Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

We'll See You in 2011!

The problem with some people is that when they aren't drunk they're sober.
-William Butler Yeats

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chick Lit

You don't hear much about Melissa Bank these days. And that's a shame because as far as young women who write about young women, she is far more honest and literary--sorry Ellis--than today's chick lit heroine, Sloane Crosley. She wrote The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Remember that book? I still consider it the definitive novel of this particular genre: girls who work in publishing, date, and try to seem more grown up than they feel.

I could be quoting from the book jacket, but it ends up being much more than it tries to be. I think it made me cry. Here is an excerpt from a Guardian interview with Melissa Bank in which she addresses two topical topics: women and humor and women in the workplace.

Q: There does seem to be a low threshold for humor from straight women.
A: You know, for some reason the book was published in France first, and an interviewer faxed me some questions, and one of the questions was: "Of course people always say that a woman who is funny cannot be erotic or seductive. But that's not true in your book. Why isn't it?" Or something like that. And I thought, "Of course people always say this?" I had a boyfriend at the time, and I turned to him and read the question, and he said, "But you're not funny." And I actually wasn't funny with him. The mark of my being in the wrong relationship is that I stop being funny. But I would argue that nobody can actually be funny and erotic at the same time. They don't really go together. I mean, I hope that I'm erotic. But when you're being erotic, you're creating a spell; when you're making a joke, you're breaking it.
Q: It occurred to me when reading the story "The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine" that I don't often read stories that deal specifically with women in the workplace.
A: The women of my generation were brought up to think of themselves in terms of what they did rather than of being married or unmarried, and it took on this huge weight. Work was suddenly supposed to be a much bigger thing than work can ever be. You're supposed to give your soul to it -- and you're never supposed to not want to work at something. You're supposed to be as dedicated to your work as you would be to another person.
In that story, Jane's boss says, "It would be great if you could help out," and Jane says, "It was hard to turn down a chance to be great." You're defined [in your job] by your willingness to do anything, which is something that [can also happen] in a relationship. And, well, that's not so healthy."

Garrison Keillor slams Mark Twain

Have a listen to this not-so-positive review of Mark Twain's much anticipated century-in-the-waiting autobiography.

Garrison Keillor says that the autobiography, which has just been released, as promised, one hundred years after Twain's death, reveals mere "flashes" of the Mark Twain most of us know and love. He wrote the autobiography at the end of his life, and apparently his dulled senses show. How sad! I couldn't help but resent Garrison Keillor just a little when he characterizes this work as more senile than funny, especially because I usually feel the same way about Praire Home Companion. Ha. So there.

Happy New Year's Eve, Ya Psycho

One of Artie and my favorite Brooklyn restaurants, Vinegar Hill House in Dumbo, is having a Bret Easton Ellis themed New Year's Eve party this Friday. Here's what they're throwing down:

"This year Vinegar Hill House will be bringing in 2011 American Style. American Psycho that is. So get your axes, your plastic rain slickers, and your bone white business cards and come join us for an 8-'s themed menu and midnight champagne toast in the theme of Bret Easton Ellis's 1991 psychological thriller. $80 for a special prix fixe menu and champagne toast to ring in the New Year with awesome costumes, 80's jams, and killer food."

A quick perusal of the menu shows their making Chinese Style Duck, Butter Poached Langoustines, Elk Chop and Rasberry Jelly Rolls, among other OTT delicacies.

To reserve:, 718 522 1018."

I'm no American Psycho expert myself -although Artie and I are always amazed by the sheer mass of boys our age who identify with Patrick Bateman. So rather than analyze it, I thought forwarding this gchat convo with CHX ( a fan) would be apt.

Charles: that american psycho shit is insane
me: i know!
isnt that so funny
i wonder what on earth made them pick it?
Charles: the forgot the vanilla milk shake
i know! the food is supposed to be humorously disgusting!
i think in the book the santa fe chicken is raw
me: ha. THATS why vinegar hill house picked it. they just want the chance to make their salted chicken on new years. they are so obsessed with that dish

What do you think? Are you won over? Yay or Nay? Seems strange that they picked American Psycho of all the possible literary themed dinner parties there are to throw out there. One of the waiters must be a real fan-atic.

