weekly endorsements

I suggest!

When was the last time you listened to Anita Baker? I sometimes forget about her and how much I love her throated alto and seminal 1980’s haircut. She has a beautiful voice and her music makes me think of my mom’s tape collection of lite jazz and smooth R&B. Currently obsessed with “Giving You the Best That I Got.”

Polaroid might be on a break and nothing can really replace it. But for those of us who love instant non-digital pictures, Fuji’s Instax camera might be a close second. The photos are a bit wider than standard Polaroids, but other than that, it’s the same instant picture fun! I’m now on my third Instax and I can’t recommend it enough. Kids love them and they make wonderful wedding gifts, too.

I’ve known my friend Michael since sophomore year of high school. We got to talking about Stephen King after he saw me lugging around a copy of “The Stand,” and then we realized we also shared a love for “The Little Shop of Horrors” musical. He is one my favorite people in the world and has a wonderful blog devoted to his musing on life, books, and movies. Go say hello!

Eugene O’Neill is an American playwright. He wrote Long Day’s Journey into Night, The Iceman Cometh, and Desire Under the Elms to name a few. His work is ineffably beautiful and poignant and painful. Ric Burns made a documentary for PBS on O’Neill’s life and work and you can get it on Netflix. I think it’s a must-see for anyone who’s curious about O’Neill, but also for folks who wonder about the cost of creative expression and the redemptive power of art. My favorite moment is a dramatization of Edmund’s monologue fromĀ Long Day’s Journey when he describes his first encounter with the divine.

Please read Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. The 2008 film adaptation was fine, but the book is exquisite. Unfortunately it might squeeze most of the happiness out of your life, and you may forever cast a suspicious eye towards the suburbs. But if you can deal with that, you will see that it is a careful look at how we live. Yates picks picks picks at the scab crusted over our lives and the underneath is there and we have so much vitality and it’s raw and fragile, but it’s beautiful and ours alone, and Yates dares us to dream about what life could contain if fear isn’t a guiding principle.

“He let the fingers of one hand splay out across the pocket of his shirt to show what a simple, physical thing the heart was; then he made the same hand into a fist which he shook slowly and wordlessly…”

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welcome to los angeles

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Today is Day 3 in Lala Land and I might as well be in Togo, it feels so very different. Traveling is something I yearn to do, but it does fill me with a weird mix of anxiety and dread. Even when I’m in places that shouldn’t feel so culturally dissimilar (same language, driving on the same side of the road, same crappy pop music on the radio), I have an apprehension that makes the simplest tasks seem impossible. I was so distracted last night, I drove three miles down Santa Monica Blvd with my lights off (I almost caused a frigging accident, and just like a New Yorker, I cursed and hollered at the other car. And when I got home and realized that I had been driving with my lights off, I was filled with so much shame, I could do nothing but sit in my car and gulp). I couldn’t figure out how to operate the parking ticket machine at the Target on La Brea and I damn near cried punching at buttons and trying to find the right change.

My nerves are a little shot. My synapses won’t cooperate.

But I guess this is what it means to go beyond your home for a while. You step out of your known world, and all of sudden every moment feel important, there is a sharpness to your awareness that might be difficult to find in your normal life. As harried as I feel, I have paid attention to every gesture, every sign, every tree, every smile I have come across. And for each hiccup, there’s been something so lovely to counter it. Sushi and beer with Bridget on my first night, a trip to the Grove and a drive through Hancock Park with Lynn, a late-night visit to Canter’s for matzoh ball soup and a potato knish, and later I’m heading to Skylight Books.

Today I’m spending the afternoon in the Beverly Hills library and there is a woman a few feet away who is laughing, roaring actually, at something on the rented computer she is using. The security guard has told her to hush up, other readers have sssshed her, and you can see that she is trying to be quiet. But every few minutes, she watches something that makes her yelp and snort into her hands as she tries to suppress a laugh. She appears to be living on top of all of her energy right now, perfectly keyed in to whatever she’s watching and how happy it makes her. She’ll probably get tossed out of here in the next ten minutes, but maybe it will have been worth it. That’s what I hope to get out of this trip– moments when the joy and excitement trump the fear of what might, maybe, could possibly happen. Even if some city officials in a patrol car pull up alongside my rented sky-blue Hyundai, yank me from my seat, call me a interloper and discharge me back to Brooklyn, I’ll have had my rainy evening alone at Canter’s, eating my knish, sipping my root beer, doing the crossword puzzle, unsure which direction I should drive in to head home.

weekly endorsements

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I suggest!

