Friday, November 12, 2010

TGI - F minor Concerto

I look forward to Friday mornings, not only because they lead up to the weekend. The pushing and shoving and general lack of consideration that comes with commuting is forgotten when I get off the 7 train at Grand Central and start making the climb up the steep escalator. There is a tall, thin man, in all black, with ashy blond hair playing his violin. He has a little radio that plays an accompaniment as he sways back and forth in tune with the music. Dancing a little duet with his bow as he lets the emotions swell with every movement and note. I love hearing the soft strings grow louder as we ascend. I don't know why, but it kind of lulls us all into a state of happiness and calm before we bustle off the stairs and snap back into commuter mode. 
Here's to a happy and calm-inducing Friday! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paper Anniversary

Book: The Paper Anniversary by Joan Wickersham
Rating: C+/B
NYPL Loan (Recommended by my boss)

I wish I could say that it took me almost three weeks to finish this because I was feverishly working on my novel....But I'm not going to lie to you.

This book was smart. And not in a SAT word/philosophical kind of way. It's hard to explain. And I don't know if "smart" is the right word. Maybe "real". It was a love story with real problems and real situations. It wasn't sentimental and it wasn't full of bullshit like other, lighter chick lit.

At first, I didn't like the characters (unhappily married Harvard grads) because they were selfish and annoying. But then I realized that I didn't like them because they were too human. This wasn't a book I was reading to escape the real world. This was a book that made me think about important, everyday things. Like when your mom calls you and starts asking you about bills or exercising or dating - all the things you think about on a daily basis, but try to avoid...

Anyway. This is not a throw-in-your-bag book that you can easily pick up on the subway and dive back in. You definitely have to allow for a hefty chunk of time in your day to enjoy the story.

If you had asked me if I liked the book while I was reading it, I would have shrugged my shoulders and said, "Eh...I'm just trying to through it." But when I got to the end, I was surprised when I felt satisfied - I had actually really liked it and didn't know until I finished it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's cold.

It's cold. Just another autumn morning. The streets are quiet - the city is just beginning to wake up. Passing the bakery on the corner, she reminds herself to pick up some fresh bread on her way back home, but right now, she must not forget she is on a mission.

The door jingles - the only sound that breaks the calm in the simple coffee shop. He wonders if she will show up again. He had needed some peace last week - too many worries waiting for him at the office. Avoiding this he had entered the coffee shop across from his apartment building - a place he usually ignored. And that is when he saw her for the first time. Her long brown hair, her hand brushing her bangs out of her eyes - such an automatic movement. Those brown eyes searching for an open table by the window. Her stone colored bag, the one with all the pockets - for her pens, her notebook. He watched her write for hours from behind his wrinkled copy of The Stranger. Would she come again today?

Pulling her scarf a little tighter she crosses the street, mentally checking off what part of the story she will revise today, what part she will try tackling. Everyday is exciting - her dedication is paying off. And for just a moment she lets herself think that maybe, after all these years, she has finally become a writer...

He spots her through the steamy window. Watches as she waits for the crosswalk light to change. He shudders at the thought of another day at the office, under the harsh fluorescent lights.

Heat greets her as she opens the door. "Oh excuse me," she moves out of the way as a young man in a trench coat pushes his way outside. Hasn't she seen him before?

NaNo WriMo 2010

It's that time of year again! November is National Novel Writing Month - which gives me a reason to really try to hunker down and write. It may not be a novel in the end, but at least I will have written everyday for a whole month, right?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

September/October Catch-up

1. Commencement by J Courtney Sullivan
Rating: C+
Friend Loan

Technically a C+ means above average right? Following a group of friends who met their freshmen year at Smith College - it was a nice story about friendship. But the characters were predictable and one dimensional. Was it really necessary to hit all the women's college stereotypes? An overenthusiastic hippie/activist, a girl who realized she was a lesbian, a southern belle who sleeps with her professor and a lapsed Catholic/party girl...It was an easy read, but I wasn't invested. The only thing that I actually enjoyed while reading this was that it made me appreciate all the great friends I've accumulated throughout the years.

2.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Rating: A+
Friend Loan/NYPL Loan

After commencement, this book was a treat. While I couldn't keep the four girls straight in the last book, every character in this book stood out and carved a place into my heart. As much as I wanted to slow down and prolong finishing this book, I couldn't put it down for more than a minute - it was that good. I will even go as far as to say that it is now one of my favorites. I don't even know what to say about it without diminishing how great it is...why is it that it's always harder to write about books I love? Why do negative thoughts form so concisely while positive reviews get caught in my brain?
I loved it, that's all you need to know. You'll love it too - give it a try!

3. and 4.  The Beach House by Jane Green; Rating: A
Dune Road by Jane Green; Rating: B
NYPL Loans

I shouldn't have read them one right after the other. I really enjoyed reading The Beach House. It was inspiring and fun. A light read full of surprises. Unfortunately, when I read Dune Road it felt entirely too similar. As if, Jane Green couldn't come up with any other characters so she recycled them in this book and just changed some of the details around. However, if I had spaced a few books in between them, I think I would have liked both equally.

5. How to Knit a Love Story by Rachael Herron
Rating: A+

Well, like my mom observed: Once the leaves start changing, I exchange my beach reads for cozy fall/winter reads. And I am glad I chose this knitting/Darcy-Lizzie-esque love story. Each character brought a different rich layer to the table. It also didn't hurt that every few pages there seemed to be a passionate encounter to keep you warm against the newly crisp autumn air ;)

6. The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham
Rating:B -

I find it a bit odd that I like Sophie Kinsella more than I like Madeleine Wickham considering that they are the same person. Nothing too great, but nothing too terrible either.

7. The Sleeping Beauty Proposal by Sarah Strohmeyer
Rating: B -

One of the books that I was planning to read (on my Shelfari) and it was good. But again, nothing too special. Just a normal read.

8. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Rating: A
Personal Library

It started off a bit slow, but I wanted to power through it because it is a book that I own, so I really wanted to love it. Well, I'm glad I did because it was amazing. Another book that I wished was longer. I don't care that some of the things that happened were a teeny bit far fetched - I still love it and recommend it.

9. A Match Made on Madison by Dee Davis
Rating: B -

It was enjoyable enough. Fun storyline and interesting characters. But I didn't like the style of writing and I felt like the author kind of assumed that you were a dumbass. She continually explained jokes or comments - which I did not like. I am indifferent to it, I would neither recommend it nor disapprove if someone were to read it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fuku vs. Zafa

Book: The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Rating: B-

Review: It look a long time for me to get into the story line. For whatever reason I just couldn't connect or relate to a Dominican family in New Jersey. Even though they were vulnerable and sad, I didn't like that the characters had no redemptive qualities. They all had messed up lives, and it kind of stayed that way. I'm sure there is an exception to this rule, maybe with Lola, but even then, there wasn't something that stood out as that great - just kind of mediocre. I'm not saying that reading the book was torturous, but it did go slower than I thought and the whole time it felt like I was just willing it to be over.