Deborah Treisman Will Make You Feel Like an Underachiever.

Deborah Treisman replaced Bill Buford in '03 as The New Yorker's Fiction Editor when she was just twenty seven years old. Before being promoted to Fiction Editor, she was Buford's Deputy Editor and served as Managing Editor of Grand Street Magazine.

Treisman typically comes under scrutiny in June when the magazine's 20 Under 40 List comes out. She's responsible for putting all those names on the list. Here's her talking to the Wall Street Journal about the process.
"It was a long taxing process but also fun. We started about six or seven months before the initial fiction issue came out last June."

The process, according to DT, goes like this:
-Brainstorming in the office with all the other fiction editors.
-Conferring with other publishing houses and writers for additional names for their list.
-Aggregating submissions from their selected authors to read and discuss (all the authors have to have new writing to be accepted)
-Short listing a group of around 40 authors.

The interview is a little dry, being the WSJ, but a good way to get a sense of who this overachiever is.

PS it turns out LOTS of boys in the blogosphere have 'smart girl' crushes on Ms. Treisman.
PPS All their hopes for geek love are for naught because Mrs. Treisman is married to indie rocker Ken Cumings of Shelby.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Roald Dahl's House

Ellis' post about writers houses had me in reveries about a magical day our family spent in England several years ago. We made the pilgrimage by train from London to Roald Dahl's hometown, Great Missenden, a picture-perfect English town where we picnicked on baguettes. Dahl's house has become a museum and his "writing hut" and famous desk meticulously preserved. He wrote in a chair with a board across the arm rests and surrounded himself with strange nicknacks. It was amazing to see the world that inspired that crazy imagination.

This is how, Quentin Blake, Dahl's illustrator and collaborator, described the space:

"As he didn't want to move from his chair everything was within reach. He wrote on yellow legal paper with his favourite kind of pencils; he started off with a handful of them ready sharpened. He used to smoke and there is an ashtray with cigarette butts preserved to this day.
The table near to his right hand had all kinds of strange memorabilia on it, one of which was part of his own hip bone that had been removed; another was a ball of silver paper that he'd collected from bars of chocolate since he was a young man and it had gradually increased in size. There were various other things that had been sent to him by fans or schoolchildren."
-(found on The Guardian, read the full text here).

Sloane Crosley on Not Being Truman Capote & Her Ritalin Intake

Disclaimer: This post is titled with the fondest of intentions.

Reading Sloane Crosley is sort of like going out to drinks with your best girl friend, provided that your bf is also whip smart, occasionally writes for the New York Times, and serves a literary agent for authors like Jonathan Frye in her work day hrs.

Sloane (whatever, we're on a first name basis) writes funny, laugh out loud, tell it like it is essays about being a young woman in New York. If you haven't picked up her books I Was Told There'd Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number?, you absolutely must! The stories all ring so true. Here she is on one of my favorite YouTube watches Drinks with Writers.

Read NYC: A Skeptic's Guide to Writers Houses, Anne Trubek

Watercolor by Caitlin McGauley

"Artists get art museums as a vacation destination for lovers of painting, and composers get the symphony hall. Writers produce art that is easily reproducible and accessible, but offer no common meeting spot, gathering place, or shrine ready structure. They have, though, usually slept inside a home. and so we make of these homes de facto shrines."
-A Skeptic's Guide to Writers Houses, Anne Trubek

Anne will hold a reading at Word Brooklyn on Tuesday, January 11th at 7:30p.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Yorker Fiction Podcast

Tonight while cooking dinner, I listened to the writer David Means read the Raymond Carver story, "Chef's House," which was his first the New Yorker ever published. Raymond Carver is great to hear out loud, because his dialogue is so fluent. And talk about an antidote to Franzen. Carver's midwest is a very different place than the one in Freedom, full of sadness and presented without analysis.

I love Deborah Treisman, the fiction editor, who also hosts the podcast. She seems so omniscient and is obviously revered by the writers she features. In the discussion that follows each reading, she always comes off as the teacher figure, asking questions you sense she knows the answer to, and sometimes it's fun to hear the writers get a little nervous or pretentious. She also always surprises me with the questions she asks. They can be a good resource for readers who want to know how to think about what they read. She always asks the writers to speculate about what happens to the characters after the story is finished.

