This is currently my favorite thing I’ve ever made. Backstory: there is one literary mag (which I will NEVER name) that I really really really want to be published in and I worry that this particular love story will never happen. The submission process can be fairly heartbreaking, so I tried to exorcise my demons the best way I know how: THROUGH THE MAGIC OF FILM. And through never, ever washing my hair.
When you’re alone, you have to pretend like you’re in a movie. You have to, or you’ll go crazy. If you don’t see yourself as the sweet, sad heroine of some beautifully-wrought journey, you’ll start asking the dangerous questions:
Why did I come here?
What am I trying to find?
Why am I not afraid?
I’ve been writing an essay about my home and thinking a lot about ghosts.
Want to know my favorite thing in the world that I’ve loved since I was 12? Sleeping in on Saturday mornings, rolling over groggily, and picking up a book. O! for the days when that book was Harry Potter! I may never know such passionate investment in a world again. (I’m like 20% invested in this world.)
I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately (Charlie and I are trying to finish The Office and hoping that Jim and Pam die at the end), and the difference between zoning out in front of the TV and reading a book is just MIND-BLOWING. TV-watching doesn’t even relax you! It stresses you out more! My brain literally feels better when I’m reading—relaxed, aware, empathetic, intrigued. When I’m fully engaged in a novel (which is hard, as I now have an iPhone and my attention span is more gerbil-like than ever; have you seen how I use parentheticals?)—that is, when I’m experiencing la douleur exquise of wanting to know what happens next and needing the whole thing to be real, well, friends, that is absolutely the greatest thing about books and really the only thing I want to accomplish in my own writing. So here’s how I feel about my latest reads IN CAPSLOCK, BECAUSE THERE IS NO OTHER WAY.
Endless Love – Scott Spencer: AMAZING CULT NOVEL FROM THE 70S ABOUT OBSESSIVE TEENAGE LOVE. JUST EXQUISITE AT THE SENTENCE LEVEL; SOME MIGHT THINK IT’S OVERWRITTEN BUT I FOUND IT IMPASSIONED, AS THE NARRATOR IS ONE OF THOSE GUYS WHO SORT OF CAN’T BEAR FINDING THINGS SO BEAUTIFUL. I’LL NEVER FORGET THE IMAGE OF WALKING DOWN A HALLWAY AND HEARING THE “SWEET WHITE NOISE” OF THE SHOWER RUNNING. THE PLOT IS CRAZY AND BY THE END YOU SORT OF FEEL LIKE NONE OF IT EVER HAPPENED. INTENSE EMOTIONAL EXPLORATION. NOT TO BE A TOTAL SEXIST BUT IMPRESSIVE TO SEE THIS SORT OF ACCURATE EMOTIONAL PITCH COMING FROM A MALE WRITER. THE ENDING MADE ME CRY.
Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert. I FOUND THIS IN A THRIFT STORE AND I THOUGHT, “WHY NOT?” A SMALL ACT OF REBELLION AGAINST THE LITERARY ESTABLISHMENT ON MY PART. DIDN’T EXPECT TO ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS BOOK. THE WRITING IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN YOU’D THINK. IT’S A CLASSIC STORY OF BREAKDOWN AND REDEMPTION. ONCE SHE GETS TO INDONESIA I WAS KIND OF DONE WITH THE STORY BECAUSE EVERYTHING WAS SO PERFECT AND READING ABOUT PERFECTION GETS OLD. STILL, I JUDGE YOU IF YOU JUDGE THIS BOOK WITHOUT READING IT, BECAUSE THEN I KNOW YOU ARE A LITERARY SNOB WITH NO SOUL.
Amy and Isabelle – Elizabeth Strout. ELIZABETH STROUT IS MY HOMEGIRL. SHE’S BASICALLY THE NOVELIST VERSION OF ALICE MUNRO. AN INCREDIBLY SENSITIVE WRITER. ONE OF THOSE AMAZING AUTHORS WHO KNOWS WHAT EVERY CHARACTER IN THE ROOM IS FEELING AT ANY GIVEN TIME. THIS IS A HEARTBREAKING MOTHER/DAUGHTER STORY. A LITTLE SLOW AT FIRST, BUT PICKS UP QUICKLY. THE INTERNAL LIFE OF THE MOTHER IS JUST UNBELIEVABLY RENDERED. THE ENDING MADE ME CRY. ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LAST SENTENCES I’VE EVER READ. SHE’S PROBABLY NEVER USED CAPSLOCK IN HER LIFE BUT DON’T GET ME WRONG, ELIZABETH STROUT IS NO PUSHOVER: SHE’S NOT AFRAID OF CHARACTERS WHO CURSE, YOUNG GIRLS WHO SEDUCE OLDER MEN, OR PUTTING DEAD BODIES IN CAR TRUNKS.
