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)

July 20, 2010

NYU Summer Publishing Institute

NYU's Summer Publishing Institute – the six-week intensive course I just completed last week – was an incredible experience that has very quickly changed the way I read magazines and books. It began with three weeks of learning about magazine publishing followed by three weeks of book publishing, with the days (and sometimes weekends) filled with group projects and lectures and panels from some of the top people within the industry. (Bragging aside: my book group’s YA fantasy imprint, Figment Books, won second place! Booyakasha.)

Though I was fascinated by the magazine section (especially the lectures from the Editor-in Chief of Esquire, Art Director of Rolling Stone, and the EIC of New York Magazine, to name very few), it was, naturally, the book section I really loved. Our lectures and panels were filled with stars from the publishing world; John Sargent, Amy Einhorn, Jonathan Karp, Julie Grau, Jamie Raab, and scores of others were among those who took the time to come speak to us. Of course they all had fascinating things to say about their own roles within the industry, but what I was surprisingly excited by was their generosity in being there and speaking with us. They offered advice, were friendly, took the time to speak with us one on one, and were so encouraging to all of us trying to break into the industry. It seemed they were happy to see the (hopefully) next generation of the industry, and eager to help us on our way. This was something I was not expecting that renewed my sense of purpose in trying to find a job in publishing; it really is an industry of people who are passionate about what they do.

One of the panels at SPI was one I was able to write about on the NYU Publishing blog, titled Creative Alternatives to Corporate Life. Take a look at my blog post if you’re interested in reading about entrepreneurs within the industry, and how they approach book publishing in a different way – it was a fascinating panel with some really interesting people. I was very excited to see today that David Nudo, former publisher of Publishers Weekly and one of the panelists, tweeted a link to the blog post. (I am slowly making my way around the Internet!) Fun bonus: in the post below mine on the NYU blog, you can see a wonderfully unflattering photo of me speaking with Macmillan CEO John Sargent.

All in all, SPI is an incredible program that I was lucky to attend. I’ll soon be writing about some of the books I read thanks to it (one of the best perks: piles of magazines and books every day), and I’m sure it will continue to sneak into some of my entries to come. Now, lets hope it gets me a job, and soon.

July 18, 2010

Quote of the Day

That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it and think how different its course would have been. Pause, you who read this, and think for a long moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on that memorable day.

- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, 1861

I haven't read Great Expectations since I was a freshman in high school. I believe it is about time to read it again.

July 14, 2010

Bookshelf Porn

As I have said before, I cannot wait to have my own grown-up place to live in and decorate. Mostly so I can fill it with cool bookshelves filled with all my books. It is for this reason I have already wasted far too much time on the tumblr Bookshelf Porn. Porn, indeed. There are so many great pictures of great bookshelves, I can't stop looking. It makes me want to completely revamp my own book collection; ie., get actual bookshelves to hold my books that are currently stacked on radiators and tables around my room.

Which brings me to my organization of the bookshelves I do have. To an outsider, I'm sure my system of organization makes little sense. I divide mostly by country of origin, then within that category, alphabetically. I have separate sections, however, for sub-genres. Mythology/fantasy and history, for example, have their own places, irregardless of country of origin. Like I said, it probably makes little sense. But I know where to go to find what I need. And until I get some new shelves and an actual place to put them, my stacks of books by American writers will remain on the large table at the foot of my bed. Though, to be honest, all this organization only lasts as long as I continue to put the books back in their rightful spots (aka, not that long). How do you organize your books?

(Images from here and here, via Bookshelf Porn)

July 06, 2010

Shakespeare in the Park

One of the Summer in New York things I have always wanted to do, but have never been able to, is to see a performance of the Shakespeare in the Park series. Last year’s headliner was Anne Hathaway in Twelfth Night, a performance my friends and I unsuccessfully attempted to see. Our attempt was well-planned, too; we knew we would have to camp out early for the free tickets to the evening show, so we arrived at the Central Park ticket booth around 8am on a weekday. As we approached the shuttered booth and didn’t see anyone nearby, we laughed at ourselves for our excessive punctuality – oh, what fools we were. Upon further exploration we found the actual start of the line, which was littered with people in sleeping bags and tents. 10+ snaking Park blocks later, we found the end of the line and waited an hour or so, only to be turned away for lack of tickets. All was not lost that day last summer, however; my friends and I spent a lovely day exploring the Cloisters and getting pizza in Brooklyn (was that a year ago already?!).

Moral of the story: get there even earlier than 8am if you want to see a Shakespeare in the Park show. And, in New York, celebs + culture + free = impossible to get into. The tradition of Shakespeare in the Park is, of course, a double edged sword: the fact that the shows are free is great in that it opens the conversation (in theory) to anyone and everyone; in practice, however, only the most committed and die-hard fans/ people who have whole days to spend waiting in line can actually participate.

Point being: I do not want this to happen again this summer. The Winter’s Tale and The Merchant of Venice (starring Al Pacino!) are onstage until the end of July, so I only have a few weeks left to right the wrongs of summers past. In the WSJ this past weekend, a review appeared entitled “Knocking Shakespeare Out of the Park.” If I (and millions of other New Yorkers) hadn’t already been interested in the performance, this review certainly would have wooed me. The reviewer writes, “Not only is this the best Merchant of Venice I've ever reviewed, but it's one of the finest Shakespeare productions I've ever seen, period.” Wow.

Stay tuned to find out if I actually get to see Pacino as Shylock.

July 05, 2010

Happy Birthday, America!

I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be

blithe and strong.

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves

off work,

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the

deck-hand singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter

singing as he stands,

The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the

morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at

work, or of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

The day what belongs to the day – at night the party of young

fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

- Walt Whitman, 1860

Though I’m a day late (lateness is a bit of a trademark with me, as you can probably tell), what better way to celebrate the 4th of July than with Walt Whitman? I always whip out my Norton anthology of Whitman works on the Fourth – I think it goes nicely with beer, barbecue, and fireworks. And the recitation of the Declaration of Independence, which my family usually does, pre-hotdogs. Happy Birthday America!

This post hopefully marks my return to semi-regular blogging. May, June and the start of July have been jam-packed with wedding planning, campaign hullabaloo, job-applying madness, and an intensive summer course (more on that one later), so my just-for-fun ventures have sadly fallen by the wayside. But because I have a sneaking suspicion the book publishing job market will continue to be brutal and I will soon have way too much time on my hands, I can soon return to regular reading and writing (silver lining, folks). Good thing too; I have a quickly growing pile of ARCs and free books from the NYU Summer Publishing Institute, as well as growing piles of just-read and to-be-read books. So many good things.

(Image via The Walt Whitman Archive)