I’ve been so negligent about updating this blog, I’m actually surprised my WordPress account let me log back on. My excuses are dumb: have been directing every last ounce of my X-Men powers into other writing, teaching, and wedding planning, I always feel like I look too tired and gross these days to take a picture of me kissing a book, I say to myself “I’ll write a blog post tonight” and then I fall asleep at 7:15PM, excuses, excuses, excuses.
In any case, I promise I’ll do a full post next week (I will get up at six in the morning and you will just have to deal with me looking like a zombie wearing a hair donut in my pictures YOU WILL JUST HAVE TO DEAL). As a peace offering, for now, this is what my reading list has looked like these days late:
So I’ve Been Rereading Books My Mom Read Me When I Was Growing Up:
A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith- THIS BOOK WAS JUST AS INCREDIBLE AS I REMEMBER IT BEING. I cried all over this book. I know this gets filed away under “little girl books,” but if you are a HUMAN you will love this book. Trust a girl. A bazillion hearts.
WISE CHILD by Monica Furlong- Did you read this in fourth grade? Man, Juniper is such a G. I want to be a medieval Scottish witch. I read this in a night and was so glad I did.
GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell- I loved this book growing up and going back and reading the plot and prose are top notch and also this book is REALLY racist and I’m trying to figure out a way to compartmentalize but I’m not sure I can. Because if there was a book that glamorized Nazis and made Jews in concentration camps Mammy and Prissy-like caricatures and it won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Picture and non-Jewish readers were like “Kit, you have to put this book in historical context” I would be like “I don’t live in historical context, I live now where it’s really fucked up to glamorize atrocities.” Does anyone else have strong feelings about this? I know I have strong feelings, I’m just trying to sort out what they all are.
(Next up, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE and ALL OF FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT. Ka-POW!)
So I’ve Also Been Reading New/New-ish YA:
STARSTRUCK by Rachel Shukert- I love Rachel Shukert’s recaps for SMASH over at Vulture, I love these recaps like a cartoon bear loves stealing pic-a-nic baskets, and I was the most excited to read her YA novel (the first in a trilogy) about young starlets in 1930′s Hollywood. If you just sat up on the edge of your seat at the mention of 1930′s Hollywood, you will eat this up with a spoon.
THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray- It’s basically X-Men meets The Great Gatsby and if you can think of a better A meets B, please let me know. This book isn’t perfect. First of all, the first fifty pages are like “I get it, we’re in 1926, I get it, STOP MAKING THIS A WIKIPEDIA ENTRY ON 1926.” Also it’s the first in four books and though the basic story works, I could feel the book holding back and even if an author is saving good stuff for sequels, you don’t want to FEEL that on the page. Quibbles aside, it’s such a fun read- vibrant and spooky and original and funny and just plain rad.
THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass- I cannot believe this book is a New York Times Bestseller. I cannot believe this book was edited by a professional editor. I found the characters flat, the prose artless, the world-building half-assed. I got thirty percent in and then returned for refund.
Hi Pals and Pallerinas!
I know I’ve been the worst about updating. It’s true I’ve been busy like whoa nelly, but it’s not JUST that I’ve been busy like whoa nelly. I’ve also just found myself halfway through a lot of books and in order to report a date, I got to finish the sucker. But I have not been finishing suckers. I’m the worst girl in the west, it’s true.
Still I didn’t want to go too long without updating, so I thought it would be good to do a quick rundown on what I’ve been reading. Rundown, start running.
WOOL by Hugh Howey
I read this after I found out about the misogyny scandal, I really am the worst girl in the west. But I didn’t read it BECAUSE of the misogyny scandal, I’m not the wickedest witch, I read because Justin Cronin and Ernest Cline wrote love letter blurbs. It’s about people who live underground in big underground structures called silos in post-apocalypse times and start to find out SECRETS about STUFF. It’s good. It’s not THE PASSAGE and READY PLAYER ONE good. Just regular good. A little less knowing Howey is really comfortable calling women bitches on his blog.
MIDDLE MEN by Jim Gavin
Jim Gavin’s debut collection of short stories all about Californian men. I’ve read two stories and I’m a little in love. If this books stays good, we’re going to have a winner,winner chicken dinner.
