Tag Archives: book binge

#dicklit

 Forgive me if I’ve already gone on the following tangent before (though I don’t think I have), but over the course of the last year or so I’ve had an insatiable appetite for reading. We’re talking about a level of fervent passion akin to a tween’s ability to consume vampire novels and faintly-masked tawdry romances involving at least one participant with a life-threatening illness. This was a spirit and want that I was convinced college had knocked out of me the old fashioned way, with reading lots of primary sources. Nevertheless, I quickly proved myself wrong, and was digesting tales just as swiftly as girls half my age. Amidst all of this reading, one trend I noticed from the stack of titles I’d acquired is that the majority were written by men, guys, dudes, boys, or whatever you want to call them. Though I’d never shied away from reading books that were either written by men or had male protagonists (i.e. Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Ned Vizzini’s Teen Angst? Nah…, and Dan Ehrenhaft’s Tell it to Naomi) I never aggressively pursued books like these or made it a point to stray from the likes of Meg Cabot, Megan McCafferty, or Sarah Dessen. So maybe now all these years later, I’m making up for things? Or is it that, on some level, I’m connecting more with the subject matter being written about by men? To anyone remotely interested in gendered marketing or anthropology, this is a fascinating and bewildering case study, but to everyone else, there probably isn’t much meaning in my drastic change of reading material. I grew up and things changed, what’s the big deal?

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about the grand debate that is male vs. female writers. I mentioned my unaware bias toward men, whereas; she had a very calculated gravitation toward women. And her reasoning totally made sense—part instinct and part emotion, she felt that women write relationships with more nuance and understanding, while men are defter at writing span and big picture. While I don’t completely disagree with this statement, I don’t necessarily agree with it either. Two of the books I read last year exemplify a man’s deft ability to understand, explore, and illuminate interactions and relations with a fine sense of detail: Ted Thompson’s The Land of Steady Habits and Boris Fishman’s A Replacement Life, despite their being superficially quite different from one another. It’s unfortunate, but I do think that guys have earned a reputation of not caring about or being cognizant of details, the intricacies of contact included. Unless, that is, you’re Woody Allen. Conversely, women are assumed and expected to be the emotional, understanding, and observant ones, which is unfair and not always the case (as is true with most generalizations).

In light of these feelings I’ve started using the horribly insensitive term dick lit—in direct reference/homage/disgust to the previously deemed, long-standing phrase chick lit, which has so much baggage it’s a five-piece set! While I initially started categorizing titles as such that were perhaps more guttural, gruff, and gritty, I’ve come to use it in the colloquial sense for any book written by a man. This sometimes refers to highly literary work like Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, because hell, it was penned by a dude. I suppose there is some validity in calling these books more manly because, and this is my truth, most of the women I know read mostly commercial titles, but if they are upmarket or literary, they’re still written by women. 

I’m not really trying to make a point here, if that’s what you’re wondering by now. I just happen to like books written by guys and since they’re giving me plenty of chances, it would seem a shame to pass them up. 

*I should also mention that I wrote this post before this one was published.

a post for my mom & dad

My brother and I do a lot of things together: we brunch together, we laugh together, we juice together, we sing together, heck, we even live together! But there was one thing that we weren’t doing together that was really eating at me…we weren’t reading together! One time, long ago when we were worlds apart (he in New York, and I in Western Massachusetts), we tried reading the same book but it just didn’t happen. Maybe it was the book (no, I don’t actually believe that), or maybe it was the timing (that’s a more likely the reason), but nonetheless, I was left feeling defeated.

CaptureFast forward three years to a few weeks ago, and David and I were trying to browse the Strand. Amidst the chaos of a typical Saturday afternoon, I managed to glance down and catch a glimpse of Goodbye Columbus’ attractive new cover. It all happened so quickly that I don’t remember how we managed to reinstitute initiate our sibling book club, but it happened and I’m glad. Having already had our discussion, I can confidently say that there was no better book to be our first. My brother and I share a sense of humor, thoughts on” isms,” and countless neurosis, so you can see why Goodbye Columbus was a natural fit.