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

All this talk about Object of Beauty, Steve Martin's latest book,  has got us thinking again about Shop Girl, his Novella published in 2000. The book was beautiful, rainy-day-sad and moving. The movie...? Not so much. Unfortunately, Steve Martin felt the need to write, produce and star in the flick.

The age disparity between the protagonist Mirabelle, played by a luminous Claire Danes, and her foil Ray Porter, played by Steve Martin as the (inadvertently) archetypal dirty old man, worked poorly on screen. As soon as we began discussing SG over tea at home, Acton mentioned that the creepy sex scene between the duo was branded indelibly in her memory. And, fittingly, her fave 'hysterical realist' agrees. Here's Zadie Smith writing for The Telegraph on Shop Girl:

"In the (very good) novel, Martin's writing is so sparse and elegant you can almost excuse the concept. But here on film Ray Porter's unmoving, waxy face is on top of hers, he is running his crepe fingers (one place where Botox will not work) over the perfection of Mirabelle's backside - it is intolerable."

Object of Beauty has been getting some pretty lukewarm reviews. Janet Maslin from the New York Times found Martin's heroine to be uninspiring. 

"Although Lacey is treated as this book’s main source of fascination, it’s less interesting to look at her point-blank than to look at her while wondering what Mr. Martin sees."

The New Republic has Andrew Butterfield of Andrew Butterfield Fine Arts discussing the inaccuracies in the book as it pertains to the New York Art Wold. He takes personal issue with the way Steve Martin describes one of the collector's suits. 

"Later he is seen wearing an Armani suit. I have met hundreds of collectors in New York and elsewhere, and not one ever went about with an open shirt and gold chains or wore a suit that said Armani. Not one. The men tend to wear custom-made clothing, and in a range of styles of business attire. Other than the quality of the fabric and the stitching, which you have to look to see, rarely does it proclaim its high sartorial quality."

I'm still planning on picking up this book based on the strength of Shop Girl and the fact that it doesn't seem like a big investment in terms of time a la Freedom. And despite negative or rather non-positive reviews, other readers are following suit. Object of Beauty is still number 13 on the New York Times Best Sellers List. What do you think? Will you be reading SG? Have you already? Let us know.

xx Ellis

Bookstores of Brooklyn Roundup

All this death of the bookshop talk is a fear-mongering conspiracy. At least that's the way it looks from this side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Amazon is of course a resource for the books you know you want. But for those you didn't know you needed, plenty of real life shops continue to do their part for the impulse buys that keep the livre alive. These are my favorite shops all of which curate their stacks expertly, host readings frequently, and lay the good vibes on thickly. If you're looking for a reason to curl up with a read this winter, here are the best places (in my humble humble) to find one.

Word in Greenpoint
featured feature: an in-store dating service that matches people based on their likes and dislikes in literature. And a nice blog with author interviews.

Book Court in Cobble Hill
featured feature: a jam-packed events calendar that brings in big name authors for readings.

featured feature: high ceilings; triples as a publishing house and event space.

Brooklyn Art Library in Williamsburg
featured feature: shares a wall with Mast Brother's Chocolate. Intoxicating chocolate smell ensues. Enough said.

(Actually, it should be noted that they conduct collaborative projects like a sketch book catalogue that will join the store's "permanent collection," sell concept books from the cool Brooklyn-based Ugly Duckling Presse, and the most beautiful journals.)

And, though it's not in Brooklyn, I cannot stop talking about the effort by Marc Jacobs, BookMarc. I wanted to hate it, but they seriously have the most amazing collection of lust-inducing books about art, music, and fashion.

great view of the shop from Interview Magazine




The stylish specs of the hysterical realists. Dave Eggers, grow a pair (of trendy glasses).