STARSTRUCK by Rachel Shukert
Because I am obsessed with Rachel Shukerts recaps of SMASH on Vulture (and may or may not be obsessed with Smash.) They are crazy funny, like they’re actually crazy and that’s what makes them funny. So I had to read her YA novel about young Hollywood starlets of the 30′s. So far it’s very well researched and feels properly grounded in fact and history but I miss the high-octane humor of Shukert’s Vulture writing. I hope it kicks in soon.
(NOTE: Just finished. IT DID. So excited to review soon!)
THE RADLEYS by Matt Haig
The other day Cheryl Strayed posted this piece by Matt Haig and I liked it so I made THE RADLEYS, a literary novel about that’s apparently about suburban British vampires my next audiobook. We’ll see what’s up
What the Book is About:
YOU GUYS I’M SO SORRY I HAVEN’T TALKED ABOUT ANY OF MY BOOK DATES FOR A FEW WEEKS I’VE BEEN OUT OF MY MIND BUSY BUT THAT’S NOT AN EXCUSE I’M SO SORRY PLEASE FORGIVE ME I’M GIVING YOU A BIG HUG OVER THE INTERNET, CAN YOU FEEL IT?
Part of the reason I’ve been MIA is I took a week-long spring road trip through The Great Plains with my husband-to-be, brother, and brother’s girlfriend. While there we stopped in cute-as-a-cowgirl’s-boot Bozeman, Montana. And while in Bozeman, we stopped in Country Bookshelf, one of the prettiest bookstores I’ve ever been inside. And while in Country Bookshelf, I picked up one of their featured books, Montana-set LGBT YA The Miseducation of Cameron Post. And while reading Cameron Post my mind was blown.
Cameron Post is an almost-Harry Potter sized book that follows small-town Montana teenage athlete, cinephile, and lesbian Cameron Post through the high-highs and low-lows of her teenage years in the early 1990′s. The book begins with Cameron’s first physical experience with another girl as a middle-schooler, an unfortunately-timed event that intersects directly with the car accident that kills both her parents. We flash forward to high school, where Cameron is raised by her traditionally-minded grandmother and born-again aunt. Cameron’s friendship with beautiful cowgirl Coley leads to QUITE a bit more than friendship and their quite a bit more than friendship leads to QUITE a bit of trouble for our heroine.
I treasured this book. Post is one of my favorite first person narrators in a good long time (in recent reads tied with Jonny in Love Song of Jonny Valentine). She’s such a 21st century Great Plains Lesbian Hamlet- locked up in her head, escaping every once in a while to do something rash and awesome. The world is vivid and pitch-perfect, the relationships are deeply compelling, the scenes are wonderfully realized, and the lesbian teen sex scenes are so hot I can’t even talk about it without having to run off and get my smelling salts and velvet reclining couch. The book was originally written as a literary novel and later sold as YA and reads as such. This may be a book for teens, but it’s also a book for old readers (me!!! maybe you!!!) looking for that next gorgeous, profound, and deeply human read.
WHAT KIND OF GIRLFRIEND IS SHE:
A super-smart and super-athletic Montana girl who will watch videocassettes and make out with you like nobody’s shenanigans.
MY DATE WITH CAMERON POST
All right, that’s enough ogling nosy-bodies…
But I have to! Last week was crazy-busy getting ready for Spring Break and this week IS Spring Break! Taking a road trip with fiance, brother, and brother’s girlfriend through Montana,Wyoming, and South Dakota. It’s magical and extraordinary but I don’t have time to blog this week. Will be back next week with a killer new book date, scout’s honor.
WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT:
You guys, I was TRANSPORTED by Song of Achilles. This book UNSTITCHED me. The last two pages DRENCHED me like someone threw a bucket of tears on my face. Are these VERBS AWESOME ENOUGH FOR YOU? Because this book was more than awesome enough for me.
Song of Achilles is a retelling of The Iliad from the point of view of Patroclus, the quiet, thoughtful/brooding, awkward close companion of hero for the ages. And when I say companion, I don’t mean Patroclus just sits around holding Achilles’ sword for him. Unless when I say “Achilles’ sword” your mind goes straight to the gutter and thinks “Achilles’ man parts.” In that case you would be right. Achilles and Patroclus are so gay for each other. There is so much holding of man parts. As well as Greek gods messing with mortals and centaurs teaching valuable life lessons and epic battles for the ages. You guys, this book is reading AMBROSIA.
