May We Be Forgiven

After a lazy summer of reading too many things I was too embarrassed to blog about ( which may be another blog topic entirely) my brain is finally focussed again and just in time to pick up the new novel from A.M. Homes.  Homes is a darkly funny writer, who always has a keen eye, and in this case she turns it on the modern American family which she dissects with almost surgical precision.  It’s almost impossible to put this book down, which begins on Thanksgiving day and covers approximately a year of time in which we watch the lives of two brothers who have been at constant odds unravel spectacularly and unexpectedly .  Like many family dramas this one is a noisy train wreck in startling slow motion.  All the characters are eerily familiar and of course while some survive, some others do not and it is the gift of this writer that she brings her own sense of humor into what in other hands would be a book too bleak to contemplate.  If all of this sounds entirely too dark for you, don’t worry.  There is redemption here and like everything A.M. Homes writes about  it unfolds beautifully in the hands of this skilled author.

Bossypants – 5 Reasons To Love Tina Fey

First let me say that I am funny.  No.  Really.  I am.  I am funny.  Ok, well, maybe not funny funny, but funny in that dark, dry, omg did he/she really say that kind of way.  But, sadly, I am not — I repeat NOT — Tina Fey funny.  And perhaps no one is.  Which, of course, is what makes Tina Fey so…well…funny.  And so, without further ado, here are 5 Reasons to love Tina Fey.  Which you can later prove by running out and buying your edition of Bossypants.  And reading it.  Preferably alone, so no one will see you snort milk through your nose or change your Depends.

1. Tina Fey knows you can not “have it all” and has accepted it.

“There was no prolonged stretch of time in sight when it would just be the baby and me.  And then I sobbed in my office for ten minutes.  The same ten minutes that magazines urge me to use for sit-ups and triceps dips, I used for sobbing.  Of course I’m not supposed to admit that there is a tri-annual torrential sobbing in my office, because it’s bad for the feminist cause.  It makes it harder for women to be taken seriously in the workplace. It makes it harder for other working moms to justify their choice.  But I have friends who stay home with their kids and they also have a tri-annual sob, so I think we should call it even.  I think we should be kind to one another about it.  I think we should agree to blame the children.”

2. Tina Fey knows where she stands.

“My only other request was this: I never wanted to appear in a “two shot” with Mrs. Palin.  I mean, she really is taller and better looking than I am, and we would literally be wearing the same outfit.  I’d already been made to stand next to Jennifer Aniston and Salma Hayek on camera in my life; a gal can only take so much.  And honestly, I knew that if that picture existed, it would be what they show on the Emmys someday when I die…”

3. Tina Fey has perspective.

“If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important Rule of Beauty.

‘Who cares?’ “

4. Tina Fey knows how to get what she wants. And works for it.

“If I was really ambitious, I would get a Whopper Jr. at Burger King and then walk to McDonald’s to get the fries.  The shake could be from anywhere.”

5. Tina Fey had a worse, and funnier, childhood than you.

I shoved the box in my closet, where it haunted me daily. There might as well have been a guy dressed like Freddy Krueger in there for the amount of anxiety it gave me.  Every time I reached in the closet to grab a Sunday school dress or my colonial-lady Halloween costume that I sometimes relaxed in after school — ‘Modessssss,’ it hissed at me.  ‘Modessssssis coming for you.’ “

Obviously I could go on and on.  But I won’t.  Thankfully, Tina Fey does.  Read Bossypants.  That is an order.

New York Diaries 1609-2009

This is a fascinating history of a city as told through the Diaries of the famous, infamous, and average citizens of Manhattan from 1609-2009.  Because the entires are arranged day by day and I received this book at the end of 2011,  I keep it on my nightstand and each day I read all the letters (usually there are only two or three) for that day.  On and on and on I will go until the end of the year, so I can not yet claim to have finished this book but if the all the letters prove as interesting as the first few months I may even start again on January 1, 2013.  To look at a city over four centuries, day by day, through so many different eyes, is quite revealing.  If you are at all interested in what makes the heart of a great city beat, pick it up.

“I had a lot of dates but decided to stay home and dye my eyebrows.”

Andy Warhol, March 11, 1978

“The natives are very good people,  for when they saw that I would not remain, they supposed that I was afraid of their bows, and taking the arrows, they broke them in pieces, and threw them in the fire, etc..”

Henry Hudson, September 15, 1609

“During the night, New York was covered with snow.  Central Park is transformed.  The children have cast aside their roller skates and taken up skis; they rush boldly down the tiny hillocks.  Men remain bareheaded, but many of the young people stick fur puffs over their ears fixed to a half-circle of plastic that sits on their hair like a ribbon — it’s hideous.”

Simone De Beauvoir, February 4, 1947

One Art – Letters of Elizabeth Bishop

Just when I became aware of American Poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) it’s hard to say.  I can say with absolute clarity however that my obsession with her began after reading her well-known villanelle “One Art”.  To call the villanelle a complicated verse form is an understatement at the very least and yet I remember how strikingly simple it seemed to me upon first reading of this poem.  To be quite honest, this poem haunts me and has been inside my head since the day I read it.  The many letters in this collection, which takes it title from the poem, are illuminating, not just to the structure of the poems themselves but to the structure of the poet behind them … a woman who guarded her privacy closely but who, in her private correspondence, began at least to reveal a little of the life she led.  Although Bishop gave us only around 100 poems in her lifetime there are over 500 letters in this collection (selected from over several thousand) to close friends and fellow poets alike including  Marianne Moore, Robert Lowell, James Merrill and many others.  Today, World Book Day, I find myself turning to my dog-eared collection once again, reading at random, happy to be a fly on the wall while one of the greatest poets of the 20th century shares her hopes, dreams, struggles, and joy for life and art.

The Eyre Affair

In Fforde’s world it’s 1985 in Britain and the Crimean war is still going strong.  Time travel is most strictly regulated.  The population seems to believe reading is as important as breathing but interestingly enough the line between literature and reality is so thin that characters wander in and out of books at will.  And now, someone is kidnapping the great heros and heroines of literature, including Jane Eyre, and holding them for ransom. Enter Thursday Next, a heroine whose job as a Special Operative in literary detection has her on assignment to find out who has plucked Jane Eyre from the pages of Brontë’s novel. While this premise may seem like an impossible one, Fforde handles it quite deftly and with so much wit and so many amusing literary references that anyone who loves literature will be lost in a good book almost as literally as Thursday herself.  Warning: there are six books for far in this series and they become increasingly addictive.  Handle with care and do not operate dangerous and heavy machinery while reading.

“Governments and fashions come and go but Jane Eyre is for all time.”
― Jasper FfordeThe Eyre Affair