Dear Reader,
I did it. I finished Freedom on a delayed train last night. As I closed this year's most-read book, my only conscious impression was to hope someone in the packed car would hear the thump with which I conspicuously closed the back cover and strike up a convo about it. It is to its credit that ever since, all I've wanted is to make like Patty and gossip about it. After reading this "not short" book about lives, (whose plot, which I admittedly skimmed in favor of dirt on the characters, seemed nonetheless holey), all I wanted to know was, who did you like? Who do you hate? Who was in the right? But not in an ethical, important, or even a literary way, just in the way we want to know about our acquaintances or those celebs we feel we already know. Maybe reading countless reviews, watching interviews with the author, and attending live readings, all of which I have done for this particular book, does not a New Critical reading make. I am incapable of judging it in an English-classy way. Instead I want to play Franzen at his own game and indulge the neighborly gossip.

Franzen himself is super unlikeable, and I guess some people like that about him. A potentially misanthropic bird-watcher, he has made the double mistake of offending Oprah and then sucking up to her. He came off as arrogant at the live reading Ellis an I attended. But, for the defense, Franzen also disclosed at said reading that he himself had experienced the "worst thing that happens in the book." Hm. Let's call it this week's "blind item."

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Video Review from the Washington Post on Jonathan Franzen's Freedom

I finished reading the book earlier last month. I think that Charles' point is well raised about Franzen preaching to the converted in regards to his segues into Mountain Top Removal and the decline of the American Songbirds. That said, I very much enjoyed those same aforementioned bits, whereas Charles was moved to (and I'm quoting here) 'take a bathroom break'.

Franzen is a well-known birder and it's only natural for him to introduce an area of his expertise into Freedom. I didn't hear anyone complaining about David Foster Wallace bringing the Enfield Academy story line into Infinite Jest.

I wont spoil the ending in case you haven't gotten round to reading it quite yet -I know Acton's half way through now- but, for me, the big pay off was the last two chapters of the book. It felt like Franzen finally writing in his comfort zone.

Jessica Stam on American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis

Picture from British Vogue
NYM: Who's your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
JS: Patrick Bateman from the book American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. "Don't just look at her ass, EAT IT."
-Interview from New York Magazine

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Presents

For as long as I can remember, our parents have given each of us girls a bound first edition book for Christmas. It’s a tradition that feels completely right for our family. We’ve all six of us been brought up to value books the same way that some do earrings from Chanel or cocktail rings from Dior.  (Plus, books are a lot harder to lose than all those hideous Elsa Perreti necklaces from days of yore.)

This year I received the below series of letters by the landscape painter Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902). The letters are addressed to Senator GD Edmunds of Vermont. In the letters Bierstadt compares his paintings to the senator's speeches.  

"Mine is a language composed of hieroglyphics of form and color appreciated by the intelligent few- while yours appeals to that class and also to the great mass of mankind."* He goes on to offer the senator one of one of his most recent works, the 'View in the Kings River Canon, California'.

A friend recently told me that Bierstadt made a habit of taming his paintings for his European audiences. Making his great mountainscapes less craggy, portraying his forested valleys as less dense. I love this idea: that the American west was so extraordinarily vast and expansive that our civilized counterparts across the Atlantic needed the truth obfuscated for them to even look at our reality.

*Bierstadt, not the most modest of dudes.

Merry Christmas Readers!

Picture from Coco & Kelley
How did you spend your Christmas? Acton and I prepared a Christmas Eve feast for our sisters and parents. We made Clotilde Dusoulier's Boeuf Bourginon and saved ourselves some prep time by not preparing desert and instead serving an array of Jeni's ice cream that our mother had shipped to our house all the way from Ohio especially for the occasion. 

Our family's divided on the merits of Jeni's Ice cream. The company has made a name for itself using organic ingredients and serving up 'quirky' flavors like Oakvale Young Gouda with Vodka Cranberries. Our dad, who falls in the anti-Jeni's camp, compared the combinations they offer to having to invite a married couple to a dinner party when you only want one of them to show up. The hands down winner of the evening was a meyer lemon flavor that was gone in a New York Minute. How did you spend your holiday weekend?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Save Holden!

