12.20.2013

Incredible reporting and writing. Heartbreaking and riveting: Invisible Child: Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life

Excellent, excellent stuff: When “Life Hacking” Is Really White Privilege: "If you seem to be “getting everything you want,” you should probably examine whether you’re getting it at someone’s expense, or whether you’re just constantly, in small ways, making the world worse."

Image: source.

Yet more book reviews! (What can I say - when it's cold outside, and I have even a sliver of downtime, all I want to do is curl up with a good read). Last weekend I finished The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan. When I first saw the book at the library, I was dubious because of the cover (a big engagement ring) and the title, and I bet there are many others like me who are scared away by the (incorrect and, frankly, sexist) assumption that this book is "women's lit." But I'm glad I overcame my initial impulse, because it was a great read! The book is structured in alternating chapters, each one telling one of 4 or 5 different stories. At first I got worried about keeping each narrative straight, but eventually I just gave up trying and they all became memorable and easy to navigate. As with many other reviewers, I loved the chapters about Frances - Frances is based on the true story of the woman behind the De Beers/"Diamonds Are Forever" campaign, and its a great peek into the Mad Men-like era of advertising, and the story of how diamonds and engagement rings became a "thing" in the US. While my investment in the characters varied from story to story, by the end I found myself invested in seeing where they all ended up, and was pleased to see how their stories connected. A good read.

A friend and fellow mystery lover just lent me The Lewis Man by Peter May, the second in the Lewis Trilogy, which was great. While you don't necessarily need to read them in order, I think there is a lot to be gained by doing so. I love May's ability to weave in facts about the history of the islands and the traditions there, while also creating a compelling narrative, and character growth. My only even slight qualm is how SAD the books are. Even when there is a resolution to the mystery, and an exile of the "bad guy," both of the Lewis trilogy books I've read so far have just been so devastating - lives scarred by abuse, ages old resentments, etc. Maybe they are just realistic in that way, but, still, heavy stuff! Anyways, I'm definitely looking forward to the third.

12.13.2013

We saw "The Punk Singer" recently and I cannot recommend it more highly. Not just great subject matters (Kathleen Hanna, of course, but also music and feminism and art) and great visuals and music, but also just a really well done documentary. The trailer doesn't do it justice, just go see it.

A few weeks ago I read The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., a debut novel by Adelle Waldman. It is a smart and intricately drawn portrait of an unremarkable protagonist - a straight young white man in Brooklyn who has found the literary success he was always sure he deserved, and the subsequent attention of women that validates the years of being "the nice guy" he clocked prior to success. While I don't have a connection to the publishing world and didn't care about many of those details (the hierarchies of who gets articles published in which places, and book deals/contracts, etc), the characters were very familiar (especially, I would guess, if you went to a liberal arts college on the East Coast). Waldman is clearly talented and observant, and the book was a quickly engrossing read, but I can't say I found it enjoyable - I spent the majority of the book either tortured by the protagonists infuriating opinions and successes, or tortured by my own recollections at having behaved like both he and the victims of his emotional idiocy. When I put the book down, I was definitely not sorry to have read it, but I was also not at all sorry to be out of Nathaniel P's world.

I also recently read Sisterland,  by Curtis Sittenfed. I really enjoyed this novel, and thought the author smartly used the sisters' twin-ness and psychic abilities as ways to explore intimacy and our relationship to trying to control or predict the future (and Sittenfeld does so without hitting us over the head too painfully with heavy metaphors). My interest and enjoyment of the book was definitely increased by the proximity of twins in my life, and I would particularly recommend this book to anyone with siblings, or to anyone with twins in their lives. However, even if that's not the case for you, this book still stands on its own as a well-constructed and well-paced novel, addressing themes of trust, family, parenting, and how much we want to know about those around us - or ourselves.

Is anyone else doing the holiday Run Streak? For those blessedly ignorant about this particular challenge, it sounds sort of innocuous to begin with - the challenge: run (at least) a mile a day every day between Thanksgiving and New Years. I just started week three, however, and it's brutal! Not having any off days, and battling the winter cold and darkness, and just scheduling the runs has proven challenging. It's sort of a bummer because it's cutting into my precious yoga practice, but it's a fun thing to try to do once, and is helping me stay in good enough condition for our half marathon in February....I hope.