September 26, 2010

Sunday Morning

"We still take pleasure in make-believe and in the telling of tales, even tall ones, if only because they tell us something true about ourselves, a truth that perhaps we can grasp through no other medium."

- Eric Ormsby, in today's WSJ review of Gabriel Josipovici's What Ever Happened to Modernism?

I've always loved the Wall Street Journal's coverage of books (and the New York Times too, of course!), so when it first broke a few weeks ago that the WSJ would be launching a book section, I was very excited. When book sections of newspapers are folding all over the country - leaving the NYT Book Review as the only pull-out book section left - it is very surprising, and encouraging, to see a paper as powerful as the WSJ bucking the trend. Today's paper was the section's debut (as part of a larger Weekend section) and, so far, I really like the direction it is going in. It may not be as extensive as the NYTBR, but its variety of articles makes for good, wide-ranging coverage. There are shorter, straight book reviews alongside long book-inspired essays, like the one quoted above. Though a review of Josipovici's book, Ormsby's article becomes a longer look at Modernism and what it means in literature today. There is nothing like waking up on a Sunday morning to a late breakfast and coffee, with a long paper to read and, now, even more great book coverage.

August 19, 2010

Summer In The City

"I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone's away. There's something very sensuous about it - overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925
True. I love New York in August, despite the heat and gross smells. So many people are away - and yet no matter how many people are away, Midtown, as always, is so crowded you can barely push your way down the sidewalk. It is exactly what I love and hate most about New York.

I recently started a job at a big publishing company - a job I've been hoping for, and working towards, for so long that I never thought this day would come. So far, it has been wonderful (and busy); I am loving everything about it. The feeling that my dedication to finding a job in this industry has finally paid off - after all the times I doubted and cursed myself - is so great that I feel I'm going to burst with relief. Best immediate prize for getting this job: the Take shelves scattered around my office, which are exactly what they sound like -
shelves where you can just take any and all the books that you like. Hundreds of books. For the taking. It is magical.

Recently read (and soon to be written about, I swear): Rachel Shukert's
Everything Is Going To Be Great, Tana French's Faithful Place, Sara Gruen's Water For Elephants, Douglas Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, plus the bunch of books I read over the past few months that I never got to. They're a-comin'.

Currently reading: Joshua Ferris's
Then We Came To The End. Phenomenal.

(Image via)

July 31, 2010

Happy Birthday, Harry!

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

- Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It seems almost pointless to talk about how much I love Harry Potter, because everyone loves Harry Potter, and all the books are indisputably amazing. But I do love Harry Potter. I couldn’t even count all the times I have read them; they are like my comfort food in book form. As do so many of my generation, I feel like I grew up with Harry (and thus always remember on July 31 that it is Harry’s birthday!). I remember reading the first two books in 7th grade, then anxiously awaiting every one since - had our family vacations abroad not always fallen on every new book's release day, I would have been at those midnight parties too. It was a very sad day when I finished Deathly Hallows for the first time (after waiting outside a Munich bookstore at 7 am on its release day); having to accept that I was an adult, and that this huge part of my adolescence was over with, was not easy. I now try to limit my rereading of the books (usually 5 through 7 now, its been a while since I read the first 4) to once a year. I can only handle the vicious cycle of the excitement of reading them followed by the depressing letdown of finishing them (and reentering real life) so often. Well, at least I have the final two movies to look forward to (so excited – this trailer gives me CHILLS).

July 28, 2010


"I don't know."


"I don't know what I'm looking for."

"Why not?"

"Because ... because ... I think it might be because if I knew I wouldn't be able to look for them."

"What, are you crazy?"

