I don’t want to speak too soon, but it’s just about possible that I am over the worst of my book slump. It’s been two months of not really being able to concentrate on reading, for various reasons, but over the last eight days I have at least finished two that I’ve been reading for a while.
This is my one-chapter-per-Sunday book, so I’ve been reading it for a long time. It’s an exploration and illustration of what grace means – God’s unearned favour for the thoroughly undeserving, i.e. all of us. It’s a radical and life-changing thing when understood properly, and this book was a great way to remind myself of that.
A very different kind of grace in this one – the physical kind. Not much grace evidenced in relationships, though – lots of catty competitiveness among elite teenage ballerinas. Competition for the top ballet spots, of course, but also for boys and attention and love and identity. I would not want to be friends with many of these characters, but they were so fun to read about. And the ending was perfect, and I’ll be thinking about it for days.
My book buying had slumped lately, too, in part I think because of my guilt at never finishing books, but on Saturday I popped into the Strand bookstore in NYC with no clear intention of buying anything, and I came out with this pile (oops), plus a tote bag, Boris Vian’s L’Ecume des Jours (which, counter-intuitively, I came across because it was completely misshelved) and some pens, pencils and a colouring book – I want to see what all this fuss is about, and whether it helps me to relax and/or think creative thoughts…
I’d been intrigued about Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy since hearing Dinty Moore speak about writing on the topic of celebrities at AWP this year. The book was half price, and he had me at the first paragraph of the introduction: “Perhaps you are standing in this bookstore, scanning this introductory chapter wondering just what sort of book you have in hand. You are a good-looking person whose minor flaws seem only to accentuate your considerable charm. You are intelligent. And immune to flattery.”
Drama was a complete impulse buy, which is rarer than you might think with me and books. It’s a graphic novel – I’ve never readyany – but it’s about theatre nerds at high school, and theatre and acting and that whole world is quickly becoming one of my favourite things to read and write about. And what the heck, it was only $9, and it seemed fun.
The Dinner was another one of those books I’ve picked up a hundred times and meant to read. My agent (have I mentioned I have an agent?) talked about it when I met up with her last month, so I thought I’d move it up the TBR. It was $7 – my general rule at the Strand is that I can only buy things that are cheaper than they would be as eBooks. (Though it’s a rule I break when necessary.) It turns out that one of the characters is named Claire – I’m not sure how I feel about this yet.
Hotel Living comes recommended by Christina Haag, who is one of my favourite writers and one of the best people you’ll ever meet. She says “it’s about sex, loss, the glitter and emptiness of high living, and the search for what connects us”. Um, yes please.
&Sons is another one of those I’ve thought about reading so often it’s almost embarrassing. As far as I can tell, it’s very much a book about, and for, the literary élite of New York City. And let’s be honest, I kind of aspire to be part of that. Plus, the weather was gorgeous in NYC today, and I enjoyed my walk through the West Village after my deliciously British brunch at Tea and Sympathy, so I was feeling all I-heart-NY-ish, and warm and fuzzy about reading about the city. I didn’t even notice, but this one is signed, too – a bargain at $7.
I was down in the memoir section looking for Arthur Miller’s Timebends – which wasn’t there – when I spotted a copy of Christina Haag’s Come to the Edge. If you’ve talked to me about books for longer than five minutes at any point in the last three years, you’ll know that this book deserves to be much better known – yes, I was skeptical about celebrity memoir too, but this one is a gem. The writing is gorgeous, the emotions authentic, much like the writer herself, and honestly, it’s almost incidental that the story of love and loss is related to American royalty. Anyway – this copy was signed, and in pristine condition (less so after I dropped it from a great height along with a whole pile of others: careful with your Instagramming out there, people), and it felt wrong to just leave it there. I much prefer the hardback version and that’s the one I always buy as a gift – I feel like the cover is a much better reflection of the tone of the book than the paperback cover is – and I always have to do that through Amazon, which quite frankly I would rather not. So now I have a spare one for someone I love – I don’t buy this book for just anyone. It feels like I am giving away a little piece of my soul when I give this book, so I choose carefully.
Our Town caught my eye as it sat on a table close to the cheap fiction. My knowledge of plays is shameful, and I’ve been meaning to remedy this for a while. Once I’d seen Our Town, I got out my To-Reads list on Goodreads and found as many of the “I should really read this” as I could – hence also The Real Thing, Doubt, A Streetcar named Desire and Sweeney Todd.
I’m not entirely sure what I was looking for or why I was in the M section, but Paul McLain’s The Paris Wife called out to me. One of my friends has told me that I would like it, and she has read quite a few that I’ve recommended to her, so it seemed only fair to pick it up. Especially at Strand prices!
IN THE QUEUE
I’ll be reading Remember Me Like This for work reasons: I’m going to be writing a piece on the book and its author for The Writer’s Center, where is has just won a prize. I’m also hoping to start Fates and Furies soon. My Twitter feed seemed to be exploding with love for this one on its publication date a couple of weeks ago – and with love for its author, too, which always makes me more likely to want to read a book – and then when Rebecca Schinsky of Book Riot mentioned it on the All The Books! Podcast too that day, I figured this was one bandwagon I would jump on. It’s about the complicated twists and turns of a marriage from the point of view of both the husband (fates) and the wife (furies) – I love that stuff, the psychology of love, and it sounds like it’s great and there’s a big twist in the middle. Lauren was a delight to listen to when she talked about her book at Busboys and Poets, and she high fived me about getting an agent and said she couldn’t wait to read my novel, so now of course I’m even more excited about reading hers because it feels like we have some kind of bond. I know: there’s nothing logical or even particularly real about this, though I do think that connecting with an author can enhance the whole reading experience so that what was a good read becomes a great one and what was a great one becomes unforgettable.