Told in first person by Patroclus, the novel follows Patroclus and Achilles through childhood through their late twenties. Patroclus, a disgraced prince, is exiled from his kingdom as a child and sent to live in the court of Achilles’ father. Achilles is a golden boy, Patroclus is kind of a creeper, circumstances lead to them becoming friends and then they become more than friends and then the TROJAN WAR HAPPENS AND YOU GUYS, JUST STUFF!
The sentences in this book were so lovely and crystal-clear they made me want to cry. And during the last few pages they did make me cry. I cried ALL OVER MYSELF.
I will say I loved the first half of the book the most, when the two boys were forming their friendship and falling in you-know-what with each other. It’s was like Titanic before the ship sideswipes the iceberg! In this case the iceberg is the Trojan War. I still intensely enjoyed the narrative through the war, but sometimes I felt like the pacing lagged and beats repeated. These are quibbles, not problems that change my opinion of the book, which is cartoon hearts popping out of my eyes and my cartoon tongue unfolding into a staircase that goes all the way down to the floor.
In an interview at the end of the book, Miller tells us that an ex-boyfriend of hers mocked her novel, calling it “Homeric fan-fiction.” What a dumb-ass. How could he make fun of this idea? Didn’t he realize that Homeric fan-fiction sounds like THE GREATEST THING IN ALL OF SPACE AND TIME. In the same interview (with Gregory MacGuire, author of Wicked, who used WAY too many Oz references in an interview that was not AT ALL about him/his work) she revealed she’s currently working on a retelling of The Odyssey from the point of view of Circe. Yes, more Homeric fan fiction please, HOMERIC FAN-FICTION FOR LIFE, BUTTON PINS, SILK SCREENED T-SHIRTS, AND REUSABLE CLOTH GROCERY BAGS!
WHAT KIND OF BOYFRIEND IS HE: A super handsome, super heroic, super gay half-man, half-god.
MY DATE WITH “SONG OF ACHILLES”
I dress up like a Vestal Virgin and try to make out with him.
He’s not having it.
I cry into my hands and wonder when I’ll finally find a nice boy that’s mortal and straight.
WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT:
You guys I haven’t had a honest-to-goodness Book Boyfriend in forever! I’ve been dating so many woman books this 2013! This blog shouldn’t even be called “Books are my Boyfriends” anymore, it should called “Books are my Isle of Lesbos.”
But I finally have a book for you with a penis! It’s an eleven year old penis. Well, an eleven-almost-twelve year old penis. I know, grossest. But it’s a penis that belongs to a Justin-Bieber-like pop star. So… less grossest?
The novel is a roman a clef of the aformentioned Bieber doppelganger as he wends his way through the national tour of his second album (the final stop, like Justin’s tour in the documentary Never Say Never, is Madison “Omigod” Square ” Nine Year Old Girls Screaming Everywhere” Garden.) (I have never seen this documentary.) (Just kidding, it’s on Netflix Instant so I’ve seen it two and a half times.)
Jonny narrates the adventures and misadventures of the tour for us. We become intimate with his manager/mom (okay, fine, I know the word is “momager” I’ve read US Weekly before), his bodyguard, tutor, vocal/dance coach, the Selena Gomez-like Disney tweenybopper with whom he is finagled into a fake relationship, and so on and so forth.
There’s a couple of story threads running through: Jonny’s second album isn’t doing as well as his first and there’s a lot of pressure to make this tour work so the label doesn’t drop him, Jonny attempts to reconnect with his long-lost father, Jonny tries to successfully masturbate (he’s got the beginning and middle part down fine, it’s getting to the end that provides the arc for this subplot, which somehow manages to be the ickiest/sweetest thing, it’s okay, the emotional logic on this one bewilders me too.)
In the end the book is a character study of a boy who is way too young (see “The Great Masturbation Subplot of 2013) and way too old (he talks about calorie intake and record sales like a middle-aged suit) and it’s the incongruity that makes him such a treasure of a narrator. He’s maddeningly arrogant, heartbreakingly insecure, steps-of-the-swimming-pool shallow, and what-the-fucking-fuck deep, all inside one little person who doesn’t even have any pubic hair yet (okay, by the time the book ends he’s got one, I will not begrudge Mr. Valentine his one pubic hair.)