When Diaz started talking about fuku and zafa, it got me thinking about how every culture has their version of bad luck. Some that are long in tradition and have been around for centuries, and some that we create within our lives just because of our own superstitious natures.

The Greeks have the evil eye. Italians wear horn-shaped pendants to ward off bad spirits. Native Americans have dream catchers. Thespians wish you to "break a leg." We're all guilty of it. Even my own grandmother warns me with "advice" like: Don't laugh to hard because you'll end up crying.

Maybe this kind of stuff does exist and we should throw the salt over our shoulder and make sure to knock on wood - but maybe it is just our imagination, or one of those chicken and egg scenarios. You are cursed because you think you are cursed or You think you're cursed, because you are cursed.

Do any of you have examples of weird everyday superstitions that you find interesting?

Friday, September 17, 2010

fill in the blanks Fridays

Ever since I started reading  The World Is My Oyster I've wanted to pick up her weekly "fill-in-the-blanks Fridays" tradition. Obviously I've waited a long time to actually do it - but better late than never, right?

If you would like to participate, please link up to the fill in the blanks guru, Lauren's blog: the little things we do

1.   When I get a day to myself I like to   If it is a weekend day: sleep late, cuddle in my bed while reading a good book, lazily make breakfast, go for a walk, visit the library or a museum and run fun errands that I don't have time to do during the week. If it is during the week and I have a night to myself: Make an elaborately messy dinner and lay on the couch watching my favorite TV shows or a movie.   

2.  High school was....     unforgettable.  I met some of my best friends when I was there and even though my school was wildly conservative - I find that I actually did a lot of thinking and formed a lot of my (wildly liberal) opinions about the world and life that still hold true today.

3.  A little dream I have is    to fix up my recently moved into apartment with art and knickknacks that really bring out mine and my roommate's personalities. I want anyone and everyone to feel at home when they come over.  

4.  A big dream I have is    to write a book. So many times I've sat down, determined to start my journey as a writer - but self doubt and nerves quickly set in and before I know it I'm off doing something else.    

5.  If I could drive any car my pick would be  umm...I don't really like driving so one that would make the ride as pleasurable as possible. With good tunes and great friends.

6.  A time that I felt really and truly beautiful was    this morning when I looked in the mirror? Hahaha just kidding...I feel really comfortable and beautiful when I get dressed up for a fancy party.  But I also feel vulnerably beautiful when I wake up in the morning - no make up and bed head  

7.  Tomorrow I will....   sleep late, clean my apartment, maybe see my mom and take a walk around my neighborhood....   

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Summer in, Summer out....

July came and went - a flash of heat exhaustion and laziness.The only reason I know August happened was because one of my very best friends got married on the 12th. And now it's September. As I await the crisp weather and colorful foliage, I'll update you on all the books I managed to read since we last touched base :)
Some were worth savoring and some were torturous to get through, either way, here it is:

1. The Book Borrower by Alice Mattinson: This book and I had quite a love affair. The first time I saw it was in Brookline Booksmith - my favorite indie bookstore in Coolidge Corner, Massachusetts. But I saw it during my college days, where a book that cost $4.99 was just too much for my measly budget. So I left it there. Intrigued by the story, I couldn't help but think about it from time to time. Every time I visited the bookstore, I would stop by to say hello, pick it up, caress it - let it know that I had not forgotten about it. Until finally one day, a while after I had graduated, I stumbled across it again - on one of my impromptu visits to Boston. I had to get it. I knew that it was time to bring The Book Borrower home with me.

You'd think after all that, I would have loved every page. I was disappointed when it took me more than a week to finish it. At about 300 pages, this book should have been back on my shelf in three days. And you all know that even if it is a slow start eventually you'll see that it was worth getting through. I honestly, don't know if I would recommend this. A story within a story - I kept feeling like there were too many commercials during my program, and the program wasn't that good to begin with. Like when it's Saturday afternoon in the summer and it's raining and you are looking for something to watch, but you have to settle for a re-run or some mediocre daytime movie.

2. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark: Short and simple. It was the choice for the new book club I joined. We met at an Irish-Victorian-inspired bar/restaurant, where I had a deliciously large drink called the Diamond something or other. It was champagne mixed with some divine nectar of the gods.

The meeting was very interesting, and totally different from my own book club. We went through a lot of the reading group questions at the back of the book and at the end, you got to grade the book and pick which characters you would "Chuck, F* or Marry". When I first accepted the invitation to take my roommate place in this book club, I was nervous about the first meeting. But I think it was an overall success and a lot of fun.

As we discussed at the meeting, while I was reading it, I couldn't tell if I liked the book. Honestly, I thought I hated it. But once I let it settle and actually started thinking about what I had just read, I started to like it more and more. It's like when you see a movie for the first time and you say you don't like it, or think it is funny - but then you start quoting from it and find it hilarious?

3. Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb: It's time to book my ticket to Paris and never come back. I requested this book a few months ago, and I was trรจs huereuse when I got the email from the NYPL to come pick it up. Normally, I am not one to voluntarily seek out history books. It is only within the past year and a half that I have branched out and started consecutively reading non-fiction books, but this book called to me. And now, I can't wait to buy a copy of my own.

When I was younger, my sister used to joke that Gertrude Stein's "America is my country and Paris is my hometown" quote should have been my mantra. By luck and blessing I visited Paris five times before I graduated high school and each time I loved it more and more.

I would recommend this to anyone planning a trip to The City of Lights or even for someone who wanted to transport themselves there without the packing and 7 hour flight.

4. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood: Is it lame that I have a crush on Zac Efron and that is the reason behind me reading this book? Yes. BUT if it weren't for my weird High School Musical obsession, I would have never found/enjoyed this little gem.

5. The Most Beautiful Book in the World: Eight Novellas by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
What can I say? Hauntingly beautiful and weirdly French. I really can't think of how to convey how much I liked this book. With its simple story lines and intricate fantasy Schmitt transports you to each mini world effortlessly. (A favorite)

6. That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo: Definitely not what I was expecting. Too slow and melancholy for my taste. It wasn't until the very end that the main character was redeemed of  his eccentricities, but I still felt like it was "too little - too late."

7. Me and Orson Welles by Robert Kaplow: I loved this book! Frustrating at times, but the fast-paced artist's life in New York always holds a spot in my heart. A time and life so different from mine - yet riddled with some of the same wants and dreams. Indulgence at its finest.

8. Busy Woman Seeks Wife by Annie Sanders: One of the only "summer reads" I picked up this season. Funny and quick, filled with sabotage, secrets, love and friendship. I finished it in two days. Just a nice way to give your brain a break from life's worries.

9. Wedding Season by Katie Fforde: Why is it that British authors write such fun and addicting "chick-lit"?  The main character's nagging practicality and cynicism towards love was a tad annoying at times, but it all wrapped up nicely in the end. Perfect for those light luxurious summer days.

