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Friday
Jan122007

The Reader

There's nothing I look more forward to when visiting England than going book shopping. Unlike Jessa, I prefer UK covers to US covers, or did, for the most part, until very recently. It's even funny to me that she uses David Mitchell as an example: I didn't like the US cover to Cloud Atlas - too many sharp edges in the design, a scattered theme of varying texts. Perhaps this reflects the format of the book better than the UK cover, but I wasn't feeling it. It could be the giddy fan in me that has become attached to the swirling psychedelics of the UK cover, which prompted Mr. Mitchell, on receiving it to sign, to say: "Well, you're a long way from home." Which prompted me, in turn, to melt in my little white tights. (More on my Mitchell crush in coming entries, surely, when the man returns to the States and I embarrass myself once again by shouting silly things in his presence, such as "sex, please!")

On my last trip to the UK, however, I changed my mind while on Oxford Street when I picked a Joan Didion book off the shelf, a book that assembled Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album, and After Henry into one collection. To my bewilderment, the UK publishers had turned my steadfast Joan Didion into some fluffy, flower-arranging lady writer. They called the collection Live and Learn, for Pete's sake. The cover, awash with pastels, shows Didion, apparently alone on a deck overlooking the ocean, cigarette in one hand, lo-ball glass nearby. It portrays her as a single woman, or at least solitary, carefree and whispy. As if she were on a Shirley Valentine-esque holiday. Little might the reader know that this is a cropped version of this picture. The recipient of her wistful, carefree gaze is her family. Her knowing smile is triggered not by the memory of last night's tumble in the cabin of a boat with a Greek fisherman, or how she might spend her day shopping for exotic woven handbags and charming souvenirs for the mantle, but by the contentedness, the completeness that her husband and daughter bring to her life. It was used appropriately and with complete success on the back of the jacket for The Year of Magical Thinking. In this case, the UK cover got it completely wrong. Didion is not pastels: she is bold, strong; she is red, she is blue.

A few days later on Bold Street in Liverpool, the great book designers of the United Kingdom redeemed themselves in my eyes with the cover of Ali Smith's The Reader. The woodblock-and-text cover is simple and attractive. Not only is the cover gorgeous, but the concept of The Reader - in which Ali Smith chooses a selection of her favorite pieces of literature for the reader to enjoy - has inspired me, and I've begun to compile a "reader" of my own, at right. As far as I'm able, I'll create links to texts that are available online; otherwise I'll link to places you can get the books for yourselves. Enjoy, reader.

Wednesday
Jan102007

Things That Fall from the Sky*

Back in Ohio, in December. It was still warm, and the rest of my family was busy with their million endeavors, so I took a walk through the woods along the ravine behind our house. The woods eventually lead to a park, empty apart from the solitary swingset. There was nothing to do but try it out. It did me a world of good to remind myself that I'd never forgotten how to pump my legs to go higher. Feet pointing to the sky. The sensation of my stomach rising and falling in my insides pushed out the sound of a laugh I hadn't heard since I was very, very young. The only thing I had forgotten was how to stop. And I was too scared to jump. So I just kept pumping my legs, higher and higher, falling up into and out of the sky, the smell of iron on my hands from the chains...

*

In New York, today. Had a nightmare last night involving a jumbo jet skidding its tail into the earth. The jet then swung its nose around and grabbed its injured tail before morphing into an alien robot holding hundreds of human-shaped aliens (all wearing very midwestern clothes) in its claws. When it released them, they scattered like silverfish across the ground and came skittering towards our window, which we quickly shut, huddling inside. The nightmare is incidental; I only mention it because it foretold ominous things approaching in the sky. And today there was something ominous and beautiful, something that made me giddy: snow.

We have had the most lukewarm winter - deeply unsatisfying, in spite of the weather affording us one blissful 70 degree day of light jackets. Even on that day, the beast of winter stooped over us, making sure no one felt entirely comfortable with the prospect of eating outdoors in New York in January. Everyone walked around looking at the sky, as if they suspected some sort of instant change, a weather conspiracy, the wrath of the gods. An alien invasion. This can't be right. And it wasn't. Winter means scarves, mittens, hot chocolate, snow.

This morning, as I sat in my office contemplating the best way to start eating my elaborately constructed chocolate & almond croissant, I looked out the window and noticed a dark, smoke-like mist moving up and across the Hudson. And I whispered: "snow!" I ran from office to office calling out to others: "I think it's snow!" We waited, watching its ominous approach. And then, though the weathermen and women of New York City had predicted no such thing, minutes later, we watched as the first few flakes went skittering through the sky, like silverfish.

*To borrow a title from Kevin Brockmeier

Wednesday
Jan102007

Air drumming injuries

"Air Drum Bride Busts My Hooter"

Stone Roses? Air drumming? I'm shocked this isn't a story about me. The husband and I have been known to carry on long arguments over the specific placement of crash cymbals in our air drum kits.

(This is likely the first and last time you'll ever see me link to The Sun... thanks to our friend, Steve Lamacq. I need to cleanse myself by linking to The Guardian, so go read about Morrissey possibly singing in Eurovision.)

Monday
Jan082007

Bookends

Time it was and what a time it was it was
A time of innocence a time of confidences.

A list of books Art Garfunkel has been reading since June 1968. He read Didion back in the day. (via kottke)

Sunday
Jan072007

Sunday Zen