to bed. Whenever someone shames me into eating a salad, I think of Nigella, and I ask myself if I really want that salad. I have a total woman-crush on Nigella.

Please ignore the gender-specific title. The contents of this book will appeal to men as much as it appeals to women. Nigella divides this book into the following sections: cakes; cookies, scones, and muffins; pies; desserts; chocolate; children [haha! Maybe it’s the wine talking, but listing this chapter seems to imply that she is baking children, which she is not, obviously, but it’s funny nonetheless, OK? Ahem.]; Christmas; bread and yeast; and the domestic goddess’s pantry. These recipes are for those who have access to a well-stocked grocery store. For instance, I don’t know where the heck to find fresh white currants to make the Black and White Tart. And some recipes call for lard, which is almost impossible to find in Southern California outside of the Mexican grocery stores. Not all recipes call for such hard-to-find ingredients, though. I think this book is intended for a mostly European audience, because she includes a recipe for “American Breakfast Pancakes” (which I will promptly make, but I am not looking forward to being taught how to make pancakes by a British woman). Americans who love to bake, however, will find this book just as drool-worthy. It’s a great (and pretty) asset to any kitchen bookshelf.

Just an update

The personal: Lately, I’ve been feeling a little bored. Due to an unfortunate financial situation, my internship at a botanic garden library is kind of up in the air, and I haven’t been there in what feels like ages, but has only been a little over a week. I was also volunteering as an elementary school tutor, and their school year ended a couple weeks ago. I went from being satisfied with my workload to bored, grumpy, and jealous of people with full time jobs. When I’m not busy with summer school, I’m updating my resume and keeping up with my reading on the trains to and from Pasadena. I hope to have a new suggestion by the 25th.

The bibliographical:

  • I’ve started a bunch of books lately. My two priorities are Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, and Marriage by Alice Munro and This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson.
  • Cecily von Ziegesar, author of the Gossip Girl series, has written a new novel called Cum Laude. It’s loosely based on her own college experience, but she insists it is not autobiographical. There is also some confusion as to who the intended audience is. She says, “…I wanted to write a book that was really for my generation, too. I’m hoping that 39-year-olds will read the book. In a way, it’s for them as much as its for 22-year-olds […] I didn’t think about it as a so-called adult novel at all, I just wrote the novel that I wanted to write. It just happens that it’s being put in the adult section in the bookstore. The ironic thing is that it’s still about teenagers, they’re freshmen in college!”

The extraneous:

[remember?]

via PostSecret

via PostSecret

Thursday Metadata

  • Gleek readers: rejoice! Little Brown Books for Young Readers is publishing a five-book series based on the show. The first book, a prequel, is scheduled for an August release.
  • Megan from Jezebel.com interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, about her advocacy for marriage equality for same-sex/transnational couples in her newest book, Committed. This is an issue that often goes unnoticed by hetero couples who are lucky enough to live in the same country.
  • Salem Press announced its 2010 library blog winners. Among these was Blogging for a Good Book, a blog published by the Williamsburg Regional Library. They suggest and review one book a day in any genre.

Check Out: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (Part I…?)

This edition of Check Out features a library on the opposite end of the modernity spectrum from the Seattle Central Library. Behold: the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (main branch in Oakland).

Try to stay awake during this bit of history: In 1890, Andrew Carnegie offered the city of Pittsburgh $1 million to build a library. Let your brain gnaw on that for a second…a million dollars in 1890. That’s a lot of money. Five years later, he dedicated this branch. But Andrew Carnegie didn’t stop there. He funded the construction of many libraries across the United States. So, when someone says, “that’s a Carnegie library,” they’re talking about a library for which Carnegie provided the money to build. He had nothing to do with the actual operations of the libraries…he just believed that Americans should have access to them. Pretty nice!