And I am currently reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Scenes from an Astorian apartment

Scene 1: Monday night. Meeting the new subletter for the first time. Toasty Subway sandwich crinkling in my bag. Visions of french fries in my head. I walk into a dark and what seems to be, empty apartment. I make my way to the living room, where my new "roommate" is creepily sitting on the couch, not saying anything so I think I am alone in the apartment...

Me: Oh! Hi! (nervous laugh) I thought no one was here! (Walk over and shake hands) It's so nice to meet you.

Her: Yea. (Awkward stare/smile/chuckle)

Me: (Nervous jabbering) So, how was your move yesterday?

Her: Uh. (shrug) Fine.

Me: Oh...good. It's so hot! (walk over to my little fan - place it on the coffee table) I usually put this on and face it right towards definitely helps ...(awkward pause)... Do you have any questions or concerns about the apartment?

Her: (Stare) No.

Me: (Thinking: I am not sober enough for this. Sit down on couch.Glance over at her laptop.) Ooo! Are you watching True Blood? What season?

Her: Uh...this season...this current season.

Me: Oh...Cool...I just finished the 1st one. I loved it.

Her: (stare)

Me: Sorry if I'm not making much sense. I'm a little drunk. I just got back from book club (nervous laugh) It was my first one with my old roommate's friends and I hadn't eaten all one big glass just went straight to my head.

Her: (uncomfortable pity laugh)

Me: Okay...well I'll leave you too it. I'm going to go make some french fries...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Lost time is never found again." - Benjamin Franklin

Instead of guiltily reading blogs while I avoid the blank "new post" box on the screen, I am back. Have I really not written since I read Just Kids? Seriously, I am a slacker.
Should I blame it on the NYC heat - sucking all the energy out of my body, while I rot my brain watching Bravo? Maybe.

So much has happened since we last spoke! But let me ease you all in with a list of books that I have read:

1. The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James: I stretched this read out so much. I knew how it was going to end, but I still cried like a baby. READ IT!

2. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: Read it for May book club. We met up on a Saturday at Central Park. It was one of the most relaxing days I have spent in NYC thus far. C and I prepared a picnic for the rest of the members (probably went a little overboard with watermelon, cherries, strawberries, three types of cheese, crackers, bread, cookies, drinks etc, etc). We gathered around our buffet and discussed the book.
After we had exhausted our brains and our stomachs, we decided to walk around. On our journey we visited Strand, Union Square, Madison Square Park by the Flatiron Building, and ended up pleasantly exhausted, a few hours later, at John's Pizzeria on Bleecker Street. It was the best pizza I have ever eaten -- it could be because I was starving, or it could be because it was actually the best pizza in the world, either way - you should go check it out.
The subway is a magnificent thing. You don't have to find parking. You get to your destination rather quickly. But, there is something to be said about exploring the city's many neighborhoods on foot. Every few blocks, I couldn't help talking about how different one was from the other. I'm sure it was annoying, but it was like an epiphany. It just reminded me of why I love New York so much. It never gets boring and there is always a surprise waiting around the corner for you.

3. Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby: I had never read anything by Nick Hornby before, but I read a review about this book and he was said to be a "modern day Jane Austen". How could I not pick it up after that?

4. Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford: Yes, I realize that I am obsessed with Jane Austen, but this book was really funny. It was surprising and fresh. Jane Austen and vampires - you'd think it was a mess of cliches, but it was unique and clever.

5. Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold: Another one of those books that had been recommended to me forever ago, but I just couldn't bring myself to read it. And like always the catalyst to finally cracking it open was the movie. A phenomenal read - but I guess you already knew that, didn't you?

6. Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin: Remember when we read Alice in Wonderland for book club in April? Well, when I went to buy my copy at Barnes and Nobles, they had a whole table of Alice in Wonderland paraphernalia (most likely prompted by the movie out in theaters at the time - not the fact that I had strategically planned my book club that same month). Tucked nicely between various copies of the classic, was this little gem. At the time, I was "not buying books" because of lent, so I put it on my queue at the library. It takes about 100-120 pages to get into it, but I loved the mixing of fact and fiction. I was definitely rewarded in the end for powering through the beginning.

7. The Smart One by Ellen Meister: I've started a new project. I am only allowed to read the books I own....this will pan out one of two ways. One, I will hunker down and read every book I own, before buying any more (besides book club choices) and I won't request anymore books from the library. Or two, I will just buy all the books I want to read so they will technically be mine, therefore finding a loophole in this project....The Smart One, as you have probably already guessed was a book on my shelf - it was a fun, fast read. A good book for summer, especially for those with sisters :)

8. Writing Jane Austen by Elizabeth Aston: I cannot be held responsible for the fact that as soon as I decide to start my "reading-books-I-own" project, one of the books I have been waiting for from the library comes in. A waste of time, since I didn't even like the main character until 2/3 into the book. She didn't even like Jane Austen, and she hadn't even read her novels....that's bullshit. You don't have to like her, but make an educated decision, woman! (of course she eventually comes to love Jane Austen- but I could have told you that from the beginning).

9. The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian: Book club pick for June. LOVED this book. Suspenseful, and just when you think you know what is going on - WHAM! (post to come)

10.  The Perfect Elizabeth by Libby Schmais: Easy summer read. I didn't care for the ending.

11. Push by Sapphire: Wow. I finished this in one day. It was hard to get into because of the way it was written, but it was intense and sad. I don't know how I feel about it. I guess I would recommend it, just so I could discuss it with you.

Currently reading: The Book Borrower  by Alice Mattinson

Happy Reading my friends! I hope I will see you more regularly :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Time Traveler's Wife - Pg 128

"Do you ever miss him?" she asks me.
"Every day. Every minute."
"Every minute," she says. "Yes. It's that way, isn't it?" She turns on her side and burrows into the pillow.
"Good night," I say, turning out the lamp. As I stand in the dark looking down at Grandma in her bed, self-pity floods me as though I have been injected with it. It's that way, isn't it? Isn't it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Maybe at your house...

It's finally Friday again. And although this week has gone by fast - it feels like it was the longest week ever. Oh, Mr. Time, you are such a trickster.

Anyway - I was going to write about how I've gone another one of my Austen binges, but I think I will spare you those details until next week.

Happy Friday and Happy Weekend!!

I've found two more of these clips here and here (let this load all the way before watching). Enjoy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"When you hit a wall, just kick in it."

[Warning :::::: I wrote this late at night, and it gets a little too self-reflective, so bear with me :::::: Warning]

To be an artist.
I have always revered the life of an artist. Maybe not the being starved, penniless part - but the part where you are able to create things, and comment on society or mankind or whatever - that is what I covet. To be different, to make a difference, to touch people with your gift.

These lofty proclamations that I make to myself (and sometimes to you) like writing everyday or picking up a paintbrush again or just being someone who can think outside the box - these promises exhilarate and stifle me. My creative soul is at odds with my Type-A personality. I am practical and safe but I wish to be spontaneous.