With an array of novellas, each indulged our sensibilities and provided lots of fodder for discussion. Last Saturday David and I parked it at Irving Coffee and commenced our discussion, pens in hand. One of the foreseeable issues with reading the same book—at the same time—is that it’s hard to keep your thoughts to yourself. All of which is only further complicated when you’re not at the same point. This is to say that before reading Goodbye Columbus, David and I agreed that we would keep all of our shit to ourselves, but this ended pretty quickly, and I think I may have started it. Sometimes I would burst into his room, or he would approach me at the kitchen table, and we would share our favorite lines—it’s like we couldn’t help ourselves. But alas, each of those conversations was cut short by one of us saying, “I’m not there yet!” Or, “I thought we were waiting!” Luckily, there was still plenty to discuss when we sat down on that fateful, gloomy Saturday afternoon.

While I initially thought that talking about the book while reading it would ruin things, it didn’t. When David and I sat down, there were so many motifs, thoughts, and funny bits that could only be appreciated after reading the whole thing. Now, I could go into great detail about what we we discussed, but that’s not the point of this post. This isn’t English class, and neither was the discussion that David and I had. I do think that we had a healthy and thoughtful conversation, each adding ideas and expanding on the ones that had already been shared—that part was all great. But what I think I appreciated most was the simple nature of the interaction between us, two siblings. It’s, dare I say, heartwarming that after all that we do together, this is one more thing to add to the list.

favorite cookbooks of 2014

This has been a great year for cookbooks, with titles so incredibly stylized, they are far beyond books with recipes. Long gone are the days of dense, illustration-less cooking bibles. Now, you’ve got to be niche, providing something for everybody: vegans who swear, hipsters who don’t travel, and people who only consume soup. Below are a few of my favorites, which I hope will encourage me to cook more in the new year!

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Favor Flours by Alice Medrich and Maya Klein; Heritage by Sean Brock; The Soup Club by Courtney Allison, Tina Carr, and Caroline Laskow; The Portlandia Cookbook by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein; The Kitchn by Sarah Kate Gillingham; Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

a replacement life

9780062287878

After I read A REPLACEMENT LIFE, I was high off of it, telling everyone I knew who I deemed to have good taste that it was a must. I read some really fabulous books this summer—funny to be writing about them in December, I know—and luckily Boris Fishman’s debut was one of the first. I was trying to decide if there was some pathological explanation for why it took me nearly six months to jot down my thoughts, but that’s not important, what is important, is how amazing this book is. While that’s an embarrassing understatement, it’s the most succinct way I can express how I feel about this book. It’s definitely one of those hug-worthy books*. You know, the type that expresses nearly everything you’ve ever thought? A friend whose opinion I hold in high esteem recently dove into the tale and described it as “particular” and I couldn’t believe that in all of my internal musings, I hadn’t thought of that. She noted that each grammatical placement, each word choice, was so carefully situated, and to appreciate those subtleties, you have to be of the discerning kind. A REPLACEMENT LIFE is a novel for someone who appreciates the craft of writing, the texture and love of it. There are too many half-written and half-edited novels that are being churned out so constantly these days, and society just accepts that, which in effect, is applauding, mediocrity. So, to find one that sets itself apart, both stylistically and thematically, is a real treasure. Very rarely is there a symbiotic relationship between plot and prose that results in the reader getting exactly what they want. But alas, that is what you have with A REPLACEMENT LIFE.

*and saying that a book is “hug-worthy” is the biggest compliment I can give

lovers at the chameleon club, paris 1932

9780061713781

 Ah, the book that started it all. When I first nabbed an advanced copy of Francine’s book, I could hardly contain myself. How lucky had I been? From the very first page, the reader is transported to another time and another world. With language so rich and a narrative constructed in such a masterful and effortless way, this is the kind of book where you need and want to read each word. Now I know that this may seem a little controversial, but I think we can agree that there are books that you’re not really invested in, but are more “along for the ride.” LOVERS AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB, PARIS 1932 is not that kind of book. The interwoven paths of numerous true and distinct characters allowed for Prose to imagine what could have happened in their widely-speculated lives. Due to my inability to read jacket copy, I was unaware that this book was based in truth when I started it. While I ultimately feel kind of dumb for admitting that, I think my ignorance allowed me to appreciate LOVERS in a few different ways. If you didn’t know anything about its extrapolating nature, then it’s a very well-told story in its own right. But when you know that Prose took a nugget of truth and turned it into an epic, then you’ll applaud her even more. Sometimes I find that working within the confines of fact can be more difficult than starting from scratch. Some people think it’s actually freeing to work based off of history but I’ve got to think that it’s actually a very tough task. Regardless, LOVERS superbly tells a story of wartime, art, love, deception, human nature. It’s an absolute must.