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves – Karen Russell. THIS COLLECTION MIGHT BE BETTER THAN SWAMPLANDIA. THE MOST IMAGINATIVE STORIES ABOUT CREEPY CHILDREN YOU WILL EVER READ, ALL BRIMMING WITH THAT POIGNANT PAIN THAT’S SO PARTICULAR TO CHILDHOOD AND THAT I ALWAYS TRY TO WRITE ABOUT BUT SINCE KAREN RUSSELL IS THE MACARTHUR-WINNING QUEEN OF CREEPY EMOTIONALLY SENSITIVE CHILDREN I GUESS I SHOULD JUST BECOME A HEART SURGEON LIKE EVERYONE IS ALWAYS TELLING ME TO BE. ANYWAY, SOME OF THE ENDINGS HAD THAT DISTINCT WORKSHOP-ENDING FLAVOR, BUT OVERALL AN INCREDIBLY ENGAGING READ.
Atonement – Ian McEwan. THIS IS THE FAVORITE NOVEL OF TWO OF MY VERY BEST FRIENDS SO I FEEL LIKE I PSYCHED MYSELF OUT BEFORE I EVEN STARTED IT, LIKE, “I NEED TO LOVE THIS I NEED TO LOVE THIS.” I ALSO THINK SEEING THE MOVIE FIRST MADE THE READING EXPERIENCE POORER. STILL, AN AMAZING BEAUTIFUL NOVEL AND I LOVED THE WAR SCENES. THEY MADE ME CRY.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman. AMANDA PALMER WHO? I AM THE ONE WHO NEIL GAIMAIN WAS SUPPOSED TO MARRY. I HAVE LOVED HIM FOR A LONG TIME AND I THINK HE’S JUST THE BEST. INSANE IMAGINATION. HAS THAT LOVING SENSIBILITY THAT ONLY GOOD CHILDREN’S WRITERS HAVE, BUT ALL ADULTS SHOULD READ HIM TOO. HE DEFINITELY BELIEVES IN THE MAGIC HE WRITES ABOUT AND I BELIEVE, TOO. I FIND THAT OCCASIONALLY HIS BOOKS START FEELING A LITTLE FAIRY-TALE-DERIVATIVE, BUT THIS WAS A QUICK FUN READ. STILL, IF YOU HAVEN’T READ ANY GAIMAN, YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST READ “THE GRAVEYARD BOOK” NO QUESTIONS ASKED IT IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME. AND SEE “CORALINE,” THE MOVIE, IT’S AMAZING.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple. MY FAVORITE NOVEL RIGHT NOW. YOU WANT YOUR POP CULTURE-INFUSED, QUICK-PACED, FUNNY BUT STILL EMOTIONALLY RESONANT, MULTI-MEDIA-TYPE WRITING? PUT DOWN “A VISIT TO THE GOON SQUAD” AND PICK THIS UP. I REALLY HOPE THIS WINS THE PULITZER ALTHOUGH THERE’S NO WAY IT WILL BECAUSE IT’S NOT “LITERARY.” EXCEPT IT IS LITERARY, IT IS QUINTESSENTIALLY LITERARY. RICH CHARACTERS THAT YOU DEEPLY CARE ABOUT DOING HILARIOUS, UNEXPECTED, BIZARRE THINGS WHILE FREAKING OUT ABOUT LIFE? WHAT’S MORE LITERARY THAN THAT? YOU CAN READ YOUR TAO LIN ALL DAY BUT I BELIEVE NOVELS WERE MEANT TO BE ENJOYED. YES, I’M BITTER, ONCE A SEMI-FAMOUS CHICAGO AUTHOR WAS REALLY RUDE TO ME AND MY FRIEND OUTSIDE A FALAFEL JOINT. IT CREATED A WOUND IN MY HEART THAT WILL ONLY BE FILLED BY POP PSYCHOLOGY AND FINDING THE TRUE GREATNESS IN SEEMINGLY SHALLOW ART FORMS. THIS IS WHY I LOVE MILEY CYRUS AND WILL DEFEND HER TO ZEUS HIMSELF. THIS IS SERIOUSLY AN AMAZING BOOK THOUGH, THE BEST BOOK I’VE READ ALL YEAR, READ IT, YOU’LL LAUGH YOU’LL CRY YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO PUT IT DOWN. JUST DO IT.
PS: HAS ANYONE NOTICED I’M HAVING A MOMENT WITH SEMICOLONS? NO? FINE.