I like art because it gives me the opportunity to let go. When I took art classes in college I would get paint everywhere and I didn't stress over every detail. This person who made non-stop lists all day long - short of scheduling bathroom breaks - could not be the same person as the one dancing to her iPod in the dimly lit studio at 1 a.m., splashing paint all over the place, could she? Can she?

Just Kids by Patti Smith unearthed all these queries and brought them to the forefront of my mind again. And it validated my persistent want for a creative partner. It's funny because, just the other day I was talking to my friends about wanting someone to help me stay on top of my writing. Someone I could send drafts back and forth to, commenting on each others' work. An accomplice to constructively criticize and praise. I was just thinking that if I did so well and was motivated by accountability with the gym maybe I could transfer that helpfulness to my writing. Yes - I have you guys to keep my accountable - but unless you badger me and give me that "We have to do this! We will feel greatly accomplished afterward! Don't let me down" face - it unfortunately doesn't have the same effect.

Patti and Robert were lovers, partners and friends. They pushed each other to be the best versions of their creative selves. They understood each other on a deeper level. They loved each other through everything. Even when they didn't understand some choices, they were still respectful and supportive. It is this that I crave the most. A creative soulmate.

Soulmates. God, that sounds so cliche and naive. But this is different. I'm not talking about the "soulmates" in movies or books. I'm talking about those people in your life that just get you. There isn't just one out there for you. I think there are a select few who will fit the bill. One soulmate may be totally different from the next depending on where you are in your life. But essentially they all do the same thing - accept you. They never try to change you. What they do is push you to be the best version of yourself  - the one you constantly think about being.

I guess my question is, is this too much to ask for?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Las Aguas - Lima, Peru

I was reading through an old journal of mine and I came across some small vignettes that I wrote in 2008 when I went to Peru to visit my grandparents. Here is one about the fountain park in Lima:

 I walk in and the first thing I see is a skyscraping gush of water shooting towards the clouds, suspended in the air. The middle fountain, longer than the first, is where it will take place.
Sitting on a bench waiting for the 7:15 showing to start, I hear little kids of all ages scrambling to catch the water spritzing and squirting from below the bull's eye of dancing lights.
The show finally begins.
Water follows the music with sprays, spurts, puffs, and swells. The fountains spray diagonally. Straight up. Sequences of colors and shapes. Water cyclones, flowerbeds of crystalline water shooting upward like arrows. Each melting away when hit with another.
Pirouetting like the ballerinas of Lincoln Center, the water follows the beat of the soothing music. The Prima Ballerina shines in the center as the chorus jumps and twirls and sashays across the pool....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Why is a raven like a writing desk?"

At the end of April, our book club met at Alice's Tea Cup to talk about Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. We sat around this creaky wooden table, with mismatched chairs and china. It felt as if at any moment the Mad Hatter would show up to make us move over while wishing us a merry un-birthday.

What I love about our group is that we are all so different and we each bring something unique to the discussion. We can delve into Carroll's psyche and in the same breath quote from our favorite you-tube videos. In Hannah Montana's words, we really do have the best of both worlds. And even if half of us read one book instead of both, or only watched the movie(s), we still always accomplish what we set out to do in the first place: read good books, try new places, eat good food, stimulate our minds and laugh our asses off.

What I learned:
1. Lewis Carroll (the artist) was innovative. Lewis Carroll (the person) was creepy, and definitely a pedophile.
2. Nonsensical literature can be frustrating at times, but also forces you to think outside the box
3. Alice is irritating and foolish in Wonderland, but (in my opinion) redeemed in Looking Glass.
4. It is more rewarding to read classics on your own terms and for your own enjoyment.
5. Contrary to what I believed in high school, introductions are helpful and worth reading.

6. Disney's Alice in Wonderland is still the worst of the Disney movies.
7. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland was a clever mash-up of elements from both books. I loved that he created (what I imagine is) an "after" for Alice and her friends in Wonderland.
8. My friends are hilarious, eloquent and exceptionally witty.
9. Alice's Tea Cup has annoying reservation policies, but makes up for it with the fluffiest and tastiest scones.
10. I will take more pictures during book club. These images are pathetic!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Can we get a lion?

I guess I should tell you that, allegedly, I rejected this book as a read when C first told me about it. I have a tendency to reject anything that becomes too popular. (Must be why I'm so cool.) So, when this video went viral....I didn't really care. I was just like, "Eh. That's cool." Move on.

So, I'm behind the curve and the hype when I tell you that this story is amazing and the video will make you really want a pet lion.

I'm not an animal person, so when people show my pictures of their pets I give them a half-hearted, "Oh...cute." And look away when they make out with them. If a friend of mine has a pet, I try my best not to push them aside, and I might even fall in love with them slowly and add them to my "pets that are okay because I know my friends are clean" list. That's not to say I hate animals. I like pictures of cute puppies and kittens just as much as the next person. I will swoon if I see a tiger snuggling with a penguin -- I do have a heart. But pretty early on my mom convinced me that pets are dirty, gross and full of hair. Oh, and that your house will smell if you have one of these dirty, smelly, hairy pets. ALL that being much do you think it would be to house a lion cub before setting it free in the wild to then come back and visit it and have it love on me with its giant lion paws and slobbery tongue?

(Sorry I couldn't find any clips without Whitney Houston in the background.....)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Turning it on -- on the W train

Yesterday I went out for drinks with my long-lost high school friend, K. I think the last time we saw each other was graduation day...but that didn't even matter. We picked up right where we left off, filled in the blanks for the last few years and laughed for hours. Two blood-orange mimosas, one glass of white wine, one mini avocado salad with chicken, and one photo-booth session later we said "Adieu" and I sprinted to the subway. I don't know why but when I'm drunk tipsy I am determined to walk like I am not drunk tipsy so I speed walk. I am convinced that then no one will know that I am on the edge of falling flat on my face.....sadly, I tend to negate my efforts as I talk loudly on my cellphone while crossing the street and almost getting run over by a cab......but I digress.

As I caught the W train at Union Square, all I could think about was the $5 foot-long BLT that I was going to reward myself with once I got off at my stop in Astoria.While my mouth watered, I took out my book, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, and made myself comfortable with my feet up in that "two-seater" seat on the subway. You know which one I'm talking about right? The one you are supposed to give to handicapped, preggers or old people. Well the train was not full at all so I had that MTA loveseat all to myself.

Clearly, they know exactly what I'm talking about
 I tried to read a chapter or two and then realized my buzzed brain could not really appreciate the Austen dramatics and I happily slipped it back into my bag. Mmmm....$5 foot-long.

"Just so you know, that book you were just reading? It's bullshit."

Broken out of my reverie I stared back at the not at all cute manchild gentleman sitting across from me. I smiled politely back and asked,

Me: Why?

Dave W Train Debate Jane Austen (as saved into my phone): Jane Austen? She creates these men that don't exist.

Me: I know that some men are douchebags but some are gentlemen.

DWTDJA: You're wrong there.

Me: What, you're all gentlemen? (skeptical eyebrow raise/pursed lips)

DWTDJA: No. We're all douchebags.