Rick Moody (The Ice Storm, The Black Veil) is one of my favorite writers. I can’t say enough about his prose– it’s sensitive and jarring and soft and it stays with me long after I’ve stopped reading. Do check out his blog post on Taylor Swift. You have to scroll a bit down the page, but his post and subsequent reader responses are well worth the read. You can read here.

Yummy Books is a beautiful literary food blog by my wonderful friend Cara. She creates the most wonderful recipes based on scenes from some of her favorite books. Stop by and say hello and be dazzled by her writing, photos, and food descriptions. And give her a congrats, too! Cara has a book coming out based on the blog! Wahoo!

One Story is a literary journal featuring one story per issue. You subscribe, you receive a story in the mail about once a month, happiness ensues. I love One Story, I love receiving things in the mail that aren’t bills, and I love that the short story is still alive and kicking.

My fellow New Yorkers! City Bakery is my favorite place to eat in the entire city. Conveniently located, the best cookies around (I’m not being hyperbolic, I tell no lies, these cookies will be the best things you ever eat), and February is Hot Chocolate Month. Different flavor of hot cocoa each day. Need I say more? Stop what you’re doing and go. Now.

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Last summer I had about four dollars in my bank account, so I planned on spending my summer tethered to the sticky city. But yay of all yays, playwright Jordan Seavey asked me to participate in a workshop of his lovely, beautiful, heartbreaking new play “Listening for our Murderer” with New York Theater Workshop in Hanover, New Hampshire.

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So I said goodbye to my messy little apartment.

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Goodbye to Penn Station. You smell like foot and armpit.

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Goodbye to my fuzzy departure picture. That’s the thing about traveling alone. You feel bad asking a stranger to be patient while you fiddle with the settings on your camera.

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imagine

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So I know that it’s wrong to lie and make stuff up and attempt to pass off fiction as fact and only bad people do these things and if good people do these things, they should expect to be openly humiliated, publicly punished, we’ll call for hara-kiri. I know that culturally, “truth” is paramount, that’s how things work, we appeal to it in order to keep people in line, it’s how we can have at the very least the semblance of accountability. I know these things should be true, but I can’t help wrinkling my nose whenever there is another Jayson Blair/Stephen Glass/James Frey occurrence.

Jonah Lehrer published Imagine: How Creativity Works in 2012. It was a work of nonfiction dealing with the science of creativity. It shot to the top of bestseller lists, Malcolm Gladwell was an enthusiastic fan and revered Lehrer’s mastery of language and scientific principles, Lehrer was destined to be a star. Forever. And then a few journalists pointed out discrepancies in his work and it turned out that he had doctored some Bob Dylan quotes, plagiarized some of his earlier work, misrepresented data, used false information, the list goes on. Lehrer resigned from his staff position at The New Yorker, publishers recalled all unsold copies of Imagine, and Lehrer will probably never write again. People now discuss him in hushed tones as though his crime were pedophilia.

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i love my holga

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I got my first Holga camera in 2009. After a few rolls of “what the hell?” I figured out how to tape it up, how to experiment with light leaks and double exposing, and I just love it. I haven’t been using it much lately, I haven’t been taking any pictures really. I used to think it was my aversion to digital, but I think I’m just lazy and uninspired. I got this roll developed not knowing what was on it and I am remembering the surprise joy of film developing. You never know what you’re going to get. Hopefully this will kick my butt in gear and get me to take some pictures again. These were taken back in 2010 at a dear friend’s wedding in Maine. We drank beer with our bagel breakfast and had a campfire with S’mores after the reception. What’s better than that? Nothing, I say.

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