Mighty Life List
Jul 30 2010

The Bell Jar

I’m just now reading this. Favorite parts of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

“She stared at her reflection in the glossed shop windows as if to make sure, moment by moment, that she continued to exist.”

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

Jun 29 2010

The Clock Without a Face: Numbers 8, 5, 2, 9, 10, and 7

A peek at more of the numbers folks have found from The Clock Without a Face, McSweeney’s rtreasure hunt book. They’re gorgeous:

Christina Wagner, a high school senior in Wisconsin, found the eight:

Nadine Cox was part of a team that found the five in Ohio:

The two is my favorite so far. Lauren and Jim found it in Florida:

The nine was found in Texas:

Martin Morales and his fiance Lisa found the ten in Connecticut:

Michelle Senderhauf found the seven in Indiana:

The eleven, four, and three have already been found, so that just leaves six and twelve. Covet.

Jun 17 2010

Rumpus Book Club: Unreleased Books to Your Door

I just came across a genius last-minute Father’s Day Gift. My friend Stephen runs The Rumpus, an online culture and lit magazine with a genius book club concept. Here’s how it works:

“Every month you get a book in the mail that hasn’t been released yet. You’re invited to a moderated online discussion with the author at the end of the month… You can also write a review of the book and we’ll run the best written review(s) on the website.

It’s neat because we’re going to have a discussion about new books, rather than waiting to be told what books are approved for cultural consumption.”

Such a cool concept, and you can subscribe by the month or the year. Yes to books.

Apr 28 2010

The Clock Without a Face

Before Hank was born, I did a lot of work with 826 Valencia, Dave Eggers’s tutoring center. In my time there, I became friends with some of the McSweeney’s folks, who always work hard to make magical things. Their latest project is so, so cool:

The Clock Without a Face, is a children’s board book about a clock with jeweled numbers. The numbers are stolen, and each page provides clues to where they’re buried.

The brilliant part? The numbers are real. Here’s what the site has to say:

“We’ve buried 12 emerald-studded numbers—each handmade and one of a kind—in 12 holes across the United States. These treasures will belong to whoever digs them up first. The question: Where to dig? The only path to the answer: Solve the riddles of The Clock Without a Face!”

McSweeney’s had the numbers made by a jeweler, and then made a real-life treasure hunt for their readers by burying them all over the U.S. Can you imagine how much work went into this?

Anyway, the hunt is already on, and the main character, Gus Twintig, has a Twitter account. I’ll keep you posted as people find the numbers (go look for the numbers, my nerdling friends!), but in the meantime you should get yourself a copy. McSweeny’s never prints too many books, and this one is a keeper.

Good work, McSweeney’s. You guys are dreamy.

Feb 15 2010

The Moronic Inferno

I’ve read a lot of Martin Amis. I find his fiction off putting, but I keep reading because his work makes me want to take another pass at everything I write. The Moronic Inferno is a collection of his non-fiction essays, which I recommend. These are the parts I wanted to remember:

“Terrible things happen all the time. This is the terrible thing.”

“What’s the difference between $75 million and $150 million? Hardly any difference, surely, in our terms. But in the life of pure money $75 million and $150 million are chalk and cheese. What’s the difference? The difference is $75 million.”

of Truman Capote:
“‘The name’s Tony, isn’t it?’ he croaked.
‘No. Martin,’ I said, trying to make Martin sound quite like Tony.”

“From the point of view of ostentation — well, the house had a monogrammed marble driveway, and went on from there.”

“Miss Didion’s style relishes emphasis, repetition, re-emphasis. Her style likes looking at the same things from different angles. Her style likes starting and ending successive sentences with identical phrases.”

“Hef took the stage. For a man who never goes out, who rises at mid-afternoon, who wanders his draped mansion in slippers and robe (whose lifestyle, on paper, resembles nothing so much as a study in terminal depression)< Hef looks good -- surprisingly, even scandalously so." "Many times in Bellow's novels, we are reminding that 'being human' isn't the automatic condition of every human being." Vocabulary

amour propre
Respect for oneself; self-esteem.

beau monde
the world of fashion and society

a short and witty or sarcastic saying or writing.

a funeral rite or ceremony

to speak maliciously and falsely of; slander; defame:

a sweet pudding prepared with almond milk and gelatin and flavored with rum or kirsch.

to cause (a plant) to whiten or grow pale by excluding light: to etiolate celery.

a semi-public advisory and administrative body supported by the government and having most of its members appointed by the government.

the action or practice of imposing fraudulently upon others.

a person whose life is devoted to the pursuit and enjoyment of luxury and sensual pleasure.

a specialized idiomatic vocabulary peculiar to a particular class or group of people, esp. that of an underworld group, devised for private communication and identification: a Restoration play rich in thieves’ argot.

Troilism (sometimes spelled triolism)
refers to the erotic interest in watching one’s romantic partner engage in sexual behavior with a third party, sometimes while hidden

Printed matter, such as pamphlets, forms, or memorandums, especially of an official nature and deemed of little interest or importance.

Jul 16 2009

Five Favorite Books

I’m a little late posting this Momversation about finding time to read. Shortly after Hank was born, I realized that reading is my meditation. I get mean if I don’t get book time.

If you’d like to see more books I recommend, have a look at my Eight Books that Changed Things for Me post. The comments on that post are great too. If you haven’t yet, list your favorites here. I’m always looking for good reads.

Aug 20 2008

Eight Books That Changed Things For Me

Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women
by Susan Faludi

I read this in college and it completely changed my worldview. A feminist is a person who believes in equality between the sexes — so it turns out I am a feminist. This came as a surprise to me at the time. Also, it looks like there’s some seriously, concretely unfair shit going down for women, even in the U.S. I had no idea.

The Gift of Fear
by Gavin De Becker

It’s a waste of time to be afraid all the time. Trust your instincts to tell you when something is genuinely amok, and when they do, take immediate action.

The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade
by Thomas Lynch

This book by a poet who is also an undertaker helps me remember that being happy, or at least aware, is the best use of my time. It also gave me perspective on assisted suicide, and the ways individual anguish can eclipse you, needlessly.

Years later, this passage still sticks with me:

“Here was a young man who had killed himself, remarkably, to deliver a message to a woman he wanted to remember him. No doubt she does. I certainly do. But the message itself seemed inconsequential, purposefully vague. Did he want to be dead forever, or only absent from the pain? ‘I wanted to die,’ is all it seemed to say clearly. ‘Oh,’ is what the rest of us say.”

The Four Agreements
by Don Miguel Ruiz

I’ve mentioned this book before, and if you’re feeling adrift, it’s a good little system to help get you grounded again. I wrote more about it here.

The Wealthy Barber: Everyone’s Commonsense Guide to Becoming Financially Independent
by David Chilton

It’s not a work of literary genius, but it’s clear, it’s a quick read, and it fills you in on all the financial stuff your parents didn’t teach you.

Learning to Love You More
by Harrell Fletcher, Miranda July, Julia Bryan-Wilson, and Laura Lark

I like how Miranda July seems to have always tackled the next most interesting thing, and she’s built a pretty inspiring life that way. This book of projects reminds me that it’s always a good decision to let your interests guide you.

Miss Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior
by Judith Martin

An anthropology book on my own culture, and the reasons behind the societal contracts we’ve made. Now when I’ve pissed someone off, I usually know why.

Otherwise: New and Selected Poems
by Jane Kenyon

Jane Kenyon’s poems make me feel keener, like I can smell better and hear things more clearly. I read them when I’m feeling muddled to help me re-focus.

Now! Tell me which books changed things for you, because I think it will be interesting.

Do it.