"It's a possibility I haven't ruled out yet,"

- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

July 27, 2010

ONE DAY by David Nicholls

I really love Twitter. I respect the way publishers have really taken to it, using it to create buzz about their books, actively engage with readers, and create an actual relatable persona behind a huge brand. I particularly love the contests and giveaways that are conducted through Twitter – especially when I win (if only it would happen more often). Through one of these Twitter giveaways, I won a copy of David Nicholls’ One Day, a book I had been excited to read for a long time. When my hip friend in London told me how much she loved the book a few months back, I went to a bookstore in search of it, only to discover its release date in the US hadn’t yet come. Apparently it was already a huge success in the UK – I believe I remember posters for it in Tube stations when I visited London; the book’s publisher (Hachette in the UK, Random House in the US) obviously had a lot of confidence in it and put a lot behind the book. Long story short, after hearing so many good things, loving Nicholls’ other book, and winning a free ARC, I was very excited to read it.

One Day is the story of Emma and Dexter, who first truly connect on July 15, 1988, the day of their graduation. The book consists of all the following July 15ths (incidentally, the day I received One Day in the mail and started reading it) for the next twenty years; snapshots of where they are in their lives and what their relationship to each other is at that moment. Emma, the idealistic working class girl, is the absolute opposite of the rich, entitled Dexter. But from that first July 15th, the enduring importance of their relationship – as best friends, lovers and/or everything in between – is clear. As they try to navigate their twenties and thirties through all kinds of failures and successes, they become more and more vital to each other’s existence. Dexter especially – selfish, self-destructive Dexter – is only worthwhile when he is with Emma. And yet, their timing is so often very off, and their successes so often directly mirror the other one’s failures. You get a sense each year of a continuing cycle in which Dexter’s happiness is correlated to Emma’s misery, and vice versa; like their lives are two lines weaving, with the two of them (and us) waiting to meet in the middle.

Like Starter for Ten, One Day is often laugh-out-loud funny, but also impossibly heartbreaking. The kind of book that you finish and you need to just sit with for a while and catch your breath (and sob, if you’re me). Also like Starter for Ten, I became so completely invested in the characters that my moods were contingent on the state of their lives. Like only the best fiction does, it is the kind of book that’s biggest effect is in what it makes you think about your own life. Apart from being purely relatable (like in Starter for Ten, I was amazed by Nicholls’ ability to write exactly how it feels to be in your early twenties), it makes you (aka made me) think about all kinds of past relationships, and how you never know how things can and will end up, or what direction your life will go in. At the risk of overstating how good a book it is (though I think I passed that point a while back), all I can say is that I loved loved loved One Day.

(Image via)

July 26, 2010

No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.

I got a postcard of this Samuel Beckett lithograph at the National Portrait Gallery in London. It hangs above my bed in my room at home and I love it.

July 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ernest Hemingway!

"All good books have one thing in common - they are truer than if they had really happened."

Thanks to Overlook Press’s Twitter feed, I learned this morning that today was Ernest Hemingway’s birthday. It kind of bizarrely put me in a better mood following a discouraging morning; I really love Hemingway. I think its partly because I’m Cuban (and he did love Cuba/ writing about and in Cuba), partly because I love Fitzgerald (and the friendship/ hatred between them), partly because I’m fascinated by Modernist literature and writers (American Modernism in particular), and partly because I just love (most of) his writing.

I’ve recently been rereading a bunch of his short stories in an old copy of The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories from my Dad’s bookshelf. The title story is really incredible in a uniquely Hemingway-way; as the narrator, a writer, quickly approaches death while on an African safari, he looks back on his life with anger and bitterness over what he has neglected to accomplish. As with so much of his writing, Hemingway himself is always only just beneath the surface of his fiction in this story.

It is another story of his, however, that I always find so powerful in its simplicity (like a lot of his writing). “A Day’s Wait” is only two pages long, but I remember first reading it years ago and it always sticking with me. Rather than listen to me summarize it, I say take the two extra minutes to read the story here. It is prime example of how Hemingway has a way of taking simple, mundane things (whether it is the thorn that ultimately kills the narrator of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” or the confusion over temperature measurements in “A Days Wait”) and turning them into meditations on life and death (but mostly death). I’m glad you were born today, Ernest! (And that you wrote so much before you killed yourself.)

(Image via)