Me: (drunk giggle) Oh, well. I mean, isn't that what books are for though? To create these worlds that allow you to be whimsically naive?

(Inner thought - Are you drunk too? I mean, only a drunk guy would say this type of shit right?)

DWTDJA: I don't know. I guess. I don't really read books like those, I'm more into Kurt Vonnegut (oh God)...

Me: I like Kurt Vonnegut.

DWTDJA: But these books make girls expect some guy to come and save them. Like when it's raining some guy is going to come and put his expensive coat over a puddle for you to swoon and walk over. Why can't you just walk around?

Me: (nervous drunk laughter) I know guys don't really do that. But it's nice to be whimsy sometimes (yes, second time I used the word "whim" in different a way).

DWTDJA: (Looks around) I guess...Oh man. Look what you made me do now (joking?). I think I've missed my stop.

Me: Where were you supposed to get off?

DWTDJA: Queensboro. I have to take the 7.

Me: Oh...that's the next stop. See I didn't do nothing.

DWTDJA: (As we approach Queensboro Plaza) Well, I should probably give you my number, you know, just in case you ever want to discuss literature more.

Me: (Oh God) Okay (internal shrug)

If only this guy had been cute -- I would totally call him back. Wouldn't that be an adorable meet-cute?

Oh, Jane. Who would have thought coming home on a Wednesday night on the W train would involve some peaked interest in your literature and my reading selection?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Laziness Revisited

These past couple of weeks have been insane. My roommate and I have been getting up at 6 a.m. to go to the gym and I've been super busy at work. I've also been doing some freelance transcribing on the side which ensures that I stay at my office well after 5p.m. Basically, I've been taking a huge bite out of real-life adulthood.

At the end of March, after a few days of incessant gorging, Roommate and I made a pact to start going to the gym at least three times a week. Obviously we want to be fit....but if you're like me, you need a goal to help kick-start your health habit. So - I am attending a wedding in May and I'm a bridesmaid in August - let's just say the little fat girl inside of me was like "Hey, fatty! Yeah, you. Don't look behind you to see if I'm talking to someone else. Listen: We Are On HIGH ALERT!" The healthy me thinks -- This is great. I will go to the gym at least 3x a week. This will make me fit and make me feel good. The traumatized fatty thinks -- You do not want to be the fat bridesmaid. Spanx will not help you. Get your ass in gear.

(Clearly I envision my friend K -the bride- placing a "me-as-your-bridesmaid" picture on her mantle where all her friends and family can see and scoff at it. In this scenario it is just me though...I don't know where she plans on putting her own wedding picture....but I know I'm going on the mantle.)

Anyway, I have been energetically exhausted and definitely have not had much time to read.

Why not just throw a book in my gym bag? You know, kill two birds with one sweaty stone? You don't know how many times I've tried.

Taking the book with my to the gym? Piece of fat-free, sugar-free cake. Reading it while at the gym....not so much.

In college, I used to try reading my homework at the gym; a failed attempt every time. I either read the article/book on the bike and didn't mustering up a bead of sweat OR I bounced about doing harder cardio and kept re-reading the same sentence/paragraph over and over. I've even tried reading magazines, but all the jostling of the elliptical or treadmill makes me nauseous and gives me a headache. I guess it makes sense, trying to mix my most guilty pleasure with my most dreaded pleasure. I could try working out to a book-on-tape -- but I envision myself staring off into the distance while on a machine, falling victim to the book's plot instead of running off the rogue chocolates I ate the night before.

Hopefully my work load will lighten up in time for the weekend and I can catch up on some much needed reading time and DVR unloading. And maybe even add in a gym visit at some point....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Love means not ever having to say you're sorry."

We've all heard this quote before, right? Who hasn't used it at least once in their lifetime? I know I have. Too many to count. It's from the book by Erich Segal, Love Story, which was also made into a movie in 1970.

It's the movie Thora Birch is watching when she is sitting on the roof of her house in Now and Then.

It was referenced in the movie What's Up Doc? starring Barbara Streisand (Judy) and Ryan O'Neal (Howard):

Judy: Love means never having to say you're sorry.
Howard: That's the dumbest thing I ever heard.

And John Lennon countered it when he said: "Love means having to say you're sorry every fifteen minute."

I literally read this book in a matter of hours. It was short and sentimental. Perfect for the mood I was in after reading Barbie and Ruth. It rigidly followed the drama/chick lit pattern -- witty meet-cute, love, disaster and redemption. It did not surprise me, yet I couldn't put it down.  But, what can I say? I'm a sucker for a sappy romance. It reminded me of my first high school boyfriend. You know the one I'm talking about, right? The one who promises you the world, and fills your heart with so much love you think you're going to burst. M memorized sonnets for me. Wrote me love letters. Made me his muse. Such an unforgettably great first love.

But, doesn't it feel like forever ago when we took ourselves too seriously and chalked it up to being naive and young? I think that's what I liked most about this book. I could revert back to my old ways and hope that everything would be tied up happily, unjaded and pure.

I really liked this little scene from the book. I mean, we've all experienced that inability to concentrate on anything because the person you love is in the room, or sitting next to you, right? So, enjoy:

Jenny (J): You're going to flunk out, Oliver.
We were sitting in my room on a Sunday afternoon, reading.
J: Oliver, you're gonna flunk out if you just sit there watching me study.
Oliver (O): I'm not watching you study. I'm studying.
J: Bullshit. You're looking at my legs.
O: Only once in a while. Every chapter.
J: That book has extremely short chapters.
O: Listen, you narcissistic bitch, you're not that great-looking!
J: I know. But can I help it if you think so?
I threw down my book and crossed the room to where she was sitting.
O: Jenny, for Christ's sake, how can I read John Stuart Mill when every single second I'm dying to make love to you?
She screwed up her brow and frowned.
J: Oh Oliver, wouldja please?
I was crouching by her chair. She looked back into her book.
O: Jenny --
She closed her book softly, put it down, then placed her hands on the sides of my neck.
J: Oliver -- wouldja please?
It all happened at once. Everything.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Makeover - Step One

I've been badgering C and L to help me revamp my blog for months. I go and look at all these other blogs and I eventually throw myself a pity-party, complete with cupcakes and dramatic sighs.

And it always comes down to this: 

When will my friends take cool, artsy photos of me surrounded by books, so I can use one for the header behind my blog title?
Is my blog cool enough?
Is my writing good/interesting enough?
Why don't I have photographer friends who will follow me around like paparazzi and give me fodder for my posts?

I've been virtually pacing back and forth and back and forth and today I felt an unbearable urge to really do something about it. So, I've made my first (teeny-tiny) baby step. Yes, it is just a background, but for a control freak - like myself - that is a big step.

And the best part of this being my blog is that can change it as many times as I want until I get it just right.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Barbie and Ruth

The first Barbie (1959) - Mattel, Inc.

Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, was a bad-ass bitch. She pummeled through the toy business and broke gender and financial barriers during a time when many women were busy in the kitchen, and not in the office. I picked up Barbie and Ruth, randomly, on one of my library trips. I hadn't even heard of the book before I saw it. I'll be honest with you - I judge a book by its cover. If it catches my eye, I'll pick it up. If the back cover has an intriguing summary, no doubt it is coming with me to the checkout line. So a book about Barbie, with a smooth tiptoed Barbie foot/leg and curvy pink lettering on the front? -- Mine.

I never wanted to be Barbie. I didn't dream about having long luscious blonde locks. I was happy being a brunette and opting for Barbie's BFF Teresa whenever I went to Toy's R Us. But like any little girl, I did have Barbie-fied green-eyed monster moments.

"It takes a smart brunette to play a dumb blonde." - Marilyn Monroe

My friend C was the queen of all things Barbie. She had all the covetable items, which included: Barbie's Dream House (with elevator) and Barbie's convertible. I also remember her having tubs of Barbies. Not just one or two. She had Mattel's entire collection. A happy jumble of Skippers, Kellys, Malibu, Princess and Business Barbies. Play dates at her house consisted of lavish parties, dramatic fashion shows, intricate love triangles and so much was an imagination explosion.

And even though my parents sometimes spoiled me with toys I wanted -ALL the limited edition Spice Girl dolls- they did not indulge me with what they deemed unnecessary (ha). Stretch your creative mind as we take a walk on memory lane and look back on my Barbie "accessories". At my house, this included my white hamper as the "dreamhouse"- and one of my Dad's old slippers as Barbie's busted up hooptie. I was living the dream, people.

Maybe my experience is different from others, but like I said, I never wanted to be Barbie. I had no desire and did not dream up scenarios where I dressed up in designer wedding gowns and never got married. And maybe I'm just naive to think that a little girl's make-believe doesn't always translate into adolescent psychological turmoil. I remember having fun with my friends and then moving on to play different games. Barbie has gotten too much flack. She's too thin, she's too blond. She creates eating disorders. Blah blah blah.

Listen, if you're going to raise your eyebrows suspiciously in this plastic diva's direction, it should not be, because Mattel just created a new line of "Totally Stylin' Tattoos" (a.k.a. - tramp stamp) Barbies. I am more concerned by the fact that Barbie has been "dating" her gay brother, Ken, for the past 51 years.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Once upon a time.........The End.

Like I've said before, short stories were never my thing. But the universe, as always, is trying to tell me something. It happened by accident. I swear. I didn't even mean to pick up three short story books in the span of a month (February, the shortest month of the year to boot). But, pick them up I did and again, I was pleasantly surprised.

How easily do I succumb to the power of suggestion? Well, when I heard J.D. Salinger died -- even though I did not have fond memories of reading The Catcher in the Rye in high school -- I decided to go to my library and comb the shelves for Franny and Zooey. As luck would have it, it was no where to be found, and I stumbled upon this little gem instead:

Honestly, after reading this collection, I can see why people thought Salinger was a genius (read: disturbed). Yes, the stories were a bit unnerving, but I don't think that's why I felt anxious while reading. I'm pretty sure it was his writing that created this unease. Even with eccentric characters and bizarre plot lines, it was the frenetic thought process and word placement that kept me willingly cringing page after page.

Normally, I can't read more than one book at a time. I just don't work that way. It is easier for me to read a book in two days, than to carefully switch my mind from one set of characters to another. However, that doesn't stop me from taking out 10 books every time I set foot in a library. Which then involves me frantically trying to finish one book before the next one is due back. I renew the books as often as I can, but that doesn't help when it's: read one book, take out five more. I think that's why I liked reading these short stories though. I could finish a 15 page story, and if need be, put the book on the back burner, while I finished another book before it was due back. It was also nice to take breaks between each of Salinger's erratic mini-worlds.

Well, when I picked up Nine Stories, I also discovered this beautiful, well-written collection:

I thought Valentines would be perfect if I read it before Valentine's Day and wrote a post for the special day.....

I'll wait while you check back....-tick-tock-tick-tock-....oh, you didn't find a post about this book on Feb 14th? Yea. I know.
Whaaaat? (whiney voice) -- It crept up on me, I couldn't finish it (didn't start it) in time.

I wish I had though, because I fell in love with this book. The title was pleasingly ironic and every story in it was lovingly sardonic. It wasn't sappy or sentimental or cheesy or mushy or lovey or anything that would normally go along with the word "Valentine" when in relation to its namesake day. It's about lovers and relationships, but nothing ties together neatly in the end. It was heartache, heartbreak and realism rolled into one remarkably touching package.

So, I've decided I will no longer cower from novellas. I won't dodge anecdotal 10-pagers. The universe has won.

Hey, you never know, maybe now that I've stopped hating them, I can start writing them?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Video from Elephant Walk 2010

In like a lion, out like an.......elephant?

Because of recent events, I have decided that March will now be known as Elephant Month. My friends and I kicked off the month with our elephant-themed book club meeting, I created a pattern and sewed little elephants, and this past Monday my roommate and I braved the thunder, lightening and downpour and made our way over to 34th Street to watch the Ringling Brothers circus elephants make their way to Madison Square Garden from the Midtown tunnel.

The Elephant Walk: April 24th, 1920 (photo found on )

Apparently, the elephants have been doing this for a long time. An article about it in New York's Daily News, sites this as being the 139th annual Animal Walk. But, it seems to be a pretty well kept secret in NYC. In a city where most things are inundated by tourists or overzealous thrill seekers, the crowd that gathered for this surreal moment in Midtown was pretty calm. Rockefeller Tree Lighting Ceremony it was not.

As most New Yorkers know, going out when it is raining sucks, so once you're home after a long day and sometimes, a long commute, there is no way that you are getting us out of our cozy apartments. Worse, if you're crossing the Burroughs borders. But when my roommate called me into the living room to tell me that the "Elephant walk" was that night, I didn't even hesitate. Visions of elephants picking me up and cradling me with their trunks flashed in my brain. I was sold. I could not miss a chance to see these pachyderms in action.

 Walking freaking cute!?!

I had heard about this a few weeks back, talked about finding out when it was and planned to go see it. But, as you all know, my follow-through is something that comes in waves. So, it was certainly exciting to actually fulfill this want.

The anticipation was electric and the waiting was unbearable, but once we heard that the elephants were close, I could not contain my excitement. We could see them from afar, swaggering in slow motion until they reached us. That's when we realized how fast these creatures were actually walking. We were basically bum rushed by a stampede of eager elephants lovers trying to catch up with the majestic creatures.

 Photograph taken by my roommate. Yes, that is the subway right next to Penn Station :)

At that point my roommate and I shrugged at each other, threw caution to the wind and joined in. It was definitely one of those moments where I really got to appreciate the city that I live in and see something extraordinary.

Question is, if they walk the elephants they have to walk them out again? Hmmmm........

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

God Save the Queen...

 Let's face it, you can't do much better than Oprah. She's everyone's best friend, confidant, mother, child, girlfriend and adviser. She takes on so many roles, it would be hard not to feel a connection with her on some level. I mean, even my mom is convinced that Opes is her BFF.