Back to the CLP. The first floor has a Crazy Mocha cafe, a kid’s reading room, and new books. You can take an elevator to the upper floors, or walk up the marble stairs that have warped with age. Your food and drinks have to stay on the first floor, sadly. My memory is a little hazy, but I think I only explored the second floor and the mezzanine after the first floor. The portion of the second floor that I saw has a reference area, a career center, some cool old tables, if you’re into that. If you can find your way to the mezzanine, you’ll find even more nonfiction crammed onto shelves, between which you might need to walk sideways.

Like I mentioned before, I spent a lot of time here in March while working on a project for my reference class. Now that I’m writing up this post, I’m realizing that I have a lot more left to explore. Hopefully I’ll go out there again and write up a Part II for this post.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Sunday Metadata [updated]

  • Last night, a classmate told me about Goodreads. It’s a way for you to keep track of and rate your books, and find other people with similar tastes. I signed up to keep track of the books I have read and want to read this year (I’m hoping to make it to 52 books).
  • Today is the last day for MotherReader’s 5th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge. It primarily focuses on YA and children’s book bloggers. Check out the Finish Line post for a list of participants – you can read their reviews and see the progress they made over the weekend.
  • I read the LA Times Magazine for the first time yesterday, never having given it a fair chance (it seemed a little too LA for me, if you know what I mean. If you don’t know what I mean, I mean it looks ridiculous). I was actually quite surprised, in a good way, with their recurring books piece, Lonely Hearts Book Club. The authors, Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman, offer book suggestions to readers who write in with a literary predicament. For instance, this week’s issue featured short stories for a woman who needed to read in order to distract her from calling up her ex boyfriend. Today, I noticed someone placed a hold in our library for Jay McInerney’s How It Ended – one of the collections of short stories that Mack and Kaufman suggested in this issue. I’m going to ignore the possibility that it was a coincidence. I love it when I see little connections like that.

Lonely: A Memoir by Emily White

I was a little hesitant to review this book because it hit really close to home for me. I was worried about how reviewing this book would reveal a problem I’ve dealt with since I was a little girl. But then I remembered that a) this isn’t about me and b) Emily White would disapprove of my hiding this information. So here we go:

This book is about chronic loneliness, and Emily White’s lifelong experience with it. Despite the connotations associated with the word “lonely,” it isn’t a silly affliction. She makes several points clear: chronic loneliness is not depression. It’s not a side-effect of depression, either (in fact, it’s often the other way around). It’s not the type of loneliness one feels while one’s husband or wife is on a business trip, or when one is spending a solitary Sunday evening away from friends and family in a strange place. Chronic loneliness can be genetic, or it can be triggered by life’s circumstances (for instance, mine is a result of both genetics and moving every few years as a kid; for others, it can be triggered by divorce, deaths, etc.). Chronic loneliness has negative effects on both our physical and mental health. It’s surprisingly common, so why doesn’t anybody talk about it? White argues that the stigma attached to loneliness causes people to hide it, which in turn leads to less treatment for it.

This is not a self-help book. It’s more of a call to action. This means that even if you don’t think you suffer from chronic loneliness, it is definitely worth reading if only to see its role within Western society. It doesn’t read like an academic paper, yet I couldn’t get over how clearly she organized and presented her information. However, like I said before, this isn’t a self-help book, so don’t expect concrete solutions. White actually addressed this in her blog:

A reader of Lonely once flamed me (is that what the cool kids say?) for writing a book about loneliness and still being lonely. He wanted, I guess, to hear about loneliness from someone who had totally mastered the state. I think there are some strategies you can bring to bear on loneliness (I’m going to post a lecture by a British researcher on this topic soon), but I’ll say in advance to anyone interested in Lonely that loneliness is still a problem in my life.

For those who do suffer from chronic loneliness and want to read this book, don’t let that discourage you. Insight from White and others who are lonely is plentiful, and just knowing that there are people out there with similar experiences can be very therapeutic.

You can check out White’s blog here.

The next book I read and review will be about a much lighter topic, I promise!