After reading my sister Ellis' delightful post about Franny and Zooey, I was inspired to scan the shelves for other little white covers with striped corners. I was hoping to find a copy of Nine Stories to continue the Glass Family line and specifically the Wes Anderson connection. Frankly, I wanted to accuse old Wes (affectionally, of course) of something close to blatant plagarism of Salinger. But fortunately for the indie darling, all I could find was a copy of Catcher in the Rye.

I have always been somewhat embarrassed by my predictable love for this book, knowing some people find it adolescent and overrated. Last year I remember reading this article about how today's teens no longer "relate to" Holden, preferring a more pro-active and confident protagonist. I am just a tad incredulous about the claim, or just hopeful.

above, Igby, a sullen type from the 2002 movie

above, J.Biebs, 2010's cheerful main teen man

I just can't see the book going out of style. I don't relate to Holden like I did at fourteen (thank God) but relating to him is only part of the fun. When I re-read the book yesterday, I found myself lol-ing on almost every page. The things that annoy him, they just kill me, they really do, (so to speak). It's not just the phonies that get to him; Holden has a catalogue of pet peeves that rivals Woody Allen's: preppies, Catholics, tourists, plays that are overly witty, people who step back and give themselves room when they answer a question, dates that don't know the particular way he likes his hand held at the movies.

He is outrageously skeptical even of the things he likes, like in this hilarious exchange between he and the attractive nun he meets at Grand Central. She asks him what he read in school this year, and he lists Romeo and Juliet:

" 'Oh Romeo and Juliet! Lovely! Didn't you just love it?'

She certainly didn't sound like a nun.

'Yes. I did. I liked it a lot. There were a few things I didn't like about it, but it was quite moving,

on the whole.' "

Even if todays teenagers are as confident and proactive as the Times seems to believe they are, they don't have to relate to Holden any more than they do Woody Allen in order to find him "quite moving." He is everywhere, and especially in New York. So put on a houndstooth jacket and a red hunting cap.

hunting hat and houndstooth from Jpress
Pack a swiss cheese sandwich and eat in Grand Central. Walk to Central Park, taking care to become depressed by hoards of tourists on Broadway. Look for ducks and fish in the frozen lagoon, go to the zoo, and strike up a conversation with a kid at the carousel. Then walk up to the Natural History Museum and patrol for graffiti. If you want to finish off your Catcher in the Rye day with a drink at The Wicker Bar in The Seton, it still exists, on 40th Street, but don't expect to run into Hollywood types there as Holden did, try Little Branch in the West Village for a more accurate equivallent. Times have changed, after all. But--oh, please--not too much.



Mom's Christmas Sugar Cookies


Stills from the 1995 Screen Adaptation of Little Women. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Winona Ryder & Susan Sarandon

At home, our Christmas traditions are many. But one of our favorites is the baking of sugar cookies. My sisters and I (there are six of us in total) hover around the kitchen drinking tea while my mom and our youngest do the preparations. Then the frosting begins. Our mom could have been an artist in another life. One where she didn't raise four kids (it's complicated) and sit on three school boards and shuttle back and forth between New York and CT every day. Her cookies are always the best.  The most beautiful ones don't get eaten at all. I've included the recipe below. When you've made the frosting lay out five or six small bowls and divvy out the contents. Fill each bowl with a small splash of food coloring and let the decorating begin!

The March sisters bringing food and firewood to their neighbors

Top secret family recipe for your enjoyment:

1/2 Cup of Butter
1 Cup of Granulated Sugar
1 egg
2 Cups Sifted Flour
2 Tbs Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Sal
2 Tbs Milk
1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Cream butter and gradually add the sugar. Add egg and beat will. Sift dry ingredients and add little by little the liquids. Mix and chill for one hour.

Roll with a rolling pin to 1/8th of an inch thick. Cut the dough with cookie cutters (this is the best part!)

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 315 for 8-12 minutes.

For the frosting- use room temperature butter and a container of Confectioners sugar. Add a splash of vanilla. And a little bit of Cream Cheese for a kick. Stir! Enjoy!

xoxo Ellis

Excerpt: Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters by J.D Salinger


The Library of Julia Reston Roitfeld shot by Todd Selby From Here

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters by J.D. Salinger

"For years, among the seven children in our one-bathroom family, it was our perhaps cloying but serviceable custom to leave messages for one another on the medicine-cabinet mirror, using a moist sliver of soap to write with. The general theme of our messages usually ran to excessively strong admonitions and, not infrequently, undisguised threats."