So, I was not surprised to hear about a woman who decided to start a blog based on the idea that she would follow Oprah's advice every day for a whole year. Anything with an Oprah stamp of approval would soon be done, scheduled, purchased, followed or owned by her. I heard about Robyn Okrant's blog-turned-book, Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk on a CNBC special about The Oprah Effect. This program highlighted all the different products, people, and places that Oprah has shot into success, just by merely mentioning, inviting, or interviewing them on her show.

Sure this idea sounded crazy, but then again, aren't the craziest things the most intriguing? Well, I'm sure you can imagine that when I heard about this project, I was beyond excited. Can I go as far as to say that my A-Ha! Moment was when I realized I needed to get that book? Of course, in true "me" fashion, it took me forever to actually get it and read it...but that is beside the point.

Honestly, I wasn't expecting Okrant to fawn all over Ms. Winfrey's every whim, but there were many times where I ended up feeling very annoyed. Did she really have to take all of Oprah's advice? I  mean, O is my mom's best friend, but she would never take every bit of Oprah's daily advice. For example, we all know Oprah does not want you to buy an outdoor fireplace if you don't have a backyard. That's just stupid. She's just giving you all the facts and then leaving it up to you to decide what you'll take away from that day's episode.

As I read about Okrant's adventures, I would sit there and scoff, "That's not really what Oprah's saying, Robyn. Come on, you're just looking for any reason to pass judgment on Oprah's suggestions." But, then I started thinking, maybe not everyone is as savvy? Maybe that woman in the middle-of-no-where America is thinking, "Yes, you're right Oprah! I don't have two pennies to rub together, but $50 organic soaps for my guest bathroom, really are the way to go." So I stopped getting offended by Okrant's questionings and tried to objectively get through the rest of the year with her.

Frustration lurked - ready to come out at any turn of the page - but, I enjoyed following Okrant on her self-inflicted, Oprah-fied journey. It was inspiring to think of coming up with one project to follow through for a whole year....inspiring and daunting. I am pretty sure I couldn't commit to something like that. My dedication to daily postings should be more than enough evidence to support that argument.

On that note, please, check out this excerpt from the Oprah chapter in Denis Leary's book. It pretty much sums up how awesome she is. (You should read Why We Suck, even if it is just to skip right to this chapter).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Corn Beef and Garbage....

So, I just finished reading Denis Leary's book Why We Suck, and I thought it mildly ironic and appropriate that I finished it on St. Patrick's Day, since a lot of the humor in the book tended to circle back to him being Irish and loving the Red Sox. Once I got past his "I am trying to be an asshole, so I'm going to just say whatever I want, and not care who I offend, so I can get a rise out of you" attitude, I kind of enjoyed this book. It was refreshing not to have political correctness being thrust at me every few pages. Telling it like it is, the only thing that I found offensive was the fact that he was such an avid Sox fan. Honestly, I'm not even a huge baseball fan or anything, but going to college in Boston for four years, really puts a bad taste in your mouth when it comes to the Boston Red Sox, especially if you are from New York. But I digress.....I enjoyed his rants about unfit parenting, "celebutards" and his overall take on what he thinks is wrong with our society.

Anyway.......back to it being St. Patty's Day. While I was in Boston, this holiday was what New Year's Eve in Times Square is in New York City. Annoying and loud, with obnoxious drunks wandering around the crowded streets looking for the next best party. So I braced myself when I walked out of my apartment on Wednesday morning, hoping that since I live in Astoria, the Irish would not stumble across my commute route, until I was already in Manhattan closer to my office....Well, I was pleasantly and eerily surprised when I exited Grand Central and the streets were not overcrowded with green-clad idiots, sloshing around their green beer, throwing up their green vomit on the green streets -- then again, my office is on 3rd, and not 5th where the annual parade was taking place, so for all I know, I could have been just avenues away from our very own Emerald City.

Please, don't get my wrong, I didn't always have this aversion to this viridian holiday.To tell you the truth, even with all my complaining, I was kind of disappointed that I didn't see more people wearing green and handing out "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" pins at every street corner.

I mean, ever since I was little, my Dad tried to make every holiday special. $$$$ for Christmas to get whatever you wanted (paying your bills not had to show him all the receipts and presents and wrap them up to open then on Christmas morning); Roses and chocolates for Valentine's Day; Dyed-eggs and lamb-on-a-spit for Easter; and corn-beef and cabbage on St. Patty's Day.

For those of you who don't know, my dad is a super friendly, will-over-feed-you-'til-you-are-rolled-out-of-our-house, jokester straight of the boat from Greece. So when I was younger, coming home from a long day at school and finding a boiling pot of colorless meat and floating wilted cabbage was not usually expected. But I knew once March 17th rolled around, Dad would be rummaging around in his office closet looking for his big pot and calling over his shoulder for me to "be ready to eat 'garbage', tonight for dinner".

Now that I think about it, maybe it's because of him that I love to wear ridiculous fake eyelashes to work on Halloween and make home-made Valentine's Day cards for all my friends? And he probably has something to do with my penchant to make holiday-themed goodies -- I mean, I really don't need that much of an excuse to hunker down in the kitchen to bake in the first place, but this new revelation sure does explain a few restless holiday Eves, where I have spent many hours well in-to the next morning finishing up a self-inflicted project.
And it probably explains why I felt the sudden urge on March 16th to make these:

Made-from-scratch cream-cheese frosting, on a made-from scratch red-velvet cupcake
Dyed green instead of red in honor of St. Patty's Day! 

I found the recipe on thanks to the link to her website on my roommate's blog. I cut the cake and frosting recipes in half (to make a dozen cupcakes). The recipe called for 3/4 cup of oil, so I put in 1/2 cup of apple sauce, and only 1/4 cup of oil; and I only put 2 cups of confectioner's sugar in the cream-cheese frosting (instead of 3) -- clearly I was proud of myself for being so calorie conscious....

If I do say so myself, they came out pretty well....but, maybe I should have substituted beer for the buttermilk asked for in the recipe...No, no -- that definitely would have been taking it a bit overboard....

Thursday, March 18, 2010

An elephant never forgets....

I am a creature of habit. I make goals and plan things, get pumped up about them and then...........get lazy.

Exhibit A: Promising you, my faithful readers, that I was going to turn a new leaf. I was going to write to you everyday, or at least every other day. Lofty declarations of expanding the horizons of this blog...etc, etc....
Well, as you can tell from my "February 25, 2010" date stamp....I have once again been derailed by my own complacency.

There will be no excuses. I am just going to ignore this gap in time and continue on. What better way to do that then with a post about my first book club meeting?

So Monday night was the beginning of a beautiful thing. I didn't know what to expect since, I have never attended, nor lead a book club before. But I was excited about all the possibilities and pumped ever since I sent out the Facebook invite a month before. On multiple occasions before our meeting, my friend S and I had clucked about how much we missed intellectual stimulation and how conversations shouldn't solely revolve around who got married, wow, those are nice shoes, I got this on sale, did you hear about [insert celebrity name here]...