I think the last few pages wrap up a little quick. It was the only section of the book I didn’t quite believe, but I don’t want to spoil why for those who haven’t read. The end didn’t RUIN the book for me, it just didn’t feel like the right stopping place for the character I had come to know/be teenage-girl obsessed with
One of my favorite book bloggers/book friends Rebecca Schinsky called it in December when she deemed the novel “fanfuckingtastic.” It’s true, it is. Get a copy and be screaming Madison Square Garden twelve-year-old fangirls like us!
WHAT KIND OF BOYFRIEND IS HE? What kind of boyfriend do you THINK a Justin-Bieber-everything-alike is?
MY DATE WITH “THE LOVE SONG OF JONNY VALENTINE”
I try not to Kim-Macafee-in-Bye-Bye-Birdie faint in front of him.
WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT:
This books has been getting so many French kisses on Twitter how could I not pick up a copy?
Hildy Good (descended from Sarah Good of the Salem Witch Trial Goods) is a real-estate agent in small-town, rich-person Connecticut and a not-so-recovering alcoholic who befriends a beautiful and fragile newcomer to the town. What follows is a darkly comic novel of manners about habits that won’t quit and addictions that won’t be AA’d away. I don’t want to give too much plot away because the experience of reading this book felt like such a voyage of discovery, and I don’t want to take any of those discoveries away from you because I’m nice!
That isn’t to say it was a twisty-turny plot. In fact it lays out more like a character study of this small town and a few of its key inhabitants. It’s a deeply engaging character study, full of very human and flawed characters whom I could never stay even one step ahead of much less two!
Hildy narrates in first person and is one of my favorite first-person narrators in a good, long while. She’s such a wonderful casserole of contradictions- so deeply observant and tuned into other people that she can guess childhood secrets and convince her conversation partners she’s psychic when all she’s doing is picking up on the subtlest of physical cues. On the flip side, she’s in complete denial about her alcoholism, and the justifications and qualifications she makes regarding her addiction and subsequent behavior is as hilarious as a Marx Brothers bit and as terrifying as a Stephen King novel.
The other characters are great- Hildy’s new neighbor Rebecca, her psychiatrist friend/office building mate Peter, her old fling Frank, her gay ex-husband and judgy/needy daughters, they round out the cast beautifully, but let’s be real, this is Hildy’s show. And what a show it is. This book ranks up with some of my favorite domestic (or domestic-ish) drama reads of the past year (THE MIDDLESTEINS, TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME, THE INTERESTINGS). It’s as funny as WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE and towards the end gets GONE GIRL creepy. I know it’s a lot of high praise. The book is worth it. GOOD HOUSE, get on it, girl.
WHAT KIND OF GIRLFRIEND IS SHE: The funniest and drunkest of girlfriends.
MY DATE WITH “THE GOOD HOUSE”:
She’s had a LOT of wine this afternoon.
I try to take the bottle away…
…and get yelled at a lot.
WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT: I think my new favorite genre of book is “Really Great Books From a Long Time Ago That Everyone Kind of Forgot About But Why Did Everyone Forget About These Books Because They Rock The Disco?!?!”
(Can you tell I had no clue how to punctuate that last sentence. I think that’s because that last sentence was unpunctuate-able. I deserve dessert for that.)
Here’s my latest and greatest reading news. Last week I read an ARC of Harper Perennial’s re-release of the 1956 teen girl novel Chocolates For Breakfast, which I have mixed feelings about but ultimately I think I liked it a lot (I THINK, sometimes it takes me a spell to make my mind up about a book!) Then I read the 1935 adventure memoir Canoeing With the Cree which I have NO mixed feelings about, I just thought that book was the awesomest of sauce. And of course, there’s today’s Book Girlfriend, the 1963 novel The Group, the predecessor to HBO’s Girls and Sex and The City.
I found The Group by picking my way through this list from The Millions “Ten Books to Read Now That Girls is Back” I read Sheila Heti’s How Should A Person Be and am pretty positive I am the only person who writes for Book Riot who liked this one . I read Leigh Stein’s The Fallback Plan and thought it was, I want to use the right word here…. serviceable, I thought it was serviceable. Already read Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado (which I LOVE), Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There Would Be Cake (which I was… whatever), and when all was said and done that basically left The Group. So off I went to read!