"When I'd checked into the bathroom with Seymour's diary under my arm, and had carefully secured the door behind me, I spotted a message almost immediately. It was not, however, in Seymour's handwriting but, unmistakably, in my sister Boo Boo's. With or without soap, her handwriting was always almost indecipherably minute and she had easily managed to post the following message on the mirror: "Raise high the roof beam, carpenters. Like Ares comes the bridegroom, taller far than a tall man. Love, Irving Sapho, formerly under contract to Elysium Studios Ltd. Please be happy happy happy with your beautiful Muriel. This is an order. I outrank everybody on this block" (p.76)

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenter was originally published in the New Yorker in 1955. The New York Times ran a mostly pejorative review about the novella after it's release. The article led with "rarely if ever in literary history has a handful of stories aroused so much discussion, praise, denunciation, mystification, and interpretation."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Announcing Our Very First Book Club!

On January 7th, we'll be holding our first book Club of 2011. The event will take place at my boyfriend's house in Wainscott. There's going to be a total of 12 of us in attendance. We're at capacity for the invitees. But you can definitely read along with us here. I'll be posting all the question and responses at Livre Life Monday, January 10th. Next BC event I'll post with a month's lead-time so that everyone has a chance to read the book.
What: Wuthering Heights
Who: Emily Bronte
When: 1845 
Where: Yorkshire Moors
Extra Credit Reading:

Background: Emily Bronte came from a family of writers. Her sister Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre, of course. And Anne Bronte penned the lesser-known Agnes Grey. It's generally assumed that the three began writing as a form of escapism after two of their sisters died of typhus at boarding school (the travails of which Charlotte details in Jane Eyre's Lowood Academy). Growing up, the sisters created elaborate imaginary worlds captured in the Gondol Poems.* 
Eventually Charlotte, after finding some poems of Emily's that she had left lying around the house, convinced her sisters that they should attempt to publish some of their works. The poems and stories were originally published under the pseudonyms Currer, Acton and Ellis Bell. 
After Emily died in 1848 (She was just 30 years old at the time), Charlotte re-released Wuthering Heights under Emily's own name. However, her controversial introduction to the novel managed to mar its reputation. In the intro, Charlotte asks for the readers pardon. Telling them that her sister Emily was a naive and unpolished writer and meant to cause no offense with her passionate and, as some thought, amoral tale. As a result, many of the Bronte contemporaries came to view Wuthering Heights as a sort of prelude to Jane Eyre. It wasn't until many years later that critics began to conceive it as an important work of fiction.
The Rumor Mill: Some believe that Emily's inspiration for the slightly incestuous Heathcliff and Cathy relationship was based upon her own rapport with her reprobate brother Patrick Branwell whom she was alleged to be extremely close with. Patrick was a painter, gambler and incidentally addicted to laudanum. Yikes Emily.

 ~One of my fave photographs from the Sam Taylor Wood Exhibit~

 Do: The Brooklyn Museum has an exhibit on by Sam Taylor Wood. The artist has photographed the Moor's around Yorkshire's Top Withens where Wuthering Heights was alleged to be set. Adam and I went last weekend the works were beautiful and contained many excerpted quotes from the novel.
Watch: There are a ton of adaptations to choose from. But after watching a couple entertaining trailers, like this amazing MTV remake, we settled on these two to recommend. PS. Yes, that's Katherine Heigl. Ha! 
Listen: Oh, and a parting shot of amazingness...Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush. Enjoy!

*See paracosm.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Perfect 25th Hour Holiday Present

For the book lover in your life.