Once you leave college, you are kind of left to your own devices. You need to create a stimulating atmosphere that will mold your brain and opinions as time goes on. So, I guess you could say I was providing a service to all my intellectually stunted friends (and myself) by enlisting them to a monthly round table where we get together to stretch our minds through deep conversation and debate...which then gets sprinkled with who's getting married, can you believe these cost $X, we need to get dates, let's go out, are you going to this party, etc.....

Our first pick for book club was: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

An intriguing love-story with the unexpected and majestically cruel lifestyle of the circus in the 1930s. This novel is definitely worth your time. I devoured it in two nights. At our meeting, one of the ideas we kept coming back to was passion. There was much debate about whether or not the love between Marlena and Jacob was passionate enough. You'll have to read the book to make your own assessment, but I think that sometimes the things left unsaid and undone are the most powerful when faced with a delicate situation, such as theirs. Their passion laid beneath the quick (but pulsing) glances, the cautious "unintentional" brushes, and the quick and stolen meetings. Being showy and overly affectionate does not necessarily translate back into genuine desire.

When I told my roommate, L  about my plans for a book club, she shared that her book club always tries to meet in a location that goes with the theme of the chosen book. Luckily, I live in the best and most eclectic of cities, and I was able to find this gem on the Lower East Side to meet with my friends:

(The Elephant, 58 E 1st Street, New York, NY 10003)
Google is a wonderful thing, when you are looking for different restaurants, you can type in anything, and eventually you will find what you're looking for. I was a little worried, because most of the reviews said this place was always very crowded and that the service wasn't that great. I opted to force my brave friends (coming from all points of the Tri-State area) to come out to the LES on a Monday so that we wouldn't have to deal with the weekend crowds. And I'm thankful we did. We basically had the place all to ourselves.

This self-proclaimed French/Thia fusion restaurant had really good Pad Thai, Chicken Curry and a kick-ass pitcher of sangria ($28/pitcher). The prices were a little steep, but if you order wisely and family-style the dinner, you'll get the most bang for your buck.

I would say our first meeting was a success. Even if it was mainly just a good excuse to get together with wonderful friends, eat delicious food, explore new places and expand our minds. It also gave me a good enough reason to bust out my craft making skills because no nerdy book club is complete without a:

"First Book Club Meeting Gift".
These little elephants kept me up until 2 a.m. on Sunday night, but I just couldn't resist impressing my friends with my superb sewing skills :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"People do not come to Greece to rest. They come to gain their days."

Get comfortable, it's story time. Today's feature presentation is the myth of Persephone (as told my Sue Monk Kidd in Traveling with Pomegranates:

"The maiden Persephone, is picking flowers in a meadow when a hole opens up in the earth and up charges Hades, lord of the dead, who abducts Persephone into the underworld. Unable to find her daughter, Demeter, the great earth Goddess of grain, harvest and fertility, lights a torch and scours the earth. After nine futile days of searching, Demeter is approached by Hecate, the quintessential old crone and Goddess of the crossroads and the dark moon, who explains that her daughter has been abducted.

In a rage and too dejected to keep up her divine duties, Demeter lets the crops wither and the earth becomes a wasteland. She disguises herself as an old woman and travels to the town of Eleusis, where she sits beside a well in despair. Zeus tries to talk some sense into her. Hades will make a nice son-in-law, he says. She needs to lighten up and let the crops grow. Demeter will not budge.

The earth becomes so desolate Zeus finally gives up and orders Persephone returned to her mother. As Persephone prepares to leave, however, she unwittingly swallows some pomegranate seeds, which ensures her return to the underworld for a third of each year.
Mother and daughter are reunited on the first day of spring... When Demeter learns about the fateful pomegranate, her joy is tempered, but she stops her mourning and allows the earth to flourish again. After all, her daughter is back. Not the same innocent girl who tripped through the meadow picking flowers, but a woman transfigured by her experience.

When I was in younger, my mom decided it would be a good idea to put me in Greek school. She would drive me to the Greek Orthodox church a few towns over and pick me up after a few hours of intense Helenic immersion. We had language classes, history classes and even dance classes. I learned the Greek national anthem. I performed in plays and dance recitals. It was very intense. But I loved it. I felt special (and no M, not eat the paste special) because I was the only one of my siblings to go to Greek school. It was a really nice way to connect with my dad and learn more about his country and culture. And it doesn't hurt that my dad still boasts (more than 10 years later) that I won $50 for being the best student in my class.

The best history lessons were the ones that included Greek mythology. One of my favorite myths was about Persephone. It's a basic tale about "empty nest" syndrome. But instead of calling Persephone's phone incessantly and sending text messages that say, "are u ok? call home" (like my mom), Demeter (P's mom) is so distraught over her missing daughter that she falls behind on all her responsibilities and basically lets nature go to shit. I can't even imagine what kind of state the world would be if my my mom had mythical powers....*shudder*

Anyway...I had forgotten about this mythical tale until I stumbled upon it while reading Traveling with Pomegranates. A story about a mother and daughter, trying to come to terms with themselves and make some significant strides in self-discovery and self-acceptance. Kudos on this perfect pairing with Persephone's tale, Sue.

I have to be honest though, this book was not one of my favorites. Kidd is in her fifties and she's going on and on about how she's now an old woman, suffering through menopause. She makes these statements about losing her womanhood, accepting that death is right around the corner, etc. Unfortunately, I just could not relate to this older woman coming-of-age situation. I was expecting a fun tale about a mother and daughter gallivanting around Europe, getting into fun trouble and good-natured misadventures (kind of like what happens when my sisters and I go away with our mom). But, I guess I was wrong.

I know I'm not in my fifties, and I have no idea what it feels like to go through menopause and what it might do to your psyche in regards to your "womanhood", but I would hope that it didn't bring about this: take life too seriously, severe introspection that Kidd experienced at the time. I am in no way trying to diminish her journey. I just can't really understand it.

It was easier to relate to her daughter Ann. Yes, there were some moments where I felt stifled by both her and Kidd's uber-feminism (do we have to question everything?) but I was definitely able to enjoy/understand her twenty-something angst more.

All that being said, I did enjoy many parts of the book. One in particular is a moment where Kidd experiences an epiphany concerning her and Ann's paralleled self-discovery and sums it up with this: "Ann is new potential in search of ripening and I am ripening in search of new potential." I can dig this idea of a natural shift occurring once you reach a certain age. A cyclical rite of passage if you will.

I think that if you are looking for a book you can share with your mom, and are willing to overcome Kidd's (for lack of a better word) preachy moments, you might learn something new that could help you understand each other a little better, you know, woman to woman.

P.S. I also liked the fact that Kidd talks about her creative process while writing Secret Life of Bees. From a writer's (I use that term loosely) point of view, I appreciated that she also deals with writer's block and feelings of inadequacy and doubt, even with all her success. Gives a fledgling scribe some hope.