Wrapped Up in Books.

I’m many things, but a New Years resolutionist I am most certainly not.  That said, I am trying to be a bit more positive-minded, as opposed to my regular the-glass-isn’t-just-half-empty-but-also-about-to-fall-off-the-table-and-smash-into-a-million-pieces-on-the-floor mentality.  So rather than lamenting how I spent barely any time last year on writing posts, I’m instead going to focus on the fact that I spent a good amount reading books. And since I know there’s no way I’d be able to write proper-length posts on all of them, but I’ll give some simple summaries of each, along with my opinions.  Since I started recording what I read last year in April, that’s where I’ll begin.  I’ll keep writing these bookish posts and finish with the last book I read this month.

April

  • Winston had just died, and all I wanted to do when I got back to Boston from New York was reread the beautifully-written novel Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, about the titular geisha’s life before, during and after World War II.  I found the following apropos passage on grief, which I then emailed to my mother: “Grief is a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.”
  • Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way by Ruth Reichl has been renamed For You, Mom. Finally for paperback, which is not unusual but still something that surprises me.  Something else that surprises me is that I don’t remember much of this memoir.  This is incredibly odd for me, as I have a remarkable memory.  I’m sure the writing is fantastic, as Ms. Reichl’s always is.
  • I do remember The Report by Jessica Francis Kane quite clearly, as I am fascinated by World War II and found this debut novel about a tragedy in the Bethnal Green tube station/air raid shelter to be ridiculously and enviously well-written.
  • A Polish emigrant and a New York adolescent are the sad and cynical narrators of Nicole Krauss‘s The History of Love.  Strange as it is to say, I didn’t care either way about the plot, but since I loved Leo the Pole so much, I managed to overlook everything else.
  • I’ve been obsessed with Suzanne Collins‘s Hunger Games trilogy for a while, and reread The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay for the first time in April.  It held up.
  • While I did enjoy Lynn Barber’s memoir An Education — which was made into the multi-nominated film with a star-making performance by Carey Mulligan — I wonder if part of the reason why I flew through it was because it was so short or because I was on a plane en route to Asia and therefore trapped.  Regardless, Ms. Barber is a perfectly fine writer who recounts her life in the heyday of 1960s England in a refreshing, straightforward way.
  • Ugh, I did not like An Evening of Long Goodbyes by Paul Murray, a hardback book club read that I lugged from Massachusetts to Manila, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong and back again.  Protagonist Charles Hythloday plays at being a nobly-born country aristocrat outside Dublin; when he’s forced to eke out a living, it was no surprise to me that this insipid loon struggles to find a place for himself in troubled modern-day Ireland.  There’s another storyline involving explosives and actresses, but I can’t be bothered to go into it.
  • Another novel I brought along on my Asia trip was The Missing by Tim Gautreaux, which set me down a path of kidnapping, violence and crime — in my readings, that is.  Mr. Gautreaux’s book is the truly compelling story not just of abduction, but also of redemption and revenge.  Oh, and there are riverboats.
  • I finished reading Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America (by Les Standiford with Det. Sgt. Joe Matthews) in Siem Reap, and that night in my hotel room I used the dodgy Internet connection to Wikipedia Adam Walsh’s 1981 kidnapping.  From there I read about Ottis Toole, Henry Lee Lucas, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and pretty much every other serial killer I could think of until I was too freaked out to open the door for room service.
Wrapped Up in Books” by Belle + Sebastian.

Another More-Travely Mix CD.

Okay, here’s part two of Darlington‘s two-disc mix CD.

Places, Specific

  1. Roma” by Pizzicato Five
  2. Piazza, New York Catcher” by Belle + Sebastian
  3. Surf Wax America” by Weezer
  4. Holland, 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel
  5. Young Americans” by David Bowie *
  6. “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks
  7. London Calling” by The Clash
  8. The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side” by The Magnetic Fields
  9. Mass Pike” by The Get Up Kids
  10. Look Inside America” by Blur
  11. Alabama” by Neil Young
  12. Haiti” by Arcade Fire
  13. California (All the Way)” by Luna
  14. Amazon” by M.I.A.
  15. “Theme from Tokyo” by Bis
  16. Downey, CA” by Saint Etienne
  17. Blame it on the Tetons” by Modest Mouse
  18. Colorado” by Grizzly Bear
  19. Columbia” by Oasis
* Technically not a place, I know, as opposed to people from a place, but I like this song a lot.