These Ideal Bookshelves by Jane Mount make wonderful and thoughtful presents for the bibliophiles in your life. You can either buy a pre-designed print from Jane's store on 20x200 for as little as $30 or you can commission your very own piece (for a cool $400). She also makes gift cards with a downloadable template. In case maybe, just maybe, you've yet to purchase a few important pressies with just a few days left til Christmas. Savvy lady!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Excerpt: Franny & Zooey

The experience of re-reading JD Salinger post-highschool can be a little precious. The feeling's akin to being trapped indefinitely on a Wes Anderson set. Everything is just so. And it can start to drive the reader a little mental. From the pea green book that Franny carries to the way that Fatty, as Zooey calls his mother, arranges towels in the famous bathroom scene, Salinger treats his characters almost as if he's giving them stage directions. But the end result is that you leave the book feeling like you've watched an entire movie play out in your head. The visuals are stunning.

Here's Lane meeting Franny at the train station for the first time. Let's remember she's wearing a racoon fur. (JD really nails the fashion sense on his women protagonists). Her malaise is so perfectly Margot Tennenbaum.

"This all the bags you brought? What's the book?" [this is Lane, her teacher's pet boyfriend]
Franny looked down at her left hand. She had a small pea-green cloth-bound book in it. "This? Oh, just some thing." She said. She opened her handbag and stuffed the book into it, and followed Lane down the long platform toward the taxi stand. She put her arm through his, and did most of the talking, if not all of it. There was something, first, about a dress in her bag that had to be ironed. She said she'd bought a really darling little iron that looked like it went with a doll house" p.8

Later at the coffee shop with Lane:

"You haven't touched your god damn sanwich," Lane said suddenly. [Lane, not such a keeper fyi] "You know that?"
Franny looked down at her plate as if it had just been placed before her. " I will in a minute," She said. She sat still for a moment, holding her cigarette, but without dragging on it, in her left hand, and with her right hand fixed tensely around the base of her glass of milk." p36

And then there's, of course, the description of the Glass house p199.

"The Glasses' living room was about as unready to have its walls repainted as a room can be. Franny Glass lay asleep on the couch, with an afghan over her; the "wall-to-wall" carpet had been neither taken up nor folded in at the borders; and the furniture- seemingly, a small warehouse of it-was in its usual static-dyanmic distribution. The room was not impressively large, even by Manhattan apartment-house standards, but its accumulated furnishings might have lent a snug appearance to a banquet hall in Valhalla. There was a Steinway grand piano (invariably kept open), three radios (a 1927 Freshman, a 1932 Stromberg-Carlson and a 1941 RCA), a twenty-one-inch-screen television set, four table-model phonographs (including a 1920 Victrola, with its speaker still mounted in tact, top side), cigarette and magazine tables galore, a regulation size ping-pong table (mercifully collapsed behind the piano), four comfortable chairs, eight uncomfortable chairs, a twelve gallon tropical-fish tank (filled to capacity, in every sense of the word, and illuminated by two forty watt bulbs) a love seat, the couch Franny was occupying, two empty bird cages, a cherry wood writing table, and an assortment of floor lamps, table lamps, and "bridge" lamps that sprang up all over the congested inscape like sumac. A cordon of waist-high bookcases lined three walls, their shelves cram-jammed and literally sagging with books-Children's book, textbooks, second-hand books, Book Club books, plus an even more heerogeneous over-flow from less communal "annexes" of the apartment."

Haha. Anyone? This could literally be my house. I love this visual. It's so perfectly encapsulates what the havoc of living with a big family is like. The former hobbies and acquisitive phases of every sibling eventually becomes part of the floor plan. Also, there's that amazing bit of comparing the contents of the room to being more suited to Valhalla (Odin's living room anyone?) than to an Upper West Side apartment.

New Blog

Ever feel like your brain has been on a generous declivity since college?
Or maybe you wonder why your friends dinner party conversation never seems to stray from topics like dating, celeb gossip and movies?
Or do you need a little extra motivation to dive into that impulse buy from Greenlight Bookstore? A 500+ tome that's been doing nothing but taking up space on your bedside table...You know who you are Broom Of The System.

Well, this blog was created as a space for those of us that need an outlet for all those years of preparatory English class that, let's face it, amounted to pretty much naught (yes we'll be reading the classics).

You don't have to be an English major or a baby genius. You don't have to be in a book club. You don't even have to read all the books. You just have to be engaged and interested in advancing your literary life.

Here's to 2011 being a year of fun, exploration and wisdom.
xox Ellis