The Group, written in 1963, begins in 1933, and follows a group of young Vassar grads (at the time an all-women’s school) through the next ten years of their life as they spread out around the country (but by and large stay NYC central) fall in love with men who are no good for them, deal with the guilt of being wealthy and the terrors of being poor, choose between children and careers, basically figuring out the same things in their twenties that American women in their twenties are still trying to figure out eighty years later. Each chapter stars a different member of the group, so the girls take turns playing leads and supporting characters, a structural device I loved to pieces. It really drove home the point that in any group, every individual member is going to feel like the center and star of the group (because of course that girl is the center and star of her own life).
I just ate this book up with a spoon, you guys! I found it so absorbing and relevant and thoughtful and shocking and provoking and great. Even though I know this book paved the way for SATC (Candace Bushnell’s editor specifically asked for “a modern version of The Group“) and now Girls, I felt like I was reading something wholly original when I read this book. If you’re looking for a great period read that feels like a great modern read and would make the most kick-butt of cable shows, check out The Group.
WHAT KIND OF GIRLFRIEND IS SHE: Such an old-fashioned peach with such modern and newfangled ideas!
MY DATE WITH “THE GROUP”:
We get together to have tea and gossip hard.
We tell the most scandalous gossip about our friends I cannot even print it!
Then we drink our tea!
WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT:
I wrote about Meg Wolitzer’s THE WIFE a few weeks back (quick recap: I ate it up WITH A SPOON AND A FORK). So of course I’m now on the backlist prowl (I got THE POSITION and THE TEN YEAR NAP from the library). And then wonder of wonders, miracles of miracles, Lydia Hirt over at Riverhead scored me a copy of Wolitzer’s upcoming book THE INTERESTINGS (out this April).
If I was a good and patient little book blogger I would write my review now and wait ’til April to post it.
But I’m NOT a good and patient little book blogger. I am a wicked thing. And I CAN’T wait to tell you how much I liked reading THE INTERESTINGS. I ate it up with a spoon and a fork and a knife and spork and CHOPSTICKS and I don’t even know what else.
WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT: I know that some of you picked up this book, saw that Miranda July and Sloane Crosley both blurbed the back, and ran screaming into the night.
All I knew when I checked out the book from the library is that it was one of the few books selected to compete in the Tournament of Books that I had not heard of (the other titles I didn’t recognize were HHhH and Ivyland). Oh, and I also saw it mentioned in Claire Miye Stanford’s post for The Millions Ten Books To Read Now That “Girls” is Back.
That’s all I had going in.
You guys, I really liked this book. Sheila Heti manages to combine novel and memoir and theatrical play in this Canadian-based tale of a frustrating friendship between young and frustrated female artists. Sheila, our narrator, works at a hair salon and has a play commission she can’t seem to finish, she’s overanalyzing it too much as she does, well, okay, everything. Margaux is a talented painter who is more fragile than glass that HAS ALREADY BEEN BROKEN. The two form a codependent friendship that feels almost romantic. They break up and make up a lot as they try to figure out how to be friends with each other and equally as important, how they should be as people.
I know people hate this book. I was just today eavesdropping on a conversation on Twitter (is it eavesdropping if it’s on Twitter? I’m still trying to figure out the 21st century.) where book bloggers I know and like very much were a.) hating it if they had read it and b.) reluctant to read it because of the hating. The novel is self-indulgent and navel-gazing and I get hating those things in a book because I HATE those things in real life, HATE, go act like a seventh grader somewhere else, I’m serious, I don’t want to be friends with you.
But I liked those things in this book. I liked these girls as much as I felt sorry for them. They take themselves so seriously and yes this is ridiculous but there is also an earnestness here, these girls are so vulnerable and are just hoping so hard that they can figure out their friendship and their lives and just get their acts together and this just broke my heart.
I’m not the Girl Who is Obsessed With Miranda July and Sloane Crosley and the HBO Show GIRLS. I’m not constantly staring down at my belly button trying to figure out what it all means. I’m not That Girl. I identified, but I didn’t liked this book because IT IS MY LIFE. I just thought it was thoughtful, inventive writing about a fascinating friendship. The characters are flawed, but I don’t think the book itself is flawed. I think it is absorbing, provocative, and pretty wonderful.
WHAT KIND OF GIRLFRIEND IS SHE: Her hair is SO PRETTY and her thoughts are SO LIBERAL-ARTS-EDUCATED and she’s CANADIAN, COOL but she is SAD GIRL CRAZY and I’m NOT okay with it BUT I’m also kind of.
MY DATE WITH “HOW SHOULD A PERSON BE”:
We stare at our navels.
What else would we do?