A Sort Of Travely Mix CD.

Another thematic mix CD…

I mailed this one to Darlington, who moved to London this past February.  I thought my choices seemed fitting — the songs’ connecting thread was commonplace locations like a car or a certain room in an undisclosed house, and my friend was in the middle of new places that would soon become familiar and everyday.  I also sent along a mix relating to specific places; I’ll write about that one in a little bit.

As always, let me know if you want a copy.

Places, General

  1. “The Village Green Preservation Society” by The Kinks
  2. Eau d’ Bedroom Dancing” by Le Tigre
  3. Monkey Gone to Heaven” by The Pixies
  4. East of the Sun (West of the Moon)” by Billie Holiday
  5. Top of the World” by The Carpenters
  6. Car” by Built to Spill
  7. Sukie in the Graveyard” by Belle + Sebastian
  8. Strolling Down the Highway” by Nick Drake
  9. “Black Mountain” by Isobel Campbell + Mark Lanegan
  10. Get Out of the City” by Ivy
  11. Island in the Sun” by Weezer
  12. My Side of the City” by Beulah
  13. Neighborhood #2 (Laika)” by Arcade Fire
  14. Heaven” by Bettie Serveert
  15. Brick House” by The Commodores
  16. “Daddy’s Car” by The Cardigans
  17. Once Around the Block” by Badly Drawn Boy
  18. Lost in the Supermarket” by The Clash
  19. This House is Not For Sale” by Ryan Adams
  20. In the Garage” by Weezer
  21. 3rd Planet” by Modest Mouse
  22. Rock the House” by Gorillaz
  23. The Village” by New Order

An Inspirational CD for Writing.

A while ago, I mentioned my renewed obsession with making mix CDs, specifically thematic ones.  Well, here’s what I listen to when I need a writing pick-me-up.  Let me know if you want a copy and I’ll drop it in the mail.

  1. Panic” by The Smiths
  2. It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career” by Belle + Sebastian
  3. “Out of Gas” by Modest Mouse
  4. No Sleep Tonite” by Slumber Party
  5. Changes” by David Bowie
  6. Freak Scene” by Dinosaur Jr.
  7. Personality Crisis” by New York Dolls
  8. That’s When I Reach For My Revolver” by Mission of Burma
  9. The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism” by The New Pornographers
  10. Wake Me When It’s Over” by Longwave
  11. Lonely Lonely” by Feist
  12. The Trick Is To Keep Breathing” by Garbage
  13. Move On” by The Rentals
  14. Leave Me Alone” by New Order
  15. I See a Darkness” by Bonnie “Prince” Billy
  16. Amateur” by Aimee Mann
  17. Hopeless” by The Wrens

Food + Drink: A Mix CD.

Lately all I’ve been wanting to do is make mix CDs.  I’ve been working on an epic one lately that’s meant to be encouraging/inspirational for writing; it includes such songs as “The Slow Descent into Alcoholism” by The New Pornographers and “I See A Darkness” by Bonnie “Prince” Billy.  It’s really been helping.

Anyway, I told my friend Stephanie about my fixation and she was so intrigued by my need for an underlying thematic element that I immediately volunteered to make her a mix.  Since, like me, Stephanie’s constantly obsessing about food, it only seemed fitting that I put together a food-centric playlist.

  1. Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog” by Johnny Cash
  2. “My Sugar So Sweet” by Nick Drake
  3. The King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1” by Neutral Milk Hotel
  4. “Meat” by Noise Addict
  5. Oyster” by Jawbreaker
  6. “Pork + Beans” by Bettie Serveert
  7. Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young
  8. Gimmie Some Salt” by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  9. Just Like Honey” by The Jesus + Mary Chain
  10. You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” by Spoon
  11. Apple Scruffs” by George Harrison
  12. For The Price Of A Cup Of Tea” by Belle + Sebastian
  13. (Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister” by The Stone Roses
  14. Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones
  15. Bird Stealing Bread” by Iron + Wine
  16. Lips Like Sugar” by Echo + the Bunnymen
  17. Apple Bed” by Sparklehorse
  18. Fortune Cookie” by Pizzicato Five
  19. Coffee + TV” by Blur

I’ve got to say, it came out really great.  Drop me a line in the comments if you want a copy and we’ll set it up.